Live in Wales? Here are 4 reasons why you should take our General Election campaign action

Debbie Green, Policy & Campaigns Officer Wales

Debbie Thomas Policy and Campaigns Officer Wales

NDCS has recently launched a campaign action– the action enables supporters to get in touch with their local general election candidates and make them aware of key issues affecting deaf children.

The core services that deaf children and young people encounter (education, health, social services) fall within the power of the Welsh Assembly and its Assembly Members. The MPs elected on 8 June will sit in Westminster and won’t be part of the Welsh Assembly. Why, then, does our general election action include Wales?

  1. Westminster still has power over some areas that have an impact on deaf children and young people. In particular, laws made in UK parliament about welfare benefits and Access to Work directly affect us in Wales.
  2. MPs are appointed to represent you. As well as attending parliament, they should also spend time meeting their constituents and helping to raise issues that local people draw to their attention. MPs, as well as Assembly Members (AMs) and local councillors, can help make sure that issues with local services are addressed.
  3. Deaf children in England need our help too. It is true that laws made in Westminster around areas such as education, health and social care will be for England only. However, our Welsh MPs are able to contribute to these discussions and hopefully help deaf children in doing so.
  4. Dealing with issues in one area of the UK can help to put pressure on the other nations in the UK to look into the issues too.

Taking part in our online action is really easy to do and should only take a minute. Click here to take part.

Scottish Election 2016: Employment and welfare

Katie-Rafferty-cropped

Katie Rafferty, Policy & Campaigns Manager, Scotland , National Deaf Children’s Society

The future of jobs and welfare in Scotland has taken centre stage in many of the debates ahead of tomorrow’s Scottish Parliament election. How does each of the main parties plan to improve the experience of deaf young people in these two vital areas?

The Scottish Conservative party

  • Commit to halving the disability employment gap and say that the welfare system should support the most vulnerable.
  • They also say we should consider whether Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments should be managed more locally.

The Scottish Green party

  • Recognise that too many people are marginalised in the labour market, including disabled. They also support the devolution and expansion of the Access to Work scheme.
  • They recognise the move from DLA to PIP has disadvantaged thousands of disabled people and they will push for all PIP claims to be granted initially to avoid delays in accessing support.
  • Further information is available on how they believe Scotland can ensure equal opportunities for disabled people.

The Scottish Labour party

  • Commit to supporting those furthest from the labour market, such as disabled people, to get work through being provided with the specialist support they need.
  • They support the Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering 30,000 apprenticeships and increasing the number of disabled trainees. In addition, they commit to every part of government offering internships, with places guaranteed for those who are disabled.
  • They also want to create a new agency, Skills Scotland, to deliver inclusive skills training.
  • More information is available in their Disability Manifesto 2016.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Commit to increasing the number of those with disabilities in Modern Apprenticeships.
  • They make no specific commitments with regards to DLA/PIP but more generally to a fairer welfare system.

The Scottish National Party

  • Commits to maintaining the level of disability benefits and making assessment processes fairer.
  • They have pledged to deliver 30 000 apprenticeships, and ensure these are open to all by increasing uptake by disabled people.
  • They believe the DWP’s Work Programme has failed unemployed and disabled people and commit to investing a further £20 million a year into services for those with significant barriers to the labour market.
  • More information is available on what they’ll do for disabled people.

So far over 2700 emails have been sent to local candidates reminding them about the needs of deaf children. Take action today by contacting your future MSPs and help us reach every candidate in Scotland.

Email your candidates

MPs want to hear about your experience of PIP assessments!

 

Arthur Thomas Campaigns Officer

Arthur Thomas Policy & Campaigns Officer

MPs want to hear about your experience of the PIP (personal independence payments) claims process, by this Thursday!

They want to hear:

  • Your experience of the PIP assessment process
  • If you have experienced backlogs
  • About the quality of assessments
  • Any difference between Atos and Capita

As part of our PIP’d Off campaign NDCS are working closely with the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) to campaign to make the PIP claim process accessible and fair. The DBC have set up a survey so that people can submit their experiences  as a group. The closing date for submissions to the PAC inquiry is this Thursday, 28 January 2015, so  lets get cracking!

