As a constituent of yours I noted that at the Backbench Business Committee meeting of the 10th December 2013 e-petition 43154, The WOWpetition, was granted a Chamber debate in the House of Commons in the New Year 2014. This was in fact a historic decision, as it is the first time in the history of this country that disabled people have secured a Chamber debate.
Please add a personal message here to illustrate how this Government's Policies are either directly affecting you, your family, people you know or society and why you believe the Government should properly debate their policies, the effect they are having and the hardship they are causing to specifically targeted groups with UK society.
As your constituent I ask you to attend this debate in the House of Commons in 2014 so that your constituents and I can understand your views as to whether austerity is being fairly imposed on all elements of society, as we have been told that "we are all in this together". Please confirm with me that you will be attending this debate, when its timing is announced, in the New Year.
The Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley MP is aware of the WOWpetition referring to it as "That Petition" in the House on the 5th December in response to a question. If you are not yet aware of this petition it is outlined in depth, to give you the information you need to consider the issues, by the following sections and is still available to read on the e-petitions website (e-petition 43154).
The WOWpetition calls for
1. A Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.
The response received from the DWP upon the WOWpetition reaching 10,000 signatures, stated that the Government had not done a Cumulative Impact Assessment of the effects of the Welfare Reform Bill 2012 because “it is very difficult to do accurately and external organisations have not produced this either.” However, since posting this response, 2 external agencies, “DEMOS” and the “Centre for Welfare Reform” have separately produced relevant CIA’s.
DEMOS’s analysis showed a cumulative loss of income for disabled people of £28.3 billion over the 5 years to 2018. Referring to this analysis, Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope said: “At the moment there’s no place for disabled people in the Chancellor’s aspiration nation. In 2013 disabled people are already struggling to pay the bills. Living costs are spiralling. Income is flat-lining. We know many are getting in debt, just to pay for essentials. What’s the Government’s response? The same group of disabled people face not just one or two cuts to their support, but in some cases three, four, five or even six cuts. It paints a frightening picture of the financial struggles affecting disabled people in 2013. On top of this the Government is suggesting capping the welfare bill in the June spending review – having already slashed billions.”
Dr Simon Duffy of the Centre for Welfare Reform, on behalf of the Campaign for a Fair Society, produced analysis that suggested the cuts to benefits and services fell disproportionately on minority groups. The extreme unfairness of this policy is demonstrated if we compare the burden of cuts born annually by most citizens (£467 per person) to the burden on people in poverty (£2,195: 5 x rest of population), the burden on disabled people (£4,410: 9 x rest of population) and the Burden on people with severest disabilities (£8,832: 19 x rest of population).
We believe that the Government either needs to demonstrate that the CIA’s produced are not accurate and produce its own CIA or explain why the austerity measures have been targeted at people, who WOWpetition believe, the Government thought would not fight back.
2. An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association. Consultation between the Depts of Health & Education to improve support into work for sick & disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.
The Work Capability Assessment judges the Capability for work or work related activity of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants. We believe the current test is totally discredited, with the Prime Minister saying in October 2013 that its provider, Atos, had "to improve the quality of decision-making" in the face of sustained criticism of both the efficacy and effectiveness of what, WOWpetition believe, is not a tool meant to enable disabled people and help them to achieve what they feel capable of but instead a blunt instrument to reduce the social security bill. We do not believe it is right that in the 21st Century an experimental process has been imposed on sick and disabled people with in some cases fatal consequences. Over 10,000 people have died within 6 weeks of being compelled to submit to what has been described as a “dehumanizing, brutal and aggressive quasi-medical assessment”.
WOWpetition believes that any method for assessing the financial support given, and the life opportunities presented to sick and disabled people needs to be based upon 3 questions: “What do you want to do?” “What stops you from doing that?” “What adjustments can be made to enable you?” Any process that seeks to enable disabled people and give them equality of opportunity, needs to address not just the “supply side” issues of “what can you do” but also needs to address “demand side” prejudices and ensure society provides the opportunities to people facing significant barriers to mainstream employment opportunities, in a fair way that gives people with impairments equality of opportunity. Additionally, any individual trying to enhance their experience should not be penalised/ restricted, as they already face difficulty with employment.
More than anything, WOWpetition wants a system based upon trust. The evidence clearly shows that at approximately 0.7%, Benefit fraud is non-systemic and the overwhelming feeling of grassroots Disabled Peoples Organisation’s, expressed at a summit organised by WOWpetition in London on the 25th October 2013, was that sick and disabled people are sick of being treated as guilty until proven innocent and that the system needs to embody trust, not persecution.
