Reintroduction of work conditionality and sanctions
Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey has announced conditionality and benefit sanctions will be reintroduced this week as jobcentres in England start to reopen after lockdown, saying it was ‘essential’ claimant rules are reinstated.
Face-to-face meetings in jobcentres were suspended in March, in addition to suspending ‘claimant conditionality’ – a set of rules that require people to agree to carry out job search activities as a condition of claiming benefits.
DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said “The decision to reintroduce conditionality and sanctions is appalling and one that DR UK strongly condemns. Quite simply, it must be reversed. It is a decision that has not been made without warning and with no consultation with any DWP stakeholder groups, let alone DPOs and other disability organisations.
There has been no research that finds that the conditionality and sanctions regime helps disabled people. Instead there is evidence that the DWP’s sanctions system has discriminated against disabled people for a decade. The Work and Pensions Committee of MPs concluded two years ago that not only is there no evidence that the DWP’s benefit conditionality sanctions system works but that ‘worse, it is harmful and counterproductive’.”
Read our reasons for strongly opposing this decision.
People who are currently shielding can no longer get SSP on that basis from 1 August 2020
The Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has announced that people who are currently ‘shielding’ due to being clinically extremely vulnerable as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will not be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) on that basis from 1 August 2020.
Mr. Tomlinson said that for those shielding, they will continue to remain eligible for SSP if they are unable to work and:
are required to self-isolate because they, or someone in their household, has symptoms of COVID-19; or
because they have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus.
Work and Pensions Secretary told to urgently increase the financial support paid to unpaid carers
Carers UK and ninety two other charities, including DR UK, have today written a joint letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey calling for the urgent extra financial support to unpaid carers to ensure “they are supported during the coronavirus crisis and beyond”.
A copy of the letter has been sent to the Chancellor.
More than 6.5 million people in the UK provide unpaid care to disabled, and older people in our society. The support they provide is worth £132 billion a year is – equivalent to the annual cost of the NHS.
Video hearings to be made available for Social Security and Child Support Tribunals
The Justice Minister Chris Philip MP has announced that arrangements are being made to make video hearings available across all Social Security and Child Support Tribunal regions.
In response DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said:
“It’s understandable that face-to-face appeal hearings are not currently possible due to the coronavirus pandemic. The news that video hearings are now to be possible for those appealing against social security decisions is very welcome.
But the informed choice as to whether an appeal is heard on paper, by telephone or by video must be that of the disabled person and not overridden by the tribunals service. Some people who experience severe social anxiety may prefer a telephone hearing. For many others, who say have a learning disability or a mental health issue or need the advice and support of a representative, telephone hearings can never be just or fair.
It is wrong for the tribunals service to dictate that in practice PIP video hearings are unavailable. Most PIP appeals are upheld due to the claimant’s own verbal evidence. It is discriminatory to deny someone the ability to effectively answer questions and present their case.”
50% of people in poverty live in a family where someone is disabled
The Social Metrics Commission has published its annual report on poverty in the UK. Among other things it shows that half of all people in poverty live in a family that includes a disabled person. Of these, 4 million are themselves disabled and another 3.2 million live in a family that includes someone else who is disabled.
Read the full report.
Mind’s five tests for the Government to ensure better mental health
The mental health charity Mind has researched some of the knock-on effects of the pandemic and has produced a report proposing five tests which it says the government must meet. These are designed to protect and improve the country’s mental health after coronavirus.
Many people are experiencing problems for the first time and those who were already struggling are finding things even harder. Mind argues that those in power can make the right choices to rebuild services and support to help make sure the society that comes after the pandemic is kinder, fairer and safer.
Mind’s five tests for putting mental health at the heart of the ‘new normal’ are:
1. Invest in community services
2. Protect those most at risk
3. Reform the Mental Health Act
4. Provide a financial safety net
5. Support children and young people
Changes to the law on EHCP needs assessments and plans due to COVID-19
On 1 May some aspects of the law on education, health and care (EHC) assessments and plans changed temporarily to give local authorities, health commissioning bodies and education bodies more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by COVID-19.
The government has now issued non-statutory guidance with a summary of these legislative changes. It also sets out the key implications for all those who play a part in the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans. The target audience for this guidance is:
families and parent carer forums
SEND Information, Advice and Support Services (SENDIASS)
local authorities and social care services
health commissioning bodies
early years providers, schools, colleges and other education settings
others who contribute advice and information to EHC needs assessments, such as educational psychologists and other health care professionals
, which also confirms which key elements of the processes over EHC needs assessments and plans are unchanged.
Relaxation of planning rules could lead to a shortage of accessible homes
Proposals from housing developers to relax planning rules would exacerbate the UK’s existing shortage of homes that are safe and suitable for older and disabled people, leading housing, ageing and disability charities warn.
By 2030, there will be just one new accessible home built for every 15 people over the age of 65, despite the fact that the UK is undergoing a massive demographic age shift. Looser planning rules would make this shortage more acute, the organisations say. The Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition is calling on housing developers to build more homes suitable for all ages, with research showing that most people want to remain in their homes as they get older.
Disability Rights UK is part of the HoME coalition which sent an open letter to Housing Minister Christopher Pincher. The HoME coalition says that the coronavirus crisis has shone a light on the importance of people having homes that are suitable for their needs, with many having spent lock down stuck in houses that are inaccessible and therefore hazardous to their health and wellbeing.
Access to Work video guide
If the help you need at work is not covered by your employer making reasonable adjustments, you may be able to get help from the Access to Work scheme.
DR UK has collaborated with Diversity and Ability and Evenbreak to create a video guide to the Access to Work application process.
Reintroduction of work conditionality and sanctions