Monday, 28 March 2011

Full text of my Letter to the Evening Standard re 26th March

Re the TUC March & Rally 26th March 2011

The total number of people marching on Saturday, estimated to be in the region of 400-500,000, corresponds roughly to the number of severely disabled, economically disadvantaged people across the country, who are bearing the lion's share of the cuts.

Just try to imagine the impact seeing all the severely disabled victims of the cuts in one place at one time would have had!

We are the main group reliant on services from local authorities outside areas such as child protection which are more likely to have had funding safeguarded. We, however, have already seen our funding cut to reduce our quality of life, and now it is to be cut to below subsistence level.

In Hertfordshire, the average single, severely disabled person on means tested benefits such as income support like myself has already been paying £30-35 towards their support out of their Disability Living Allowance and Severe Disability premiums - now we will pay £55, often for just 5 hours of support whereas a carer has to provide 35 hours of care to qualify for the same amount in the form of Carers Allowance.

The council has been able to make this increase to charges worth £3 million, which it refers to as an "efficiency saving", because the so called “fairer charging” guidelines, which set out what the NHS & LA’s can charge for “social care”, allow for it.

Disabled people who work, or who have partners who work, however much money they are earning, will continue to receive their services for free because they are not in receipt of any means tested benefits and so don't come under the same consideration in the Dept of Health guidelines.

Meanwhile the council is simultaneously cutting back services such as home visits and halving the budget for the centrally funded Supporting People Initiative, providing services for those in sheltered housing, with the same illogical bias against disabled people on means tested benefits now the “ring-fencing” of this money has been removed. The same situation is sadly also happening across London, other Metropolitan Authorities and in every local authority like Hertfordshire up and down the country.

For disabled people with conditions like mine, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which disrupts the collagen in our bodies, it's an especially counter-productive approach as without the appropriate care we often exert ourselves in damaging ways that mean we end up being expensively treated in hospital.

Main Ehler-Danlos Website Forum

I was really hoping to go to the T.U.C. March on Saturday - but after hearing my application for judicial review of Hertfordshire's funding decisions has been rejected on the papers, have since been focusing on securing an oral hearing of my application instead.

The TUC for their part made great efforts to make the march accessible and include disabled speakers for the rally in Hyde Park - making clear it is not just Unison jobs under threat, but the people they are working to help.

They at least support the rallying cry of disabled people in the UK

“Nothing about Us without Us”.

Sadly though, many severely disabled people like me, who would like to have been there, were in the end simply unable to be there on the day because of the demands of the journey and the march itself. But the 400-500,000 who did march effectively represented each of us one for one in terms of numbers.

What was deeply regrettable for me and others given how many disabled people did fight the odds to make it to the march and rally therefore was the way disabled people were glossed over in the media coverage. Even when there were visibly disabled people in wheelchairs, crutches and using canes and walking aids moving past in the background of the news footage, reporters still failed to bring up this whole dimension of the debate - just another way that the disabled are finding themselves the silent victims of the cuts.

N.B. The edited version of the letter which appeared in todays edition also included a link back to the Where's the Benefit Blog for those wanting further information.

As for the High Court I am still awaiting the details and reasoning behind the initial decision but have already decided I simply must take the next step in the process which is to re-apply but seeking an oral "permissions" hearing so that I can make my detailed arguments in person rather than just in the form of a written submission.

I will also be armed with a copy of the chair of the Health and Adult Care Cabinet Panel's webcast on the day of the decision to approve the increased charges in which his own words confirm he doesn't even know how the current and proposed systems work and as such can not now claim to have taken the true impact on disabled people into account when reaching the decision as is required by law.

**DING DING" Seconds out - Round Two ..........

Watch this space for a blow by blow account of the rest of the fight. :)

1 comment:

  1. I just received a letter from the National Centre for Social Research. Apparently an independent research institute is gathering "quality of life" information for the Department of Work and Pensions. No idea what this means but it seems something is in the works. I will be telling them EXACTLY what is going on if I can. But surveys are by their very nature very narrow and I don't doubt it isn't going to be used to get stats that the DWP actually like, rather than the truth. Still spread this news around!