Inquiry – Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments

With  reasonable adjustments many disabled people can work as productively as anyone else so that they can compete in the competitive  labour market on an equal playing field. But many others can’t. This Elephant is not being addressed. It is sitting squarely in the road stopping further progress. Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch are submitting evidence to the Inquiry into  Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments being conducted by the Commons Select Committee for the   Department of Work and Pensions. Full details on link below We urge every one concerned about disabled people and carers to do the  same http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/esa-wca-inq-2014/ We will be drawing attention to the Elephant in the  room. Some disabled people have an impairment which means that, although they  can and would like to do some work, even with reasonable adjustments they cannot work as productively as people who do not have impairments. This means  that the potential employer will be faced with extra costs or losses.     Employers recruit through the mechanism of a competitive labour market and this puts barriers in the way of disabled people   who are not able to work as productively. No effort has been made to name this problem or to solve it. Who should bear the extra costs or losses to the employer of taking a worker who cannot be as productive because of their impairments? Until this problem is named and addressed the progress of disabled people in to the workforce is blocked. The Elephant is sitting in the road. As disability campaigners, we do not want to  undermine the image of disabled people who, with reasonable adjustments and enlightened attitudes, can compete in the labour market. But not speaking up  for disabled... read more

Disability is just not that simple

As most campaigners reflect on 2013, and look towards 2014, it was interesting to read this viewpoint.   This is also true of what I am now calling the ‘work shy’ movement, a movement that likes to call themselves the ‘sick and disabled’ movement but I feel it is unfair and wrong for these people to claim to represent all sick and disabled people, when they are simply about one way of thinking, and that is a way I find quite offensive. The ‘work shy’ movement is led by people like Sue Marsh, and Kaliya Franklin (better known as Bendygirl) How can any one claim to represent all sick and disabled people. We are sure no one, including Simon Stevens makes this claim.   The confusion seems to arise because there are sick and disabled people who can overcome the societal barriers to work, and sick and disabled people who can’t,  and are overwhelmed by the barriers. In the middle are a spectrum of people having good days and bad days, and falling in to both groups for part of the time. What is needed is for us all to work together to get more support for both these groups. It is unhelpful for any campaigner to identify with and campaign for only one of these two groups. Disability just isn’t that simple.... read more

Employment Support Allowance is a disaster

Yesterday members of Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch met with Kate Green, Shadow Spokesperson for Disabled People. From there they went to Lambeth Palace to meet with Archbishops advisers. Proposed Reforms to ESA – Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch For many chronically sick/ill and disabled people the barriers faced in the open job market are so significant that they do not have the opportunity to compete on equal terms. This is the elephant in the room. The main Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Group – the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – is based on the false premise that chronically sick/ill and disabled people can compete on equal terms. It makes no allowance for the barriers in the job market. Many can compete on equal terms. But many others have a lot to offer but can’t compete on equal terms. It is unfair to place sanctions and time limits on disabled people in the WRAG until this problem is addressed and rectified. ESA/WRAG is currently a disaster and we suggest the following reforms – 1. Find out how to make the labour market inclusive. Disabled people have a lot to contribute. Face up to the question of disabled people and open competition in a flexible labour market. Explore quotas, kite marks, subsidies, public pressure and any other option you can find. 2. Meanwhile place far more chronically sick/ill and disabled people in a safe, long term ESA group. The WRAG is not a safe group because of sanctions, time limits and means tests. The criteria to be placed in this safe group should be that you have an impairment which means you can’t compete... read more

Making Employment Support Allowance fit for purpose

  HEALTH WARNING This statement contains a message that no disability campaigner wants to hear – let alone campaign on. At first sight it appears negative and discouraging. However we believe that the best way to overcome a barrier is to name it and address it. And if it isn’t named, it leaves the government an open goal to take away safe, secure benefits. MAKING ESA FIT FOR PURPOSE. Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch are concerned that Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) uses PUSH economics to take away safe benefits as a means of forcing disabled people in to work. But many disabled people can’t compete in the open job market and ESA is pushing them up against a brick wall. They have nowhere to go. The failure of the Work Programme is the result. Elephant in the room by Grace Collins http://www.onethousandprinces.tumblr.com   This is because many sick and disabled people have residual impairment, even after all adaptations are made, and are not as competitive in the open labour market as anyone else. Jobs are acquired through open competition: it is like asking disabled athletes to compete in the mainstream Olympics. This is a very hard thing for disability campaigners to admit. We want to encourage people and talk up their strengths, not their weaknesses.  To admit that some disabled people are less competitive in the open labour market sounds like defeat. But the Social Model is about overcoming barriers. So far the focus has been on individuals overcoming their own individual barriers. But the competitive job market presents a structural barrier that also needs to be named and... read more

