The Great Train Robbery

Rail privatisation has failed to deliver for rail users and taxpayers; has brought in little private sector investment and private train companies are heavily dependent upon the public purse to enable them to run services, according to a new TUC- commissioned report, The Great Train Robbery – written by the Centre for Research on Social-Cultural Change (CRESC) at the University of Manchester.

And when train companies do make a profit, barely any of it is re-invested in the railways, says the study. It reveals that those firms receiving the largest state subsidies spend, on average, over 90 per cent of their profits on shareholder dividends.

This contrasts sharply with the East Coast Mainline, which is currently state run and which re-invests all of its profits into improving the service.

great train robbery network rail private investment

The Great Train Robbery looks at many of the key objectives behind the decision of John Major’s government to privatise the railways in 1994. The report questions whether any of these have been achieved:

  • Cost effectiveness – train operating companies are entirely reliant upon public subsidies to run services. The top five recipients alone received almost £3bn in taxpayer support between 2007 and 2011. This allowed them to make operating profits of £504m – over 90 per cent (£466m) of which was paid to shareholders.
  • Extra investment – the report shows how the average age of trains has risen since rail privatisation, from 16 years in 1996 to 18 years old today. Just £1.9bn was spent on rolling stock between 2008 and 2012, compared to £3.2bn between 1989 and 1993 (the four years before privatisation.)
  • Over 90 per cent of new investment in recent years has been financed by Network Rail (the taxpayer funded body responsible for rail infrastructure), and comes mainly from taxpayer funding or government-underwritten borrowing, says the report.
  • Significant upgrades to infrastructure, such as the development of the West Coast Mainline, have been paid for by Network Rail.
  • Passenger comfort – the report says while there has been a 60 per cent increase in passengers since 1994/95, there has only been a 3 per cent increase in new carriages, resulting in serious overcrowding on many routes.
  • Innovation – even where there has been private sector investment in new technology, such as Virgin’s tilting trains, it has been underwritten by the state through subsidies to train operating companies and guarantees to rolling stock leasing companies.
  • Added value – The Great Train Robbery shows how train operating companies paid Network Rail just £1.59bn in track access charges in 2012, compared to £3.18bn paid to its predecessor Railtrack in 1994. This represents an ‘indirect subsidy’ from taxpayers as train companies are getting track access on the cheap. It also means that the full extent of taxpayer subsidy is far greater than is often reported.
  • Investment in infrastructure has largely been funded through borrowing by Network Rail which now has debts of over £30bn, and is spending more on repaying this debt than on railway maintenance, says the report.
  • Competitive fares – the UK has the most expensive rail fares in Europe. Long distance, day return and season tickets are all around twice the price of similar tickets in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, which have publicly-run rail systems. Average train fares in the UK increased at three times the rate of average wages between 2008 and 2012.
  • More passengers – the report dismisses claims that privatisation has helped increase the number of people travelling on the railways.It says that passenger growth has mostly been down to rising GDP and changes in employment patterns rather than because of privatisation.

Great train robbery net profits dividends

Commenting on the report, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘This study explodes the myth that rail firms are bringing added value to our railways. In reality they rely upon taxpayers to turn a profit, virtually all of which ends up in shareholders’ pockets, rather than being used to improve services.

‘Rail privatisation has not brought the improvements its cheerleaders promised – the average age of trains has increased and most new investment is funded by the state.

‘The claim that private train operators are responsible for more people using the railways must also be taken with a huge pinch of salt. Passenger growth has mirrored changes in the wider economy and is not the result of creative marketing drives by companies.

‘The government must accept that the current model is broken. Its determination to impose franchising across the network – even on the East Coast Mainline which is performing well as a nationalised service – shows ministers are ignoring the evidence of 20 years of failure.’

CRESC Director Professor Karel Williams said: ‘The privately owned train operating companies have hijacked the government’s rail reform agenda which is all about ‘getting franchising back on track’.

‘Our research shows how the franchising system allows them to distribute profits at low cost from public subsidy.

