Union delegates say the government’s decision to reverse planned cuts to its new disability benefit could be a turning-point in the fightback against its repeated attacks on disabled people.The TUC Disabled Workers Conference in London voted in favour of an emergency motion which welcomed the government’s decision to “backtrack” on the proposed cuts to personal independence payment (PIP).The cuts were originally announced in the budget in March by chancellor George Osborne, but were abandoned just days later after the resignation of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.Janine Booth, co-chair of the TUC disabled workers committee and an RMT delegate, who proposed the motion, told fellow delegates: “This is our victory and it can become a turning point.”She said disabled people had been “on the back foot” for too long, as “millions and millions of people… believed that most people who claimed to be disabled were not and all those who were deserved pity and not resources”.She said: “Disabled people became more frequently abused in public.“The Tories were confident that no matter how inhumane, they would get away with it because disabled people were too weak to fight back. Now that plan is falling apart.”Booth contrasted the present mood with the “pit of despair” that activists had been in during last year’s conference, as a result of the government U-turn and a new Labour leadership that supports their campaigning efforts.Roger Lewis, a delegate from Lambeth Trades Council and a member of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), warned that the government would make further cuts to disability benefits “if it is allowed to get away with it”.He said: “This motion is extremely important to make sure this conference lends its voice to the call to keep up the fightback.“We need the whole of the trade union movement to get behind it, a united response from the trade union movement on a scale we have not seen in the last few years.”The motion was passed unanimously, with the conference agreeing to “step up campaigning” to reverse the “numerous cuts and attacks on disabled people”, through lobbying, demonstrations and direct action.During the first day of the two-day conference, disabled delegates joined DPAC activists for a direct action (pictured) – calling for “no more deaths from benefit cuts” – which blocked the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street and brought traffic in part of London’s West End to a standstill.Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) distributed copies of its new guide to reporting poverty to delegates at the conference.The guide – put together by Rachel Broady, equality officer of the union’s Manchester and Salford branch, and the charity Church Action on Poverty – is based on the experiences of people relying on benefits and living in poverty, as well as guidelines drawn up for NUJ by Broady.The guidelines stress that the “development of discriminatory language and the demonisation of the working poor and benefit recipients, through the use of stereotypes and misinformation, is an insult to workers, trade union organisations and readers”.And they state that newspapers and magazines “should not originate material which encourages discrimination on grounds of being working poor or a benefit recipient”, while editors should “ensure that coverage of social security stories should be placed in a balanced context”.The conference was attended by 25 unions, from major organisations such as Unison, Unite and NUT, to smaller unions such as Equity, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the senior civil servants’ union the FDA, with nearly 200 disabled delegates attending.
The minister for disabled people has refused to apologise for misleading MPs about a court of appeal judgment that was highly critical of her new boss, Esther McVey, just a day after her appointment as the new work and pensions secretary.Sarah Newton was responding to a Commons debate on the Independent Living Fund (ILF), less than 24 hours after McVey’s surprise appointment as the replacement for David Gauke in this week’s ministerial reshuffle.McVey played a crucial role in the fund’s closure – one of the cuts and reforms that has most angered disabled people over the last eight years – as minister for disabled people between September 2012 and October 2013.And in November 2013, a month after she was promoted to the role of employment minister, three court of appeal judges delivered a damning judgment about the decision she had taken in December 2012 to close the fund.The three judges unanimously overturned an earlier ruling by the high court and found that her decision to close the fund was unlawful, and that she had breached the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty.She was heavily criticised by the judges, with one saying there was no evidence that she had “directed her mind to the need to advance equality of opportunity”.He added: “Nor is there evidence she considered the proposals having due regard to the need to minimise the particular disadvantages from which ILF users and other disabled persons suffer or the need to encourage such persons to live independently and to participate in public life and other activities.”The judges were also highly critical of DWP officials, with one saying there was a tendency for officials “to tell the Minister what they thought she would want to hear”, although he added that he was convinced that McVey “was sufficiently aware of the very real adverse consequences which closing the fund would