[g8-sheffield] Disabled activists fight unjust welfare reforms

Jason lejasonman at googlemail.com
Fri Apr 18 11:22:51 BST 2008


Yesterday more than twenty disabled activists occupied the foyer of
Adelphi House, where the Department of Work and Pensions is based. At
1.30 p.m. campaigners breezed in, taking over the foyer, leafleting
and asking to hand deliver a letter to James Purnell, Secretary of
State for the Department of Work and Pensions.

Members of D.A.N. the Disabled people's Direct Action Network refused
to leave until a meeting was arranged with James Purnell to discuss
Incapacity Benefit and the changes which are forcing one million
disabled people into poverty and unpaid work placements. James Purnell
was out of the country, so D.A.N. activists met with representatives
from the DWP and Sally Witcher from the Office for Disability Issues
and held long discussions.

The result of these discussions is, D.A.N. have been promised a
meeting with James Purnell, the date of which is to be confirmed. We
are very confident that the meeting will happen as we have promised to
come back for another visit if it doesn't.



ACTION: Disabled Campaigners are planning to protest against the DWP
(Adelphi House, 1 to 10 John Adams Street, WC2) at lunchtime today
(17th April). We will be delivering the attached letter for James
Purnell (Work and Pensions Secretary) and will be requesting a meeting
with him.

WE ARE SICK OF: Politicians who attack minorities - perceived as easy
targets - for public spending cuts.

THE GOVERNMENT SAYS: Do as we say, or risk losing benefits.

OUR RESPONSE: We call on all Disabled Claimants to defend their needs,
and DWP  staff / Trade Unions not to cooperate with this harassment of
Disabled People.

THE GOVERNMENT SAYS: They want to re-test all claims for IB
(Incapacity Benefit).

OUR RESPONSE: Claimants are already regularly tested in relation to
their claims through questionnaires and physical assessments by
Benefits Agencies / Medical Services.

THE GOVERNMENT SAYS: Replace "Sick-Notes" with "Well-Notes".

OUR RESPONSE: This cynical exercise won't halt discrimination against
Disabled People in the work place, or increase our chances of
employment. It will however, force more Disabled People into poverty.


. A one-off assessment only gives a snapshot of a Disabled Claimant's
condition at that moment.

. Welfare Reform ignores the reality of invisible and fluctuating
impairments and contributes to discrimination against all Disabled

. Political and media coverage suggesting there has been a significant
increase in IB claims since the 1980s is misleading. IB was actually
introduced in 1995.

. A much higher percentage, than previously, of Disabled People are
now living in the community and claiming benefits, rather than being

. A "long hours / short breaks" work culture makes it harder for
Disabled People to cope with employment. Rather than attacking
Disabled People as work-shy and lazy, the government could provide
incentives which change workplace culture to encouraging flexi-time or
working from home for example.

. There is a lack of access to meaningful workplace education and
training. This leads to many Disabled People lacking qualifications,
job skills and therefore decent jobs with adequate incomes.

. Instead of attacking Disabled People, the Government should
prosecute employers who repeatedly break the law by discriminating
against Disabled People



In the budget meeting on 7th March Sheffield Green Party put forward
an amendment to the targets that the Council has to acheive. This
included a study into the employment experiences of people coming off
incapacity benefit to address concerns that suitable work placements
would not be found.

The details of the motion are:

That this Council:

k) Notes that Sheffield is a Pathfinder local authority for tackling
worklessness but, as reported in the Local Public Service Agreement
annual report for 2006/7, "people have not progressed into sustained
employment as quickly as envisaged ... essentially because these
client groups have required considerably more support to become
'employment ready' than envisaged";

l) Further notes recent research by the DWP stating that where
sanctions have been applied to people as part of Pathways to Work,
"the negative impacts on mental health (both among customers with an
existing primary mental heath condition and those with other primary
conditions) were notable amongst this sample";

m) Believes that reducing worklessness in groups such as those with
mental health difficulties, others on incapacity benefits, and lone
parents, requires a target focused on the needs and timescale of the
person involved rather than using a simplistic measure of moving
people back to work;

n) Requests that the Work and Skills Board undertake a piece of
qualitative work in conjunction with the Department for Work and
Pensions to look at the employment experiences of people coming off
Incapacity Benefit.


Sheffield Welfare Action Network

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