Has welfare become unfair – a new report by the Disability Benefit Consortium

Today’s report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), ‘‘Has welfare become unfair – the impact of changes on disabled people” looks at the financial impact and lived experiences of welfare reform on disabled people.

Changes to the welfare system over the past ten years have left disabled adults four times worse off financially than non-disabled adults, according to new research commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium.

While many people who receive welfare support have experienced cuts of an average of £300 as a result of changes to the welfare system, disabled people have typically lost around £1,200 per year.

The research funded by the Three Guineas Trust and conducted by the University of East Anglia, the University of Glasgow and Landman Economics is the first comprehensive study looking specifically at the cumulative impact of welfare changes on disabled people. The research also found:

The more disabilities you have the more you lose out, for example someone who has six or more disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with one disability loses around £700 each year
Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year
As part of the research, 50 people living with a variety of conditions and disabilities were interviewed about their experiences. People said that they found the application and assessment processes highly stressful, and that they did not feel trusted, and constantly challenged.

The report also states that the current system has become so complex and dysfunctional, that many disabled people have found it has had a devastating impact on their wider health and wellbeing.

You can find the full report here.

Blue Badge (disabled parking) scheme eligibility consultation

Blue Badge (disabled parking) scheme eligibility consultation: summary of responses and outcome

Outcome to the Department for Transport’s consultation on proposals to extend Blue Badge eligibility to people with non-physical conditions.

PART 2 – EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

7. The Department was delighted to receive over 6300 responses to the
consultation and for the time that individuals and organisations took to provide
considered responses.
8. The Blue Badge scheme plays a vital role in allowing 2.4 million disabled
people in England to maintain their independence through special national
parking concessions. Blue Badges enable their holders to visit their families
and friends, and to access jobs, healthcare and leisure activities.
9. Although the Department considers that people with non-physical disabilities
are not excluded from receiving a Blue Badge, a problem arises from the
wording in the regulations providing eligibility for: “a permanent and
substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable
difficulty in walking”. This does not specify whether the disability is physical or
non-physical – and can therefore be either. However there is confusion
around whether this only means physical difficulty in putting one foot in front
of the other or can include difficulties or challenges when walking, including
safety risks, which may arise from non-physical disabilities.
10. The Government wants to ensure that the rules and guidance are clear. It
wants to give parity of esteem to mental and physical health conditions. It
wants a scheme that is sustainable and works for all who are eligible for it,
whatever their disability. It wants it to be fair, consistent, inclusive and nondiscriminatory.
11. We are delighted that 89% of respondents are, in principle, in favour of our
proposals to amend the eligibility criteria. This support applies to all groups –
local authorities 71%, groups representing disabled people 84%, other
organisations 87% and individuals 89%. The main points raised were more to
do with implementation and consequential impacts. There was a call for
clarification of certain terms and the provision of clear guidance so that local
authorities can administer the scheme consistently. There were also concerns
about administration costs for local authorities, the impact on parking, and
abuse of badges.
12. Based on responses to the consultation, the Department continues to believe
that including people who have very considerable difficulty “when walking” as
opposed to just “walking” as now, will make it clear that people can qualify not
just because of a physical difficulty in walking but for non-physical reason

14. There is one area where the consultation has persuaded the Department to
change its proposals. We had proposed specifically including people who
‘cannot follow the route of a journey without another person’. However, it has
been made clear that this would mean including some people who need
another person with them, but can otherwise physically walk well and also
without psychological distress or challenging behaviours. The Department
believes that where people suffer very considerable psychological distress or
other difficulty when walking, or have a risk of very considerable harm to their
health or safety (including people with dementia), they should be eligible for a
badge. However, where the applicant would not go out alone and the
presence of another person negates the above mentioned issues, then we do
not believe badges should be issued. Needing another person on every
journey does not necessarily equate to needing to park nearby.

