Tag Archives: Disability Living Allowance

Around the country people #SpeakOut4Care – will MPs today?

Guest post from Graeme Hay, National Campaigns Officer at Scope. 

Social care takes so many different forms and can help people with loads of different tasks and activities in their everyday lives. Whether it’s helping people get up and ready in the morning, preparing and eating food, or getting out and about – this crucial support helps many disabled people live independent lives.

The Care Bill, Government legislation which will decide the future of social care, is being debated by MPs for the first time today. But at the moment it risks shutting more than 100,000 disabled people out of social care completely.

So we wanted MPs to hear from their constituents about why social care is so important to them, asking them to send in a message that we promised to deliver to their MP. We got a huge response from people all over the country – people who use social care, relatives and people who just believe everyone should be able to live their lives the way they want to.

Graeme Hay holding up Speak out for care bubble

Powerful stories

All the messages were printed out on to big speech bubbles and delivered to almost 400 MPs in Parliament last week. There were some incredibly powerful stories, here are just a few examples to share with you: 

“I want everyone who needs care to get it because… everyone deserves an equal chance to live to their full potential with the support they require in order to achieve this.”

“I want everyone who needs care to get it because… I am a 67 year old man who has been disabled from birth. I need help with everything, getting dressed, taking medication, and as I am also registered as severely sight impaired. I would be jailed in my own house and unable to get out or talk and meet new friends without help.”

“I want everyone who needs care to get it because… my wheelchair using friend has so much to offer the world but is housebound because of lack of care – lack of care makes people more dependent, not less.”

“I want everyone who needs care to get it because that is the way it should be.”

As well as all the usual briefings filling up MPs post bags, we hope they’ll pay special attention to these unique stories from their constituents, speaking out for care, and use the Care Bill debate to make sure that everyone who needs social care gets it.

Growing number of voices

And the voices speaking out for care are growing even bigger.

Alana and her brother James from Oxfordshire, who relies on social care to live independently, started a change.org petition calling on party leaders to commit to making sure everyone who needs care can get it.

At the time of writing nearly 40,000 people have already signed the petition showing just how big an issue social care is for so many people around Britain.

Will MPs respond and speak out at the debate today, to make sure everyone who needs care gets it?  Follow the debate on Twitter and check back here tomorrow for our rundown and what happened in Parliament.

Cap on over £100 billion of welfare further threatens disabled people’s living standards

Today, The Chancellor announced details of the planned cap on Annually Managed Expenditure (AME). Currently, the social security budget has the flexibility to respond to the needs of the economy and the people within it. In the Autumn Statement today we learnt this may no longer be the case.

At the beginning of each Parliament the Chancellor- with support from the House of Commons – will place limits on social security spend. Set in 2014 for the four years following, the cap will cover more than £100 billion welfare spending.

The basic state pension, Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and JSA-pass ported benefits will be excluded from the cap. But all other benefits – including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Tax Credits and the majority of Housing Benefit – will still be in the cap.

What does the cap mean?

Raising the stakes

A breach of the cap will trigger a debate and vote in the House of Commons. This will further raise the stakes for policy-makers who want to ensure they can provide the right support for disabled people.

Welfare trade-offs

Housing Benefit and tax credits are counter-cyclical –they may rise sharply if the economy falters. If the economy takes a downward turn, ministers bound by the cap will be forced to pitch them against disability benefits in their decisions to bring down social security spending.

Today Osborne argued that including state pensions within the cap would mean “cutting pensions for those who’ve worked hard all their lives because the costs on, say, housing benefit for young people had got out of control.” Meanwhile, disability benefits which help many disabled people work and live independently – appear to be fair game.

Short-termism

The cap installs yearly limits to social security spending. Instead of tackling the drivers of it, ministers will be compelled to make quick, top-down cuts wherever they can.

Scope have long-argued that continued investment in social care, better employment support and proper support to cover the extra costs of being disabled would all be more effective in meeting disabled people’s needs and driving down costs than any cap on AME.

This autumn, the Chancellor has celebrated growth and responsible recovery. But it is a recovery that will not benefit disabled people. Instead disabled people will face yet another squeeze on living standards, and further exclusion from local communities and the wider economy.