Point of Order re Pat’s Petition

  Many of you will remember the Parliamentary debate Pat’s petition secured just 2 months ago. The motion calling for a Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) was led by a powerful speech from Liam Byrne. Other Labour MPs were just as supportive for us in their knowledge of how disabled people and carers are facing such unjust hardships under this Coalition government. Speaking against the motion was a Tory MP – Paul Maynard. His choice of words angered and upset so many of us especially when he named Pat’s Petition team as ‘extremists’. In the days immediately after we corresponded with him in a series of open emails.  He agreed to follow Parliamentary procedure to gain a further entry in Hansard.     True to his word an entry appears in Hansard on September 2nd 2013  ….. details here On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I clarify for the record that, in the Opposition day debate on 10 July, I did not intend to suggest that I regarded either Pat’s Petition or We Are Spartacus as extremist groups? John Bercow (Speaker) That is commendably clear and pithy, and we are grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Pat x  ... read more

Pat goes to Carers Parliament – Scotland this time

The first Carers Parliament took place at Holyrood in October last year. Places were limited for those wishing to be included so a ballot was held. Carers from each of the constituencies were invited to put their names forward and then were drawn by the steering group. I was unfortunate in that ballot, but, undeterred, I tried again this year. A phone call from Rhonda Fitzpatrick, Carers Scotland, told me I had been successful. I was delighted! This years theme is to be ‘Carers Rights’. After presentations and Q&A in the Scottish parliament during the morning, there will be workshops. Delegates will come from all over Scotland with their views, stories and ideas. In these times of financial hardship and cutting back to the bare bones for any social care, the role of carers is becoming ever harder. At Pat’s Petition, our message has always been for a cumulative impact assessment of the changes on all disabled people, their carers and families. This is something I look forward to raising at this years Carers’ Parliament. *************** Report from Maz’s blog after she attended last years event... read more

Stop the Bedroom Tax – Newcastle Rally

  The delegation from Scotland consisted of Susan Archibald, Citizen Smart and myself – all travelling down in Susan’s van.  Arriving at Newcastle Civic Centre dead on 1.30pm we were delighted to find such a huge crowd milling , waiting, banners at the ready. Wheelchairs, buggies of all shapes and sizes. White canes, a Guide Dog, police, children and people with all their faculties in tact. A buzz of excited anticipation greeted us. It was a little unfortunate that the police directed us along a road which was blocked by a locked electric barrier which was not for moving. Bit of clever limbo manoeuvres got everyone through. Spreading ourselves out along the pavement we made our way chanting towards the pedestrian crossing. Being at the front we had no idea that the back of the march got caught as the lights changed to red. Thinking about it afterwards it would have been in the spirit of the day if the police had just stopped the traffic for a few minutes. Making our way up through town, weaving around bollards in the precinct, expertly guided by officers in their high vis jackets we arrived at Grays Monument. it was hot. Very hot. Gail Ward, our MC, brought the speakers on. Some disabled, some not, but all had a message to share and they were all passionate in their words. Some only spoke a few words, while others could have gone all day such was their message. Citizen Smart entertained us with his music especially written for the day. People sang, clapped and stomped their feet where they could. The whole... read more

Paul Maynard MP requests to have Hansard corrected re ‘extremists’ comment

The debate last week was a great day for Pat’s Petition team, and other campaigning groups. The MPs who spoke in favour of our petition could not have done more to support us. And it is a massive change to have the full support of the Labour Front Bench for the first time. This only the beginning. The only sour note was the extraordinary accusation from Paul Maynard that we were ‘extremists’. The term is offensive to us. We contacted Mr Maynard for further explanation. We were pleased that, as a result of these communications, he agreed for the word ‘extremist’ be excised from the record. However, Hansard have now replied to him saying this is not possible. We have therefore asked him to write a correction on the copy of Hansard in the House of Commons library. (Awaiting response) Wednesday 10th July was a great day for the whole disability movement and once this issue has reached a satisfactory conclusion,  we would like to move forward and make sure that the government ‘stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families ’ Exchange with Mr Maynard below. Letter to Mr Maynard July Reply from Mr Maynard Letter to Mr Maynard Reply from Mr Maynard today Cross over of emails Letter to Mr Maynard      22nd July Letter from Mr Maynard    22nd July        ... read more

Report – OPPOSITION DAY – EFFECT OF GOVERNMENT POLICY ON DISABLED PEOPLE

  Wednesday 10th July 2013 was a great day for Pat’s Petition.  After a year of working to get over 62,700 signatures we finally had our debate  in the House of Commons. Two of our team travelled from Scotland and the North East to watch the debate live from the gallery. Pat is blind, and Rosemary is a family carer, but they made it. On arrival at Kings Cross they met with Rick and Jane from WOW petition, ( please sign and share as widely as possible), and then all made their way to Westminster. There they met with more campaigners, Ian, Andy and Adam. Following a short chat it was time to gain admission to the debate. Jim Hood MP, who had secured the tickets to enable Pat and Rosemary entrance to watch/listen to the debate live arrived, and pointed out that HoC business was running late. This caused all previous plans about meeting up with other campaigners afterwards to be changed. Following section from Pat and Rosemary. Having to hand over phones meant we were unable to keep supporters informed as to how the debate was going but we knew many many people were watching the event on parliament tv, and engaging with each other via social media. We were later informed the hashtag #CiaDisability had trended for over 2 hours, peaking at UK trend no 3. The MPs who spoke in favour of our petition could not have done more to support us.  Coalition ministers that spoke were unable to name an individual, academic, grassroots group, a charity – that agreed fully with their policies. Instead many names were... read more

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