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Category Archives: Disabled people

A Country Firing on All Cylinders – New Social Security for Disabled People

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, in a speech on social security for disabled people, said:

Five weeks ago Ed Miliband explained how a One Nation Labour government will reform social security so that once again it works for working people.

And for the Labour Party – the party of work – that starts with jobs.
So, over the past month, I’ve made a series of speeches about how we get our country back to work.

There’s a simple reason why.

As Ed Balls explained: because this government throttled the recovery we left in 2010, we have lower growth and higher unemployment and £270 billion less in tax receipts than was planned.

That means this government is borrowing £245 billion more than it
planned – and to pay for it, we now have an attack on the social security system that holds our country together. That is enough money to fund the entire NHS for over two years.

That’s why we need a different plan for the economy. A new plan to put social security back on an even keel.

A new plan that deals with, not dodges long-term rising costs.
I believe that this means a very different set of reforms at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Work Programme is failing. It does nothing for nine out of ten people it’s supposed to help. We need to stop fighting unemployment with one hand tied behind our back and create a new alliance between the government, the private sector, the third sector and local authorities – like they do in Germany.

We need to support our older workers – the very people who have either cared the most or paid in the most and yet now face unemployment that stretches on the most – longer than for any other age group.

We need to support working parents who want to go back to work but today don’t get enough support to hold down the average part-time job.

We need to transform the way we support young people back to work because they are going to pay for the future of our pensions and our NHS and right now there’s nearly a million of them out of work – something about which I’ll have a lot more to say later in the summer.

And today, I want to talk about why and crucially how we must revitalise support for disabled people

The challenge of the future

The argument for stronger rights for disabled people starts deep in our party’s past: but its logic is dictated by our country’s future.

Quite simply, we are not going to succeed as a country in the new world fast taking shape today, unless we draw on every ounce of talent we’ve got.

Earlier this year, I wrote a book about how Britain is going to succeed in what some are calling the ‘Asian century’.

I spoke to anyone and everyone who had a view.

I’ve visited places like Tianjin connected to China’s capital by high speed rail where they’re building an aerospace industry, a pharmaceuticals industry and a financial services industry – in other words, all the things that we like to think we’re the best at.

One thing everyone had in common was the idea that there is no way on earth Britain is ever going to win a race to the bottom.

Today, 12 years after the China joined the World Trade Organisation, nearly a decade after we doubled the size of Europe, as we stand on the threshold of talks to open a free trade zone between Britain and America, a country which in turn is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, unskilled workers in Britain compete with people paid 90 per cent in less developed parts of the world.

We are never going to compete and win with a low pay, low skills, low tech strategy.

Never.

And if you want proof, here’s a fact to focus the mind.

Over half of unskilled workers in Britain are out of a job.

The highest level on record.

You’ve probably heard of a great new book by David Sainsbury called Progressive Capitalism. I like it because it’s got a big simple message.
The only way we get to win is in what David calls a race to the top.
Where we compete on innovation. High tech. Brain power. New ideas.
Here’s the lesson for us: What we know about innovative societies is that they draw on every ounce of talent.

In other words, our success in the new world that is coming depends on our resolve to give everyone a chance to contribute.
And yet, today we don’t do that.

Why?

Because we have not shattered the link between disability and disconnection.

Between disability and disadvantage.

Today, one in five adults in Britain has a disability of some kind.
That means that unless we give all disabled adults the chance to contribute, we’re only drawing on 80 per cent of our power.

We’re only firing on four out of five cylinders.
Are we so rich and are we so prosperous that we can afford to do that?

I don’t think so.

And that is why social security has got to change so that we make the right to work a reality for disabled people in 21st century Britain.
Ed Miliband has said it loud and clear:

Work for everyone who can work, that is our starting point for reform. That’s how we start to bring welfare spending under control.

But today, disabled citizens are far less likely to win the right to work than anyone else – or go to university, or run our major organisations.
Although disabled people are 20 per cent of the population, disabled people hold just 3.5 per cent of public appointments.

Over half of disabled people are economically inactive.

Disabled people are twice as likely to be out of work than non-disabled people.

Over 40 per cent of disabled people have qualifications below 5 A* – C at GCSE.

Even in work, disabled people experience a pay penalty: median hourly wages are 20 per cent lower for disabled women and 12 per cent lower for disabled men.

The result is bad for the country – and it’s bad for disabled people.