‘It would make sense to abolish the train operating companies and it would cost the taxpayer nothing if it were done as the franchises expired.

”Train and track operation could then be integrated under a new publicly-owned National Rail, operating within defined budgets over sustained funding periods.’

The Great Train Robbery says that:

  • Train operating companies should be abolished as a crucial first step. This could be achieved within the next ten years as companies have relatively short leases with contract termination points and there is no requirement for shareholder compensation when the franchises expire.
  • Train and rail infrastructure should be organised by a new not for profit company, National Rail, built around the core of Network Rail.
  • Just as with Crossrail in London, the government should introduce a business levy to raise extra funds for the railways. The report estimates this could generate £21bn a year.

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The People’s Assembly: Draft statement and proposed action plan

The declaration below represents the beginning of a democratic process leading towards a second People’s Assembly in early 2014. This declaration represents the views of all those who initially called for the People’s Assembly. We hope it will be endorsed by the People’s Assembly on 22nd June. It will then be open to the local People’s Assembly’s, union bodies and campaign groups who support the People’s Assembly to suggest amendments, additions, or deletions. These will then all be discussed and decided upon at the recall People’s Assembly in 2014.

The plans for action are simply the most obvious rallying points for a national anti-cuts movement for the remainder of 2013. They are not intended to supersede local or sectional action by existing campaigns or trade unions. They are intended to be focus national, collective action by the whole anti-austerity movement.

The People’s Assembly, meeting in Westminster Central Hall, declares:

We face a choice that will shape our society for decades to come. It is a choice faced by ordinary people in every part of the globe.

We can defend education, health and welfare provision funded from general taxation and available to all, or we can surrender the gains that have improved the lives of millions of people for over more than 50 years.

We do not accept that government’s austerity programme is necessary. The banks and the major corporations should be taxed at a rate which can provide the necessary resources. Austerity does not work: it is a failure in its own terms resulting in neither deficit reduction nor growth. It is not just: the government takes money from the pockets of those who did not cause the crisis and rewards those who did. It is immoral: our children face a bleaker future if our services and living standards are devastated. It is undemocratic: at the last election a majority voted against the return of a Tory government. The Con-Dem coalition has delivered us into the grip of the Tories’ whose political project is the destruction of a universal welfare state.

We therefore choose to resist. We refuse to be divided against ourselves by stories of those on ‘golden pensions’, or of ‘scroungers’, or the ‘undeserving poor’. We do not blame our neighbours, whatever race or religion they maybe. We are not joining the race to the bottom. We stand with the movement of resistance across Europe.

We are clear in our minds that our stand will require us to defend the people’s right to protest, and so we support the right of unions and campaigns to organise and take such action as their members democratically decide is necessary.

We stand with all those who have made the case against the government so far: in the student movement, in the unions, in the many campaigns to defend services, the NHS, and in the Coalition of Resistance, the People’s Charter, UK Uncut, the environmental movement and the Occupy movement.

We do not seek to replace any organisations fighting cuts. All are necessary. But we do believe that a single united national movement is required to challenge more effectively a nationally led government austerity programme.

We have a plain and simple goal: to make government abandon its austerity programme. If it will not it must be replaced with one that will.

We will concentrate on action not words. We aim to provide the maximum solidarity for unions and other organisations and others taking action. We support every and all effective forms action and aim to build a united national movement of resistance.

Our case is clear. The government’s austerity programme does not work; it is unjust, immoral and undemocratic. Alternatives exist. Debts can be dropped. Privatisation can be reversed and common ownership embraced. A living wage can begin to combat poverty. Strong trade unions can help redistribute profit. The vast wealth held by corporations and the trillions held by the super rich in tax havens can be tapped. Green technology, alternatives to the arms industries, a rebuilt infrastructure including growth in manufacturing are all desperately needed. We are fighting for an alternative future for this generation and for those that come after us.