15. The primary aim of the scheme is to give disabled people who rely on car
travel but face particular challenges in getting from the car to their
destination, the ability to park close-by. The Department believes the badge
should directly benefit the individual; to ensure the sustainability of the
scheme we do not believe badges should be awarded in situations where the
carer is effectively the beneficiary.

16. For the same reason the Department intends to provide an automatic link to a
badge for people who score 10 points under the ‘Planning and following
journeys” activity of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because cannot
undertake any journey without overwhelming psychological distress to the
claimant. We had proposed to link to 12 points under this activity, for people
who cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without another person, but
this would include people who do not have very considerable difficulty when
with another person and do not need to park close to where they are going. It
would not be sensible to award an automatic badge in this scenario.

This PIP criterion is not about needing to park a vehicle near to one’s destination. The
Department recognises that some people with significant challenges who
receive different levels of PIP may not have an automatic route to a badge.
This is because PIP and Blue Badge are different schemes that are not
completely compatible. However under our proposed new and expanded
eligibility criteria we are confident that people who experience very
considerable difficulties because of non-physical disabilities will now have a
clear route to a badge following assessment by their local authority.
17. Since 2012, the Government has required that where eligibility against the
walking criterion is not self-evident and an expert opinion is needed to help
determine eligibility, the local authority must use an Independent Mobility
Assessor who is independent of the applicant.
18. Following consultation, the Department continues to believe this role should
be widened. An independent mobility assessor may not be suitable for
certifying whether or not a person’s mental or cognitive disability has the
impacts that would meet the eligibility criteria. In the first place, the assessor
would not be assessing the physical ability to walk. So we believe the
assessor should become an eligibility assessor rather than a mobility
assessor. Furthermore, whereas a person with a physical disability may be
adequately assessed without the assessor having prior knowledge of their
disability, this may not be the case for a person with a non-physical disability.
Often such an assessment would require knowledge of the person’s
functional limitations when outdoors. We are therefore proposing to remove
the requirement for independence, but that does not mean a local authority
should not use an independent eligibility assessor where deemed
appropriate. This will allow the local authority to use a range of suitably
qualified healthcare professionals with specific expertise. The assessor role
does not have to be performed by a specific person – the authority will have
the flexibility to choose who they recognise as being suitable to provide an
expert opinion and it may vary from case to case, so long as the assessor
has relevant qualifications and experience to assess whether or not the
applicant has an enduring and substantial disability within the meaning set
out in the regulations. Respondents called for guidance as to who could fulfil
the assessor role and what qualifications they should have.
19. Respondents also called for clarity on a number of terms used across our
proposals, including “walk”, “journey” and “enduring” amongst others. The
Department will seek to define what these mean in guidance.

Blue Badge consultation: summary of responses and government response

Blue badge parking permits to cover ‘hidden disabilities’ in England

Blue badge parking permits are to be made available for people in England with “hidden disabilities” such as autism or mental health problems.

The Department for Transport said people with non-physical disabilities would have an equal right to free parking from next year.

Currently the rules do not explicitly exclude hidden disabilities, but councils’ interpretations can vary.

Similar changes have come into effect in Scotland and Wales.

When the changes to the blue badge scheme in England are introduced, they will extend eligibility to:

people who cannot make a journey without “a risk of serious harm to their health and safety” or that of others, such as young children with autism
people for whom travel causes “very considerable psychological distress”
and those with considerable difficulty walking, meaning “both the physical act and experience of walking”
About 2.4m disabled people in England currently have a blue badge.

The scheme, first introduced in 1970, allow holders to park for free in pay-and-display spaces and for up to three hours on yellow lines.

The badges cost £10 and in London they also provide an exemption from the congestion charge.

Thousands share invisible disabilities
Transport Minister Jesse Norman said: “Blue badges are a lifeline for disabled people, giving them the freedom and confidence to get to work and visit friends independently.”

The change follows a consultation launched in January which saw 6,000 responses.

Three in four disabled people say they would go out less often without the parking permit, the DfT said.

