Legal rant

So, on Wednesday our glorious leader, Theresa ‘Will of the People’ May is going to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of ripping us, kicking and screaming, from the relative sanctuary and sanity of the EU. This is not something I voted for and is not what I wanted but it’s happening and there’s not a lot I can do now to change it. I’ve voted, I’ve blogged, I’ve protested, I’ve voiced my opinion, I’ve given countless explanations and justifications for what I believe but to no avail. It’s happening and, protest as I might, I don’t think anything can now stop it. All I can do is hope that when things go wrong, as I expect them to do, we will be allowed, by the other EU members, to rejoin.

But that’s a hope for the future. There are other more pressing, more immediate things which need to be challenged now before it’s too late. I have seen yet another news report about what Mrs M is proposing which, if it’s possible, scares me even more than leaving the EU. It scares the living daylights out of me. According to what I have just read, after triggering Article 50 on Wednesday, the government will then publish its Great Repeal Bill on Thursday.

The Great Repeal Bill? What’s that. We’ve all heard of it but how many of us know what it really means.

Well, according to everything I’ve found out so far and according to the original report I read, apart from anything else, this Bill will propose giving Government Ministers the power to change some aspects of European laws, when they have been incorporated into UK legislation, without needing the approval of Parliament.

Excuse me?

Can we just look at that again.

What is actually being proposed here?

This is a Bill which will give Tory Ministers the power to change our domestic laws without needing the approval of Parliament. This is a Bill which would give the Tories free rein to make whatever changes they want to our laws without any checks and balances. Without any way of stopping them, without any of us, or our elected representatives from other parties, having a say. I know one of the things the Brexit camp was advocating during the Referendum process was that by leaving the EU we could ‘take back control’ but was this really what the people who voted to leave the EU last June wanted? A Tory Government which can make up it’s own rules, unhindered, unopposed and unchallenged?

I don’t think so.

I really hope not at any rate.

In my opinion, as an idea, allowing a Government to do it’s own thing in this way is just so wrong, so frightening, so dangerous. I mean, as an idea it’s been tried before and it didn’t go too well then, so why we should, as a country, try it again defeats me. What is there about the idea which makes us think it could work this time when it went so terribly wrong last time. Nothing. Nothing good can possibly come from it. Have people really missed something we all supposedly learnt in our history lessons at school, or at least, did they not take sufficient notice of the lessons of the not so distant past not to say no, not again? Well, maybe we should take the time to look in our libraries and online for the information we all, so badly, seem to need. I know I only got a grade C at ‘O’ Level in the subject but, if I remember what I was taught correctly a certain Herr Hitler tried this trick too. In 1933, in Germany, the Enabling Act gave the German Cabinet, in effect, Chancellor Adolf Hitler, the power to enact laws without the involvement of the German Government, the Reichstag. Now, to me that sounds frighteningly familiar. To me, that sounds to be almost exactly the same thing that Mrs May is proposing for our country now. And I believe it is a step too far. Politicians from the ruling party getting rid of the laws they don’t like and imposing their own rules on the people without anyone being able to stop them from doing it. Just no. That is, in my opinion, a step too far down a path we should not travel. I am happy to admit that some of the laws that the EU makes may not the best and I’m happy to admit that some of these laws are not ideal for our country and may need tweaking but not without proper scrutiny and someone saying ‘No’ if necessary. When we elect our politicians we expect them to do this and keep us safe from legislation which could hurt us in the long term. And, the idea that our current Government, meaning the Tories, should be allowed to change things alone and at will is just terrifying and cannot be allowed.

We all need to write to our MPs, to our Party Leaders, to the Press, to everyone we can think of that may have any influence whatsoever begging them to try and stop this madness. We need to stop this country from becoming a dictatorship. Mrs May is proposing on taking a step too far down a destructive path which we should not travel and, somehow, she needs to be stopped before it’s too late.

Reusing a catchphrase from my childhood, we all need to ‘Just Say No’.

It’s funny. Everyday there is something in the papers or online that rattles my cage and makes me want to write stuff. And, almost always, it’s something the Government has done, is about to do or is thinking seriously about doing that gets me incensed enough for me to get itchy typing fingers and for the words to flow. I sometimes wonder if I should write David Cameron a thank-you note. Honestly. if it wasn’t for him I’d find myself with very little to say.