Proposed actions:

  • The People’s Assembly will support every genuine movement and action taken against any and all of the cuts. We support all current industrial actions by the unions. We encourage and will help to organise the maximum solidarity action with the PCS and teaching union members taking strike action the week after the People’s Assembly, as well as with other action by unions planned for the autumn.
  • Peoples Assemblies against the cuts should be organised in towns and cities across our nations, bringing all those fighting the cuts together into a broad democratic alliance on a local basis.
  • The national and the local Assemblies, in partnership with Trades Unions, Trades Councils, campaigning and community groups, can unite our movement and strengthen our campaigns. Local Assemblies will help us to organise a recalled National Assembly to review our work in the early spring of 2014.
  • We will work together with leading experts and campaigners both here and abroad, and friendly think tanks, to develop rapidly key policies and an alternative programme for a new anti-austerity government. We will continue to welcome support from all who fight the cuts.
  • We will call a national day of civil disobedience and direct action against austerity.
  • We will call a day of co-ordinated local demonstrations in the early autumn.
  • We will work with the trade unions and others to call a national demonstration in November.

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Save Our Royal Mail

Not everything in life should be defined by its monetary value. Royal Mail is part of the fabric of the nation but it is under threat of being ripped apart. If the Royal Mail is sold off:

  • Prices will go up
  • Business will be squeezed
  • The countryside will be isolated
  • Services for the blind will be scrapped
  • Free post for HM Armed Forces will be stopped
  • Heritage will be lost

Save Our Royal Mail are campaigning to persuade politicians that they must act now and guarantee that these vital services do not disappear. They have the support of groups and individuals representing the countryside, the blind and partially sighted, the elderly and small businesses. You can help them by getting involved. Use the social networking tools on their site to promote the campaign and most importantly write to your MP setting out your concerns. As the campaign grows so will their site. So please return to them regularly to keep updated on news and other campaign developments.

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Child Poverty Action Group Monthly News and Views

Shown below is the “News from CPAG – Child Poverty Action Group e-newsletter, a monthly round-up of our news and views”. If you would like to subscribe to CPAG news, please click here.

IFS: major surge in child poverty by 2020

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that relative child poverty will go up by a staggering 1.1 million children in the current decade, almost entirely due to tax and benefit changes introduced by the coalition government. Our response calling for a complete rethink of government strategy on child poverty was widely quoted by the media including the Daily Mirror, Evening Standard and Guardian.

Alison Garnham has blogged on why we must not abandon the child poverty targets and why making progress on poverty requires us to rethink public spending across the whole of government so that we get the fundamentals right – a fairer society and a stronger economy.

Universal Credit – will it work?

Our *new report published with the TUC looks at whether universal credit can deliver its objectives, and in particular whether it can ‘make work pay’. For a summary of the report findings see Alison Garnham’s blog for Liberal Democrat Voice.

Many thanks to the Orp Foundation for supporting our Universal Credit work programme.

Welfare rights conference 2013: Surviving Welfare Reform

We are now hosting our annual Welfare Rights Conference in both the north and south of the country. We hope this will give more people the opportunity to attend, keeping travel and accommodation costs to a minimum.

  • The Northern Conference in Manchester on Thursday 5 September.
  • The Southern Conference in London on Wednesday 11 September.
  • Further information and booking

Special offer – book your place before 1 July for an early bird discount.

Exhibition space: if you are interested in exhibiting your work, products and services at our conference, contact Naomi Jessop (njessop@cpag.org.uk).

Training note: our Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment courses across the UK are selling fast, book your place now to avoid disappointment! Visit our website to find dates in Norwich, Plymouth, York, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester and Cardiff.

Conference: Tackling child poverty in your local authority

On Thursday 18 July, CPAG is hosting a free conference in Birmingham, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, exploring ways local authorities and their partners can creatively work to meet their commitments under the Child Poverty Act despite facing significant financial challenges.

Topics to be addressed on the day have emerged from discussions with local authorities and will include workshops on Universal Credit, Social Fund schemes, and including the voices of children and young people in child poverty strategies.

Further information and booking

A new partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing

We are delighted to be the chosen charity for CIH’s Presidential Appeal. It’s a welcome opportunity for us to partner with a great organisation with shared goals.