‘Overwhelming anxiety’
Jane Harris, director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, said the change would “make a massive difference to the lives of many of the 600,000 autistic people in England, and their families”.

Many autistic people experience major challenges in travelling, making detailed preparations and suffering “overwhelming anxiety” about things going wrong, she said.

She said that some can be unaware of the dangers of the road while others can feel panic in busy or loud environments.

Scotland and Wales have already changed their eligibility criteria for the Blue badge scheme to include some mental impairments, where people cannot follow the route of a journey without assistance, but the rules are yet to be altered in Northern Ireland.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44993036

Ken Loach: Tory government ‘callous, brutal and disgraceful’ and ‘must be removed’

Accepting the award for best British film at the Bafta awards in London, the veteran director says politicians speak for corporations – and film-makers must stand with the poor and vulnerable.

Ken Loach has launched an uncompromising attack on the UK government at the 70th British Academy Film Awards.

Speaking as he picked up his award for outstanding British film for I, Daniel Blake, which is conceived as a critique of the current state of the benefits system, Loach touched on accusations by some that his film failed to reflect reality.

Loach thanked his cast and crew, the people of Newcastle and the academy for “endorsing the truth of what this film says, which is that hundreds of thousands of people – the vulnerable and the poorest people – are treated by the this government with a callousness and brutality that is disgraceful.”

Loach continued by making reference to the Tory government’s apparent U-turnon its promise to accept thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing danger in Syria and elsewhere.

“It’s a brutality,” he said, “that extends to keeping out refugee children we promised to help.”

“In the real world,” added Loach, “it’s getting darker. And in the struggle that’s coming between the rich and the powerful, the corporations and the politicians that speak for them, and the rest of us on the other side, the film-makers know which side they’re on.”

Speaking at the press conference afterwards, Loach went further, saying that the government “have to be removed”. He hoped that voters would see his film, but there was little point politicians doing so as “the people actually implementing these decisions know what they’re doing. It’s conscious.”

Their welfare policies, he said, harked back to the Victorian workhouse ethos of telling people that poverty was their fault. “They know they’re doing. We have to change them; they have to be removed.”

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/feb/12/ken-loach-governments-treatment-of-refugee-children-callous-brutal-and-disgraceful

I, Daniel Blake review – a battle cry for the dispossessed

Ken Loach crafts a Cathy Come Home for the 21st century, the raw anger of which resonates long after you leave the cinema.

Mark Kermode

Ken Loach’s latest Palme d’Or winner, his second after 2006’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley, packs a hefty punch, both personal and political. On one level, it is a polemical indictment of a faceless benefits bureaucracy that strips claimants of their humanity by reducing them to mere numbers – neoliberal 1984 meets uncaring, capitalist Catch-22. On another, it is a celebration of the decency and kinship of (extra)ordinary people who look out for each other when the state abandons its duty of care.

For all its raw anger at the impersonal mistreatment of a single mother and an ailing widower in depressed but resilient Newcastle, Paul Laverty’s brilliantly insightful script finds much that is moving (and often surprisingly funny) in the unbreakable social bonds of so-called “broken Britain”. Blessed with exceptional lead performances from Dave Johns and Hayley Squires, Loach crafts a gut-wrenching tragicomic drama (about “a monumental farce”) that blends the timeless humanity of the Dardenne brothers’ finest works with the contemporary urgency of Loach’s own 1966 masterpiece Cathy Come Home.

We open with the sound of 59-year-old Geordie joiner Daniel Blake (standup comic Johns) answering automaton-like questions from a “healthcare professional”. Having suffered a heart attack at work, Daniel has been instructed by doctors to rest. Yet since he is able to walk 50 metres and “raise either arm as if to put something in your top pocket”, he is deemed ineligible for employment and support allowance, scoring a meaningless 12 points rather than the requisite 15. Instead, he must apply for jobseeker’s allowance and perform the Sisyphean tasks of attending CV workshops and pounding the pavements in search of nonexistent jobs that he can’t take anyway.