A far higher proportion of disabled people live in poverty than anyone else.

According to latest figures from the House of Commons Library, working age disabled adults are 50 per cent more likely to live in poverty than non disabled adults.

A staggering 2.3 million disabled people live in relative poverty –across the UK.

One third of the households in absolute poverty are home to someone with a disability.

We simply cannot go on like this.

The system is broken.

And it’s got to change.

The proportion of the population who reported a long-standing disability or illness has increased by 50 per cent over the last 40 years.

But in the future, improved diagnosis, reduced stigma in reporting disability, and better survival rates for pre-term infants all mean that the proportion of children and young people who will become disabled adults will not fall, it will rise between now and 2020.

So we’re running out of time.

With these great challenges of the future looming before us, it’s very, very depressing to see the Government’s response.

No plan to reform social security for the long term, just a series of petty political games

An Australian friend of mine was telling me about the Lynton Crosby play-book the other day.

“Watch out”, he said, “for a strategy of distract, detach and divide”.

“The Tories will find any issue they can to distract the media from the economy.”

“They’ll try and detach a block of voters from you and make them their own”.

“And they’ll try and divide you one from each other”.

And that’s all we’ve had on welfare policy. A constant search for dividing lines. A constant attempt to divide and rule.
It might make good headlines. But it makes terrible policy. The welfare revolution we were promised has failed because this government is more interested in pitting neighbour against neighbour than in changing things for the better.

Because let me ask you, when did a country ever achieve greatness with citizens fighting each other?

This country has only ever achieved great things, when we pulled together.

When we resolved not to leave anyone behind.

When we listened to that ethical voice in our head that says actually we do have an obligation to look after each other.

Ever since the advent of ‘Broken Britain’ – remember that? – Tory politicians have served up a diet of stories, arguments, dodgy data devoted to reinforcing a war on disabled people and disability benefits.
The scroungers subtext is never far away or hard to spot. And now we reap a bitter harvest.

A salvo of changes that have created a climate, not of hope but of fear, amongst thousands of disabled people and their families.

It is distraction politics. It is divisive politics

It is in fact an attempt to disguise the basic truth that by the final year of this parliament, the Government is taking 23 per cent more from disabled people and social care than it is off banks.

More than three years into office, this mule-ish government is refusing to learn from experience.

It’s refusing to learn in the light of experience or to make the radical changes that are so clearly needed.

It’s refusing to disperse the climate of fear it has created.

  • The goal of equality has been dropped from the Government’s disability strategy.
  • The Work Programme is three times worse than doing nothing for disabled people – it’s failing for nearly 95% of new ESA claimants.
  • The Benefit’s Uprating Bill, without measures to get people back into work, will push 50,000 into poverty whilst millionaires get a tax cut.
  • Changes to DLA that don’t take any account of what they will do to a person’s ability to go out a work.
  • The Bedroom Tax will hit 440,000 disabled people even though there are now real concerns it won’t even save any money.
  • Disabled former workers have lost benefits they paid in for regardless of whether they’re fit to work or not.
  • Families with disabled children will lose up to £1,400 a year when universal credit is introduced even though David Cameron promised to protect them.
  • The Care Bill does nothing to address the current care crisis for disabled people. So far the debate on social care funding has been almost exclusively about how the system should respond to the demands of the ageing society and not working age disabled people – and as Andy Burnham has said that needs to change.
  • Research for Scope revealed nearly half of disabled people felt that attitudes towards them had got worse over the last year.
  • Research for Demos find that disabled people now feel ‘a sense of persecution” and “a perfect storm of mental distress”.
  • Frankly George Osborne was lucky to get away with boos at the Paralympics. Most of my disabled friends would propose something a little tougher.

The way forward

The father of the National Health Service, Nye Bevan, only ever wrote one book, ‘In Place of Fear’. An extraordinary poetry. On the penultimate page he said this:

‘Progress is not the elimination of struggle but rather a change in its term’.

Well, the struggle is intensifying for disabled people.

But every generation has to strike a new balance between universal and targeted support.

Today, someone in our country is registered as disabled every 3 minutes.
As Australia’s former prime minister argued last month, the case for reform is very simple:

“Disability can affect any of us and therefore it affects all of us.
The existence of disability in our community cannot always be avoided.
But the consequences of disability—isolation, poverty, loss of dignity, stress, hopelessness and fear of the future—can be avoided.”

