Activists will give evidence to a committee sitting in Geneva
United Nations officials will hear evidence of how British ministers are breaching disabled people’s rights today.
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 have led to “grave and systematic violations” of rights.
Campaigners have accused the Government of “complacency at best and high-handed evasion at worst”.
Disability Rights UK chief executive Kamran Mallick said: “Many disabled people and their families saw the UK’s signature of the international convention as a vital milestone on the journey to true equality and the fulfilment that comes with leading independent, rounded lives.
“They now feel betrayed by the Government’s failure to adhere to either the spirit or the letter of the convention.
“Small steps forward are more than outweighed by a raft of significant adverse measures, such as cruel and demeaning benefit changes and the extension of compulsory mental health treatment to the community.”
Mr Mallick is set to tell the committee in Geneva that a range of Government policies and a lack of appropriate support and services from the NHS and councils mean the UK is breaching the human rights of many disabled people.
Many cannot live independent, fulfilling lives – but could enjoy if the Government respected the convention, he will say.
The review will look at issues such as detentions under mental health legislation, employment, education, transport and housing.
A Government spokesman said: “The UK is a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality, which is why we supported the development of the UN convention.
Posh Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has earned £4million from his City firm since entering Parliament but can vote for benefit reductions for the disabled, sick & jobless
The backbencher has been tipped as a potential Conservative Party leader
Multi-millionaire Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg has trousered at least £4million from his mega-bucks City firm since becoming an MP, it was revealed today.
The super-posh Old Etonian, tipped as a Conservative leadership rival to Theresa May, pocketed the eye-watering sum from Somerset Capital Management, the investment firm he set-up 10 years ago.
He is believed to have scooped more than £1million this year alone.
Boasting of his joy at the company’s success, he bragged: “I am fortunate to have a private income and it’s my business and I’m actually quite proud of it.”
But while his bank accounts are bursting with cash, he has repeatedly voted to slash benefits and deny public workers wage rises of more than 1% since entering Parliament in 2010.
The respected They Work For You website, which monitors MPs’ voting records, says he “consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits”, “consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability” and “consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices”.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s bumper jackpot makes him one of the top earners in the Commons.
He among 21 “members”, or partners, in SCM and accounts published in recent weeks show that in June it paid profits of £21.9million to members – 51% more than last year.
MPs’ register of interests reveal Mr Rees-Mogg owns at least 15% of SCM, suggesting his share would be at least £3.3million.
However, he told the Sunday Times, which revealed the payouts, the actual payment to him was “very considerably less”.
SCM also shelled out £5.98million in “remuneration” to members, including Mr Rees-Mogg, in the year to March, according to its accounts.
The MP works between 30 and 35 hours a month for the company, and his share was £173,000, according to parliamentary records.
But the North-East Somerset MP, who sat on the Treasury Select Committee in the last Parliament, is not required to declare most of the money in the register of MPs’ interests.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, he refused to disclose his yearly income from SCM, but did not deny it was more than £1million.
He said: “I will confirm that I receive a dividend from Somerset Capital Management, in addition to my salary for 35 hours’ work per month, which I declare.
“My dividend is private, that’s not something I have to declare.”
Asked whether his overall year’s income from the firm was more than £1million, he said: “I’m not going to go into specific figures.”
He has also declared £943,000 in salary from SCM since being elected in 2010.
Separately from SCM, Mr Rees-Mogg also owns the freehold of a large building in London’s Pall Mall, worth around £4million, plus a leasehold flat inside valued at a £1.5million.
He also nets £76,011 a year as a backbench MP – nearly three times the average salary.
A campaign has gathered pace over the summer to propel him to the top of his party – and Mr Rees-Mogg has appeared on a string of TV shows as he seeks to build his profile.
He scooped £1,500 of licence fee-payer’s money as a guest on BBC1’s Have I Got News For You, which was properly declared last year.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed the extent of punishments used against people on Employment and Support Allowance
More than 5,000 sick and disabled people have had their benefits sanctioned for at least 6 months, new figures show.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed the extent of punishments used against people on disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance.
ESA is slowly replacing the ageing Incapacity Benefit and is now paid to 2.4million people.
Between December 2012 and December 2016, 71,543 ESA claimants have been sanctioned – which normally involves stopping their benefits.
Just over half of those claimants (40,288) had their benefits sanctioned for less than four weeks and the average length of a sanction was 28 days.
But 5,739 suffered a sanction for 27 weeks or more.
