Actions speak louder than words - Labour publish Poverty & Disability taskforce report

4/25/2014 08:47:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 11 Comments

Last June the Labour party announced they had appointed an independent taskforce, led by Sir Bert Massie, to write a report looking at ways to break the links between disability and poverty. The report was published yesterday, without a press release, on Labour's policy submission site. This was a report commissioned and requested by the Labour party, which has been produced by volunteers who have given huge amounts of their time, for free, with the hope of being able to make sensible policy suggestions to improve the lives of disabled people.

As Neil Crowther explains on his blog, publishing the report, during the parliamentary recess, without the promised press coverage tells us that Labour do not want to engage with the suggestions made in the report, presumably because some of the suggestions involve spending additional money. Hardly radical within a report specifically commissioned by Shadow Ministers to break the links between disability and poverty, but clearly too radical for a party terrified of being accused of 'welfare spending' in the run up to the general election next year.

Despite this being a report about disabled people, written by a team led by and including disabled people there is not an easy read version available. I can only apologise profusely for this lack of accessible information for the one million people with learning disabilities who are eligible to vote. We did not forget any of you. An easy read version was requested some weeks ago, and quotes provided to the Labour party. The cost of putting the report recommendations into an easy read format was approximately £250-£300 - hardly in Liam Byrne "there's no money" territory.

The provision of accessible information tells people what an organisation thinks of them. Providing proper accessible information says 'we value you, and its really important to us that you have the same information as everyone'. Not providing that access, especially in a report about disabled people, by disabled people, commissioned to break the links between poverty and disability demonstrates a disdain for those disabled people. These are of course all the same disabled people that Labour would like to vote for them. Actions speak louder than words, and despite what they may try to say through the press or campaigners, the clear message here is that Labour do not have any significant policies to improve the lives of disabled people, and that they are not willing to publicise the report they themselves commissioned to try and find some of these positive policy suggestions.

If you would like to read the report, but require a different access format such as easy read then you need to contact the Labour party directly and request one. The contact details are here

Had there been a press release from the taskforce, this is what we would have said;

 “The taskforce concluded that Britain can and must invest public resources more effectively than at present to create the infrastructure of support that will enable disabled people to escape from and remain resilient to poverty.  This is especially so in these tough economic times when, despite public spending cuts, millions of pounds of public money is being wasted on poorly designed, ineffective and bureaucratic systems such as the Work Capability Assessment, the Work Programme and fragmented public services.  

So we call for real world assessments which focus on people's interaction with the world around them, including the labour market - rather than just on the functional impact of their impairment or health condition. We back the proposals of Disability Rights UK to replace the Work Programme with localised, personalised employment support that places disabled people and employers in the driving seat. We propose an uplift to investment in Access to Work - given the schemes clear returns to the Treasury -and we call for greater integration of employment support, health, social care and education to support people’sparticipation. 

We also explore how disability-related extra costs of living might be reduced, for example through national and local government using its buying power to reduce the costs of aids and equipment and through preventing benefits being swallowed up by social care charges.

We conclude however that disability-related poverty cannot be tackled without further investment in a disability costs benefit. This would take time to develop and implement, but we believe it is a matter of social justice:as disabled people have borne so much of the ‘austerity’spending cuts, despite pre-existing poverty and exclusion, they should be priority beneficiaries of the proceeds of inclusive economic growth.'


Journey to Work Part 5 - How can I claim expenses like Maria?

4/07/2014 10:09:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

Today marks the start of my fifth week in work. I think. To be honest it's all a bit tiring and I'm no longer sure. I love my job, but will that be enough? And did I mention the tired?

What I do know for sure is that my benefits stopped on March 10th the day I formally started work. Since then I've applied for tax credits, housing benefit and council tax benefit. There is a four week run on of Local Housing Allowance so that has continued to go into my bank account. But that's it. No tax credits. No letter acknowledging tax credits claim has been received. No wages til later this month. Oh, and no way of talking to anyone at tax credits to check they have got my application, just a recorded message explaining they are taking a minimum of five weeks to process claims and won't talk to claimants until after that time is up.

This is why people end up with payday loans or go to foodbanks. There isn't another way.*

If I make a genuine mistake filling out a benefits application I get fined £50

But if I were a Cabinet Minister, a former Minister for Disabled People, who had pushed through these cuts affecting disabled people and working people...

*Please don't worry - I have friends who are in a position to lend me money until wages and tax credits start properly, I won't have to go to a food bank or payday loan company. But how many people have friends willing and able to lend them hundreds of pounds for an undefined amount of time?