Thursday 18 April 2013

Labour's latest ad

"Made by the many." A many that apparently doesn't include disabled people.

Not the disabled people who used to be employed in Remploy factories who made everything from wheelchair to computers.

And certainly not a peep about disabled people being employers; using their direct payments to give someone a job.

Nothing about disabled people keeping the car industry in business during tight financial times through the Motability scheme.

Nothing about the DLA that gets poured into the local economy through takeaways when people are unable to cook. Or to local cab companies.

To Labour disabled people aren't part of the many that keep this country going. We don't even exist.

Monday 8 April 2013

PIP faces Legal Challenge!

PIP faces Legal Challenge!

Thanks again to the impossibly passionate Jane Young, have today announced they will be working with @DoughtyStPublic and @LeighDay_Law tochallenge changes to the new PIP (Personal Independence Payments replacing DLA or Disability Living Allowance) mobility criteria.

Campaigners like Steve Sumpter (@latentexistence), myself, Kaliya Franklin and Jane herself have been invited to explain on radio and TV today, just what the changes will mean.

As regular readers will know, the government have constantly misled the public over the new benefit, claiming a 35% rise when Spartacus Report showed clearly that the rise is only 13% for the working age group who will be affected. Physical conditions have remained totally stable, whilst the 13% rise is almost all due to a rise in mental health conditions and learning disabilities, a trend seen worldwide, not just in the UK.

The DWP misled the public over the first consultation, claiming broad support for the changes, when in fact there was almost none.

After a passionate journey through the House of Lords, the government simply overturned all of the amendments we'd won (amendments that were reasonable and could have made PIP safer and fairer) using an archaic 16th century law known as "financial privilege"

Even at that point, once the changes had become law, the government assured campaigners that once they announced the finer details of PIP, there would be no further policy changes, However, when "regulations" were finally announced just before Christmas, the criteria for claiming the most help with mobility problems had been slashed from 50 mtrs to 20 mtrs without consultation or warning.

This means that many of the most vulnerable claimants of all will no longer qualify. A whopping 600,000 of them. The ability to walk 50 mtrs might just get you to your car and out at the other end, to, say, get to a supermarket scooter. 20 mtrs will get few people from their homes to even their car, leaving over half a million sick or disabled people effectively housebound.

As we all rush from interview to interview, it's clear those put up to oppose us don't even understand DLA or what it does. With that in mind, I thought I'd lay out the key points here for any of you to use or pass on.

All we can do is set the record straight whenever we are given the chance, so do feel free to copy and paste the following and send to whoever you can.

1) DLA is a working benefit. It does not stop a sick or disabled person from working - quite the opposite in fact. It is often used for transport to and from a job if the recipient can't manage public transport, or for care at home, to enable the claimant to get up and dressed in the mornings just to get to work.

2) DLA HASN'T risen by 35%, for working age claimants (the only one's affected by PIP) the rise is 13%. There has been almost no rise at all in claims for physical conditions, the rise is almost entirely down to an increase in mental health and learning disability claims, a trend seen in every country of the developed world.
By far the biggest increases come from demographics, children or pensioners, groups the government aren't transferring to PIP.

3) There were always face to face assessments for DLA (Atos did those too) and claimantsalways had to support their claims with evidence from their own GP or consultant

4) The government claim DLA needs reform because so many get lifetime awards. However, they announced a few months ago that they won't even be testing those with indefinite claims at all until after the next election. Indefinite awards make up nearly 70% of all DLA awards and the government claim over and over that it is this group who have been "left to languish" yet they've decided to do nothing about it at all.

5) DLA does not act as a dis-incentive to work, far from it. 60% of disabled people in the UK work.

6) Fraud is just half of one percent as consistently proven by the DWPs own figures. Yet the George Osborne announced a 20% cut back in June 2010 before a single assessment had taken place.

7) DLA saves the taxpayer many times the amount it costs. Study after study shows that sick and disabled people spend their DLA with amazing efficiency. If DLA is withdrawn, the need doesn't just go away and costs are simply transferred to an already crumbling social care service or the NHS.

8) The higher rate mobility criteria was slashed from 50 mtrs to 20 mtrs without consultation or warning, meaning that over 600,000 people will no longer qualify for the benefit. These are people who can barely walk at all - the most vulnerable the government claim to be protecting.

