Tuesday, 7 April 2015

New Aspire Blog

The Aspire blog is now integrated with the new Aspire website. You can find the new blog by clicking here.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tell the government about your experiences with PIP

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was introduced in April 2013. It is the new disability benefit that will eventually replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Those newly seeking support today will now be applying for support through PIP rather than Disability Living Allowance.

One year on since implementation, the Government has convened an independent panel to seek feedback on people’s experiences of the benefit. Aspire would like anyone who has applied for PIP to be a part of this process and make sure that they complete the survey linked below. The contribution you make will help the independent panel to make recommendations on what the government should do to improve things.

Take part in the consultation by clicking on this link http://survey.dwp.gov.uk/index.php?sid=63591&lang=en

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Guest Blog post: My Accessible EU

Aspire was excited to learn about a new crowd sourced project called My Accessible EU. We met Barbara Brayshay who has written the blogpost below to explain what the project is all about and how you can get involved.

At some time in their lives most people will experience limitations to their mobility, either temporarily or permanently as a result of long term or temporary impairment.  Parents with children in pushchairs, older people and wheelchair users are all vulnerable to the negative effects of poor accessibility as they go about their daily lives.

My Accessible EU is a new EU funded project that aims to help make Europe more accessible for everyone.   We want to hear about your experiences with accessibility in your daily life, be they good or bad. Tell us about your most positive and or your most negative experience and let us know how these experiences affected you. We would love to hear your recommendations on how to improve accessibility and your ideas for best case scenarios.  Based on your input we will make recommendations for solutions for eliminating existing barriers. The MyAccessible.EU project gives us the opportunity to make our voices heard, to address the right people and make those people aware of the need for accessibility.

Please share your thoughts and any ideas for solutions on the My Accessible EU blog or email info@mappingforchange.org.uk

Find out more about MyAccessibleEU see the video at http://vimeo.com/9854036 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Contact your MEPs and candidates about the European Accessibility Act

In the lead up to the European elections, Aspire is gathering momentum and seeking commitment from MEPs and candidates to support the European Accessibility Act. 

You can read our full policy document on the issue here LINK  

Accessible products empower disabled people to live independently. At the moment, disabled people are cut off from even accessing basic goods and services. For example, more government services such as renewing vehicle excise duty and welfare benefits claims are moving online. It is important that disabled people are able to access these services independently and that technology used empowers them to be independent.

The European Disability Strategy, adopted in November 2010, centres on Accessibility and has a goal to make goods and services accessible to disabled people and promote the market of assistive devices. The Strategy committed the European Union to consider the proposal of an European Accessibility Act by 2012. 

Within the scope of this Act, it was envisaged that specific standards would be developed to ‘substantially improve the proper functioning of the EU market for accessible products and services.’

The Act would focus around technological goods and services procured in the European Union by public bodies. Companies that wanted to supply to this market would have to ensure that they consider the accessibility of their products. Companies will know that when they are developing products, not considering the needs of disabled people will harm their chances to supply to public bodies in the European Union.

We’d be grateful if you could also contribute to the campaign and contact your MEPs about this issue. Make the most of any contact you have with candidates and Members of European Parliament and ask them for their support for this worthy cause. MEPs are elected representatives and it is important that they are held to account and also that they use their influence to help make positive change for disabled people. 

We have compiled a step-by-step guide on contacting your MEP which you can follow here LINK
Remember to forward your replies to krupesh.hirani@aspire.org.uk

Aspire will be following this up with successful candidates after the European Elections on Thursday May 22nd 2014. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

More disabled people should be exempted from the Social Sector Size Criteria

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has published a report looking into Support for Housing Costs in the Reformed Welfare System.

We draw particular attention to the section on what the report describes as the Social Sector Size Criteria (SSAC). More commonly, this is known as the Bedroom Tax and in Government publications, the Department for Work and Pensions and Coalition MPs refer to it as the spare room subsidy.

Regardless of what it is called, we were shocked at some of the regional differences in the impact of the policy shown in the report. The evidence gathered in the report estimated that 60 to 70% of households affected in England have a disabled tenant and 80% of affected households in Scotland have a disabled tenant. It is particularly distressing to hear that 4 out of 5 households affected in Scotland are tenanted by a disabled person.

The report says ‘We are deeply concerned that the policy is causing severe financial hardship and distress to people with disabilities, many of whom will not be easily able to move.’

Particular attention was drawn to the estimated 100,000 households around the country affected where the property was adapted specifically to accommodate the needs of a disabled person.

