TfL Disability Campaign

TfL are currently running a campaign called ‘Come on Board’ which targets older and disabled groups, providing them with information and support to aid travel across London’s public transport network.

If there are any local groups who they feel may benefit from a visit by TfL as part of this campaign email transport.strategy@brent.gov.uk with details of the group which will be passed to TfL.

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International Day for Disabled People – 1st December 2016

Brent is celebrating the International Day for Disabled People on 1st December 2016. Marked across the globe, this day has been celebrated by the United Nations since 1992.
The day aims to increase understanding of the barriers facing people with disabilities and promote participation and inclusion. The event will incorporate a Job Fair and a Health and Well-being Zone  The theme for 2016 is “Achieving the Goals for the future we want”

The event on  1st  December 2016   will be held at the Brent Civic Centre from 10am to 3pm and is an opportunity to engage with residents, carers and colleagues.

Please contact
equality@brent.gov.uk if you wish to register early for this event.

Could your organisation provide meals to vulnerable people in Brent?

English: Meals on Wheels 'HotShot' delivery ve...
English: Meals on Wheels ‘HotShot’ delivery vehicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are exploring different ways in which we can deliver our meals on wheels service. We want to have a system where people can chose where they want their meals to come from and see if we can work out a feasible way of making this happen.

If you know of any organisations or are part of one that would be interested in learning more and could also deliver a meals service to elderly and disabled people in Brent, email Communitymeals@brent.gov.uk to get involved.

It must be pretty tough being ‘in’ a wheelchair

I came across this Department for Work and Pensions guidance manual with good practice on how local authorities should manage Discretionary Housing Payments.…  as you do.

I was intrigued by the example case study given in the document  on page 26 (FULL DOCUMENT LINK). It says “Mrs Thom is in a wheelchair”, at which point I thought, that must be pretty tough being all tangled up and stuck inside a wheelchair.

DHP 2013 guidance page 26

Of course that’s not what the DWP meant, but disabled people and disabled people’s organisations have for long looked to discourage terms like living in a wheelchair. People are human beings first and Mrs Thom is someone who uses a wheelchair, so being described as a wheelchair user is far more appropriate than someone in a wheelchair.

The point I’m trying to make is that using the right language is important. It frames what your thoughts are about the people you are talking about. You can end up losing people.

The recent example I have is when we had a deputation from a local business owner on the reduced parking charges that Brent Labour introduced last month. The owner argued for a free parking period for up to 45 minutes and “handicapped” people would struggle with cashless parking. At which point he had lost me and I thought to myself that this person obviously has no regard for disabled people if he’s going around at public meetings describing them as “handicapped” – a phrase that disability organisations have long looked to stop the use of and is considered offensive to disabled people.

Similarly, people are no longer described as being ‘in wheelchairs’ or ‘confined to wheelchairs’ and ‘wheelchair user’ is more appropriate.

It’s sad that this example was found in a Government Department for Work and Pensions document and they should really know better.

EXCLUSIVE: The Government cut Discretionary Housing Payments in the 2012 Autumn Statement

The Ministerial statement and widely reported U-turn on the Bedroom Tax does nothing to alleviate concern about the impact of the Bedroom Tax on disabled people.

Couples where one individual has to sleep in a hospital bed and the couple cannot share a room will be penalised for having an “extra” bedroom.

The bedroom tax, due to be implemented in April, will penalise households in social housing deemed to have more bedrooms than they require. About 670,000 households will face a 14% cut in housing benefit for the first bedroom deemed surplus to requirements and 25% for two or more bedrooms. The government estimates the average household affected will lose £14 a week (Source: Guardian).

The Government seems to say that everything is fine because disabled people will be able to apply for discretionary housing payment from their local council and any shortfalls will be addressed – everything is hunky dory. WRONG!

On Page 68 of the 2012 Autumn Statement, the Government makes a positive move to exempt people in supported accommodation from the bedroom tax but they pay for it using money allocated for Discretionary Housing Payments!

DHP Cut in 2012 Autumn Statement

That’s a £15 million reduction in Discretionary Housing Payments up to 2017 and front loaded so that £10 million is taken out in the first two years!!!

However, DHP is a funding pot that people have to apply for every year, it is non-statutory and if it runs out, that is it. Reducing it is concerning and makes the future uncertain for disabled people.

My 2013/14 Budget speech at Full Council

I didn’t really plan a speech but contributions from the Tories and Lib Dems got me inspired to stand up at the Budget setting meeting on Monday. Here is what I said;

“in 2013, the horizon is very different for disabled people.

Cllr Kansagra [Leader of the Brent Conservative Party] said in his speech that vulnerable people are protected in changes made by Government….. but that’s as true as a Lib Dem Focus leaflet I received a couple of weeks ago that said that David Clues was my ‘local’ Councillor when he’s living in Brighton.

What about Disability Living Allowance, where by the Government’s own admission, 200,000 will lose out on their disability benefits?

By the Government’s own admission, thousands will lose out on Carer’s Allowance because of the way that benefits interact with eachother.

