Monthly Archives: December 2014
The deadline for a response to our letter to the DWP was today.
We have been informed that the DWPs law firm have contacted Leigh Day to request an extension to respond to our pre-action letter. The deadline has now been extended to next Friday, 12th December.
In their letter to us, they made it clear that they would raise the issue of costs, were we not to agree. In other words they will try and bias the judge into believing that we were behaving unreasonably – knowing that we are applying for a protective cost order.
This is just the sort of behaviour we have learned to expect from the DWP and this government, and their response came of little surprise. Please see below the copy of the letter sent to the DWP. It’s very long, so we’ve added a short summary.
Pre-action letter sent from Leigh Day : Summary
First page explains who the case involves: Stop changes challenging the DWP.
Then the letter describes what access to work is and who Stop Changes are.
Ellen Clifford is the person named in the case. She is an experienced campaigner and a member of the Stop Changes group.
The letter then explains what we want to challenge.
We are unhappy that guidance the DWP uses isn’t available publicly. It is not officially published anywhere. Even the House of Commons Library is using information from a Freedom of information request!
We believe that guidance exists, but it is not officially published and you can only get a copy from a freedom of information request.
The guidance we found is 757 paragraphs long. It explains ATW eligibility, defines self employment, how to apply, how you will be assessed, what support is available, how much employers have to pay, what to do if your circumstances change, how claims are reviewed, how to deal with overpayment and fraud.
The letter then gives lots of reasons why the guidance is so important for people claiming – so people know what they can expect and how to manage their support. We believe not publishing guidance is breaking the law.
Next, the letter uses lots of case studies and examples where people have been treated differently. It talks about the 30 hour rule and the fact that although the Minister announced this was suspended, some people are still under this rule so the DWP haven’t been consistent.
We then ask for a protective cost order, so we only have to pay £5,000 to take this case.
The letter then says what we want to see happen. We want the DWP to publish their guidance or any other rules about AtW, and we want anyone who has been affected by the 30 hour rule to have their previous level of support back.
We want all the guidance documents from AtW, old and current.
We asked for a response within 14 days.
To read Leigh Day’s article about the pre-action letter please see below:
A BSL clip will be available as soon as possible.
Thank you for your patience.
On 21st November, human rights lawyers at Leigh Day law firm sent a pre-action letter to Iain Duncan Smith. The letter was set on behalf of the Stop Changes campaign: a group made up of Deaf people and disabled people and interpreters. The group have come together to coordinate a united response to the government whose recent changes to the Access to Work scheme have created additional barriers to Deaf and disabled people seeking employment, and placed jobs and businesses at significant risk.
Access to Work provides vital support to Deaf and disabled people, such as travel grants, special aids or equipment and support workers, removing barriers to employment. It transforms lives and safeguards careers. As a scheme it should be celebrated on a par with our NHS. We should be extremely proud of AtW, we should all be defending it and holding it up as a model for other countries to adopt, not destroying it.
This governments agenda isn’t to support, it is to demonise communities to justify cuts. Deaf and disabled people achieving in employment and being successful in their own businesses flies against what this government would have you believe: that Deaf and disabled people are scroungers and a drain on society. They would have you believe that interpreters are profiteering from the public purse, rather than being highly trained, skilled workers performing a vital role. They don’t want you to know about the Deaf man who was forced give up his role as a director of his own business and replace himself with a hearing person, or the woman who is having to sell her shop as she can’t communicate without interpreting support. They don’t want you to know that highly successful Deaf and disabled people in work are being forced out of work and on to benefits. We do.
Leigh Day are helping us make challenges to unlawful government actions. These include not making guidance publicly available and inconsistent and arbitrary cuts or suspensions in support. Ugo Hayter, from Leigh Day explains that “The failure by the Department of Work & Pensions to publish clear guidance on such a crucial scheme is, we believe, unlawful”. The DWP have 14 days to respond or legal action will be taken in High Court.
Whilst our campaign is specifically about AtW, our work supports others fighting for the wider social and financial inclusion of Deaf and disabled people in society. Support us, by signing our petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-changes-to-access-to-work We are fully reliant on donations in taking this case to judicial review. Donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/stopchanges2atw
Access to Work isn’t a benefit. Deaf and disabled people in employment is. Society benefits.
Judicial reviews provide a way to challenge the government and hold them to account. An interesting BBC News article was sent to us that explains the need for judicial reviews. Reforms have been criticised for attempting to remove our right to challenge unlawful decisions made by public authorities.
Read the article by Clive Coleman here.
You may also want to read the article written in the Guardian, here.
Many thanks to @mrdini for sharing.
We are eagerly awaiting the report of the Work and Pensions Select Committee following on from the inquiry they held into Access to Work. We expect to see this before Christmas and for the report to be available in BSL.
There will be an announcement about the publication date soon, so look out for this in the next week or two. We will be posting any information as soon as we receive it.