Meanwhile, Squires’s mother-of-two Katie is similarly being given the runaround, rehoused hundreds of miles from her friends and family in London after spending two years in a hostel. “I’ll make this a home if it’s the last thing I do,” she tells Daniel, who takes her under his wing, fixing up her flat and impressed by her resolve to go “back to the books” with the Open University. Both are doing all they can to make the best of a bleak situation, retaining their hope and dignity in the face of insurmountable odds. Yet both are falling through the cracks of a cruel system that pushes those caught up in its cogs to breaking point.

“We’re digital by default” is the mantra of this impersonal new world, to which carpenter Daniel pointedly replies, “Yeah? Well I’m pencil by default.” Scenes of Blake struggling with a computer cursor (“fucking apt name for it!”) raise a wry chuckle, but there’s real outrage at the way this obligatory online form-filling has effectively written people like him out of existence. Yet still Daniel supports – and is supported by – those around him; from Kema Sikazwe’s street-smart China, a neighbour who is forging entrepreneurial links online (the internet may alienate Daniel, but it also unites young workers of the world), to Katie’s kids, Daisy and Dylan – the latter coaxed from habitual isolation (“no one listens to him so why should he listen to them?”) by the hands-on magic of woodwork. Having lost a wife who loved hearing Sailing By, the theme for Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast, and whose mind was “like the ocean”, Daniel carves beautiful fish mobiles that turn the kids’ rooms into an aquatic playground. Meanwhile, their mother is gradually going under.

A scene in a food bank in which the starving Katie, on the verge of collapse, finds herself grasping a meagre tin of beans is one of the most profoundly moving film sequences I have ever seen. Shot at a respectful distance by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, the scene displays both an exquisite empathy for Katie’s trembling plight and a pure rage that anyone should be reduced to such humiliation. Having seen I, Daniel Blake twice, I have both times been left a shivering wreck by this sequence, awash with tears, aghast with anger, overwhelmed by the sheer force of its all-but-silent scream.

“They’ll fuck you around,” China tells Daniel, “make it as miserable as possible – that’s the plan.” For Loach and Laverty, this is the dark heart of their drama, the use of what Loach calls the “intentional inefficiency of bureaucracy as a political weapon”, a way of intimidating people in a manner that is anything but accidental. “When you lose your self-respect you’re done for,” says Daniel, whose act of graffitied defiance becomes an “I’m Spartacus!” battle cry that resonates far beyond the confines of the movie theatre. Expect to see it spray-painted on the walls of a jobcentre near you soon.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/23/i-daniel-blake-ken-loach-review-mark-kermode

I’m One – NAS campaign

The campaign aims to get autism on the agenda of political candidates at this crucial time by encouraging conversations, in the form of candidate coffee mornings, between candidates and people affected by autism.

Right from the start, we want candidates to understand that autism is an important issue in their constituency so that if they are elected they can help us to campaign for the changes we all want to see.

By organising a candidate coffee morning, our supporters can help would-be MPs across the UK to understand all about autism and the issues that are most important to people with autism in their communities.

NAS Chief Executive, Mark Lever, said:

When The National Autistic Society has successfully campaigned for changes to benefit people with autism both locally and nationally, we’ve usually needed the support of politicians.

These politicians tell me they support us with our campaigns because of the stories they’ve heard from their constituents about living with autism. They care about our issues because they know that they’re important to the people they represent.

In the weeks and months before the election on 7 May, all sorts of people will contact candidates to ask them to support their causes. So, how can we make sure autism is one of their priorities? By taking the time to sit down with them, face to face, for a conversation that will cut through the noise and be a memorable experience for them.”

We will also be working with our branches to organise several hustings events to hold local candidates to account.

Visit the I’m One homepage to find out more and take part.

http://www.autism.org.uk/news-and-events/news-from-the-nas/nas-launches-new-campaign-for-the-2015-general-election.aspx