Yesterday, I wrote my blog about bed-blocking in hospitals due to the paucity of Social Care in the community. Today my ire has been raised by the Government’s plans to deport people who are not EU citizens, from the start of April. Two different topics but topics that are, none the less, inter-connected. Many of the dedicated men and women who are employed by agencies nationwide as home-care workers are the non-UK nationals and are the very people who are likely to be affected by this deportation policy. Just thinking about the dedicated team of ladies who come, every day, to look after and help me. They are from many different countries that are not part of the EU. Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nigeria. All wonderful, caring individuals and none of them an EU citizens. Granted, several are married to British citizens and, granted, some of them may have ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ status but, I’m equally sure, some of them don’t. They have work permits and visas that allow them to work, I’m certain none of them are here illegally, but, at least some of them, have not, as yet, achieved British Nationality  

And this, as far as I am concerned, is the problem. So many people who work for the many agencies we have, nationwide, that provide home-carers, are not British or EU nationals. They, invariably, work for a low wage, well under the required £35,000 per annum that is the cut off point in this policy, so their continued stay in this country must be under threat. They may well find that they are going to be deported because they don’t earn enough. Over the past year I have been cared for by people from all over the world and now they are all under threat. How is the Government planning on alleviating the problem of bed-blocking in our hospitals if they are going to be deporting the very social care workers who will be needed if patients are to be discharged and allowed to return to their own homes? What are they going to do?

As always, I believe Mr Cameron and the Tories have failed to consider the longer term implications of the policies they are proposing. Everything is connected and our politicians need to think about these connections when they propose new legislation and before it is enacted. How will the situation that is causing us a problem today be affected by what we are thinking about doing tomorrow. How is the legislation that was passed yesterday going to affect our proposals for the future. Day after day we see the possible difficulties that might be caused by a knee-jerk reaction to something or other. One policy affecting another and causing more problems than it solves.  

I believe that there needs to be a rethink the deportation of non-EU citizens and this rethink needs to happen fast. We have all seen the stories about the teachers, health care professionals and charity workers who are going to have to return to their countries of origin if this legislation continues without reform but we also need to think about all the other, lower paid jobs that non-EU citizens are employed to do. We need to think about how we will cope if they all have to go. We need to think about how our lives will be affected. We need to think about who will do the work they are currently doing if they are not here. What will happen to us all if they are forced to leave.

We just need to think.

So. There are two news stories that have grabbed my attention this morning. Two stories which need to be investigated and which need to be shared as widely as possible. Two stories which are indicative of the pain and suffering this Conservative Government is inflicting on the people of Britain. Two stories which make no sense.

The first is about a woman, a victim of domestic violence and rape, who has had a ‘panic room’ installed in her home, by her local police force, for her safety. Our government has decided, in it’s infinite wisdom that this room is an unused bedroom in her house and they have charged her ‘Bedroom Tax’ for it. This woman took her case to court and the court found in her favour. Our petty Government has decided to spend, what must be, thousands of pounds of tax-payers money appealing this judgement. It makes no sense.

And this is not the only story I have read recently about Bedroom Tax. Stories abound about how unfair it is or how cruelly it is being implemented and imposed. Disabled people who are being charged for rooms where they have to store necessary medical equipment such as wheelchairs, hoists, ventilators and medication. These are not bedrooms, they are storage areas. Then there are the disabled people who have a bed in a room that is not used every night. It is a room that is used when that person has to have to have a carer stay overnight sometimes to keep them safe and out of hospital. Then there are the rooms that were used by a disabled person who has died or by someone who has had to go into permanent care. These people’s relatives are not being given time to grieve or adjust to what has happened before the draconian Bedroom Tax is imposed. How insensitive, how stupid, how uncaring can this Government’s policies be? It makes no sense.

