Posts Tagged ‘ILF’

Independent Living Ends, Robin Hood Gardens

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

Independent Living Ends, Robin Hood Gardens. On Tuesday 30th June 2015 I joined disabled people at Downing St marking the ending of the Independent Living Fund before going to Robin Hood Gardens, a brutalist estate in Poplar doomed for demolition.


DPAC’s ILF Closing Ceremony – Downing St to Old Palace Yard

Disabled people and supporters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, met outside Downing St to bring a petition with over 25,000 signatures calling for a continuation of this essential support for the disabled.

Sophie Partridge, disabled Actor, Writer & Workshop artist

The Independent Living Fund which was coming to an end on that day had given them to money to employ support to enable them to live with dignity and for many to continue in work and make a contribution to society. Without it they fear they will simply be shut away and left to rot, many fearing they will now be left for many hours at a time in incontinence pads.

Paula Peters

Outside the gates of Downing Street they wrote slogans on incontinence pads; Paula Peters of DPAC had a message for Iain Duncan Smith, then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions responsible for the ending of support, ‘I want dignity – I want to be treated as a human – You wear one of these I. D. S. They are awful’.

A campaigner dressed as Brittania was among those who had come to hand in the petition which had gained support from a video by the stars of Coronation Street and the Graeae Theatre Company’s 2014 UK Tour of The Threepenny Opera. One of those stars spoke in front of the gates of Downing Street.

John Kelly as Schimmel leads the march

From Downing Street the campaigners marched the quarter mile or so to Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament, led by John Kelly as Schimmel, the equine star and proud battle horse of the Threepenny Opera.

Here they were joined by others including Labour MP John McDonnell who spoke at the rally marking the end of the Independent Living Fund, at the end of which a wreath with the message’s ‘RIP ILF’ was laid.

DPAC’s ILF Closing Ceremony


Robin Hood Gardens – Poplar

Two walls of flats protect an inner garden area

The ILF protest had ended a little before 1pm and it was a fine day and I decided to take another visit to Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, where demolition had begun after the refusal to list the site. Listing had been recommended for listing by the advisory committee of English Heritage in 2009, but the then Minister of Culture Andy Burnham had issued a certificate of immunity against listing which expired in 2014.

These are large and desirable properties, but often have been used to house difficult residents

A further attempt was then made to have the site listed, supported by almost every well-known British architect, but Historic England, now responsible for listing buildings rejected this.

A wall at left screens the estate and there is a lower service and parking area

An open letter signed by many leading architects including Richard Rogers made clear the value of the site, and I quoted from this in My London Diary.

The buildings, which offer generously sized flats that could be refurbished, are of outstanding architectural quality and significant historic interest, and public appreciation and understanding of the value of Modernist architecture has grown over the past five years, making the case for listing stronger than ever.”

The end of the ‘street in the sky’

The refusal to list on both occasions was clearly a political one, almost certainly driven by the huge profits demolition and rebuilding on the site would make for the developers.

As with the award-winning Heygate Estate in Southwark, and the fine Central Hill Estate at Gypsy Hill, Lambeth, the local council, Tower Hamlets, was keen to get rid of the estate and had carried out what I described as “a well funded campaign of vilification“, seeing it “only as a large area with potential for redevelopment at a higher density“, working with “developers who see any area of social housing in London as rich pickings for redevelopment and sale to the rich.”

A large enclosed playground at the south end of the site

By the end of June 2015 most of the west block seemed empty and boarded up and I was unable to gain entry. But I could roam the large garden in the centre of the estate, now let to grow wild, and went inside the still occupied east block, going up to the highest public level, a ‘street in the sky’ built rather less wide than the architects had originally intended, overlooking the Blackwall Tunnel approach. From there I took a number of pictures of the views from the block looking towards the east.

The south end of Robin Hood Gardens was on Poplar High St

As on a couple of previous visits I talked briefly with some of the residents who all told me they were pleased to be living in the block and sad they would have to leave – though some did complain about the lifts (I think only one of the two at the entrance I went in was working.)

Knocking down buildings like these which are structurally in good condition is inexcusable in terms of the huge carbon footprint involved in their construction, demolition and rebuilding. The estate could and should have been refurbished at relatively low cost and would have continued to provide good quality homes for many years. Its replacements – the west section already built – are of lower quality and will almost certainly not last as long as this could have done. The advantage of their roughly three times higher density is at the expense of possible amenity.