So I believe it’s time for a profound change in the way we support disabled people.

If the government refuses to propose fundamental change then we will.
Last year, I talked about what some of these rights might look like.

They are what Amartya Sen calls, the “substantive freedoms” – the capabilities – to choose a life that one has reason to value.

I think they are things like:

  • The right to health;
  • to be skilled and knowledgeable;
  • To be able to work if you can;
  • to have a roof over your head;
  • to live free from fear of attack;
  • to have a family;
  • to be part of a community;
  • to be able to get around;
  • to have aspirations for the future.

Labour has a proud record of creating new universal institutions that help civilise the labour market. That makes a reality of these kind of rights.

The National Minimum Wage. Tax credits, soon to become universal credit. Universal occupational pensions.

I think the time has now come for us to explore how we add to this list; to learn the lessons from Australia on universal disability insurance.

Benefits and services that are not just a safety net, but a ladder for disabled people and their carers.

No-one plans to become disabled. No-one plans for a loved one to become disabled.

Life deals the cards it deals.

But if the whole idea of national insurance it meant anything at all, was that we all pay in to insure ourselves against the slings and arrows of life.
It’s a system that lets us support each other.

It’s a system that should be there when we need it.

And right now, it’s not.

Today, we support disabled people by putting them in the middle of a labyrinth and telling them to find their way out.

There are assessments for social care. There are assessments for PiP. There are assessments like the Work Capability Assessment.

Of course we need assessments – but at the moment, everyone asks the same question. And hundreds of thousands of the assessments are wrong. Years are wasted in court, where eventually 40 per cent of appeals are won.

It is a monumental waste of money. £74 million according to evidence provided to the Public Accounts Committee by Disability Rights UK.

We spend £900 million on Atos. We’re about to spend £540 million on Atos and Capita. Heaven knows how much we spend on social care assessments.

I think it’s time to end the labyrinth.

It’s time to bring services and benefits together to support disabled people in a new way.

I think it’s time for us to explore lessons from Australia where their model of ‘universal disability insurance’ has seen the integration of back to work support, social care, and disability benefits in a single personal budget, which is being pioneered with cross-party support.

The next Labour government won’t – couldn’t – deliver this over night.
We would not impose solutions on disabled people, we will coproduce our solutions together with disabled people.

The National Health Service wasn’t built in a day. It took six years of planning and creation.

The same will be true for a system of universal disability insurance.

Because of this Government’s economic failure, Labour’s inheritance will be hard.

But I think we can build on the work Anne McGuire and I pushed forward in government when we served as ministers together, pioneering individual budgets and we can develop the concept of ‘whole person care’ that Andy Burnham has laid out with such vision.

Today, I want to set out the five principles that should guide our thoughts.

Principle 1: A personal plan for support, including employment

We should bring support for disabled people together as far as we can – including employment.

Rather than separate services treating different bits of a person, we should provide a single service to meet all of a person’s care needs.

This means health and social care, mental health and employment services working together.

As Scope’s Richard Hawkes put it: “Disabled people don’t only fall between the cracks separating the health and social care system – but they must also navigate the welfare system, employment support and housing”.

At the centre of Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme is a personal plan for each participant.

Coordinators will work with participants to establish goals and support needs, to develop a personalised plan and to connect people to mainstream services and community supports.

In Britain we could build this out of the legislation in the Care Bill aims to enshrine the principles of economic wellbeing in a wider definition of wellbeing for disabled people by introducing a new requirement on Local Authorities to promote “economic well being” and the “participation in work, education and training” for disabled people.

Principle 2: Local partnerships

Second, to achieve this aim, we should create local partnerships between the DWP, specifically the DWP’s Pensions, Disability & Carers’ Service, Social Care, the NHS, Local Enterprise Partnerships, emerging City Deals and disability organisations.

These partnerships could be underpinned by the ‘duty to cooperate’, like for example the children’s trusts we created in 2004.

Children’s trusts transformed the way services worked together to improve the learning, health and happiness of children.

This is what the Care Bill misses out. There is plenty in there about the duties on local authorities. But nothing about the way in which councils, the NHS and the DWP have to work together.

Principle 3: “Tell us once” approach to assessments

Third, a person centred approach would need a radical approach to information sharing.

Everyone agrees that assessments are necessary to make sure people get the help and support they need, but the last thing anyone wants to do is fill out time consuming forms, or take a series of tests unless they are absolutely necessary.