For anyone going to the Housing 2013 conference in June, come and see us on the CPAG exhibition stand!

See a full list of our other upcoming events.

CPAG: the movie

We are the lucky winners of a VoiceOver video donated by politics.co.uk. See their inside view of filming a CPAG campaign video on location. We’ll let you know when the final video is launched!

The latest Understanding Society report indicates that while the public endorses the importance of reducing child poverty, there is also a hardening of attitudes towards the welfare state and benefit claimants. Our new campaign video aims to counter the common stereotypes.

Do you know a great campaigner?

Are you speaking out and taking action on issues that matter? Or does this sound like someone you know? Apply or nominate now for an SMK Campaigner Award, which equips people to become more effective campaigners. It’s free to apply. For more information, or to apply or nominate, please visit: the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. Applications close at 1pm on 10 June 2013.

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Open Email to Bournemouth Borough Council about the Bedroom Tax

The following email has today been sent to Bournemouth Borough Council:

On page 39 of the Spring 2013 issue of the Bournemouth Borough Council “Home News” it states:

“And now for something completely different! As mentioned elsewhere in this edition of HOME NEWS, April sees a radical overhaul of Housing Benefit. To clear up any concerns by disabled tenants, here’s a list of those tenants protected from the ‘bedroom tax’

Pensioners (those of state pension credit age).

People who are in receipt of high rate of the mobility or care element of disability living allowance

People who have a severely disabled child – parents or guardians who have a child that receives Disability Living Allowance.

People who are disabled and need a non-resident over-night carer”

We welcome any move by the Council to alleviate the burden of the unjust ‘bedroom tax’ which is a blatant attack on the poorest in our society. It states that the above people are ‘protected’. However it is unclear whether Bournemouth Borough Council are ‘exempting’ the above people or following government guidelines relating to Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs).

We are extremely concerned that DHP’s are made from a budget-limited, non ring fenced discretionary fund and often limited to just a few months to provide temporary help. We feel they are not a viable long-term solution as they fail to give people with disabilities the assurance that their housing needs are secure. DHPs will also be needed as a result of other aspects of welfare reform (such as the benefit cap and the changes to council tax benefit).

In the long term, it is likely there will be insufficient resources to help all disabled people who need to remain in their current home. We feel DHPs are not suitable to mitigate the effects of the policy on disabled people. Their discretionary nature means claimants cannot appeal against apparently unreasonable or irrational allocations.

More than three-quarters (77%) of people claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) choose to live in the social sector as it provides the additional space and security with many properties having been significantly adapted for their needs. The Government has exempted DLA recipients from the household benefit cap, ‘in recognition of the additional financial costs that can arise from disability and that disabled people will have less scope to alter their spending patterns or reduce their housing costs.’ However, the same principle has not been applied to DLA claimants who are expected to be hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Please could you provide clarification on the following:

Is Bournemouth Borough Council exempting all people stipulated in the Home News article from the ‘Bedroom Tax’?

Where it is determined that people are entitled to DHP, will funds be made available for all cases irrespective of whether the money allocated by central government is exhausted?

Will DLA income be taken into account when assessing a family’s income?

Where parents or guardians of children receiving DLA no longer live together, will both households will receive DHPs?

Thank-you for your time in considering these issues and we look forward to receiving your response.

Regards
Mike Cracknell
BPACC Chair
Bournemouth & Poole Anti Cuts Coalition

Report of Living Wage meeting in Bridport

Despite the pouring rain the first Living Wage Dorset launch event in Bridport got off to a flying start. Attendance: 20. Three good speakers (all women) who each gave a different angle on the issue.