Complete-the-survey-button-red

 

You can also tell MPs your story via twitter by tweeting comments to @CommonsPAC on Twitter with the hastag #disability.

If you have any questions, you can contact the NDCS Campaigns Team at: campaigns@ndcs.org.uk

PIP’d Off Campaign Update – Justin Tomlinson meeting…

Jessica Reeves Campaigns Manager

Jessica Reeves, Campaigns Manager

Last week, after over 800 of our supporters wrote to him, we met with the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson to talk about why people are so PIP’d Off with the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) process. NDCS Chief Executive, Susan Daniels and I met with Justin and representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions to explain how deaf young people are currently missing out on PIP.

We discussed the following issues, which you had raised with us:

YAB member Liam O'Dell meeting with Justin Tomlinson at party Conference

YAB member Liam O’Dell meeting with Justin Tomlinson at party Conference

  • Why so many deaf young people are missing out on PIP because the current guidance fails to recognise the support that many deaf young people require to communicate with their hearing peers
  • How face to face assessments are putting deaf young people at a disadvantage by placing them in unrealistic situations which do not take into account the difficulties that many deaf young people face in the real world, in noisey environments, trying to engage with non deaf aware people
  • The fact that deaf young people currently have to telephone to ask for an application form and how NDCS can help make sure that a digital claim process is available quickly and is accessible to young deaf claimants

The meeting was really productive and Justin was interested to hear about the issues that young deaf people are currently facing and he has said that he is keen to improve the system.

We will now be working with the Department of Work and Pensions to improve the current PIP guidance and improve deaf awareness at assessments.

I want to say a big thank you to all our supporters and Campaigns Network members without which this excellent result would not have been possible.

We will keep you posted!

Welfare Reform in Scotland: Personal Independence Payments

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

Lois Drake, Policy and Campaigns Assistant, Scotland

The Welfare Reform Committee at Scottish Parliament is looking for views and experiences of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP). They want to firstly, gain a better understanding about how the new welfare system is affecting people in Scotland. Secondly, they want to use this understanding to inform new social security systems that may be developed in Scotland following further devolution of welfare powers in 2017.

You may be aware of our concerns around the application and assessment processes for deaf young people and PIP which we raised in a previous blog. For example:-

  • There is an expectation for applicants to use the phone when requesting a PIP application form;
  • We have had reports of a lack of deaf awareness at assessment meetings; and
  • We know of deaf young people who have not been granted PIP then had the decision reversed after legal action

Have your say!

What’s your experience of the PIP process? The Committee are looking for individual views and experiences, whether you are a new applicant or changing from DLA to PIP. They are keen to learn about any aspect of your experience of PIP including:-

  • The PIP claim form and the PIP assessment process – including where your assessment took place;
  • The decision made on your PIP claim and payment of PIP.

Why not email your story to the Committee at welfarereform-yoursay@scottish.parliament.uk.

Alternatively, you can share your experiences with us at campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk.

NDCS will also be submitting a written response to the Committee’s call for evidence which closes on 28 August.  We are hoping to bring together a focus group for young deaf people to share their views and experiences of DLA and PIP to inform our response. If you would like to be part of this group email us at campaigns.scotland@ndcs.org.uk.

You can also take action and email the UK Government Disability Minister, Justin Tomlinson and ask him to ensure the PIP claim process is accessible to all deaf young people.

We will keep you updated in further blog posts so watch this space!

Cuts to disability benefits? We’re watching the Budget

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

The National Deaf Children’s Society alongside Blind Children UK, Sense and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) are very concerned about potential cuts to disability benefits ahead of the budget statement on the 8th July.

We know that the UK Government wants to save £12 billion from the welfare bill. We are really worried about the impact this will have on families with children with sensory impairments, many of whom rely on disability benefits to help them meet the additional costs of raising a child with a disability. We are asking you to take action and call on the Government to protect benefits for children with sensory impairments.

What the Prime Minister has said

Stephen Timms MP recently asked the Prime Minister if he would ‘confirm the commitment he made during the election that there will be no cuts in the benefits paid to disabled people.’