Labour believes it is now time to look again at how we can streamline the process. For example, we will look at introducing assessments which dovetail together to gauge eligibility and need in the quickest and most efficient way possible. This could include assessments for employment, health and social support needs as well as benefit entitlement.

The principle should follow the “Tell Us Once” approach, a cross-government programme pioneered by Labour which allows customers to inform local government of a change in circumstance such as births, deaths and change of addresses only once.

I’m delighted that the former head of Pensions Disability and Carer’s Services Alexis Cleveland has agreed to help us think this through.

Principle 4: Empowering approach to assessments

Fourth assessments should serve to put a team behind disabled people, not a bureaucracy against them.

So Labour will also look at reforming tests so that they identify the help disabled people actually need to achieve economic well-being and independent living, rather than a simple assessment of conditions.

Principle 5: Root and branch review of employment support programmes for disabled people offered though a personal budget

To simplify the employment support system, improve targeting and give disabled people choice over the type of support they receive, we will look at rolling disability employment programmes into one individual budget-based programme.

This could be contracted locally with the budget pooled with other services. This could build on Andy Burnham’s Whole Person Care approach and the Right to Control pilots, and would give individuals greater choice over the support that they most need.

We know the impact work can have for disabled people – and whether or not they live in poverty. Today someone on ESA and DLA will live in poverty – nearly £600 below the poverty line.

Help someone work three hours a week and they will be £400 above the poverty line.

Someone working 30 hours a week will be over £5,000 above the poverty line.

As Ed Miliband’s speech said – if we reform social security in the right way, we free more people to work, lift more people out of poverty, and bring down the benefits bill at the same time.

That’s why I’m determined to make sure if a disabled person can work, we must do anything and everything to help them.

Labour is the party of work.

Last year, from Stephen Hawking’s mesmerising introduction at the opening ceremony to Jonnie Peacock’s blistering sprint, the Paralympics have blasted into the public mind the extraordinary capability and contribution of Britain’s disabled citizens.

The challenge for Britain now – and especially for our government – is to instantly shift focus; from applauding the achievements of our disabled superstars on the world-stage to advancing the ambitions of our disabled citizens in everyday life.

At the Paralympics opening ceremony Stephen Hawking left us with inspirational words that I use with my own kids and school-children in my constituency: “There should be no boundary to human endeavour”.

I want to live in a country where there aren’t boundaries to human endeavour.

And that’s why I believe the system has got to change.

 

Ends

 

 

50,000 disabled people pushed into poverty as Bedroom Tax approaches

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, at a summit on the impact of the Bedroom Tax on disabled people, today revealed fresh evidence of the devastating impact this Government is having on disabled people.

At the event in Southwark, Liam Byrne revealed fresh evidence that the Welfare Uprating Bill will drive 50,000 disabled people into poverty, just one week before the Bedroom Tax hits 440,000 households home to a disabled person.

Liam Byrne MP said:

“In two weeks 13,000 millionaires get will get tax cut of £2,000 per week, but hundreds of thousands of people hit by the Bedroom Tax will pay an extra £728 a year.

“Hundreds of thousands of disabled people will be punished by the hated Bedroom Tax, yet the budget offered them not a penny of help. Instead we have got the spare home subsidy for Britain’s richest families to add to the £100,000 a year tax cut arriving in a few days’ time.

“That tells you everything you need to know about this Government’s values.

“In no world is that fair. Disabled people are seeing attack after attack after attack – from unfair changes to DLA, a Work Capability Assessment that is out of control and now changes to benefits that will drive 50,000 disabled people into poverty. The Government’s plans are in chaos, and that’s why it’s so important to hear what disabled people have to say.

“We are very proud to be the party who appointed the first minister for disabled people. And we want to carry on listening to the views of disabled people. We want to hear your ideas for the future, but also we want to hear what’s going wrong now.”

Ends

Editor’s Notes:

1.   In a response to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Liam Byrne, DWP Minister Steve Webb admits that “we estimate that around an extra 50,000 disabled individuals will be considered to be in poverty under the relative income measure as a result of the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill. We also estimate that the average change for households containing a disabled person will be around -£3 a week.” (Hansard 11 Feb 2013 : Column 508W)  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130211/text/130211w0003.htm#13021150000029

 

2.   The Government will cut housing benefit for people with a spare room in their social or council let home, despite the DWP impact assessment acknowledging that there is a shortage of smaller properties for tenants to move to. The DWP’s impact assessment says that of the 660,000 people affected, almost two thirds are disabled. The average loss is £14 a week.