Issues arising from the discussion:

1. Immigration was being used by unscrupulous employers to keep wages down, by paying immigrant workers lower rates of pay. The Living Wage would create a level playing field and help to end this exploitation
2. Some confusion about small firms having to pay the Living Wage and maybe having to cut jobs in order to do so. Clarified that the campaign was aimed at the 16% of very large employers in the county who employ 75% of low paid workers
3. Many low paid workers were frightened to make a stand for a Living Wage, and in fear of losing their jobs. That is why a community-wide campaign is important to support those workers who are unable/unwilling to lead the campaign
4. Some workers, particularly in care and retail are on zero hour contracts – and are more concerned about the lack of hours rather than the hourly rate
5. Wide acceptance that the broader the base of the campaign, the more likelihood of it being a success

Some practical points:

1. Could the Minimum Wage be raised to the level of the Living Wage – and thus become legally enforceable
2. It would be useful to have a list of Living Wage employers and perhaps give those companies a logo/sticker to display on websites/shop windows etc
3. Support for community action such as leafleting the public about the issue, picketing low wage employers etc
4. How is the Living Wage calculated and isn’t £7.45 an hour too low

Living Wage Dorset Resources:

Campaign statement

A toolkit for campaigners

Campaign briefing

Flyer / poster

Logo

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The boom in UK food banks

Demand for food banks in the UK is ‘booming’ with over 500,000 people forced to use them to stave off hunger and destitution. Half of those helped are children. They are among the victims of sweeping austerity which is cutting welfare, services and programs precisely when they are needed most.

The following has been republished with kind permission from Gareth Hill

Food bank manager in Bournemouth blames welfare reform for rising demand

The manager of Bournemouth Food Bank has blamed welfare reform and changes to Job Seekers Allowance for a rising need for food handouts.

Debbie Bramley said that the charity she runs in Charminster is struggling to keep up with demand as George Osborne outlines *planned spending cuts for 2015.

Bournemouth East MP, Conservative Tobias Ellwood, did not respond to a request to discuss accusations that government policy is forcing people to rely on food banks.

Victory as judges rule controversial disability benefits procedure is unfair

Republished from False Economy

Sent from Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society:

Wednesday 22 May 2013 – Three judges have ruled that the procedure currently used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to decide whether hundreds of thousands of people are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) disadvantages people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism.

The judgment, which was made public at a high court hearing today, is the result of a judicial review brought by two anonymous claimants with mental health problems.

The charities Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society intervened in the case to provide evidence based on the experiences of their members and supporters.

The case centres on how evidence is gathered for the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the process used to determine whether someone is fit for work.

Under the current system, evidence from a professional such as a GP or social worker is expected to be provided by people themselves. There is no obligation for the DWP to collect this evidence, even on behalf of the most vulnerable claimants, apart from in some rare cases.

Seeking evidence can be very challenging for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities or autism whose health or condition can make it hard for them to understand or navigate the complex processes involved in being assessed.

As a result, those who need support the most are frequently being assessed without this important evidence being taken into account.

It was ruled that the DWP had breached its duties to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 and that the Department must do more to ensure this sort of evidence is collected and taken into account. This means the current procedure for the WCA puts some groups at a substantial disadvantage.

The three charities have hailed the ruling as a victory for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism who are being put through a process which puts them at a disadvantage.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “This ruling proves once and for all that this cruel and unfair process is unlawful. The judges have independently confirmed what our members have been saying for years – the system is discriminating against some of the most ill and vulnerable people in our society, the very people it is meant to support.

“The Work Capability Assessment process is deeply unfair for people with a mental illness – it’s like asking someone in a wheelchair to walk to the assessment centre. The Government is setting people up to fail.

“Now that the court has ruled that these tests are unfair it would be completely irresponsible to carry on using them. The Government must halt the mass reassessment of people receiving incapacity benefit immediately, until the process is fixed.

“This ruling will help improve one aspect of the Work Capability Assessment, but there are still many other problems with it. We will keep campaigning on behalf of everyone we represent until the whole process is fair for everyone.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Mind welcomes the tribunal’s judgment, which has found that the claims process for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is unfair to people with mental health problems and that it has to change.

“The judgment is a victory, not only for the two individuals involved in this case, but for thousands of people who have experienced additional distress and anxiety because they have struggled through an assessment process which does not adequately consider the needs of people with mental health problems.

“Following this judgment, Mind hopes changes will be implemented quickly to ensure the claims procedure is fairer and more accurate.