DLA and the road to independence

The game changers

Amy

Amy Jones is a disability rights activist with cerebral palsy. She’s passionate about social justice and cake. She is also the author of the blog In Bloom.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – We’ve probably all heard of it, but not everyone knows how much this benefit means to disabled people. As a young lady with cerebral palsy, I want to share with you how precious DLA has been for my independence and ambitions. In case you don’t know, DLA is paid to disabled people to help towards the extra costs of their disability and to enable them to cope with the daily challenges their disability presents. In my case, DLA enabled me to move away from home and go to university. DLA gave me access to social care, which meant that I could get help with dressing, preparing food, food shopping, and household chores. Without this help, I would not have been able to go to university and fulfill my lifelong ambition of getting a degree, simply because I would be unable to perform the basic aspects of daily living.

I knew from a young age that a degree could prove invaluable for my future employment prospects, being physically disabled, I realised my options for jobs were limited. So DLA will probably inadvertently help me get a job because it has enabled me to go to university and study for a degree which will make me employable.

My story is not unique, DLA helps disabled people participate in society. It gives them help with daily living. It enables employment and education. And it allows disabled people to meet their friends, go places and better manage their disabilities. Put simply, DLA is the fabric of a compassionate and civilised society because if you remove disabled people’s DLA, you are actively removing their support, which will stamp out their dignity, independence and ambitions.

If you would like to submit your story or find out more about the Game Changers community, visit the Game Changers website.

Have you been on the end of scrounger abuse?

It’s now almost a year since the Paralympics started and we’ve been asking disabled people and their families if they feel the games made a difference to their day-to-day lives.  
There’ll be a lot of discussion next week about legacy. Scope is going to be urging journalists and the Government to listen to disabled people’s views.

One issue that keeps coming up is “benefits scrounger rhetoric”, and how this leads to people being abused in the street and being trolled online.

We asked on Twitter and Facebook for people to share their own experiences:

Bullying and abuse

Some people responded with shocking stories of unprovoked verbal and physical abuse:

“Just the other night one twitter account dedicated to highlighting the abuse of blue badge bays has decided to shut down because of the abuse it gets. One of my friends is seeking a judicial review and they tried to use his twitter use against him. I have a specific troll who tells me I am just lazy, I could work if i tried and so on. Any time there is a documentary style TV programme featuring sick or disabled people it stirs up a lot of abuse and general ignorance.” – Ema via email

“I’m leaning on my crutches by the broccoli when a lady in her late 50s walks up behind me shoves me hard into the broccoli box – face first – and calls me a disability scrounging unrepeatable in front of my children. My most embarrassing moment.” – Tinna on Facebook

“Someone walked into the back of my wheelchair whilst in supermarket queue, which apparently is my fault as “your sort shouldn’t be cluttering up the shops”.” – Teddy on Facebook

And it’s not just from strangers:

“I’ve had ‘friends’ explain how I just have to accept and expect romantic rejection because disability is ugly.” – NQ videos on Twitter

“I was told by a ‘friend’ that I shouldn’t be allowed a mobility car for my wheelchair using son with CP.”  – Naomi on Twitter

Hidden disability

Many people spoke about the problem of impairments that aren’t immediately obvious:

“I was once accused of stealing a disabled persons bus pass. It had my name and my photo on.  I am partially sighted. You can’t see the damage I have to my optic nerves, nor how much I can really see….I’ve had someone tell me I shouldn’t be on DLA because there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t feel the need to broadcast every single medical problem I have.” – Sofie on Facebook

“People seem to think that ‘disability’ means a missing leg, or using a wheelchair/crutches; it can be, but sometimes a disability affects people more subtly and they still need assistance.” – Caitlin on Facebook

“I have epilepsy and hold a bus pass because of it – I’ve had some dirty looks off people for using it in the past.” – Kath on Facebook

Unashamed and fighting back

Some disabled people told us that they refuse to be ashamed of the money they receive and are fighting back at the bullies:

“I’m not ashamed of having claimed out of work benefits and I refuse to be ashamed of my DLA.” – Natalya on Facebook

“If anyone abuses me they get far worse back. I am sick and tired of being abused because of something that is no fault of my own. I will not be bullied or abused by people who believe the rhetoric” – Ian on Facebook

Parents told us that they didn’t care what people thought – the well-being of their children comes first:

“I have a two year old with CP. There would be no way I could take him to his physio without the extra help we get through DLA. If that makes me a beggar then so be it. I really don’t care as long as my son gets the best possible care and start in life !” – Darren on Facebook

“My daughter has CP. I listen to people going on about benefits and get fed up with listening to the constant moaning. I only want what is best for her and for those that do complain about disabled – stop and think – how would they feel if it was them?”  – Val on Facebook

Whilst some parents are taking more extreme measures!