This Budget supports carers with the introduction of a new Carer’s Hub. Mr Mayor, there are 23,000 Carers in Brent. People providing care to their loved ones in ways that we cannot even imagine. We will create a single access point for carers in Brent.

What about Employment Support Allowance? Disabled people who have worked all their lives and find themselves in adversity will have their benefits slashed if they have not found a job in 12 months

And what about the Bedroom Tax? Couples where one individual has to sleep in a hospital bed and the couple cannot share a room will be penalised for having an “extra” bedroom.

This Budget continues to offer hope and support to the Voluntary Sector – to the Brent CAB, who will often be the first point of call for Brent people affected by these changes.

Mr Mayor, Labour is the Party that offers hope to people in Brent at a time when examples are taken out of context and are out of the norm and are being used to soften the public mood for benefit changes that are damaging the lives of disabled people.

Mr Mayor, given the Lib Dem and Tory record in Government, I dread to think what they would do to services valued by the most vulnerable if god forbid the Lib Dems & Tories had control at this Town Hall again – and it’s with this I end my statement and support this Budget and it’s amendments.”

Government cuts support to Carers

One of the lesser emphasized changes with disability benefits is the issue of passporting and the way that benefits interact with each other.

I was gutted after seeing this document – LINK

CA PIP document

By the Government’s own estimations, they will cut financial support to thousands of carers across the country in the transition from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Ex-caregiver and striking wharfie joins striki...
Ex-caregiver and striking wharfie joins striking caregivers (Photo credit: Simon Oosterman)

In Brent, we have increased support to carers and work is underway to introduce a Carers Hub which will act as a single point of access for Carer support. The contract has been awarded to the Brent Carers Centre – LINK

In addition, at Monday night’s Executive, our Labour run Council decided to go against guidance issued by the Department of Health which permitted Councils to take Carer’s income into account when charging for care services.

£907 million funding gap for London Councils projected within five years

New analysis has revealed that there is a projected £907 million funding gap in London Council budgets by 2018 due to social care pressures.

Indeed Brent’s own projections show that there is a £45 million gap due to care pressures by 2020. The projections are accurately mapped out and take into consideration factors such as, cuts to Council budgets, the rise in the elderly population, the fact that younger and working age disabled people are living longer with long-term conditions too.

The one element where there is cost uncertainty is in charges. Social care provision is means-tested and with rising levels of poverty and a squeeze on other disability and housing benefits, we may find that more will be provided with free or heavily subsidised services because of the nature of means-testing.

budget
budget (Photo credit: The Survival Woman)

London Councils currently spend a third of their budgets on social care. The Local Government Association (LGA) in a separate report in June last year warned that without reform, the public can expect a cut of 90% of funding in popular services such as libraries and leisure centres.

Indeed in the first budget of the current Council administration the two significant areas of overspend and pressure on top of the front loaded cuts to Brent Council were adult social care and children in care. Unfortunately this received about zero attention though.

The report provides a great case for wholesale health and social care integration and more support to local authorities. You can read the full report here LINK

Callous switch of disability benefit definition

One of the hidden and apparently subtle changes to the 1% uprating of benefits for the next three years is the definition of Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

The Government has stated that all disability related benefits are safe from the 1% uprating of benefits. However, look through the detail and you see that this is simply not the case.

Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Game...
Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Games Demo Birmingham (Photo credit: dis_ppl_protest)

Employment Support Allowance is the disability benefit that replaces the old Incapacity Benefit. Within this is the Work Related Activity Group which includes disabled people who are expected to go back to work. (Support group, people not expected to work, continues to get inflation uprating)

The Government itself in its own analysis recognises that all people by definition who receive ESA have an impairment. So… the big question is, is ESA now an employment benefit in line with Jobseeker’s Allowance or is it a benefit for disabled people to help them while they look for work?

Disability Rights UK provide a damning analysis of this change – LINK

On top of this, the Government has also introduced a 12 month time-limiting of Employment Support Allowance. Disabled people on contributory Employment Support Allowance (includes people who have contributed taxes) and find themselves out of work will lose this benefit if they haven’t found a job within 12 months.  This shows total lack of consideration to the effects of disability discrimination and the fact that those who have newly acquired an impairment will spend several of those first few months just adjusting their lives.

Holes in the safety net: The impact of Universal Credit on disabled people and their families

Towards the latter end of 2012, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson launched an inquiry looking into the introduction of Universal Credit as part of the Government’s wider welfare reforms. The graph below shows the devastating impact that their reforms will have on families with disabled children.

Universal Credit impact on families with disabled children

The graph above relates to the Universal Credit proposals, which will cut the level of support in half of the disability element of child tax credit. At present, families with a disabled child in receipt of some level of Disability Living Allowance may be entitled to this support. The report highlights that under the Government’s own estimates, this change will affect around 100,000 disabled children.

You can read the full inquiry document here – LINK

At the same time, this Tory Liberal Government is cutting taxes for the wealthy. We are clearly not all in this together.