“Mind has campaigned to improve the assessment process for many years and we will monitor the situation closely to ensure people with mental health problems receive the benefits they are entitled to.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society said: “The court’s decision is a victory for fairness. Now that the tribunal has ruled that the Work Capability Assessment process disadvantages people with autism, the Government must stop putting them through it until a more equitable system is in place.

“Those who devised this process failed to understand the complexities of conditions like autism. By the nature of their condition, people with autism can struggle to understand and articulate how their disability affects them – which is just what this current system requires them to do, by placing the burden on them to collect their own evidence.”

Read more:
The controversy around Atos Mental Function Champions
The judicial review taken by people with mental health illnesses

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Low paid workers and tax payers in Dorset set to gain from new “Living Wage” campaign

living wage is moral value rszLow paid workers and tax payers in Dorset are set to benefit from a new campaign being launched to persuade local employers to pay a so called “Living Wage” of £7.45 an hour. The campaign group – called Living Wage for Dorset (LWD) – is backed by a number of faith groups, community organisations, political parties and trade unions in the county who claim that Dorset is one of the country’s low pay economies dominated by the agriculture, hospitality and service industries.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 66,000 workers in the county – over one in four – earns less than the living wage. Research by LWD has also found:

  • Average pay for full time workers in Dorset is at least 5% lower than the national average with pay as low as 19% lower in South Dorset.
  • Women continue to earn approximately 80% of the male rates even on the lower Dorset wages.
  • Of the 18 high pay industrial sectors in the economy, Dorset’s employment is under represented in these industries. Only 11% of the Dorset workforce is found in high pay sectors, below the national average.
  • Of the 13 low pay industrial sectors in the economy, Dorset’s employment is over represented in these industries, compared with both the national average and the south west region.

LWD say the benefits of a living wage are very clear:

For a family with two working parents, one part-time and two children under 16 renting their home at an average rent for the area, working 40 hours a week; the Living Wage would increase their total net household income by £550 per annum, and at the same time save local tax payers £3,370 in Tax Credits and Housing Benefits.

Neil Duncan-Jordan, spokesperson for the LWD campaign said: “Low pay is associated with poor job security and treatment, fuel poverty, expensive housing costs, lower educational attainment, reduced mental health, suppressed economic demand and debilitates the human spirit. These are all costs that society has to bear when things break-down. But the Living Wage offers a win-win for employees, employers and tax payers. Employees get a higher income and see their living standards rise, employers get a workforce with improved morale, less absenteeism and increased productivity and the tax payer saves huge amounts of money because they are no longer subsidising low wage employers by having to top up people’s earnings with benefits and credits. This is an idea supported by all the main political parties, major employers like Barclays, as well as the Church of England.”

The campaign is being launched with three high-profile meetings across the county:

Bridport 28 May – 7pm, Town Hall, Speakers include Anne-Marie Vincent, South West Dorset Multicultural Network and Claire Moody, Unite the Union

Dorchester 31 May – 7pm, Corn Exchange, Speakers include Cllr Alistair Chisholm, Kaye Kerridge, First Dorset Credit Union Ltd and Tim Nichols, Dorchester TUC

Bournemouth 5 June – 6.30pm, Barnes Lecture Theatre, Bournemouth University Talbot Campus, Speakers include Dr Graham Kings, Bishop of Sherborne, Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party and Paul Nowak, Assistant General Secretary TUC

Independent Living Fund recipient interviews

Reproduced from False Economy

The videos on this page are interviews made, by False Economy, with people who are directly affected by the government’s atrocious recent decision to close the Independent Living Fund (the ILF).

The ILF was set up as a standalone fund to pay for extra carer hours for people with severe disabilities. That additional funding made it possible for people to pay for enough care to continue to live independently in their homes, rather than in residential care. At the end of last year, the government made an extremely unpopular decision to close the fund and devolve it to local authorities. A recent attempt to challenge the closure was lost, but claimants plan to appeal.

In these videos and linked case studies, ILF recipients around the country explain how vital the fund is to them and what will happen if they are no longer able to pay for the high levels of care that they require.

