“Shocking” new figures show that more than a quarter of disabled people who previously received support from the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in one local authority area have had their social care packages cut by at least half since it closed.The figures were revealed in response to a freedom of information (FOI) request to Waltham Forest council from Inclusion London, the pan-London Deaf and disabled people’s organisation. The council told Inclusion London that it was funding 60 former ILF-users, but just seven of them had seen their care packages increase after being reassessed following ILF’s closure.Of the 53 disabled people with high support needs who have had their packages reduced, 16 have seen cuts of more than 50 per cent; seven of between 41 and 50 per cent; and 11 of between 21 and 40 per cent.Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “The figures released from Waltham Forest are shocking; not just the scale, with 53 out of 60 people facing cuts to their packages, but also the extent, with more than a quarter facing dramatic cuts of over 50 per cent of their support.“They evidence that the closure of the ILF was without doubt a cut, not a transfer, as claimed by the government.“The FOI also records two individuals as having requested supported living/specialist placements and we are very concerned as to whether this is an example of disabled people effectively being forced into residential arrangements not of their choosing but as a direct result of cuts to their support packages.”ILF was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and when it closed on 30 June was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.But work and pensions ministers decided that it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.This transition process has been hit by reports of cuts to the care packages of former ILF-recipients, and government pre-closure statements and pledges appear now to be falling apart.There was little mention of ILF at this week’s Labour party conference in Brighton, but former ILF-user Jae Robinson, who in June was part of an attempt by disabled activists to storm the main House of Commons chamber to draw attention to the fund’s closure, told a fringe event organised by the Care and Support Alliance how important the fund had been.She said: “I went on that demo and I fought for the ILF because of what it signifies – the right to go to the pub, the right to live a life, the right to have an education, the right… not to have segregated education.“People need to get real. Grow some ears and listen to the people who are affected.”After the meeting, she told DNS that Labour had not yet got a grip on the ILF issue.She said: “They need to recognise that the ILF represented the fundamental freedoms and principles by which this Labour party was founded.“By denying people those rights, which the ILF gave them, is basically sentencing people… to being hidden away in institutions and basically becoming substandard and unworthy.”
The Liberal Democrats have announced plans for a dedicated NHS and social care tax, but have stopped short of following the Green party and Labour in backing a national, free, needs-led system of support.Norman Lamb, the party’s health and care spokesman and a former social care minister in the coalition, told the party’s annual conference in Brighton that there was a need for a new tax – perhaps through an extra one pence on national insurance – to deal with health and care systems that are now “on their knees”.But he told Disability News Service (DNS) that the solution presented in a report on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund by Inclusion London – a national, needs-led system, free at the point of delivery, and funded by taxation – would impose “very substantial costs to the health and care system beyond what the system is currently paying for”.He said of the parties that have backed that call: “They are talking about not just maintaining the current offer, they are talking about substantially increasing it.“They have got to be straight with people about the consequences of that.”Lamb said he had heard “some really disturbing things” about disabled people having their personal budgets cut, with many organisations “expressing massive concern about support being undermined”, and local care providers in his area of Norfolk raising concerns about “what look like arbitrary decisions to reduce care packages, driven by financial necessity”.He said: “It’s quite bleak, really. I feel that both the health and care system are on their knees and I feel that the care system is on borrowed time.”He said he was “horrified” by what was happening to social care.During the coalition years from 2010 to 2015, he said, “the NHS was protected and social care wasn’t”.Money was transferred from the NHS to social care to compensate for cuts in local government spending, but “because it was not ring-fenced, that money leaked out to prop up other local government services, so it didn’t work effectively enough to protect social care”.He said: “That’s why there has to be new thinking here and we have to move away from a fragmented system that always disadvantages social care.”Speaking later (pictured, right), alongside Labour’s Liz Kendall (left) at a conference fringe event, he called on the prime minister to set up a cross-party commission that would “confront the growing crisis in the NHS and social care system”.In a joint statement, backed by former Tory health minister Dr Dan Poulter, Lamb and Kendall said there needed to be a “national conversation with the public and with healthcare staff about how we ensure a properly-funded and sustainable NHS and care system”.Lamb told DNS: “At the election, none of the parties came up with solutions to the scale of the problem.