have on the lives of many of the more severely disabled”.The government, through McVey’s replacement, Mike Penning, later went ahead with the closure after reconsidering the decision, this time paying proper attention to DWP’s legal obligations.DWP also defeated a second legal attempt by a disabled campaigner to overturn the closure.But despite the judges’ criticism of her new boss and the finding that the closure had been unlawful, Newton told fellow MPs in Westminster Hall this week (pictured) that the government’s decision to close ILF “was challenged in a judicial review, and throughout the process the DWP won on all points”.Newton added: “It was judged that the consultation was fair and that it had paid due regard and proper attention to the public sector equality duty.”A DWP spokeswoman told Disability News Service that Newton had been aware of the court of appeal’s decision.But she said: “As the debate focussed on the effect on claimants following closure of the ILF along with forthcoming changes coming into effect in devolved administrations, the minister did not intend to discuss the different legal proceedings in any depth but responded to challenges in the debate as required.”She added: “The preparation for the ILF debate was carried out well before the reshuffle, and the minister had no prior knowledge of its outcome.”She had failed to say by noon today (Thursday) whether Newton would apologise for misleading MPs about the court of appeal’s ruling and its severe criticism of McVey.Tuesday’s debate had been secured by the Welsh Labour MP Ian Lucas, and was focused on the decision of the Welsh government to start devolving funding – paid by the UK government following the ILF closure in 2015 – to local authorities in Wales, without ring-fencing it for former ILF-users.The funding had previously been used in Wales to set up the Welsh independent living grant (WILG).Lucas paid tribute to his constituent, Nathan Lee Davies, a former ILF-user who has campaigned against the Welsh government’s decision to scrap WILG and begin devolving the funding later this year.Last September, Davies handed in a petition of hundreds of signatures that called on the Welsh government to reverse this decision.Davies has been told that without WILG his own care package would be reduced from 86.5 hours to just 31 hours a week.Lucas told fellow MPs: “As a result of support from the fund, Nathan has been able not only to live in the community but, as the ILF intended, to contribute in a really positive way to the community in which he lives, notwithstanding his disability and the challenges that he faces.“The difficulty is that doubt about the future of the fund in Wales is now causing Nathan great worry.“Devolution of funding to local councils when their budgets are under great pressure means that there is no guarantee that the levels of funding will be maintained, even if an individual recipient’s condition deteriorates.”He said he would now discuss the future of the fund in Wales with his own party – including Welsh ministers – because he was “not convinced that the evidence from what has happened in England [where funding has been devolved for nearly three years] supports devolution to local authorities as a good way forward”.SNP’s Patricia Gibson urged Newton to learn lessons from Scotland, where the Scottish government has set up its own Independent Living Fund Scotland.Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said that “extensive cuts to local government funding” had led to many disabled people being “restricted or limited in the lives they could lead”.She said: “We would all agree that it is fundamental that disabled people’s independence should not be dependent on the level of funding or eligibility criteria set by an individual local authority.“Distribution of funding should also be based on need; therefore, there should be some sort of universal policy for how that is done.”Newton insisted that the decision to close the fund was “driven by a clear case for reform, rather than any desire to cut costs” and that ILF had become “increasingly outdated” because choice and control was now “far more available in mainstream provision than it was at the time when people thought we needed an Independent Living Fund”.She argued that the Care Act 2014, brought in under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, had “brought in consistency in eligibility and in quality of care”, and that transferring ILF funding to local authorities was “very much part of the government’s thinking on supporting the principles of localism”.She said councils would have access to £9.25 billion more in social care funding over the next three years, and that “with this additional funding, local authorities have the ability to meet the needs that have been clearly set out there and to meet the responsibilities set out in the Care Act”.But she also claimed that the former ILF funding had been “certainly transferred in the full expectation that its recipients would have their funding maintained”.Former ILF-users in England are likely to find that claim surprising, as there have been many reports of individual ILF-users who have had their support slashed following the fund’s closure, including that of Luke Davey, who lost a high-profile legal bid last September to reverse a drastic cut to his support package.And research by Newton’s own department found that some former ILF-recipients experienced a loss of support, a greater reliance on unpaid care and an “adverse” impact on their physical and mental health after its closure.