The report recommends that the government should exempt households where a disabled person receives the higher rate of mobility or care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and its Personal Independence Payment (PIP) equivalent. Aspire has consistently called for people who receive DLA or PIP to be exempt from SSSC.

At the very least, Aspire believes the government should follow the recommendations made in this House of Commons Committee report.  

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Aspire welcomes interdepartmental approach to looking at issues affecting disabled people

Disability Rights UK has reported that the Minister for Disabled People, Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, will chair an interdepartmental group to address issues affecting disabled people across different government departments. Aspire welcomes this development.

In the past, Aspire has written to Ministers expressing our disappointment on decisions made by other Departments that have had a negative impact on disabled people. A specific example included when a wheelchair service changed their eligibility criteria to restrict supply of powered wheelchairs to people who were receiving higher rate Disability Living Allowance mobility payments. The response we received from the Minister at the time said that it was a matter for the Department of Health as they were responsible overall for wheelchair provision.

Our Policy and Research Officer recently asked the Minister Mike Penning how he saw his role as a Minister and whether he would reach out to other departments to tackle issues that affected disabled people where responsibility was in other government departments. The response was positive and at the time, the Minister did say that such a group would emerge in the pipeline.

We hope that this way of working will mean that the Minister for Disabled People has more strategic oversight on how policies affect disabled people across the board.

There is still room for improvement. Greater involvement from the Prime Minister and secretary of states would signal that this is of greater importance and show that it is high on the agenda of government. However, on the whole, it is a very positive start and Aspire hopes the group will address cross departmental issues and that this has a positive impact on policy development. 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Personal Independence Payment delays causing unnecessary hardship

Aspire is concerned with the roll out of the new Personal Independence Payment benefit and the hardship that delays in the system are causing to people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). This is of particular concern to those who have been newly injured and are having to wait for months before they received their Personal Independence Payment entitlements. The catalogue of errors and delays experienced by Steve who sustained a Spinal Cord Injury in 2013 is something we believe no one should experience.

On 29th June 2013, while Steve was still a patient at the NHS Spinal Cord Injury Centre in Sheffield, he completed part I of his Personal Independence Payment claim. He received his first PIP payment on 5th December 2013. What Steve experienced during this time period is unacceptable.

First of all, Steve felt that the form was incredibly difficult to complete.

“With the amount of information that they ask for, in a lot of places, it feels like an attempt to try and catch you out.”

Secondly, Steve was given dates for potential assessments that Capita were unable to commit to themselves. On one occasion, the assessor did not turn up at the arranged time. When Steve phoned the Capita advice line, he was told that his assessment had been cancelled. Unfortunately, they had failed to tell Steve this.
When the Assessor did turn up, there was a computer error and they were unable to access any files that Steve had sent as part of his claim.

“The whole process was unnecessarily bureaucratic. It was a concerning time for me… absolutely unbearable. Missing appointments, not letting me know. It is a totally inadequate service.”

Steve received help from his Member of Parliament and Aspire was there to help every step of the way. He was able to fight his corner and raise the issue on Capita’s agenda to the extent that senior staff at the organisation’s PIP operation took action. We know that Steve is not alone. We are even more concerned about people who are going through the system without adequate support who do not raise their voices loud enough.  

We accept that where people do successfully receive entitlements, payments are backdated. However, the financial impact that this has on people, especially at a time when they most need additional income to meet costs after having a life changing injury, is devastating. It hinders people’s ability to get on with their lives and be more independent. In one case, Aspire found someone wearing jumpers and gloves in their own home because of the financial difficulty they were facing following their injury. 

Furthermore, we are concerned with the contractors’ ability to cope when reassessments are rolled out on a national scale. The government expects all DLA claimants to have been invited on to Personal Independence Payments by September 2017. With 3.3 million people receiving DLA, this requires on average 825,000 assessments a year, or 16,000 assessments a week, or 3,200 assessments a day. This does not even include new people entering the system.

With so many people affected, it is no surprise that the government had to rethink their approach last year and introduce a more phased reassessment timetable.

As people are going through the process for the new benefit, we are already receiving feedback from people and having to make representations on their behalf to the Department for Work and Pensions and the assessment providers. Indeed our introduction of a new Welfare Benefits Advice Service is testament to the additional support we anticipate we will have to provide to people with SCI as a result of multiple benefit changes.

If you have Spinal Cord Injury and are experiencing any problems with any welfare benefits issues, contact Aspire’s new Welfare Benefits Advice Service on 020 8420 6711 or email welfarebenefits@aspire.org.uk

(*Steve is not the individual's real name)