“Labour proposed cutting local government spending; we had nothing significant to say on social care beyond implementing [the recommendations of the Dilnot report] – which in itself was quite a significant breakthrough – but we didn’t have anything more than that, and the Tories had nothing at all.“There was a sort of conspiracy of silence and the trouble is that because this involves more money, everybody balks at talking about this openly.”Lamb also announced that he had set up a panel of “independent health experts” to “consider the case for a dedicated NHS and care tax”.But he admitted to DNS that he had not appointed any disabled people or service-users to that panel.He said the suggestion that he should have done so was “an entirely legitimate perspective, so I am completely up for that”.Baroness [Sal] Brinton, the party’s disabled president, told DNS later that “if he has the capacity to expand it, he needs that [service-user] voice on the panel”.Lamb said: “The political parties always obsess about funding the NHS. We have got to start obsessing about funding for the NHS and care.”And he said there had to be a pooled budget for health and social care to provide an incentive to prevent ill-health and “deterioration of health”.He said in his speech to conference that the government’s spending plans would lead to a reducing percentage of national income being spent on health and social care “at a time when demand is rising by about four per cent a year”, which “just makes no sense”.He told DNS: “The NHS has a status as a national religion in this country. A lot of people don’t get what social care means; social care sounds a bit old-fashioned.”When DNS suggested that using “independent living” rather than social care might secure more support, he said: “It is better and it’s a more Liberal concept from my point-of-view, because it is giving the person the right to determine their own priorities and make their own choices.”And asked whether a call for a National Health and Independent Living Service could help secure more funds, he said: “I’m attracted by that sort of proposition because the terminology we use is unhelpful in the public discourse.“Fundamentally, we have got to shift away from a divided budget which ends up distorting priorities and shifting resources into repairing damage once it’s done rather than preventing damage in the first place.”Lamb’s call for a National Health and Care Service was backed by his party leader, Tim Farron, in his main speech to conference.Farron said: “If the great Liberal William Beveridge had written his blueprint [for a welfare state] today, when people are living to the ages they are now, there is no doubt that he would have proposed a National Health and Care Service. “He would have been appalled about the child who has to look after their disabled parent or the hundreds of thousands of women across the country who are unable to work because they are disproportionately the care-givers.“So let’s today decide to do what Beveridge would do. Let’s create that National Health and Care Service.”
Disabled people and others with personal experience of claiming benefits are leading a ground-breaking project to devise a new social security system, in which claimants would be treated with dignity, trust and respect.The Commission on Social Security, led by Experts by Experience, will seek ideas from other claimants, organisations and academics, before drawing up their own white paper and putting it out for consultation.They will then launch a campaign to seek public and political approval for their final ideas.Every one of the commissioners who will produce the white paper has been or is on benefits, and all of them represent grassroots, user-led organisations that fight for the rights of benefit claimants and disabled people.In a disturbing sign of the current system’s flaws, some of the commissioners have asked not to be publicly named through fear of Department for Work and Pensions reprisals.They hope that other benefit claimants, thinktanks, academics and civil society organisations will now share their own ideas for how to reform the system after the commission launched a call for evidence, with a deadline of 31 July.The commissioners have drawn up a list of five key principles on which they believe any new social security system should be based.They say all claimants should have enough money to live on; should be treated with dignity, respect and trust; should have rights and entitlements; and should have access to free advice and support.They also say that the system should be clear, simple, user-friendly and accessible, with people with lived experience involved in creating and running it. Ellen Clifford (pictured, right, at the launch), a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), and one of the commission’s two co-chairs, told its launch event in London yesterday (Wednesday) that its grassroots, user-led approach could avoid the “mistakes, the harm and the waste that top-down policy-making has led to in recent history”.She said there was no question that changes to the social security system since 2010 had failed benefit claimants and disproportionately impacted on disabled people.She said: “The pace of changes to social security that have been brought in, each with their own specific calamitous consequences, has left claimants, disabled people, and the organisations that represent us, fighting a largely rear-guard action as we attempt to mitigate the worst impacts and try what we can to ward off further avoidable harm.