My speech to the Chamber today in the Opposition Day Debate on the Bedroom Tax

Mr Speaker

I rise to support the motion; we should support this motion this evening in the House this afternoon and in the division lobbies this evening.

Since the moment the Welfare Reform Bill saw the light we have warned this bedroom tax was bound to fail.

My Rt Hon friend, the Member for East Ham said:

“The reality is that most people under occupying their home currently will not have a smaller alternative to move to.  New social rented homes are not being built.  And of course, if they did have somewhere smaller to move to, the main purpose of this change – which is to reduce housing benefit spending – would not be achieved.”

My Noble friend, the Lord McKenzie of Luton warned:

“The discretionary housing budget paid for by increased pain on the bedroom tax does not adequately address the strong reservations that are being expressed. Nor does it compensate for the misery that these regulations will bring to potentially hundreds of thousands of households.”

In the divisions of the House, the other place, on the floor of this chamber and in committee we have forced votes as developments which will protect people from the disaster about to hit them in April.

The Flaws

Mr Speaker,

Over the weeks gone by, the faults and flaws which my Rt Hon Friend the Member for East Ham warned us of have emerged to all their Technicolor, 3-D , horror.

First, we discuss that someone handed a 6 months’ sentence is exempt.

Yet a mother, a mother like say Alison Huggan with two sons serving in the military, is not exempt but clobbered.

Then we hear foster parents will be hurt.

Then we hear couples where one is a pensioner and the other is not would be hit.

And of course, looming over all of this is the truth revealed in the Departments own assessment that 2/3 of those hit are disabled. Indeed the National Housing Federation estimates 200,000 are receiving Disability Living Allowance.

Cruelty

Mr Speaker this is a policy that is unique in its cruelty.

It is unique because it sets out to tackle a problem – the problem of under-occupancy – but will only succeed in making the forecast savings, if it fails.

The Government’s Budget assessment says clearly:  there’s not enough properties for those trying to dodge the tax go more into.

They’re firing at vulnerable people, having first made sure there is nowhere to seek shelter.

That I will suggest to the House is a policy of unique cruelty

Unusual

But, Mr Speaker this is not simply a cruel punishment.

This policy is a cruel and unusual punishment.

It’s not normal, it’s not usual in a modern, advanced civilised country to reward the rich and punish the poor.

It beggars belief that this policy to charge the poor more begins at the same time we charge the rich less.

Next month those on a million a year got a £2,000 a week tax cut.

And those with a spare bedroom got a £14 a week rent rise.

In what world is that fair? Or normal? Or usual?

Only in a Tory world.

Useless (1)

Now, it may be Mr Speaker, that the Secretary of State believes that this policy is indeed going to save his Department £490 million a year.

It may be that the Secretary of State genuinely believes this policy is going to save the £2 billion over the forecast period.

It may be the Secretary of State genuinely believes all this.

I put it to the House that is the Secretary of State trulybelieves this, then he is frankly too foolish to be the Secretary of State.

Because the evidence is now staring him in the face.

He will have read the reports to Cabinets in national governments and councils all over Britain.

They couldn’t be clearer: this policy is heading to cost more than it saves.

Even the Communities and Local Government Secretary is so worried this government’s shambolic reforms are so badly thought through he felt obliged to write to the Prime Minister to tell him that up to 40,000 people could be made homeless and the reforms would actually cost more than they save.

And across the country it gets worse

Hull City Council says that 4,700 tenants will be hit, but there are just 73 one and two bedroom properties available to let. They are estimating a shortfall for 4,700 tenants – costing rate payers a fortune.

In North Lanarkshire Council estimate they will lose £1.6m of additional arrears in arrears.

Useless (2)

So here we have a Department at the very heights of its powers.

A department that brought us a Work Programme that is worse than doing nothing.

A department that is presiding over a Universal Credit system collapsing into chaos.

A department that now offers a policy that costs more than it saves.

And why? Because the Secretary of State was rolled over by the Chancellor – and a downgraded Chancellor at that.

We have now the worst of all worlds.

A department suffering from an excess of stupidity, and an absence of spine.

The cost is paid not by the members of the front bench but by a million children plunged into poverty and 3 ½ million disabled people hurt by his reforms.

