Minister ‘lied’ over meeting Scottish DPOs

Two leading Scottish disabled people’s organisations have accused the minister for disabled people of lying about their involvement in a UK government consultation on welfare reform.

Three organisations – Inclusion Scotland (IS), Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living (LCIL) and Independent Living in Scotland (ILiS) – were so angry at Maria Miller’s claims that they boycotted a meeting with her that should have taken place last week.

Miller had written in the Guardian: “I have personally met with over 60 disabled people’s organisations in the development of personal independence payment [PIP, the benefit due to replace working-age disability living allowance]and visited disabled people around the country to hear their views.”

A list of 50 of those disability organisations, obtained by Disabled People Against Cuts through a Freedom of Information Act request, included the names of IS, ILiS and LCIL.

But two of them – IS and LCIL – have told Disability News Service that they have never met with Miller.

They are also the latest organisations to express anger at how Miller has “misrepresented” the views of DPOs by implying that the government’s welfare reforms are backed by the disability movement and other disability organisations.

The meeting they boycotted was to take place in Edinburgh last week and was intended to discuss their response to a consultation on the government’s disability strategy.

Inclusion Scotland said it attended two meetings about the development of PIP with Department for Work and Pensions representatives last August, but Miller was not at either of them.

Bill Scott, manager of Inclusion Scotland – a national consortium of DPOs and disabled people – said: “It was a lie and there is no doubt about that. She shouldn’t have said that.

“She then went on to say there was a consensus in favour of welfare reform. There is no such consensus. On welfare reform, we are just implacably opposed to what they are doing.”

Scott added: “We just wanted to make a point last week that we were not going to be misrepresented. We have been very, very vocal opponents of welfare reform.”

He said IS would now have to examine its future involvement with the UK government on a “case by case basis”.

Catherine Garrod, information coordinator for LCIL, also said Miller had lied about meeting personally with her organisation.

She said: “We thought we had been misrepresented by the minister for disabled people. We are strongly opposed to what is happening with the welfare reforms.

“Everybody knows they have consulted, but they have not listened to what the response has been.”

Because of Miller’s actions, she said LCIL would now probably refuse to take part in any future meetings with the minister, although it would continue to provide written responses to UK government consultations.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The minister for disabled people was not referring to a specific meeting attended by 60 disabled organisations but was intending to make a more general point about the extensive consultation in which she and officials have been engaged since May 2010.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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Euthanasia protest will mark opposition to ‘very dangerous’ bill

Disabled anti-euthanasia campaigners are to stage a protest outside the Scottish parliament, as a committee of MSPs hears evidence on a proposed bill that would legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.

The end of life assistance (Scotland) bill would allow those “whose life has become intolerable”, and who met a series of conditions, to “legally access assistance to end their life”.

Those who were terminally ill – or “permanently physically incapacitated” as a result of a progressive condition or “trauma” and “unable to live independently” – would qualify for assistance to end their lives under the bill, which has been proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald.

Bill Scott, acting manager of Inclusion Scotland – a national consortium of disabled people’s organisations and disabled people – said that offering the bill’s assistance to anyone with a care need was “very, very dangerous”.

He said a “huge number” of people would technically qualify for assistance under the bill, which was “not about assisting people at the end of their lives but about offering assistance at any stage once they have acquired an impairment that requires some level of care”.

Catherine Garrod, a member of Inclusion Scotland, said there were many people within the disability rights movement who were “very strongly opposed” to the bill.

She said it could be argued that the bill covered any disabled person who receives disability benefits, and added: “That’s why the disabled people’s movement is so strongly opposed to it. It is going to cover such large numbers of disabled people.”

Written evidence already submitted to the committee considering the bill by Independent Living in Scotland (ILiS) – a disabled people’s organisation set up to develop the independent living movement in Scotland – said the bill took a “disempowering” approach to independent living.

ILiS said the bill “contradicts and undoes the years of work” by the independent living movement, the Scottish government and other organisations.

ILiS also criticises MacDonald’s bill for making no mention of the barriers disabled people face that may contribute to them finding life “intolerable”.

The protest will take place from 9.30am on Tuesday 28 September, the day Inclusion Scotland is due to give evidence to the committee, along with other disability and pro- and anti-euthanasia organisations.

For more information about the protest, contact Inclusion Scotland, email info@inclusionscotland.org or tel: 0141 8877058

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com