A disabled woman has been prevented by a council from describing to a public meeting how its “inhumane” and “unjust” care charging policies will strip more than £100 a week from her benefits.
Hannahlisa* was part of a two-person delegation from the grassroots group Accessible Care in Lambeth, who wanted to address a public meeting of Labour-run Lambeth Council last week about its policies on charging for social care.
But despite the significant effort she made to attend, council officers prevented her from giving a one-minute speech about the discrimination she has faced.
Fellow campaigner Margaret Ashmead had told the meeting that the care charges imposed were “harmful and cruel” and of the “scandal” of the south London council taking benefits from disabled people “whose health and wellbeing are already at risk” to pay for their care charges.
Ashmead, a carer for both her 92-year-old mother and her adult disabled daughter, also described the council’s failure to follow guidance on disability-related expenditure (PDF).
But after she had addressed the council, Hannahlisa (pictured) – who had been waiting to speak – was ushered away by council officers.
Although Inclusion London’s Jon Abrams tried to persuade an officer to allow her to speak, the council refused to give her the few minutes she would need to return and deliver her speech to the meeting.
She would have described how she had been forced to return her “lifeline”, a pendant that allowed her to call paramedics when she fell over – which she often does – after the council started charging her £8 a week for the service.
She would have told the council: “Ever since that pendant was taken, my safety is compromised.
“There have been nights where I’ve been stranded, lying cold on my bathroom floor, with distant family unable to rush to my aid.
“The sun rises, and only then does my carer arrive to help.”
She has also been told the council will charge her more than £100 a week from her benefits “to set up a care package so I can get the support I so desperately need”.
She would have said: “This, councillors, is not just a charge but a tax on my disability.
“I urge you to reconsider this decision, for it is not just inhumane but unjust.
“Every individual deserves dignity, safety, and the right to care. Let’s make sure Lambeth stands for that.”
Abrams, Inclusion London’s campaigns and justice coordinator, said afterwards that the way Hannahlisa had been treated by the council was “scandalous”.
He said: “Not only are they proposing to strip her of over £100 a week of her welfare benefits as a charge to pay for vital social care support but last night they also stripped her of her voice.”
He suggested the council had failed to understand its duties to disabled people under the Equality Act.
Cllr Jim Dickson, the job-share cabinet member for healthier communities, said after Ashmead’s speech that members of the council’s Labour administration “agree with you that the care charging regime in this country, which all councils fall within and have to work with, is out of date and needs huge reform”.
He said the council provided “an awful lot of support” for disabled people, through both social care and “our cost-of-living work”.
And he agreed that there were “huge inequities” in the care and charging system, and highlighted “cuts in government funding which mean we have to charge at all”.
A council spokesperson told Disability News Service this week: “Deputations are invited to speak for five minutes, split across as many speakers as they wish, and this was explained to Margaret and Hannahlisa.
“On this occasion, Margaret’s contribution took five minutes, after which a response was provided by Cllr Jim Dickson on behalf of the council.
“Deputations, which over many years have represented the diverse demographic of Lambeth, sometimes request additional time but in fairness to all those taking part this is not possible.
“Cllr Dickson is very happy to meet Hannahlisa to discuss her situation if she would like to get in touch. She is also welcome to request another delegation at a future meeting.
“Everyone who attended will receive a written response to their deputation.”
Abrams said Inclusion London was concerned that Lambeth council “did not fully understand” how its public sector equality duty – under the Equality Act – had applied to the deputation process.
He said: “While we appreciate the constraints of the deputation process, adequate time and consideration are crucial, especially when disabled people are part of a deputation.
“Extending the time by a few minutes would have been a reasonable adjustment, which councils usually strive to do.
“Having attended numerous council meetings across London, I was surprised and disheartened that Lambeth council did not make this effort.”
*She has asked for her surname not to be used
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