Useless (3)

And yet, instead of seeking to bring the Housing Benefit bill down by doing the sensible thing and building more social houses, the government has cut the home building grant so hard that we have a house building crisis.

Now what does the Leader of the Liberal Democrat party have to say about that little mess?

Well, here is Nick Clegg’s comments on 24 January:

“If I’m going to be sort of self-critical, there was this reduction in capital spending when we came into the Coalition Government.”

So during the current spending round, we’re spending £94 billion on Housing Benefit, and £4.5 billion on building homes.

Crazy. And it’s going to get worse….especially after the downgrade.

Conclusion

 

The tragedy, Mr Speaker is that there is an alternative.

To bring the welfare bill down, we must get people into jobs.

That’s why we’re calling for a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee.

That would be real welfare reform.

That would be real welfare to work.

That would be a real alternative, not a cruel and unusual punishment from a cruel and useless government.

 

Disability living allowance: why Labour’s safeguards are crucial

Today the government will set out its plans to change disability living allowance, while Labour will set out the safeguards we’re determined to see put in place.

Right now disabled people are being hit from all sides. On Monday ministers had to be summoned to the House of Commons to explain why they were shutting Remploy factories without any serious plan to get sacked workers into jobs. The Work Programme has proved a catastrophe for disabled people wanting work. It found jobs for just a thousand workers. Scope’s Richard Hawkes wasn’t wrong when he said: “These shocking figures indicate a system that is not working for disabled people.”

But there’s worse. The government’s new bedroom tax is threatening disabled people with big cuts in vital housing benefit. And a loophole in the law means a family caring for an adult child on DLA will be hit by the benefit cap. The government’s management of Atos is so inept that a quarter of Atos assessment centres don’t even have disability access. It’s enough to make you think this government cares very little for the livelihoods of our disabled neighbours.

That’s why we’ve got to be ultra-cautious about DLA reform, and it’s why we’ll absolutely insist vital safeguards are in place.

First, the government mustn’t take away DLA from anyone who will then be forced to give up a job. The government’s record of helping disabled people into work is frankly shocking. They mustn’t make a bad situation worse.

Second, the new test mustn’t push people into the NHS or social care system. Both are under unbearable pressure as it is. Last week the chairman of UK Statistics confirmed the NHS is facing a real cut in spending. And we know the social care system is being hammered by cuts in council spending.

Third, the reforms mustn’t have any knock-on effect to carers, who are already feeling the pressure. DLA helps disabled people to manage some of their own care needs; without this support, they could increasingly rely on family members. According to the Hardest Hit survey, three in 10 disabled people stated that without DLA their carer would not be able to work. Carers UK estimates that 10,000 people could lose carer’s allowance as a result of cuts to DLA. Without this vital care, disabled people could be forced to turn to overstretched social care services.

Unless the government guarantees these safeguards, disabled people will quite simply get pushed into poverty. We won’t stand by and watch that happen. Today half of households living in poverty are home to someone with a disability. We cannot let that one go.

One more thing. There must now be an assessment, in the round, of all the changes hitting disabled people: in the jargon of government, a cumulative impact assessment. Esther McVey, the disability minister, weakly said to the Commons that she wouldn’t order one because Labour never did one. How pathetic. Labour never inflicted the concerted attack we’re now seeing on disabled citizens. How on earth do we know whether taking 500,000 people off DLA won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for thousands and thousands of families? This has widespread public support. Pat Onion’s petition on the No 10 website, calling for the same idea, attracted more than 62,000 signatureswith almost no publicity.

Labour supports the principle of a test for DLA. But the government’s way forward is going to cost £500m. For some families the cut will be the difference between a life of independence and a life of poverty. That’s not a price Britain should be prepared to pay.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/13/disability-living-allowance-labour-safeguards

My comments following today’s Urgent Question on Remploy

 

It was frankly disgraceful that ministers had to be hauled to the House of Commons to explain their plans to shut down Remploy. It showed total contempt for Remploy workers and total disdain for their future.

 

‘Ministers gave the Commons a shocking performance and refused point blank to halt the closure programme until we’ve discussed why the DWP has performed so poorly in getting disabled workers sacked earlier in the year back into work.”