The second story is about all the disabled people who have been been reassessed for their welfare benefits due to the change over from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). These are people who are severely disabled and who, under DLA, were awarded the highest level of payment for mobility. As a result they were able to access a specific charity, Motability, which allowed them to be able to lease a car and, if needs be, have adaptations made to that vehicle so they could use it or drive it themselves. A vital lifeline. Now, thanks to the reassessment many people have had to have, their mobility needs have, in the eyes of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), improved and downgraded so they have lost their vehicle. And we’re not talking about one or two people, no, the number we’re currently talking about is in excess of 14.000 people. 14,000 people whose medical condition has, miraculously, improved to a point where they no longer have sufficient mobility difficulties to warrant needing a car or adaptations. 14.000 people who may be using these cars to get to and from their place of work and who may now have to give up their jobs and claim unemployment benefits instead. Is this what the Government wants? They are forever reciting and repeating their mantra of ‘You can work your way out of poverty’ but how can disabled people do this if Government policies are meaning they can no longer get to the jobs they already have. As a disabled woman on the news last night said, the new benefit, PIP, is neither personal nor promoting independence. It makes no sense.

How is our government, our Tory government, getting away with wasting so much of our money? How are they getting away with it?

Challenging a legal ruling about Bedroom Tax such as the one about the woman with the panic room, installed for her safety, by the police, makes no sense. Imposing Bedroom Tax on disabled people for having a spare room which they us for their carers, makes no sense.

If disabled people need their vehicles so they can go out to work and contribute to the economy rather than claim welfare benefits and be an economic drain then reassessing them so they lose those vehicles makes no sense.  

This Government needs to stop, and stop now, before they become a worldwide laughing stock. There should be no more wastage of the money that they purport to want to save on legal challenges and benefit changes that must cost more overall, than they keep in the country’s coffers. People are suffering. Our country is suffering. How much longer will it be before everyone at home and our trading partners abroad start to realise that everything that is now happening, everything this Government is doing, makes no sense.

I have just been reading a very disturbing tweet.

The tweet was from a  woman with a psychiatric condition who was reassessed for her benefits when she had a change of circumstances. During the assessment she expressly gave the assessor details of her representative. She watched him enter this information onto the form he was completing about her. There was no question that he knew exactly who her representative was.

We can all imagine therefore, how horrified she was, when the DWP report from that meeting was sent subsequently, not to her named representative but to a relative who she was trying to protect from learning of the seriousness of her condition.

This is outrageous.

This cannot be allowed to continue without being challenged..

More and more it appears that our Government, and their various departments such as the DWP and DoH, seems to think there is one rule for them and another rule for the rest of us and this must not be allowed. It has to stop.

What has happened in this instance is a massive breach of Data Protection legislation, but this is just one of many instances. This sort of case seems to be happening over and over again. We need to start taking these breaches to court every time they happen and hold the DWP and the Government to account. Our Tory Government cannot be allowed to ride rough-shod over all of our hard-won rights and legislation. They need to learn they cannot just break the law willey nilley to suit themselves without repercussions and they need to learn it fast..

We have already seen several court cases where the Government, and the DWP in particular, have been challenged about what they have been doing to disabled people and carers in this country that they seem to anticipate won’t fight back, how many more cases do there have to be? The United Nations are currently investigating what has been going on, there a court cases every week, there are stories about what is happening in the press and on social media daily, How much longer can this be allowed to continue? What is this Government doing to the people of this nation?

They are laughing at us all.

They are trying to set us up to hate each other so we do nothing about the harm they are causing.

Just because we are not as rich as they are, just because they tell us they know what they are talking about, just because they are changing existing legislation and enacting new legislation to make things better for themselves and worse for us, we must not knuckle under and allow it to continue.

The longer this Government feels that they are getting away with the damage they are doing, the more they are going to go on doing it. They have already tried to restrict our access to Legal Aid, almost certainly with the ultimate aim of restricting our ability to challenge them in court, and we must not let this happen. We must fight it all the way. If needs be, maybe we need to establish some sort of fighting fund that people can access if they need help. Charities and voluntary organisations are all doing a marvellous job but they are stretched to capacity and seriously under funded. We all need to do our bit and support each other as much as we can. One person, on their own, is weak and powerless, together we can be strong and powerful. We can win this if we all do our bit. Challenge everything they try and do to us. If it doesn’t seem right it probably isn’t. Fight it.

It’s funny, I never thought I was a rebel but, apparently, I am. I hate to see injustice and I will continue to challenge it to the best of my limited ability. Let’s all fight together and then, who knows, just maybe, we can win.

We must all stand together and shout, with one voice, ‘No! We have had enough!