Another 6,579 claimants were sanctioned for between 14 and 26 weeks, statistics published yesterday show.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “It is abhorrent to see the Tories sanction thousands of sick and disabled people for up to six months, depriving them of much needed financial support and causing them further stress.
“The figures confirm that disabled people are not receiving the proper support from Jobcentres to navigate the complex social security system.”
Sanctions are only made against ESA claimants deemed fit for “work-related activity”, not those in the more serious support group, a DWP official said.
ESA sanctions are made for a fixed period of one, two or four weeks.
But they are open-ended and carry on indefinitely if people are still unable or refuse to take part in ‘work-related activity’.
DWP officials insist this means no one will be sanctioned for six months if they play by the rules.
But campaigners argue assessments that deem people fit for work-related activity in the first place are flawed.
The vast majority of ESA sanctions – more than 90% since December 2015 – have been a punishment for people refusing to take part in that activity.
Meanwhile the rate paid to the work-related activity group has axed and made the same as Jobseekers’ Allowance – a cut of £30 a week.
Yesterday’s figures showed the number of people on Jobseekers’ Allowance or ESA being sanctioned is falling.
However the number of sanctions for people on Universal Credit, the all-in-one system that’s slowly being claimed by more and more people as it replaces the old benefits – hit an all-time monthly high of 9,119 in December 2016.
More than 100,000 Universal Credit claimants have now been sanctioned since August 2015, 2,313 of them for six months or more.
A DWP spokesman said: “Only a very small proportion of people on ESA are sanctioned every month – just 0.6%.
“ESA sanctions are designed to encourage people to fulfil their requirements, so they remain in place until someone re-engages with their work coach or employment support.
“It’s only fair to ask claimants to do their part and there is a well-established system of payments available for people who need support to meet their immediate and most essential needs.”
Yet the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is refusing to publish an ‘outcome report’ by the private firms that run the tests.
The DWP claims releasing the report, which contains monthly performance details from each testing centre, could give a “perception of under-performance” when read out of context.
This would “damage the reputation and financial standing of the companies involved,” officials claim.
The tests are run by a firm called Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, which is itself run by outsourcing giant Maximus.
Before that the tests were run by controversial welfare-to-work firm Atos.
The DWP claims itself, Maximus and Atos are all likely to have their commercial interests “prejudiced” if the report is released because its data goes back to 2011.
A watchdog rejected the DWP’s claims in a damning ruling more than four months ago and ordered it to release the report.
The Information Commissioner slammed the DWP for “barely explaining” how private firms would be hit, adding: “The Commissioner is not persuaded that there is a real likelihood that disclosure of the withheld information would dissuade these companies from entering into future contracts with the government.”
But the DWP is now appealing that ruling to a legal tribunal, delaying the case until around November.
The battle was triggered by a Freedom of Information request from project manager and freedom of information campaigner John Slater.
The 52-year-old told the Mirror: “It’s disappointing when the Commissioner issued such a blunt decision and they’ve not backed up their arguments at all.”
A DWP spokesman said: “This information is exempt from disclosure under FOI rules as it covers commercial interests.
“We publish a range of information on WCA outcomes, including at a regional level.”
Maximus and Atos had not returned requests for comment at the time of publication. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the two firms in the Information Commissioner’s report. source
Documents relating to the government’s controversial fit-for-work tests could be blocked from publication after the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) launched a legal challenge.
In April, John Slater submitted a Freedom of Information request (FOI) asking for details of the ‘outcome reports’ which are completed by the private company contracted to carry out the tests. The reports would include information about the number of people with a terminal illness or limited capability to work subjected to the test.
The DWP initially said it did not hold the information but later argued that releasing it could damage the company’s commercial interests.
The Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that the DWP must publish the documents but the department has appealed that decision, meaning the case will now be heard at the First Tier tribunal.
“The DWP’s decision is very disappointing,” Slater said. “At times it seems like they operate the default position of appealing any decision made by the commissioner that goes against it, regardless of the costs or the merits of its case.
“The commissioner was clear in her decision notice that the DWP had relied on “barely explained assertions” to justify its position and yet it is exposing the public purse to the expense of a tribunal hearing.”
Since 2015, Work Capability Assessments (the official name for the tests) have been carried out by the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA), a subsidiary of the company Maximus.
The outcome reports are produced every month by the CHDA and detail the outcomes of the tests from each assessment centre.
Last year, Slater a won a lengthy legal battle with the DWP over the disclosure of documents relating to problems with Universal Credit.