Irrespective of their ability to work, sick & disabled people should be able to rely upon financial support from society that would allow them to experience a good standard of living.
3. An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, Daycare Centre’s, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.
WOWpetition cannot understand how in the Worlds 6th richest country (by GDP – IMF 2012) the situation can have been allowed to occur where, despite the UK ratifying the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, what is arguably “retrogressive legislation” has been introduced, without being effectively challenged pre-implementation.
At its AGM on April 14 2013, Amnesty International UK passed a resolution on the Human Rights of sick and disabled people in the UK. The resolution (A5) read:
“This AGM calls for urgent action to halt the abrogation of the human rights of sick and disabled people by the ruling Coalition government and its associated corporate contractors.”
It is WOWpetition’s belief that The WRA 2012 was “rushed” through Parliament with the House of Commons using the procedural tool of “financial privilege” to curtail debate and over-turn the amendments tabled by the House of Lords. We believe The House of Lords had taken very relevant advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with the effect that the Human Rights and Equality issues pertinent to the WRA 2012 have been largely ignored. Some overlooked amendments have since been the subject of successful legal challenges, and the Minister for Disabled People has been criticized in open court for failing to consider the effect her policies have on equality of opportunity.
WOWpetition call for the UK to comply with the spirit of its Treaty Obligations and, in line with “Article 4 – General Obligations” of the UNCRPD, strive to achieve full realization of the rights so included in that document without prejudice. As an example of what we would argue is the non-compliance of the UK with this Treaty, we are dismayed that an apparent working definition of “Equality of Opportunity” appears to be, that employers may choose to favour a disabled candidate over a non-disabled candidate. This, we believe, is not what was intended by “Article 3 – General Principles” of the UNCRPD.
In order for lessons to be learnt and safeguards put in place to ensure persons with disabilities are never again to face what we believe is a coordinated onslaught on our human rights and right to life, we call for an independent Committee based enquiry into Welfare Reform.
Most worrying are the comments attributed to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson on Nov 28th 2013, in which he says “It is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2% have an IQ above 130.”
Is a person’s worth or right of equality to be linked to his measured IQ? Is economic potential the accepted measure of somebody’s value and equality? This comment is not acceptable.
WOWpetition suggests that sick and disabled people are the target of a sustained attack on their human rights and standard of living as it is believed they will not fight back. We agree with Richard Hawkes of Scope who said “At the moment there’s no place for disabled people in the Chancellor’s aspiration nation.” WOWpetition seeks a society where disabled people (through birth, trauma or illness) are given true equality of opportunity and valued appropriately, based upon their intrinsic humanity.
On the 10th July 2013 an Opposition Day Debate on “Disabled people” called for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of the changes made by Government that affect disabled people. We argue that the debate called for by the WOWpetition is significantly different to this debate, based on:
· Following this debate, The Centre for Welfare Reform has also done what is “very difficult to do accurately” and produced a Cumulative Impact Assessments. This, and the Demos one previously done, demonstrate how this government’s austerity measures have been unfairly targeted at sick and disabled people. The House needs to debate why disabled people are seen as easy targets by this government or the DWP needs to challenge the findings.
· It is widely reported that both the new Universal Credit Payment (UC) and the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are in trouble. WOWpetition believe the UK government should take the time to carefully consider the effect the transition to these potentially flawed procedures would have on sick and disabled people and if it is prepared to inflict more excess deaths on these communities.
· The DWP publication “Fulfilling Potential – The Next Steps” is put forward by Esther McVey MP as a remedy for the exclusion and barriers to society facing disabled people. WOWPetition believes this document is flawed and based upon Esther McVey’s inability to distinguish between the Social Model of Disability and the Bio-psychosocial Model of Disability which, we believe, she seems to think are the same thing. How to enable disabled people to fulfill their potential should be debated in conjunction with relevant meaningful published statistics to identify how best to deliver meaningful Equality of Opportunity to sick and disabled people. How long do we have to wait until sick and disabled are given meaningful Equality of Opportunity, which is a requirement under “Article 3 – The General Principles” of the “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities“.
WOWpetition therefore asks all MP's that no matter their political position they demonstrate that they are prepared to engage and debate the issue affecting Sick and Disabled People by attending the Main Chamber debate of the WOWpetition in the New Year.