Written Ministerial Statement by the Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey on Remploy, 6th December 2012

Written Ministerial Statement

Thursday 6 December 2012

THE DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS

Disability Employment

The Minister for Disabled People (Ms Esther McVey MP):

I would like to make a statement on Remploy to update the House on the next steps in the reforms that my predecessor as Minister for Disabled People, the Rt Hon Member for Basingstoke, set out in this House on 10 July 2012.

The Remploy Board is today making make an announcement, and is quite rightly informing all those employees whom it affects.

The Remploy Board has now concluded its assessment of the Stage 2 businesses. It has been working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions and independent business analysts to explore in detail whether the remaining factory based businesses (Automotive, Automotive Textiles, E-Cycle, Frontline, Furniture, Marine and Packaging), CCTV contracts and Employment Services could viably exit government ownership and if so, how this could be best achieved.

Further work is being undertaken on Employment Services and a separate announcement will follow when a decision has been made.

The Government has decided to confirm the exit of Stage 2 factories and businesses, and the Remploy Board has today announced the results of its analysis and its proposals for a commercial process for stage 2 factory businesses and the CCTV business.

The Automotive business operating from factories in Coventry, Birmingham and Derby is considered by Remploy to be a viable business. It has the potential to successfully move out of Government funded support as a going concern. Remploy will now move to market this business , there is no proposal to close this business and staff at these sites are not formally at risk of redundancy.

The Automotive Textiles operation at Huddersfield is not commercially viable and the factory there is proposed for closure. All staff in this business are now at risk of redundancy.

The Furniture business based in Neath (Port Talbot), Sheffield and Blackburn has the potential to be commercially viable but would require significant restructuring consideration and downsizing of its operations. Remploy will market this business as a prospective going concern, while recognising that the current trading position of the business may ultimately result in no viable bids being received and that there may therefore be consequential redundancies and factory closures. All staff in this business are now at risk of redundancy.

The Marine Textiles business (based at Leven and Cowdenbeath) has an established market position and might attract commercial interest. Remploy Management will discuss any potential opportunities for a commercial exit with its current distributor and any other parties who express an interest. However the business currently makes significant losses and is not saleable currently as a going concern. The employees of the Marine Textiles business are therefore at risk of redundancy.

The CCTV business has the potential to become a viable business or series of businesses and successfully move out of Government control. Remploy will now discuss with the 27 organisations who have let contracts to Remploy their intentions and the opportunity to market this business and its 27 contracts as a going concern. If the business can be sold it may result in potential TUPE transfers. In the event that it cannot be sold compulsory redundancies will be made and all employees in the CCTV business are therefore at risk of redundancy.

In addition to Automotive Textiles, 3 other Remploy businesses are not commercially viable or have little realistic prospect of being sold as going concerns. These are E-Cycle (based at Porth and Heywood), Frontline Textiles (based at Dundee, Stirling and Clydebank) and Packaging (based at Norwich, Portsmouth, Burnley and Sunderland). These factories are now proposed for closure with all the staff working there and at the associated Business Offices at risk of redundancy.

As a means of reducing the number of potential job losses Remploy will, from today commence a commercial process and invite expressions of interest from any individuals or organisations who would like to buy all or parts of these businesses or sites proposed for closure. They will also be inviting expressions of interest for the assets associated with these sites, although “going concern” business sales will take precedent over asset sales. As a result of these proposals a total 875 employees including 682 disabled employees in the Automotive Textiles, E-Cycle, Frontline Textiles, Furniture, Marine textiles, Packaging and CCTV businesses are being placed at risk of compulsory redundancy.

If a successful sale or transfer of ownership is possible and such sale or transfer falls within the provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE), employees employed in or assigned to the relevant businesses will transfer to the new owner under TUPE. However, if TUPE does not apply, the number of employees who may transfer to the new business cannot be guaranteed as this will be a matter of negotiation between the bidder and Remploy.

It is important to note that no final decisions have been made about the factory closures or about redundancies in Stage 2 factories or businesses at this time.

I expect the process for exits or closures to have been completed by October 2013.

To encourage bids that maximise the continued employment of disabled people, the Department for Work and Pensions will offer a three year tapering wage subsidy totalling £6,400 for each eligible disabled member of staff. In addition Remploy will also fund professional advice and support worth up to £10,000 for employee led bids. This is in line with the offer of support in Stage 1.

Remploy’s Automotive business will continue to operate business as usual. There is no proposal to close this business at this stage.

Remploy Employment Services business will also continue to operate business as usual.