The Prime Minister’s response was as follows:
What we have actually done is to increase the benefits paid to disabled people by bringing in the personal independence payment, which is more generous to those who are most disabled. May I say how much I enjoyed meeting the right hon. Gentleman during the general election when we both addressed the Festival of Life in the ExCeL centre in his constituency? I do not know about him, but it is certainly the only time in my life that I have talked to 45,000 people at the same time, and I suspect the same goes for him.”

We are extremely worried that the Prime Minister did not confirm his previous commitment that there will be no cuts to benefits for disabled people. We are also aware that Personal Independence Payments (the benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance for 16 – 65 year olds) has not been more generous for young people with sensory impairments and in many cases has been removed altogether.

Now is the time to take action.

Take action

It is vital to take action now before the budget statement on the 8th July. Email your MP to ask the Chancellor to ensure benefits for children with sensory impairments are protected in the upcoming budget!

What are the parties promising to do on welfare and disabled rights?

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Our final blog on the election manifestos takes a look at what the parties across the UK are promising around welfare and rights for disabled people.

Disability Living Allowance
An earlier blog talked about how Personal Independence Payments (PIP) have been replaced by Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for those over 16 and our fears that a large number of deaf young people will see their benefits cut as PIP is rolled out. One of our big concerns is that any new Government will make similar changes to DLA for those under 16. This could result in many deaf children and their families losing out.

The SNP and the Green party are the only parties to specifically mention DLA / PIP in their manifestos. The SNP in Scotland have said that they will reverse the changes to DLA and the £3bn cutback to disability spending. And the Green party have said they will increase the budget for DLA / PIP.

Plaid Cyrmu in Wales make no specific commitments on DLA or PIP but their manifesto states they oppose further ‘austerity’ more generally.

The Liberal Democrats have made a general commitment to “limit welfare reductions”. Separately, they have also said that they will invest to clear any backlog in waiting times for assessments for DLA and PIP.

The Labour party have said they will cap structural social security spending. And the Conservatives have said they will cut the welfare budget by £12bn. As yet, neither party has given any detailed information on how they will do this so it remains unclear if disability benefits for children are at risk of being cut.

UKIP make no specific pledges on disability benefits for children but their manifesto indicates they wish to reduce government spending overall.

NDCS is calling on the Government to rule out any cuts or narrowing of eligibility criteria to welfare support for disabled children.

Support in work
Many deaf young people rely on Access to Work for support in employment. None of the manifestos indicate whether they will keep or ditch the cap on Access to Work payments announced by the Government just before the election. However, both the Green party and the Liberal Democrats have said they will do more to promote the Access to Work scheme. The Liberal Democrats also say they will streamline back to work assessments for disabled people – working towards a single assessment and benefit. They will also encourage employers to shortlist any qualified disabled candidate and provide advice about adaptations in the workforce.

Labour have said they will introduce a specialist support programme to provide disabled people with tailored help on moving into employment. It’s not yet clear how this will sit alongside the Access to Work scheme.

The Conservatives have said they are aiming to halve the disability unemployment rate.

Plaid Cyrmu state they will provide greater opportunities for disabled people to find jobs across Wales through proposals for a new Welsh job search service. They also pledge to involve disabled people and groups in designing any new Welsh employment and benefits system that supports individuals to find suitable jobs.

The UKIP manifesto states that they want any assessments for disability work benefits to be done by GPs or relevant specialists, rather than companies like ATOS.

Rights for disabled people
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to formally recognise British Sign Language as an official language of the United Kingdom.

Both UKIP and the Green party express support for the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their manifestos, with the Green party saying they will ensure it is enforced in law.

The Labour party has also said they will ensure that disabled people have a voice at the heart of government inviting disabled people to sit on cross-departmental committee that develops disability policy

The above is a very general summary of the pledges and we’ve only highlighted those that we think are most directly relevant to deaf children. We’ve included links to the manifestos above if you’d like more information about what each of the parties are proposing. More information about the manifestos from the Northern Ireland parties can be found on the BBC website.

Don’t forget, if you want to find out more about what the parties are proposing, you can ask your prospective parliamentary candidates. They need your vote and hopefully will be responsive to any questions you might have! Ask your candidates what they know about deaf children and call on them to protect the services that they rely on in the next Parliament.

The Your Next MP website has information on the candidates in your area and our website has more information on the election, including a detailed election factsheet.