“My son has severe CP. Rules we are working on when he is in his electric chair are

  1. If someone stares, smile at them – if they still stare, run them over.
  2. Three “excuse me”s from Mum and Dad and if they still wont shift – run them over.
  3. Three honks on his horn then …… yup, run them over” – Wag on Facebook

Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits

Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford
“Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford want to discover how much benefit is enough to live on and if work is worth it.” (photo: BBC)

Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford, most famous for expressing their utter contempt for an Apprentice contestant’s business acumen with nothing more than a scratch of the chin or an arch of the eyebrow, are turning their attention to welfare.

If ever an issue warranted such uncompromising prime time scrutiny it’s welfare.

The programme, which airs on Thursday at 9pm on BBC1, will see four claimants and four taxpayers come face-to-face to explore each other’s lives, examine their values and speak their minds.

I was lucky enough to be asked to help the programme make sense of what welfare means for disabled people.

This is easy. Life costs more if you’re disabled. At the same time you’re also more likely to earn less or be out of work.

So – especially now with incomes flat-lining, living costs spiralling and even fewer jobs out there – it’s tough for many disabled people to pay the bills.

We know many disabled people turn to loans to cover essentials.

Welfare – or more precisely financial support when you’re struggling to make ends meet – is the difference between disabled people paying the bills or not.

The programme is timely. Welfare is the subject of an £18bn squeeze by the Government. Last month the Government announced a cap on future welfare spending.  Parliament is for the first time having a debate about the combined impact of all the different changes on disabled people. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Work and Pensions Ministers is taking on the issue.

A lot is said about the need to make sure benefits go to people that really need it (and not hand-gliding benefits-fakers) and to make sure welfare helps people get work rather than put people off finding a job. 

But a couple of points tend to get lost. 

Firstly some people need benefits. It doesn’t make them a scrounger. It doesn’t make them a lay-about. It just means they need support to do things everyone else takes for granted. And it should not be conditional on finding work or the state of the economy . 

Secondly fraud on welfare, particularly disability benefits is tiny. 

The Government is planning to take disability living allowance away from 600,000 people. This financial support is a lifeline that helps disabled people cover the costs of doing things yourself at home and also getting out and about. The Minister argues that too many people claim it, the implication being that some must be fiddling the system. But fraud rates are actually less than 1%

I spent an afternoon with Nick and Margaret as they filmed in the main lobby of the London School of Economics at lunchtime. It wasn’t the best place in London to get people to be quiet while you film a documentary. 

But one thing came across clearly, they knew their stuff. 

They were interested in the issues and were asking the questions that the public would want to know. In fact they paid short shrift to the producer’s less well-informed suggestions and did things the way they wanted to.

The trick with any complex issue is attracting attention to it and explaining it in a simple way.  

People are more likely to watch a programme with Nick and Margaret in it than they would be to watch a documentary on welfare. The title might be provocative, but it gets people into the issue. Then it’s about seeking explain it in a simple way without dumbing down.

Nick and Margaret were great. I hope the programme gets the right messages across and more people get to understand what is really going on.

Watch Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits tonight at 9pm on BBC1.

An Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) cap could mean further cuts for disabled people

Nearly a week on from the Spending Round, there has been time to think about what a welfare cap might mean for disabled people.

In last week’s Spending Round, the government announced that – for the first time ever – there will be a cap in the UK’s welfare spending through changes to Annually Managed Expenditure (AME). This part of the budget responds to the needs of the economy, and the people within it. So if one year more people need benefits, pensions or tax credits – AME makes sure they get them.

But all of this is about to change. In 2015 the government will put a limit on how much it will pay out in social security.

And disabled people aren’t protected.