“As a consequence, we can easily come across as anti-everything and as having lost the forward vision that used to characterise the disabled people’s movement.”She said the combination of complex policy changes and user-led groups losing funding and capacity had led the movement to focus on “what is, rather than what could be”.She said this was why she and fellow campaigners from Inclusion London and London Unemployed Strategies – a group formed by unemployed people and allies in trade unions and the voluntary sector – were so pleased when the original idea for a grassroots, user-led project on the future of social security was first suggested by Dr Michael Orton, from the University of Warwick’s Warwick Institute for Employment Research.One disabled activist, who was representing the Unite Community union, and is well-known on Twitter as @imajsaclaimant, told the launch event that he shared stories on social media every day showing “how wrong austerity and the welfare system is”.He said: “It shows that every day there is something new that has been discovered that shows something wrong with the benefit system.“The stories we read each week should shame this country… but the longer it goes on, the more it feels like this cruelty is intentional.”He described how his own experience of the sanctions regime had led to a suicide attempt and left him with enduring mental and physical health problems.He said: “The safety net we once had is quickly being taken away, and for much of the time I have felt impotent to change the direction this country is heading in.“This is why I fully endorse this new project today to create a white paper, because it allows us to do more than just moan about what is wrong. It gives us the opportunity to provide solutions.”He added: “When I go into a jobcentre I start to physically shake. People also tell me that they are scared to go into these places because of the treatment they have received before.“More and more I am hearing from people who say they are unwilling to claim benefits because of this issue. That is simply wrong.“Jobcentres ought to be like valued community hubs… people who lose their jobs need to be supported and treated with respect, not treated with disdain and contempt, as happens so often now.”George Tahta, from Survivors’ Poetry, told the commission’s launch event that walking into a jobcentre turns him from an “articulate and intelligent” person to “a gibbering effing wreck, and that’s what they do to me and that’s what they do to a lot of people”.He said staff in jobcentres treat claimants “like dirt”, unless they have a supporter or advocate with them, and even then they “go away and stab you in the back” afterwards with a DWP letter.The commissioners will be supported by Orton and three other academics and researchers: Dr Rosa Morris, who has personal experience of the work capability assessment and last year completed a PhD examining the assessment process and disability benefits; Dr Kate Summers, from the London School of Economics; and Austin Taylor-Laybourn, from Trust for London.The commission is funded by Trust for London, which provides about £8 million in grants every year for work that aims to reduce poverty and inequality.The other co-chair of the commission is Nick Phillips (left), from LUS, who said: “The commission is a great breakthrough for claimants’ rights to have a say in the shaping of a benefits system that affects their lives profoundly.“We would like as many of those affected as possible to contribute to our call for solutions. This is their opportunity to have a voice and make a difference.”Bharat Mehta, Trust for London’s chief executive, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be supporting this pioneering project which puts people with experience of the benefits system at the heart of redesigning it.“The system we currently have is not working for far too many people. This project aims to create a consensus around what a new system that works for our society and the individuals in it, would look like.”Picture by Nigel CliffordA note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…
CHECK out the new Saints In Touch podcast!We hear from Keiron Cunningham, Jon Wilkin and Trent Robinson ahead of this Friday’s World Club Series clash.Podcasts are automatically synced to your device if you subscribe via iTunes or you can listen at our Fanzone page.
SAINTS have named their 19-man squad for Friday’s First Utility Super League Round five game with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.Jack Ashworth has been called into the side for the first time this season whilst Travis Burns and Theo Fages miss out.Keiron Cunningham will select his 17 from:2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Jordan Turner, 5. Adam Swift, 7. Luke Walsh, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Atelea Vea (pictured), 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Lama Tasi, 15. Greg Richards, 17. Luke Thompson, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 20. Joe Greenwood, 21. Matty Dawson, 23. Shannon McDonnell, 27. Jack Ashworth, 28. Morgan Knowles.Stuart Dickens will choose his Wakefield team from:1. Ben Jones-Bishop, 2. Tom Johnstone, 6. Jacob Miller, 7. Liam Finn, 8. Nick Scruton, 10. Anthony England, 11. Michael Simon, 13. Anthony Tupou, 14. Reece Lyne, 16. Tinirau Arona, 17. Matty Ashurst, 18. Joe Arundel, 19. Jon Molloy, 20. Mikey Sio, 23. Scott Anderson, 24. Stuart Howarth, 25. Craig Hall, 27. Anthony Walker, 31. Jason Walton.The game kicks off at 8pm and the referee will be G Hewer.Ticket details for the game can be found here.