A spokesperson for the DWP said:
“This information is exempt from disclosure under FOI rules as it covers commercial interests. We publish a range of information on WCA outcomes, including at a regional level.”
The petition called for the entire policy to be scrapped because the rape exemption “cannot be delivered in a way that does not breach women’s rights and undermine women’s equality and safety”.
In its statement on the petition, the DWP said the policy overall “encourages” families to make the same financial decisions as those not claiming benefits.
It added: “Some claimants are not able to make the same choices about the number of children in their family as others.
“For that reason, there are a series of exceptions to the restriction.”
It said the implementation of the clause had already been consulted on with 50 organisations – and includes victims whose abuser has never been convicted in the courts.
For those claimants, the government will accept third-party evidence from a counsellor or case worker.
“The intention is to strike the right balance between ensuring claimants in these circumstances get the support they need in a not overly intrusive manner whilst at the same time providing the right assurance that the additional support is going to those for whom it is intended,” the DWP said.
But Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “A good Government also has a duty and responsibility to care for the vulnerable and treat its citizens with respect and dignity.
“Theresa May’s government has trashed that duty with the rape clause which shame’s women and condemns their children to poverty.
“The Prime Minister seems committed to bringing the nasty party back.”
But he claims he can’t always walk that far because of excruciating pain caused by his prosthetic leg.
The stepdad-of-two received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from the age of 11 but had to re-apply for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) last month after changes to the system.
The double congenital amputee, who was born without his right arm and leg, was told he no longer qualified for the mobility aspect of the payment – despite regularly being bed-bound because of pains so severe he could soon require surgery.
Stephen, from Monton, Greater Manchester, said: “I think the decision is really short sighted of the DWP.
“Yes I can walk 20 metres with my prosthetic leg, which meets their requirements, but I can’t walk that far regularly – it causes a lot of strain on my body.
“My prosthetic leg is there to help me walk but they make me develop sores on my groin and the bottom of my legs and I can get ingrown hair follicles which are really painful.
“A few days a year I am left bed bound because my limbs hurt that much and I need to rest up so that I don’t do too much damage to my body.”
Although the changes will see Stephen’s standard living payments remain the same – which he said he is ‘more than grateful’ for – his biggest concern is the removal of the mobility allowance.
The £58 monthly benefit was paid directly from the DWP to the Motability Scheme where he hired a Skoda Superb with a left accelerator adaption.
Customer service adviser Stephen said: “I presumed because I always had it I would receive similar payments under PIP, so when I was told I wouldn’t be receiving the same payments I was shocked.”
Stephen is planning to lodge an appeal but when he hands over his car keys on Tuesday, he will have no form of private transport to get to and from work.
Stephen said: “I don’t mind using public transport but the bus stop is quite a walk from my house and if there are no empty seats it will cause a strain on my limbs if I have to stand.
“When I have my prosthetic leg attached and my trousers on it becomes an invisible disability, so no one would even know I was disabled and needed to sit down.
“It would be fine doing it for a few days but after a few weeks the sores around my groin and knees would inevitably get worse resulting in me having to call in sick at work.”
Stephen said his wife Gaynor, 55, who doesn’t drive, is worried that by losing his car it will make simple everyday tasks such as the food shop even more difficult.
Stephen said: “I’ve not lived off the state and claimed any other benefits and this is because I was receiving my mobility payments which helped me to get a car and to drive to work every day.
“I feel sorry for the DWP really they’ve been forced into this by a decision made by the government. It’s very sad that the change has made such a huge difference.
“I think most people just expected the introduction of PIP to be a name change, not a change of what money we will receive.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “Decisions for PIP are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.
“Most people leaving the Motability scheme are eligible for a one-off payment of up to £2,000 to help meet their needs.”
What is a PIP assessment?
Personal Independence Payment assessments are carried out by qualified health professionals who combine their clinical knowledge with an understanding of the fact that not everyone with the same disability is impacted in the same way.
The PIP assessment criteria was designed in consultation with healthcare professionals and disability organisations.
Under PIP 26 per cent of claimants are now receiving the highest rate of support, compared to 15 per cent under Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
Disabled people moving from DLA to PIP who are no longer entitled to a Motability car, scooter or powered wheelchair will now be able to retain the vehicle for up to eight weeks after their DLA payments end – more than double the current allowance.
There will also be a further option for people to retain their car for up to six months, for example if they are awaiting the results of an appeal.