The team at Pat’s Petition
would like to wish
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.
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 in the labour market on equal terms. WCA isn’t designed to determine this. It doesn’t make allowances for the barriers in the labour market.
Some disabilities might involve a little more investigation, but with most the diagnosis should be a passport to a safe group.
3. Fraud has nothing to do with disability. Stop making the association.
4. Spend all the money on dedicated person centred support either to get paid employment that supports you financially or to live a happy, productive life doing voluntary work, permitted work, other activities – and don’t dismiss the second option.
This statement has received support from –
Pat Onions Pat’s Petition
Frances Kelly CarerWatch
Rosemary O’Neill CarerWatch
Rick Burgess Wow Petition
Jane Benz Wow Petition
Professor Nicholas Watson Institute of Disability Studies, University of Glasgow
Sir Tom Shakespeare University of East Anglia
Dr Simon Duffy Director Centre for Welfare Reform.
Paul Swann Disability Wales / Anabledd Cymru
Mo Stewart Disability Researcher
Gail Ward Disability Campaigner
Catherine Hale South East London ME Support Group
Jim Elder-Woodward OBE Chair of the UK Committee of the Campaign for a Fair Society
Jackie Maceira Scottish Disability Equality Forum
Michele Findlay Disability Campaigner
WOW petition recently reached their target of 100,00 but there is another week to go. Time to still gather more support.
If you have not already signed, please do so and then share the link as wide as possible.
For further details see WoW website here
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.
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.
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 then addressed.
Of course there are many disabled people who, with adjustments and adaptations, can overcome their individual barriers to work and are just as competitive as everyone else. Talk about being less competitive is the last thing they want to hear. But for many others this just isn’t the case. They are less competitive. And the relentless can do approach taken by ESA pushes them up against a brick wall. ESA denies the can’t do. These people do not want to be written off as being unable to work (Support Group) but they can’t compete in the open labour market (Work related Activity Group (WRAG)). So there is no ESA group for people who have difficulty competing and they have nowhere to go. And these people have lost the security of safe benefits.
Let’s face up to and overcome the structural barrier in the job market. Because someone is less competitive it doesn’t mean they can’t work and contribute and there are still lots of options that might help them. Quotas, subsidies, campaigns, lots of opportunities for permitted and voluntary work. The government could intervene in the job market to make it a level playing field. Perhaps this needs a name – Supported Work. And being pushed down to work for less money below your level of competence is not a level playing field.
Meanwhile stop the unfair PUSH economics that is pushing less competitive disabled people up against a brick wall. They need the return of a safe secure benefit while they negotiate this impossible situation. ESA is not fit for purpose. It has two groups. The Support Group provides long term safe support for disabled people who are not expected to be able to work. All other disabled people are put in the WRAG and classed as being ‘on their way back to work’ and they are expected to compete in the open job market. Some can compete but there is no group for the many who can’t.
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.
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
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 atmosphere was quite amazing. Peaceful yet powerful. Anger, outrage even, with a few tears from a lady standing next to me. People came and listened because they care. They took part because they will be affected and they joined in one voice.
Videos’ of the Newcastle event can be found here
Evening chronicle report here – ‘Bedroom tax’ demonstrators protest in Newcastle
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 22nd July
Letter from Mr Maynard 22nd July
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 reeled off that were against these reforms/cuts. Facts and figures were given, and yet from governments front bench there appeared to be an attitide of boredom, and total disregard for the situation many disabled people now found themselves to be in. They showed no interest in what opposition members were saying and at times their bodies were partly turned, away from whomever was speaking at that time. This was more noticeable when Tom Greatrex MP was speaking.
As the debate progressed you can imagine our horror when Mr Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, suddenly made an impassioned speech calling us ‘extremists’, and saying that we didn’t represent disabled people. We will be taking this further.
In between the votes, we met with Liam Byrne, and issues concerning both disabled people and carers were discussed. It was agreed how evidence is going to be more vital in future, for people to also contact their MPs and explain how the cuts are impacting on them. More importantly, our campaigning continues.
The vote on the motion itself was lost… Ayes 227, Noes 296 – but the day itself was not.
These last few years with cuts raining down – the whole solid brick wall against us – Labour and Tory both supporting the cuts and the charities having to fit in somehow, was beyond belief.
Now the consensus is broken there will be far more open debate and we may start to get somewhere.
Independent campaigners from many groups took the lead in breaking down this wall. This experience has shown all of us that grassroots campaigners are essential to the political process.
Well done every one.
But the Fat Lady hasn’t sung yet.