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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Government figures prove UN’s human catastrophe verdict

Shocking new figures underline the facts behind a UN committee’s decision to describe UK welfare benefits as a human catastrophe.

And the figures come from the government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Not that they were provided willingly. The MS Society forced them out by a freedom of information request.

During the first three years of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), people with MS have lost at least £6 million a year in benefits, according to the society. PIP started to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013.

The Department for Work and Pensions admitted that between October 2013 and October 2016:

  • almost one in three people (2,600) with MS who received the highest rate mobility component of DLA had their payments cut after they were reassessed for PIP.
  • nearly a quarter (800) who received the highest rate for the care component of DLA had their payments cut after being reassessed for PIP.

System doesn’t make sense

reassessed

Genevieve Edwards (pic: MS Society).

MS Society director of external affairs, Genevieve Edwards, said: “These staggering figures show how PIP is failing some people with MS who need the highest level of support.

“It doesn’t make sense that people are losing money they once qualified for, when they are living with a progressive condition.” I agree, the disease gets worse progressively, not better.

The society is rightly worried that many people no longer get what they were entitled to, and should still be able to claim. Their individual situations are no better but their care benefits have been cut.

One problem is when people are unable to explain the reality of living with MS when reassessed for PIP. And assessors, who are of dubious quality, rarely understand how unpredictable it can be.

Harder to get highest rate mobility under PIP

Additionally, it’s now also harder to qualify for the highest rate of mobility support for PIP. And that’s what you need to take advantage of the Motability car scheme.

Before the changes, under the DLA claimants wouldn’t receive the highest level of support if they could walk more than 50m. Now, under PIP, they won’t get the higher rate if they can walk more than 20m – including the use of sticks or walking aids, if needed.

Exactly what the basis of that change is, I just don’t know but it is unfair. Interestingly, on May 4 last year Baroness Altmann, then minister of state at the DWP, said in the House of Lords: “I would like to clarify what appears to be a widespread misconception regarding the differences between the mobility assessment in PIP and the mobility assessment in DLA. (See my post of May 16, 2016, Disability: There is no 20-metre rule, says minister).

“Many noble Lords have spoken of a ‘20-metre rule’, but there is no such rule. Some people believe that we have changed the assessment of a distance a claimant is able to walk from 50 metres to 20 metres. This is not the case.”

What a load of absolute codswallop.

  • Have the requirements changed between being assessed for DLA and being reassessed for PIP? YES.
  • Is the cut off for highest rate mobility payment now being unable to walk 20m instead of 50m? YES.
  • Did Baroness Altmann lie? Well by archaic tradition, she cannot be accused of lying as she made the statement in the House. She can only be guilty of “misleading the House”. It is clear, she did mislead the House.

Now, what is a non-parliamentary term for deliberately misleading the House? Let me think. Oh yes, I remember, it is LYING.

Fix this broken system, MS Society demands

The MS Society is calling on the government to urgently fix “this broken system” and ensure PIP assessments reflect the realities of living with MS. I couldn’t agree more.

“Having MS is hard enough. It shouldn’t be made harder by a system that doesn’t make sense,” said Ms Edwards.

And so say all of us. 

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

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Treatment of disabled people is an international disgrace

I find it disgraceful that the government’s treatment of disabled people is so disgusting that it can be labelled a human catastrophe. And that’s not disability campaigners saying that. No, no. It’s a United Nations committee’s damning verdict.

human catastrophe

Theresia Degener.

The UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is investigating the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

Last October it warned that welfare cuts had led to “grave and systematic violations” of rights. Now, the committee says the UK has failed to meet its obligations under the convention.

Britain signed up to that convention in 2007. It includes the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination.

Committee chairwoman Theresia Degener said it’s a human catastrophe that social services cuts have totally neglected needs of disabled people.  And  committee member Stig Langvad added the UK is “going backwards” on disability issues.

Ms Degener said: “The austerity measures that they have taken – they are affecting half a million people. Each disabled person is losing between £2,000 and £3,000 per year. People are pushed into work situations without being recognised as vulnerable. The evidence that we had in front of us was just overwhelming.”

The committee’s inquiry looked at a variety of concerns across a host of areas. These included education, work, housing to health, transport, and social security. Also, the report contained more than 60 recommendations for UK ministers.

Ms Degener accused British politicians of failing vulnerable members of society. Additionally, UK officials faced allegations of misrepresenting the impact of policies. This was because questions were unanswered, and statistics and statements on policies and legislation were misused.

Human catastrophe shambles needs fixing

She said evidence seen by the committee, and a review it carried out last year, made clear the impact of austerity policies on the disabled.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “The UN committee has found that this Tory government is still failing sick and disabled people.

“Their damning report highlights what many disabled people already know to be true. They are being forced to bear the brunt of failed Tory austerity policies.”

A government spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed that this report does not accurately reflect the evidence we gave to the UN, and fails to recognise all the progress we’ve made to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives.

“We spend over £50bn a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more than ever before, and the second highest in the G7.

A spokesman said the government is committed to further rights and opportunities for all disabled people. It is encouraging that almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work in the UK over the last four years.

Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac, described report as “damning”. He said disabled people in Britain are treated like “second class citizens”.

“We have long urged the government to make changes. The UN recommendations are further proof that immediate action must be taken,” he said.

My view is that the human catastrophe criticism isn’t a surprise, and the government should put its house in order. But don’t hold your breath because, as good a dream as it is, it won’t happen in reality.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Beach accessibility is OK, but what about the sea?

I live 15 minutes from the beach, where the sun shines around the year, and accessibility for wheelchairs is provided. That’s good news for people with disabilities, like me with multiple sclerosis, and other wheelchair users.

beach

That’s me on the beach wheelchair access in Spain. That’s as close as I can get to the Mediterranean behind me.

The majority of Spanish beaches facing the Mediterranean have permanent wooden pathways across the sand. And they culminate in a cross-piece parallel to, but yards from, the water’s high tide level. This seems like most beaches that provide access for chairs without the special wide tyres that can handle sand.

I was reading about a campaign in the USA to make sure beaches there become accessible. The article was written by a former colleague of mine, Ed Tobias, and published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today. In his MS Wire column, Ed wrote:

Beach Days for All

So, I want to applaud some people who live along the New Jersey shore and who launched a campaign called “Beach Days for All.” One of them is Jessica Krill. Jessica was born and raised in Seaside Park, New Jersey. She knows about beach access problems because she’s the mother of two special-needs children.

beachJessica and her friend, Chris Aldrich, put together a Facebook page promoting their access campaign. They also reached out to Seaside Park’s government officials, spoke before the Borough Council, and enlisted the support of Justin Auciello, the creator of the website and Facebook page “Jersey Shore Hurricane News,” to help find a way to make their beach more accessible.

That “way” turned out to be using temporary, hard plastic mats, similar to those that cover the grass and dirt at sports stadiums during special events, such as concerts. The mats formed a path from the dunes to the water and they came as a donation from Matrax, the company that supplies mats to Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. Its chief operating officer, Joe Wright, made the offer after seeing the “Beach Days for All” Facebook page. They were put down on Seaside Park’s F Street beach in mid-August.

Wheelchairs have access to beach but not to the water

But those pathways are only good for access to the beach. They fall woefully short, quite literally, of satisfying anyone wanting to dip their feet in the water. And that’s a problem on both sides of the Atlantic. US beach paths appear from the pictures to be of a similar design as here in Spain.

And that should change. It really is time for accessibility for wheelchair users to thought of in terms of the sea itself, not just the beach.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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