The Government has made £8 million available for 18 months to fund the delivery of a People Help and Support Package across the UK for any disabled individuals who are made redundant. This tailored support from the People Help and Support Package includes access to a Personal Case Worker to help individuals with their future choices and a personal budget for additional support.

We will use the expertise of Remploy’s Employment Services which, despite difficult economic times over the last two years, has found jobs for around 50,000 disabled and disadvantaged people.

We are working with Remploy Employment Services, local and national employers, and the Business Disability Forum (BDF) to offer targeted work opportunities for disabled people. This could include guaranteed interviews, work trials, industry sector specific training, pre-application training (including mock interviews), on the job training and employer training in how to make adjustments for particular impairments. We have also set up a Community Support Fund to provide grants to local voluntary sector and user-led organisations to run a variety of projects to support disabled Remploy employees and their families.

Of the 1,349 disabled people affected by the factory closures, 875 have expressed an interest in returning to work and are actively using the support package, so the latest results mean that just under 15% of those are now in work. It is one of our top priorities to maximise employment opportunities for the Remploy factory leavers.

This is an ongoing process, and as it develops, I commit to keeping this House updated on the status of the business plans going through to the next stage. I will provide a further update on progress in the New Year.

Harrington’s review of the Work Capability Assessment is devastating

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, in response to today’s publication of the Harrington Review, said:

“Professor Harrington’s review is devastating – progress is slow and incomplete, Ministers are failing to grip the shambolic appeals system, and the whole process is utterly failing to get people back into work.

“This damning report completely vindicates Labour’s call for fast and fundamental reform of the Work Capability Assessment. Ministers must now stop dragging their feet and take the urgent action we have been calling for.”

Ends

Editor’s notes:
1. A copy of the report can be found here:
http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-review-2012.pdf
2. Key findings from Harrington Review:
Slams slow overall progress:

“A number of the major charities in this year’s call for evidence say that although they have seen some change for the better, it is disappointingly incomplete in coverage and depth. I agree with them.”

Pg 6

Criticises the pace of reforming the test:

“So far as the descriptors are concerned, progress has been positive but slow.” …”The evidence-based review has unfortunately taken longer to develop than is ideal.”

Pgs 6, 39

Warns government has no grip on embattled appeals process:

“The appeals process remains an area of considerable concern for the Review. The First-tier Tribunal President opines that this is outside the remit of the Review. The Review disagrees. Appeals are a fundamental part of the overall WCA process.”

Pg 27

Warns government has no grip on Atos:

“Whilst Atos have developed an impressive list of training materials for their healthcare professionals and their trainers, the Review has seen little evidence to show the effectiveness of these courses in either driving up the quality of assessments or improving the skills and knowledge base of the  attendees.”

Pg 45

After conducting unannounced visits to  Benefit Delivery Centres and Atos Assessment Centres Harrington concludes that “progress has been slower than hoped for and the scope and depth of these changes is less than desirable.”

Pg 33

Confirms chaos in Work Programme:

“Only 9 per cent of people in the Work Related Activity Group were in employment 12–18 months after their claim.”

“Employment outcomes for ESA claimants remain considerably poorer than for those for new Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants with one quarter of ESA claimants entering jobs within 12–18 months, against around three quarters leaving the jobseeker’s register within six months.”

Pg 36

Atos revelations raise extremely serious questions over the £540m PIP contracts

The latest claims surrounding the IT firm Atos raise extremely serious questions over the £540m PIP contracts. There is now clear evidence that Atos won a £400m contract with a bid that was misleading.

There must be an immediate investigation because the integrity of the entire process is now in serious doubt. Ministers must now explain exactly how these claims got through unchecked.

Details of the revelations are available here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/nov/01/atos-disability-tests-contract-labour

Hardest Hit report is fresh evidence that Labour is right to call for fast and fundamental reform of the Work Capability Assessment

On the recently published Hardest Hit report, “The Tipping Point”, Labour’s Liam Byrne said:

“This report lays bare the divided nation that David Cameron  is creating. The government is creating a climate of pure fear amongst disabled people who are now set to lose more than David Cameron is taking off the banks. Today’s research is fresh evidence that Labour’s call for fast and fundamental reform of the Work Capability Assessment is right. What disabled people need is a team behind them not a bureaucracy against them.”

The Hardest Hit Report, “The Tipping Point: the human and economic costs of cutting disabled people’s support”, can be found here.

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