Jackie Walker has been expelled from Labour – after being suspended from the party for over two years – for “prejudicial and grossly detrimental” behaviour.The former Momentum vice-chair – who is no longer a member of the Corbynite group – had incorrectly claimed at a party conference event in 2016 that Holocaust Memorial Day did not commemorate other genocides, and said she had not found a definition of antisemitism that she could work with.The case against Walker, presented by the party over the last two days, focussed on a pattern of behaviour including comments on social media.On the judgment today, a Labour spokesperson confirmed: “The national constitutional committee has found that the charges of breaches of party rules by Jackie Walker have been proven.“The National Constitutional Committee consequently determined that the sanction for this breach of the rules is expulsion from Labour Party membership.”Labour’s only affiliated Jewish group, the Jewish Labour Movement, issued a statement in response to the ruling describing it as “too late”.During her long suspension, Walker was “free to make a mockery of the party’s processes because she was a political ally of the leadership, NEC members and had support from MPs”, a JLM spokesman said.“Our members will be expected to be grateful. Instead, they’ll be angry it took so long, and angry that many people will want to say this is ‘job done’ on antisemitism in the party.”A statement following news of Jackie Walker’s expulsion from the Labour Party: pic.twitter.com/ehbZM38FXX— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) March 27, 2019Walker staged a walk-out from her disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, saying she was forced to withdraw when the panel refused to allow her to make an opening statement.But Labour said it was applying its normal rules, which only grants the requests of individuals to speak after charges are presented, not before.In response to Walker’s subsequent statement to the press, a party spokesperson yesterday said: “Jackie Walker has made a number of incorrect and misleading claims about this process.“The procedures ensure due process and fair hearing, including the opportunity for individuals to fully state their case at their hearing. The process is the same for everyone and the order of the events is clearly explained to those involved in advance.”Tags:Labour /Jackie Walker /
The Tigers ran in ten tries to progress to the next round after dominating the contest throughout.They got off to the best possible start when Michael Shenton dummied his way over after just three minutes.Seven minutes later Jake Webster increased the advantage when he took a line ball to go to the right of the sticks for 10-0.Saints then weathered more Castleford pressure and had the video referee to thank when Grant Millington was adjudged to have stripped the ball from Mark Percival – after he caught it and put down.But the visitors then fought their way back into it.On the last Matty Smith put in an inch perfect crossfield kick which Ryan Morgan plucked out of mid-air and put down.At 10-4 it was game on and Saints thought they had scored on 23 minutes when Zeb Taia went over on the far side.Mark Percival had done the hard yards getting them up the field – before the back rower looked to have touched down.But it was chalked off – even though the ball was clearly over the line.Saints had their tails up and continued to pile on the pressure.Strong Luke Thompson runs got them close twice whilst Percival and Taia each found gaps in the Tigers’ line.But they couldn’t punch it in and on 33 minutes Cas went right up the other end of the field and scored through Jake Webster.Seconds later they broke from within their own half and although the defence did a good job on Greg Eden, they couldn’t stop McShane going over on the last.And their third try in five minutes came when a simple break down the middle saw Luke Gale chip it into the corner for Minikin to pounce.Gale added a drop goal as the half ended – and as the hooter sounded Nathan Massey stretched over to compound a dominant display.Greg Eden tagged on another Castleford try early in the second half before Adam Swift made a wonder tackle on Tom Holmes – coming from the other side of the field to keep his line intact.Eden scored again on 50 minutes and completed his hat-trick just past the hour mark.Regan Grace had one chalked off for a forward pass as the game entered the final ten minutes before Greg Minikin went the length of the field.Luke Douglas adding a late one with five minutes to go.Match Summary:Tigers:Tries: Shenton, Webster (2), McShane, Minikin (2), Massey, Eden (3)Goals: Gale (5 from 10)Drop: GaleSaints:Tries: Morgan, DouglasGoals: Percival (1 from 2)Penalties Awarded:Tigers: 4Saints: 10HT: 31-4FT: 53-10REF: Phil BenthamATT: 5,216Teams:Tigers:1. Zak Hardaker; 2. Greg Minikin, 3. Jake Webster, 4. Michael Shenton, 5. Greg Eden; 23. Tom Holmes, 7. Luke Gale; 8. Andy Lynch, 9. Paul McShane, 10. Grant Millington, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 12. Mike McMeeken, 13. Adam Milner.Subs: 14. Nathan Massey, 16. Ben Roberts, 17. Junior Moors, 18. Matt Cook.Saints:2. Tommy Makinson; 5. Adam Swift, 4. Mark Percival, 3. Ryan Morgan, 28. Regan Grace; 6. Theo Fages, 7. Matty Smith; 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 14. Luke Douglas, 36. Zeb Taia, 20. Morgan Knowles, 16. Luke Thompson.Subs: 10. Kyle Amor, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 19. Greg Richards.