Mary Laver

In this video, Mary Laver, who lives in Newcastle, talks about the life that she leads with carer hours paid for by the Independent Living Fund. The ILF pays for about 46 of Mary’s carer hours a week. With that support, she does everything and a lot more: last year, for example, she raised money for the Royal British Legion by travelling from Lands End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair and went to London as a 2012 Olympic volunteer. Without that funding, things will change drastically:

Gabriel Pepper

Gabriel is 41. He began his working life as an archaeologist after completing a Phd. He has had three brain tumours and has sight, speech and mobility impairments. The ILF pays about two-thirds of his care costs. Waltham Forest council pays for the rest. His view on the importance of taking legal action to fight to save the ILF fund in court (he was in the group of ILF recipients that took the recent court action): “I don’t believe the Tory party will ever hang their heads in shame, because they don’t have shame.”

He also talks in the video about the effort that he’s had to make to convince MPs to sign early day motion 651 – an EDM which called for the government to “look at ways of expanding the Independent Living Fund to provide needs-based support to all adults in the UK who require it.”

Sophie Partridge

Sophie is an actor, writer and workshop artist from Islington:

“My PAs [carers] do everything for me – everything physically that I can’t do for myself. It’s all aspects of personal care – like getting up, going to the loo, washing, dressing, cooking for me, cutting my food up, cleaning, laundry, driving me in my van. I still need the same levels of assistance whatever I’m doing, so if I’m working or round at a friend’s house, I need them with me to do all those things.

Fighting the cuts has been difficult. [In their arguments against benefit cuts], people do use this word “vulnerable” a hell of a lot. I actually wrote a letter to David Cameron – and I’m still waiting for a reply – in which I said: ‘It’s not my impairment which makes me vulnerable. It is your cuts. It is your policies. Give us decent resources and we will add to your economy. We can’t be cast as victims all the time. It’s difficult, because we do have to fight the good fight without appearing pathetic cripples. It’s hard to find the right balance.”

Penny Pepper

Penny Pepper is an Islington writer and journalist: “The reason I get the independent living fund (ILF) is that I’m judged to have a severe disability with severe levels of mobility impairment. I’m assessed as needing 24/7 care. The ILF pays for just under half of my care costs(and Islington council pays the rest. I need support to do most things of a physical and practical nature – from getting out of bed, using the bathroom, getting dressed and food preparation to moving from A to B, getting into my wheelchair and getting out of my wheelchair. I would not be able to work without that funding. This is what is terrifying to me. Council funding alone, for carers, would not be enough to retain my personal assistants.

There is this bizarre idea coming our way that you can eat sandwiches, lie in bed and use incontinence pads. If that happens, then that is, in effect, the end of my career. Now, we’re being forced backwards into having to go on about how pathetic we are as individuals – you know, with your poor legs and your this and your that. If the council ever tries to put me in a care home [because it cannot afford to fund independent living costs ] I will take it to court.”

Kevin Caulfield

Kevin lives in West London, works in Brixton and is training to be a barrister.

“For my care, I need two people during the day at some points during the day, so my care package totals 25 hours. It’s quite significant. It’s enabled me to stabilise my health and it’s improved quite a lot. I’ve been able to work during the last 15 years. I’ve been able to go to college. I’m training to be a barrister – things that I would have been able to do in my life if I wasn’t a disabed person, but certainly things that I couldn’t do without this support.

Hammersmith and Fuham council pay for about 60% of my care package and about 40% of the pacakge comes from the Independent Living Fund. For disabled people to be included as equal members of society, [the great thing about the ILF is that the assessment really is based on your needs and you don't feel that someone has come in with a cash register next to them."

There are more testimonies from people on the Disabled People Against Cuts site:

What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Mary’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Justine’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – John, Paul and Evonne’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people –Roxy ’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Kathy’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Richard’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Penny’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Anthony and David’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Kevin’s story
Template letter to MPs to stop ILF Closure
What Local Authorities said about the Closure of ILF

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