State pensions will be excluded from the cap, as will Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), but disability benefits, housing benefit, tax credits, and pensioner benefits will all be included.

How will the cap work?

It will be set as a limit each year at the time of the budget statement, starting in April 2015.

After that, if the government looks like it is about to spend beyond the cap, a public warning will be issued by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) .

Ministers will then be faced with a difficult decision; refuse to meet the needs of those in the worst situations in our society, or publicly breach the cap.

What does it mean for disabled people?

Disability benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments – which go towards covering the extra costs of being disabled – will be vulnerable to the cap. The amounts spent on Employment Support Allowance, too, will be subject to these limits. Universal Credit  will subject to the cap as well.

The Chancellor wants to exclude the “most counter-cyclical elements” from the cap – those which rise most sharply when the economy falters. But the need for Housing Benefit -which is included in the cap – increases during recession. If the economy takes a downward turn, the cap will pitch disability benefits against Housing Benefits in an innappropriate trade-off.

Disabled people are already set to lose over £28bn through welfare changes. The cap on AME comes as yet another blow to the their living standards.

Yesterday the Chancellor announced a £3.8 billion investment in social care –  the support disabled people get from their council to get up, get washed and dressed, and live independently. But by placing arbitrary limits on the amount spent on welfare, without the right safeguards, the government risks wasting these investments, and disempowering disabled people completely.

The chancellor promised that “those with the broadest shoulders [will] continue to make the biggest contribution to fiscal consolidation”. But in reality it is those most in need of support who will bear the burden once again.

Most of all, introducing a cap will radically change the meaning of social security. Without budgetary flexibility, which responds to the needs of the society, the government will risk punching yet more, deeper holes in the UK’s social safety net.

What do you use DLA for?

On Monday, the Government will start the process of replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment.

We asked our Twitter followers what they use DLA for. Here’s what they said:

http://twitter.com/megandoodah/status/320210486165643264

http://twitter.com/LyricalWarrior/status/320185069794885633

http://twitter.com/slhyde/status/320180293615095808

http://twitter.com/slhyde/status/320180856163561472

If you receive DLA we want to hear about the difference it makes to your life.

Ensuring support for disabled people and their families

Government plans to radically overhaul Disability Living Allowance and replace it with a new payment, Personal Independence Payment, got the go-ahead last week. The changes will see people who were previously entitled to Disability Living Allowance having support withdrawn as new assessment criteria is start to bite.

Both DLA and PIP are designed to help disabled people pay for the extra costs their impairment incur, but I struggle to see how this can be the reality when an estimated half a million disabled people stand to lose support when new eligibility criteria come in to force in 2013.

Over recent weeks the papers have been full of disabled people’s stories and their concerns for the future, but we must not forget that many of these people have children (young and old). What will the impact be on their lives if their parents lose the support that gets them up in the morning?

The stakes have never been higher for disabled people and their children. Both my parents are disabled and I am desperately worried about what the future holds for us all if the new PIP assessment sees their support cut.

As DLA is my parents’ only source of income, the impact of any change to the amount they receive could have a devastating impact on the whole family. We only just manage to pay for the basics as it is, to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. I’m really worried about what the future may bring…

I’m determined to ensure the Government understands the impact of these reforms on families across the country. Time is running out to influence their plans.

The Government’s new PIP consultation is likely to be our last chance to have our say before the changes become law and I need your help.

I’m looking for other children (young and old) of disabled people to help me put together a joint response to these proposals that leave them in no doubt of the impact the changes will have. If you share my concerns please get in touch with any comments, stories or concerns you have that you think might persuade the Government to think again.

The issue of who gets what support and how this is decided has long since moved on from being a debate about public finances. It is now, in my opinion, a struggle to defend the human rights and the dignity of people most in need of our support and a debate in which we should all engage.

If you would like to get involved, please get in touch via the campaigns network. Email campaigns@scope.org.uk

Shining the spotlight on cinema accessibility

Our Campaigns Department has teamed up with the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers to try to tackle the issue of cinema access, following two separate campaigns run by the charities earlier this year.

The two campaigns had led to approaches from the cinema industry to discuss our respective concerns so Scope and Trailblazers have been working together to present a series of joint proposals to the industry.