Well, that’s interesting.

I am a Housing Association tenant and I have just received my quarterly residents magazine from the HA and I think I am being discriminated against.

Not me personally but me as a disabled person.

Apparently my area is a test area for Housing Association tenants who want to buy their own home under the Government’s much-trumpeted new ‘Right to Buy’ scheme. Now, I am not actually interested in buying, I am more than happy to go on renting, but I thought I’d read the article anyway just to see what was being proposed.

That’s when I found that I am not eligible, despite living in a pilot area.

Why, I hear you ask.

The reason, as usual, is simple. My impairment. The fact that I am severely disabled is proving to be a barrier once again. According to the article, some types of home and tenancies are not included in the pilot, including homes like mine that have had adaptations made to cater for a disabled or older person’s particular, disability related needs.

Now, that smacks of discrimination to me. The article is saying that, if the Housing Association had not made some adaptations because of my impairment nearly twenty years ago, I would now have the right to buy my house, should I want to. Because of those adaptations it appears I don’t have that right.

Now, I am happy to acknowledge that, before we moved into the house, the Housing Association made extensive adaptations such as wider doorways, a wheelchair accessible bathroom and moving the front doorway to accommodate ramped entry to the property. Those adaptations were done using a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) from my local Council. When we were discussing this with the Housing Association, back in 1997, we agreed that we would live in the house and pay rent for a minimum of ten years. We have done this. We have now lived in the property and paid our rent for sixteen years. We have abided by our agreement.

So, why does this mean that, should I wish to buy my home the way the Government wants me to, I can’t. My impairment prevents me from doing so many things, am I now to be prevented from becoming a home-owner because of it? That’s what it sounds like to me. Most people on my estate will be able to buy if they want to, disabled and older people who have had adaptations done, like me,  won’t. That doesn’t sound very fair to me.

I suspect that the issue actually surrounds the scarcity of accessible and adapted properties amongst the social housing stock in the pilot areas but that is not disabled people’s fault. That is the fault of the Housing Associations and, ultimately, successive Governments, for not building enough suitable homes for all the people who may need them. Why should disabled people miss out on a opportunity that is to be granted to so many other people? Why should we be left out in this great rush into home ownership? People with Housing Association homes that have not been adapted will be able to benefit from grants and discounts if they want to buy the property they have lived in for many years but not me or other disabled or older people. If we want to buy a house, we must buy on the open market without a grant or discount. We would have to pay more that a non disabled person buying a similar Housing Association home. That doesn’t sound very fair to me.

If I had the money, the time and the inclination to do it, I might consider instructing solicitors to take this matter to court as the discrimination issue it surely must be. People with adapted properties are not able to buy their homes and people with adapted homes are either older people, disabled people themselves or have a disabled person living in the property such as a disabled child and we are precluded because of this.

How much more blatant does discrimination have to be? As far as I am concerned, not very.    

Well that’s interesting.

In the High Court yesterday a senior judge determined that Iain Duncan Smith had discriminated against two disabled people by applying the benefits cap to their carers.

The judge who ruled that this was discriminatory when applied to carers doing 35 hours or more of care every week said: “To describe a household where care was being provided for at least 35 hours a week as ‘workless’ was somewhat offensive. To care for a seriously disabled person is difficult and burdensome and could properly be regarded as work.”

You don’t say!

Of course it’s work. There can be no argument about this.

If the family members who are acting as carers weren’t there then carers from agencies and Social Services would have to do the caring and they would be paid a wage for performing these tasks. Just because a family member is doing the work does not change the nature of what needs to be done. A disabled person who needs help with having a bath is not going to need any less or more help depending on who is doing the helping. The work involved in helping that disabled person is always the same whenever they have a bath, whoever is doing the helping. Caring for a disabled person is hard work and is , largely, a thankless task. The money paid as Carers’ Allowance to these dedicated carers is derisory.

This got me thinking.

Could this judgement be used, legally, as justification for Carer’s Allowance needing to be raised to the same amount as someone would be paid as a minimum wage for a 35 hour week instead of the paltry amount it is at present? If, legally, a family carer is in ‘paid’ employment then surely the law states that they should be paid at at least the minimum wage for the work they do. And, if the pay that the family carer is receiving is their Welfare Benefit payment, namely, their Carers’ Allowance, then doesn’t that pay have to be at the same minimum wage rate that an agency or Social Services carer would receive for the same work? I am unable to see an reason why this should not be the case. I believe Iain Duncan Smith is on very shaky ground trying to say that a family carer’s work is of less value than that of a paid carer.

