Disability campaigner Mary Laver is to deliver a special birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith – to thank him for plans to “imprison” her in her own home.
She is protesting against his party’s plans to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on June 30.
Mary, 67, of Forest Hall, Newcastle, said: “I’m very frightened about what this will mean to me and anything I can do to at least raise the issue of this appalling cut, the better.”
The former RAF servicewoman has rheumatoid arthritis so severe that she cannot walk or use her hands.
As such she requires constant care – receiving around 18 hours a day or 126 a week at present. The majority is funded by her local authority but 46 hours a week comes as a result of the ILF.
Ironically it was set up by the Conservatives in 1988 for disabled people with high support needs to enable them to live in the community rather than move into residential care.
It costs about £320m a year and helps nearly 18,000 disabled people across the country.
However, according to the plan, in June the funding and responsibility of ILF care and support needs will transfer to local authorities – but there is no obligation to use the money specifically for ILF.
And after one year, the funding from the Government will cease, meaning local authorities need to find it from their own ever decreasing budgets.
Mary is travelling to London with her support team for her protest on Thursday, the Department for Work and Pension Minister’s 61st birthday.
She will set off in her powered wheelchair and travel from the House of Commons, via the Royal Courts of Justice, 14 miles to Duncan Smith’s Chingford constituency in London to deliver a card she has had specially designed for the occasion.
She said: “I do not want to trust anyone else with such an important gift.”
Speaking of the effect the closure of the ILF will have on her, Mary said: “He is going to imprison me in my own home for the rest of my life without a parole or right to appeal. My crime? The crime that I have committed is becoming a disabled person.
“Not only am I disabled, but I am severely disabled with a mandatory life sentence.”
In 2009, Mary travelled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair to raise money for The Royal British Legion and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
She has taken part in the Great North Run and in 2012 she carried the Olympic torch through Newcastle.
Mary said: “This will probably be my last long journey.”
She added: “There are 18,000, give or take a few, ILF users who are going to lose on the 30th June, the funding to live an independent life, a life that non-disabled people accept as normal.
“The ILF stands for, Independent Living Fund, that is what the it gives us, our independence to enable us to live our life as we see fit.
“My message to all political parties is that it is not too late to save the ILF. Be true to yourself and stop the cruellest cut of all, cutting the Independent Living Fund, the ILF.”
A conservative spokesman said: “Our understanding of disabled people has changed over the past 20 years, and along with it there have been significant developments in how we provide social care to disabled people so they can live independent lives.
“Spending on disability benefits has increased under this Government – we continue to spend £50 billion a year on disabled people and the services provided to them. As part of our long-term economic plan we want to make sure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Apr 2015
A huge restructure of Northumbria Police will see more than 400 jobs go and police stations closed as part of ongoing measures to save a total of £104m in response to “relentless” Government funding cuts.
The force will lose 230 members of staff – some by voluntary or compulsory redundancy – and reduce its number of senior officers by 200, through ‘natural turnover’.
They will also close “expensive” police stations, and reduce the number of area commands from six to three.
The restructure plans were announced last night as it was revealed that Northumbria Police has to save an additional £46m by March 2017, having already delivered £58m of savings since the start of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, branded the cuts “unfair” but promised to protect frontline services working in neighbourhoods throughout the region.
> What does that mean ? We still wont see the coppers we already never see, unless speeding past in a car ?
She said: “The Government cuts are relentless and unfair. They impact far more heavily on our police service than on many others. The Chief Constable and I are very committed to maintaining the number of police officers and staff working in our neighbourhoods.
“To achieve this we need to do things differently, use technology more effectively and work from different buildings that are cheaper to run.”
The proposals, which the force stress are in the early stages, will see some “outdated” police stations closed and Neighbourhood Policing Teams relocated to bases within the communities they serve in shared accommodation facilities such as leisure centres.
> A plastic plod in the front of a supermarket, strictly 9-5, and able only to refer you to the police’s website, no doubt
However, a spokeswoman for Northumbria said that no police buildings will close until suitable new locations have been found.
Mrs Baird added: “We will relocate Neighbourhood Policing Teams to bases in the local community, usually shared with other services. We are currently doing this in North Tyneside where we are proposing to have police in the White Swan Centre at Killingworth following public consultation, rather than in an outdated, expensive-to-maintain police station in Forest Hall.
“We are keen to make further savings by relocating other neighbourhood policing teams into the communities that they serve, as this is what local policing is all about. However, we guarantee no police services will be relocated until we have found accessible bases within the community for neighbourhood teams to work from and they are working well.
“I am conscious that local people are feeling the effects of the economic downturn very acutely in our region. We have managed to protect frontline numbers and deliver the savings needed without the public having to pay more.”
> You’d never guess she used to be an MP, would you ?
Another change in the way Northumbria Police operate will be the down-sizing of the current six area commands – Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland – to three.
These will cover existing local authority areas coming under North, Central and South. North will cover North Tyneside and Northumberland, Central will serve Newcastle and Gateshead and South will cover Sunderland and South Tyneside.
> With the possible closure of Sunderland’s city centre Gilbridge police station being mooted – to go with the probable closure of the city centre fire station. How long before someone decides the city doesn’t really need a hospital either ?
The force has said it has made every effort to safeguard the services the public say they value most, which is visible policing in their communities.
> Invisible policing, more like ! Otherwise only seen when there’s a football match on.
The proposed changes, which won’t see any increase in council tax, will not reduce the service to the public nor impact on the force’s ability to reduce crime and disorder, according to Northumbria Police.
> Truth is, the region is never going to be a potential Tory electoral gain (Hexham aside), so why should anyone in government really care what happens here ?
On the other hand, it’s safe Labour seats, so they don’t appear to feel the need to stand up for us either – they take it for granted that they’ll get voted back whatever happens.
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place !
Perhaps, should Scotland go independant, they might consider extending the border down to the Tees…
Source – Newcastle Journal, Sunderland Echo, 09 Jan 2014