We met with representatives from the three largest UK cinema chains – Odeon, Vue and Cineworld – as well as the Cinema Exhibitors Association, the body representing more or less all the cinemas in the country.

There was a very positive atmosphere in the room and while the disability charities obviously approached the issue of access from a different perspective to the industry, there did seem to be a real willingness to listen and learn on both sides.

The topics discussed were influenced directly by what you told us you wanted to see improved at a local level and included physical access to cinemas, the availability of access information online, and the attitude of staff towards disabled people. It was great to hear about some innovative things the industry is doing to improve disability access, but also to quiz them directly about some of the things you’ve told us they could do better.

The suitability of wheelchair spaces in many cinemas was an issue you, and therefore we, were keen to address. The industry said that accessibility in their cinemas was a top consideration. In planning new buildings they said they always tried hard to meet their obligations under the DDA (now the Equality Act). However, they said that even with new buildings there were still issues of the most cost-effective way to use space. Basically, this means that they felt making better provision for people using wheelchairs would come at the expense of the overall seating capacity of the cinema and that they had to balance the need for inclusion with their business need to maximise customer-generated income.

We told them about some of the difficulties you been having with awkwardly-positioned seating at the front and sometimes the extreme edges of the cinema. They said that the industry tries to offer flexibility in seating but that in some older locations this was not always possible. They said that they recognise the preference for seating in the middle of the auditorium to avoid a strained neck rather than at the front but said that the arena-style seating of many modern cinemas make this impractical and expensive to implement (this is partly because the gradient inside the auditorium can be very steep). We asked whether it would be possible for them to include ramps up to the middle area of seating. They said that this would involve taking out seats which would have implications on the numbers of tickets they could sell.

On the issue of providing tickets for carers and support workers, the news was more positive. The CEA card allows for disabled people to purchase tickets for carers at a reduced rate. The industry said they are keen to expand the scheme. We highlighted the importance of online booking facilities in order to make the use of the CEA card easier. Online booking for CEA card users is something that Cineworld already offer on their website and the other industry representatives were keen to follow suit if this approach proved successful.

Many of you told us that you found it difficult to find out online which cinemas and screens were accessible. We said that it was important to improve the access information so that disabled customers can have all the facts ahead of their visit and can avoid the ‘awkward unknown’ or a wasted journey. They said the industry is keen to improve the access information online and are looking at ways to improve the way it is presented. We will keep you posted as to how they get on.

The attitude of staff towards disabled customers was another issue you said was important. We highlighted this and they said they were keen to make sure every customer enjoyed a great experience in their cinemas. We suggested that it might make their training more ‘real’ for their staff if they were able to involve disabled people in the training sessions.

They said they were committed to offering high-quality disability equality training to all of their staff at every level and that they would work with us and disabled people’s organisations to improve its quality and relevance.

Overall the meeting itself was a positive one. It’s good to hear that the industry is committed to addressing your concerns. We will continue to work with them to ensure they understand the importance of accessibility to disabled people and will keep you updated as to how we get on. In particular, we will be pressing for changes to be made as quickly as possible as many disabled people are missing out on the full social experience of going to the cinema right now.

Talking with the industry is only the first step, we are absolutely committed to making sure that they turn words into action, but we need your experiences and your stories to help us do this. Keep sharing your stories with us atcampaigns@scope.org.uk

Coping with the Cuts

Scope and leading independent think tank Demos have teamed up to produce their Coping with the Cuts report that looks at the impact local cuts are having on the lives of disabled people and their families living in England and Wales.

I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in what’s happening to their local services to have a look at our interactive map, and browse through the report to see how their council is coping http://disability-cuts-map.demos.co.uk/

We know that the cuts are likely to affect people in different ways, but if you are at all concerned, it’s really important that you get in touch with your local council to tell them.

Tell your local councillor to stand up for disabled people locally and protect the services in your community. Telling your story is a great way of making your council understand the true impact of funding decisions on the lives of people they represent.

Don’t miss your chance to have your say. Use our template email to share your views. It takes seconds to do but could make a big difference to disabled people living near you. Make sure the people you care about know what’s happening in their area too by sharing Demos’ report with friends and family or by joining the conversation live on Twitter (#localcuts).