Please join us in countering the propaganda and mis-information our government are churning out today. Every challenge shows a few more people what is really going on in their name.

Legal action against the DWP over the #PIP consultation

I am one of three people asking for a Judicial Review over the consultation for Personal Independence Payments.

The request for a judicial review is on the basis that the Department for Work and Pensions did not conduct a proper consultation for PIP and if we are successful then they will be ordered to start the consultation again. If a judicial review is granted than it should take place sometime in July.

The initial consultation for PIP used inability to walk 50 metres to define eligibility for the enhanced rate of mobility component. That is, anyone who could not walk 50 metres without the use of a wheelchair would get highest rate of the benefit. After the consultation ended it emerged that the goalposts had been moved, and that the cut-off point for high-rate mobility would be just 20 metres. Those who can walk more than 20 metres but less than 50 metres safely, reliably and repeatedly may qualify for a lower rate of the benefit.

We will be arguing that the DWP were required to consult on such a fundamental change  and that they did not provide adequate information during the consultation that did take place. We will also argue that the DWP failed in their duty under the Equality Act 2010 to assess the impact of the new regulations on disabled people.

This change will affect me personally, albeit probably not until 2015 when those whose DLA has not already run out will be transferred to PIP. Those who receive the high-rate of mobility allowance under DLA are eligible to lease a car from the Motability scheme. If this requirement is kept with PIP then as someone who can usually walk more then 20 metres but not 50 metres without pain pain and exhaustion I will lose the high-rate mobility component and will therefore lose the car that restores much of my freedom and independence.

Public Law Solicitors are taking action on my behalf while Leigh Day are representing the two others involved in this case.

Press are welcome to contact me by email on latentexistence at gmail dot com.
More information will be at

Press release from Public Law Solicitors / Leigh Day 08/04/2013

Lawyers have announced that they are taking legal action against the Government on behalf of three disabled clients who are challenging the decision by Ian Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and pensions, to bring in more stringent measures to qualify for the higher rate mobility benefit which the Government has estimated will result in 400,000 fewer people being eligible to claim.

The three clients currently receive disability living allowance (DLA) including the higher rate of the mobility component. This non-means-tested cash benefit has been available since 1992 and provides people with assistance towards the costs of an adapted car, powered wheelchair or scooter through the Motability scheme.

Under DLA a person is entitled to the higher rate of the mobility component if they are ‘unable or virtually unable to walk’. Usually claimants are considered to be ‘virtually unable to walk’ if they cannot walk more than around 50 metres.

The new Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 (PIP) have reduced this benchmark distance to 20m.

Kim Storr has rheumatoid arthritis and other severe progressive conditions and her mobility is affected by joint swelling and pain. She relies on crutches. She currently receives DLA including the higher rate of the mobility component. Ms Storr needs an adapted vehicle to enable her to go out independently.

Steven Sumpter has ME, which has caused him increasing mobility problems. He can walk short distances with a stick, but is otherwise dependent on a wheelchair.  He was assessed as eligible for the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA last year, which he has used to lease a Motability car.

The third claimant is protected by an anonymity order to protect their identity.

Law firms Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors argue that a consultation process set up by the Government to reassess the benefit was flawed. The Secretary of State did not consult on the proposal that the limit would be reduced to 20 metres. This suggestion was only introduced after all the consultation stages had passed.

Consultees were therefore denied the opportunity to comment on the proposal or to explain to the Secretary of State how such a restriction to the benefit will affect them and their independence.

The 50 metres distance is widely recognised in relation to other disability benefits and in guidance on the built environment, to represent a minimum functional level of mobility.

Proceedings have been issued against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Ian Duncan Smith, claiming that the new regulations regarding the PIP payment are flawed and unlawful. They argue the policy-making process failed to properly consider the practical impacts the withdrawal of the benefit will have on people with significant mobility impairments.

Rosa Curling, from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day who is representing two of the disabled clients said:

“We have advised our clients that the consultation undertaken by the Secretary of State was unlawful. People were not properly informed that the limit might be reduced to 20 metres and had no opportunity to provide the Secretary of State with their views on this proposal.

