As the RNID have, in my opinion, been woefully delinquent in protecting deaf people from the evil menace of welfare reform, I have been forced to take up the matter with the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Unfortunately, these fakers seem to care even less than RNID. Below is my final correspondence:
I recently wrote to you by e-mail to inform you of three developments
in relation to Employment and Support Allowance and welfare reform. In
my first e-mail I passed on a report by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau
entitled ‘Not working. CAB evidence on the ESA work capability
assessment,’ which was endorsed by 18 disabled people’s organisations
and highlighted grave concerns about the WCA. In my second e-mail I
passed on a ‘Benefits and Work’ blog post entitled ‘Thousands will
lose benefits as harsher medical approved,’ which warned that more
people with limited capability for work will be passed as fit for
work. In my third e-mail I passed on a press release from the
Disability Benefits Consortium entitled ‘New benefits assessment
system needs thorough rethink.’
I have not had a response to any of those three e-mails.
In addition to the information above, many disabled people have been
reporting bad experiences and expressing deep fears about welfare
reform in relation to ESA on the Ouch! disability message board and,
before it was closed, Yourable.
Freedom of Information questions.
With the background in place and taking into account the Commission’s
duties under the Disability Equality Duty, I would like to ask the
following questions as part of my ‘freedom of information’ request:
1) It is clear that the issues relating to Employment and Support
Allowance are considered a very high priority by disabled people,
disabled people’s organisations and at least one independent
organisation, CAB. Why has the Commission not accorded this matter the
same high priority in their work on disability?
2) Does the Commission intend to accord this matter high priority? If
not, why not?
3) What action is the Commission taking to protect disabled people
from, inter alia, being placed on Job Seeker’s Allowance without the
proper support that they need to get into suitable work?
I should be grateful if you could provide this information within 20
Firstly, as has been confirmed to you in previous correspondence from my colleagues, you may be assured that the matters which you have raised are taken seriously and are being considered by the Commission’s policy team.
The roll out of the changes in the welfare reform system is an issue for the Commission which we shall continue to consider across all seven ‘protected’ grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation, and gender reassignment. However, I think it is important to reiterate that we do support the principle that wherever possible people should be supported into sustainable employment.
Our strategic priorities
Within our 2009–12 strategic plan five strategic priorities were identified which set the direction for and guides all of the Commission’s work. They were developed through extensive consultation and involvement with over 1,000 stakeholders. Through our strategic priorities we aim to:
1. secure and implement an effective legislative and regulatory framework for equality and human rights
2. create a fairer Britain, with equal life chances and access to services for all
3. build a society based on good relations and foster a vibrant equality and human rights culture
4. promote understanding and awareness of rights and duties, and deliver timely and accurate advice and guidance to individuals and employers, and
5. build an authoritative, responsive organisation.
More detailed information on this consultation process can be found on our website at the following link: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/our-job/consulting-on-our-plans/
It is within these boundaries that our work is set and as part of this the Commission has already exercised its legal enforcement powers in relation to both the Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus by carrying out an assessment under section 31 of the Equality Act, (the Terms of Reference are published on our website) and as we have previously advised you, we will be following up with them in August this year to see what they have achieved in terms of their Action Plan.
We are currently in the process of finalising the Commission’s Business Plan for 2010/2011, this will be published on our website and will give more detail around this year’s priorities for the Commission.
In your last correspondence you asked 3 specific questions:
1) It is clear that the issues relating to Employment and Support
Allowance are considered a very high priority by disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and at least one independent organisation, CAB. Why has the Commission not accorded this matter the same high priority in their work on disability?
2) Does the Commission intend to accord this matter high priority? If not, why not?
3) What action is the Commission taking to protect disabled people from, inter alia, being placed on Job Seeker’s Allowance without the proper support that they need to get into suitable work?
The Commission can uniquely approach your concerns on several fronts:
· It can respond to helpline requests if there is clear evidence of discrimination against individuals who wish to make a complaint
· Its policy function can build an evidence base and try to influence and persuade government and ministers to revise their policies although, as we have stated, we are in support of the underlying principles of the reform agenda. Inevitably, this takes time to do effectively, but the Commission has started that process
· It can use its legal enforcement powers against the DWP as it has done already through its section 31 assessment. However, these powers can only be used when there are compelling arguments to do so and the Commission must be able to show that it is acting in a proportionate and necessary way
We intend to continue our dialogue with the DWP as the reform package roles out, to ensure that it meets the needs of the protected groups, but please be aware that this may not result in high visibility activity or in us calling for any significant changes to the reform package.
I hope that this goes some way to explaining our position and therefore answering your three questions. I am afraid that is the only answer that we are able to give to you at this time.
The Commission staff cannot respond to every member of the public who draws their attention to interesting and relevant media articles. We do not have the resources to respond to individuals in this way, nor would it be an effective use of public funds to do so. I must therefore ask you not to e-mail individual members of EHRC staff as we are unable to engage in repeated correspondence of this kind. To do so is very resource intensive, and much as we appreciate your views and your concerns, it does not help us address these matters that are of great concern to us all.
Also we are advised by our ICT team that many emails, apparently including some of yours, are blocked by our junk mail filters. The reason for this is that we receive a great deal of unsolicited mail from many sources, and the system automatically filters these e-mails out. We apologise again for this, but as we cannot weaken this filter system we are unable to guarantee that it won't happen again.
Finally, I would suggest that if you know of individuals who have been adversely affected by the welfare reforms that you ask them to contact the Commission directly via our Helpline on the following numbers:
England 0845 604 6610 : Scotland 0845 604 5510 :
Wales 0845 604 8810