On top of this, family carers are also saving the Government so much money.

If a disabled person receives their care through Social Services or an agency then, as well as the salary that is paid to the carer, there will be administrative costs as well. There are no admin costs for family carers so they are still cheaper. Surely the benefit payment they receive should be higher than it is at present to reflect this. The Government will still save money if benefit rates are in increased, just not as much.

I would like to congratulate the judge in the discrimination case for understanding what being a carer means, how difficult a role it is. Iain Duncan Smith, needs to take note of this ruling and make things fairer. The Government keep on insisting they want people to work their way out of poverty but family carers can’t do this. They can’t work longer hours, their benefit won’t go up. They can’t take a second job, benefit rules preclude this. They can’t go on strike. Carers need to be paid properly for what they do. If the law states that carers should be regarded as being in full-time work then these wonderful people should receive a proper wage for this work.

The Government must ensure Carers Allowance is adequate recompense for the role that has been undertaken, not he miserly pocket money that it is at present. Take the financial stress and the worry away from carers and disabled people alike. Recognise the work that is done, recognise how hard it is, recognise how demanding it is, don’t just dismiss it. Acknowledge that family carers are workers just like all other employed people. Allow carers to live and not just exist. Raise the rate to at least minimum wage levels. 

Caring is job, not a hobby and welfare benefits for carers should reflect this. Raise the rate.

I am absolutely fuming. Steam coming out of my ears, effing and blinding fuming.

Why? I hear you ask.

OK, bear with me. Here’s the situation for you.

My Housing Association, the one I have rented a home from since 1987, has been doing big renovations works to all the houses they own in my estate. They have been ripping out and replacing all the kitchens and bathrooms with nice new shiny ones. I live in one of the properties which was due to have this much needed work done. Over the past few weeks we have had designers and tenant liaison officers and surveyors traipsing around the house doing everything that needed to be done before the work could commence. My daughters and their friends have spent many hours packing and clearing all our goods and chattels from the rooms where the work was going to happen and storing them in nooks and crannies upstairs. My ex-partner has, very helpfully, come from the other side of London and taken mountains of rubbish to the tip for us. My carers have done their best, without complaint, to work around the amount of kitchen equipment that has had to be put been put in the room where I sleep and spend my days.

After much planning and faffing the contractors started my new kitchen last week and a lot of fuss, noise and dust it has been so far but, it’s being done.

Now, every other tenant who has had this work done has had both rooms dealt with at the same time but, due to my disabilities, they decided they would deal with my kitchen first and then do my bathroom as soon as the kitchen was finished. I was then told that, because we have Christmas happening, my bathroom would be done after Christmas.

So far so good…

I have now been told, unofficially, that the renovations contract is coming to an end early and, whilst the kitchen work is OK, because the bathroom hasn’t been started yet, it’s not going to happen at all. I am so angry.

There is a very good reason why the bathroom hasn’t been started yet. The fact that I am a disabled person with care needs so it was decided that dealing with two rooms at once would be too disruptive. In other words, if I hadn’t been disabled and it had been possible to do both rooms at the same time, the way the Housing Association has done for other tenants, then the bathroom would have happened. They are saying that due to the reasonable adjustment that they made for me by doing the two rooms one after the other because of my disability, I now won’t get the bathroom done at all. In my opinion, this can’t be right. In my opinion this is this disability discrimination and I am absolutely furious.

There is a lot of repair work that will still need to be done in there anyway which would have been dealt with in the bathroom refit that is now not going to happen. The skirting and pipework boxing was ripped out by workmen ten years ago so they could repair damaged pipework. The workmen never came back to sort it out. This would have been repaired in the new bathroom. We had a  new combination bidet and toilet installed two years ago when the old one broke. It has never been commissioned so the bidet part has never worked. It would have been commissioned for the new bathroom. Our current bathroom, which was put in especially for me, is not a wet room which means I have been unable to have a shower since I came home from hospital in February and have had to make do with bed baths instead. My new bathroom would have been a wet room. The tiles are all coming off the walls due to some major cracks that need dealing with and new tiles need to be put up. The new bathroom would have meant the cracks were filled and new tiles were put up. I am now told that, due to my disability, none of this will happen. All this work will still need to be done but, when is anyone’s guess.