“Removing this vital benefit to disabled people will have a devastating effect on many people’s lives and their ability to access and be part of our communities. The Secretary of State has a legal obligation to consider such impacts before deciding whether to limit access to this benefit.”

Karen Ashton from Public Law Solicitors who represents Mr Sumpter, said:

“What is at the heart of this legal challenge is fairness.  The extra costs of getting out and about for those who have severe mobility problems can be huge. The higher rate mobility benefit can make the difference between being able to do everyday things that everyone else takes for granted  - such as doing your own shopping and visiting friends and relatives  -  and only leaving the house for absolutely essential appointments. But the Government failed to mention the reduction to the 20m threshold in their consultations with disabled people and so those who are potentially affected have not had the chance to explain how devastating the consequences will be.”


For further information please contact:

David Standard – Head of Media Relations, Leigh Day 0844 800 4981 or 07540 332717

Karen Ashton -  Public Law Solicitors 0121 256 0327 or  07812 165090

Steven blogs at and tweets as @latentexistence

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Overheard in the Waiting Room

This morning, I took a pair of gruesomely infected toes to the doctor's. During the long wait, I politely eavesdropped on a conversation between three friends who had bumped into each other (that is, they had met by accident; they weren't seeking medical help having violently collided). I would guess that they were around retirement age, or maybe a little younger, two women and a man; ordinary folks. They competed as to whose winter coat had lasted longest, discussed Strictly Come Dancing and expressed some nostalgia for The News of the World before it went trashy.

Then they had a conversation, which went something like this:

A: Of course, all these cuts have just come in, haven't they? A lot of people are going to be struggling.
B: Oh yes. It's not fair that the poorest people should have to pay when it's the bankers who got us into this mess.
C: I know. It's only going to cause the country trouble in the long run, making people so badly off.
A: But there are some people swinging the lead.
B: That's for sure. You hear a lot about disability fraud.
C: Yeah and everybody knows somebody, don't they? Someone who's working the system.
A: But there's a lot of propaganda about that, I think.
B: Of course, the government want you to think they're all the same.
C: You can't believe anything you hear, that's for sure - especially not from this lot!

It went round like this, several times, sometimes with specific anecdotes or particular stories they had seen on the television and in newspapers. At one point, there was a very nuanced discussion of workfare (although they didn't use that term), which talked about the difficulties someone might have if they had depression, would benefit from work and might sign up for one of these schemes, only to get in trouble when they struggled to get out of bed in the morning and were late for their placement. Because people with depression can have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, however hard working and enthusiastic they are.

But time and again the same sentiments were repeated:

  1. Some people are on the scrounge for sure. 
  2. Some people are really suffering.
  3. You can't believe anything your hear.

This disbelief was extended across the board. At one point the conversation shifted from a discussion of just how difficult it was going to be for some people - just how little money people would be left to live on - to the "scare-mongering" about how difficult it was all going to be.

And this is the trouble we have; the position that ordinarily apolitical people who are not directly affected by the cuts have been placed in. They don't trust what they hear - least of all from politicians. They care about the fact that people are being left with little to live on, and the removal of crisis safety-nets like the Social Fund and Legal Aid for civil cases. But, weighing the balance of everything they've been told, they feel that there's a fair amount of cheating going on and that needs to be stopped.

Most people I speak to, outside of disabled, poor or otherwise politically active types, feel the same. They support Welfare Reform in principle (and why not? Few people feel there's no room for improvement), they are anxious about how this effects vulnerable people in practice (People like you). But they don't know what the answers are and they feel that everyone who has a voice in the public sphere is probably lying to them.

I don't know what the answers are, but I wonder if this conversation is about to change. Although there's more to come, a lot of the cuts which came into place on Monday have been a long time coming, and the real life consequences have been - while reasonably speculated about - as yet uncertain. Now it's happening. The poorest people are poorer than they've been for many years. There are many more of them.

And maybe there's some optimism to be taken from the fact that people are confused. A few years ago, when the scrounger rhetoric had just got underway, I think the friends' conversation would be less balanced. The deserving poor would have been spoken about as rare exceptions, as opposed to "many".

See Also: John Harris: We have to talk about why some people agree with benefit cuts.