I am not going to let this rest. I refuse to go down without a fight. My half-done kitchen looks as if it will be beautiful, I want my promised and much anticipated bathroom too. I want the pipework boxing in. I want proper skirting boards. I want no cracks in the walls. I want tiles that don’t keep falling off. I want a toilet and bidet that works. I want a proper wetroom. If my Housing Association try to fob me off I will be looking for a legal representation and I will be taking this further. Why should I, just because of my impairment, get left out. I’m sorry but it’s just not happening, you’re messing with the wrong girl.

I am cross. Not just a little annoyed or a trifle irritated. No. Properly cross.

“But why?” I hear you cry, “What has happened?”  

Well, it’s simple really. I’ve been watching TV again. In particular, morning chat shows, lunch time politics programmes and, of course, the evening national news.

It’s not good for me.

Two things I have seen over the last couple of days have made me seriously angry. Two things which, initially, don’t appear to be connected, but which, in my eyes anyway, are. As far as I am concerned, despite the obvious differences in the cases, the issue that has angered me is the same for both.

The first case is about a baby that was taken from it’s parents and put up for adoption, the second is about a, now deceased, national politician. What has made me angry is the way things, in both instances, have been said or done before the full facts were known. People have already been hurt or will, at least, be hurt in the future and, in both cases, this hurt could, so easily, have been avoided.

With regard to the case of the baby, the birth parents, the adoptive parents and the child itself have had their lives thrown into turmoil and this turmoil is not going to be over any time soon. Sure, there was a valid suspicion that there had been parental abuse, the child, after all, was covered in inexplicable bruising, but, what social services and the legal system did next, could have been so much less traumatic for all parties. I’m not saying that the child should have been left with it’s parents regardless but, surely, something better could have been done than what actually happened. The child was, initially, taken into care whist investigations were conducted and then, and this is the bit that makes me so angry, before the investigations were completed, the child was put up for adoption. Why? The child being adopted was so final. So complete. So irreversible. The investigation has now determined that there was no abuse. Nothing at all. Rather, there was an underlying medical condition, a medical condition that was known about, which had caused the bruises to appear. The birth parents had done nothing apart from love, care and worry about their child but now that child is part of another family. It is not the first time this has happened either. Other children have been adopted and then it has been found subsequently that it was all a mistake and there was no valid reason for this to have happened. This cannot occur again. We must learn from it. When there is a suspicion that abuse has taken place, wouldn’t it be a far better idea for the child to be taken into foster care, and regular supervised parental visits to be allowed, until the investigation was completed, Surely that would be better for everyone concerned.

In the second case, the politician was accused of rape. A heinous crime, certainly, but it was an allegation and nothing was proved. My issue is with the amount of media coverage that story was given and the distress that was caused. There have been articles in magazines and newspapers, items in chat shows, speculation in programmes specifically concerning the alleged sexual proclivities of national celebrities and what have we now learnt? Nothing appears to have happened. The charges have been dropped through lack of evidence. My issue is with the chat shows and the individual programmes about what may or may not have occurred. I can understand how short items on the national news about similar instances could help find other people who have experienced the same thing and who may want to contact the authorities, but, surely that should be it. Unsubstantiated allegations will cause nothing but distress, especially when no charges are subsequently laid. I’m sure there is a better way of doing things and, apart from a brief factual news item, there should be no other media intrusion into people’s lives until there is something that is worth talking about proved.

In both cases things would have been so much better for everyone involved if someone had thought about what they were doing before they did it. In the baby case the birth parents would have still had contact with their child throughout, and, in the case of the politician, his family would have been able to remember him as the person they loved rather than have his memory tainted by unproven allegations and media witch-hunts.

Let us all learn to think first about the ramifications of our actions before doing things that may well prove to be life changing and irrevocable. Let us all consider other people and the fact they will still have to live their lives after whatever it is is all over. Let us all adhere to the old  adage of innocent until proven guilty.