As well as walking in and around the estate I also took some pictures of it from the surrounding area, and some other pictures you can see on My London Diary, including a few when I stopped at Canning Town station and took a few pictures of people on the new footbridge across Bow Creek.

Robin Hood Gardens


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DPAC Trash The Tories – Maidenhead

Friday, June 3rd, 2022

DPAC Trash The Tories – Maidenhead
Back when the Tories got back into power with the support of the Lib Dems in the UK 2010 General Election they decided to launch a policy of austerity, making deep cuts in the services and benefits that enabled the less wealthy in the country to get by and lead decent lives.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead
Paula Peters of DPAC argues with police as they block a road junction

The cuts they proceeded to make had relatively little effect on those in the better-paid jobs many of whom didn’t need or had opted out of public services such as the NHS and state education and didn’t live in public housing or working class areas. But in any case the Tories made sure these people were protected with increasing real salaries as inequality increased. The Office of National Statistics reported in 2020 “The gap between the richest in society and the rest of the population has widened over the 10-year period; the income share of the richest 1% increased from 7% to 8.2% between FYE 2011 and FYE 2020.”

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead
Theresa May – Weak And Wobbly

In particular, the government continued to bail out the bankers, despite it being the bankers who had precipitated the 2008 financial crisis – and in the longer term had been responsible for creating instability by creating and exploiting huge loopholes in the world financial system established after the war. It was of course British banks and the City of London which played the leading role in this, making London the money-laundering capital of the world with former colonies at the centre of offshoring and enabling after the break-up of the Soviet Union Russians to legalise their illegal plunder and become oligarchs, with a huge influence in the Conservative Party.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

But the Tories came in determined to cut benefits and in particular looked at the amounts going to support disabled people and enable them to live in the community. They thought wrongly that disabled people would be an easy target because of their various disabilities. They were wrong on two counts. Firstly because many disabled people had experience of having to fight for their rights and secondly because they greatly underestimated the wide support for them among the general population. Tories may not have a heart (and certainly many Tories have demonstrated this in recent years) but the general public do.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

At the centre of the protests by disabled people is DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, formed by disabled people after the mass protests against cuts in Birmingham in October 2010 had been led by disabled people. On its web site it proclaims “DPAC is for everyone who believes that disabled people should have full human rights and equality. It is for everyone that refuses to accept that any country can destroy the lives of people just because they are or become disabled or have chronic health issues. It is for everyone against government austerity measures which target the poor while leaving the wealthy unscathed. It is for everyone who refuses to stay silent about the injustices delivered by wealthy politicians on ordinary people and their lives.”

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

On Saturday 3rd June 2017, five days before the General Election called by Theresa May, I joined DPAC for a protest in her constituency of Maidenhead. Her government was the first in the world the UN had found guilty of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights. Tory cuts since 2010 had 9 times the impact on disabled people as on any other group, 19 times more for those with the highest support needs. DPAC call the policies heartless and say they are starving, isolating and ultimately killing the disabled who the Tories regard them as unproductive members of society. Though it was the cuts, particularly the axing of the Independent Living Fund, ILF, which had stopped many making a real contribution.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

It was a fairly small group that arrived at Maidenhead station for the protest. Travel by rail is often very difficult for disabled people. Few stations have step-free access and there are often large gaps between train and platform. Rail companies do make an effort to provide support but this needs to be booked in advance and is sometimes unreliable. And rail fares are an expensive luxury for people on benefits – who may also need a taxi to get to the station.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

They paraded a straw effigy of ‘Theresa May – Weak and Wobbly‘ and a hatchet with the message ‘Cuts Kill‘ to the High St for a rally, with speeches, loud chanting and handing out fliers calling on Maidenhead voters to vote for anyone but Theresa May before returning to the station.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

Most other photographers thought the protest was ended and some had rushed to get the train back to London, and the police had largely gone away, but I knew DPAC from previous events and stayed with them, taking photographs as they moved to block one of the busiest road junctions in the town for around 15 minutes as police tried to persuade them to move.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

Eventually they did get off the road, just in time for me to catch a bus to start my journey home. I was sorry to have to rush away, but the next bus wasn’t for a couple of hours. I changed buses in Windsor and got off in Staines, walked along the road and put my hand in my pocket for my phone and it wasn’t there. At home I went to ‘Google Find My Device‘ and saw on the map it was still travelling on the bus all the way to Slough, where fortunately the driver found it and handed it in to the office and I was able to cycle there and collect it the following Monday.

More on the protest at DPAC Trash The Tories in Maidenhead.


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London 22nd October 2014

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

ILF

The Independent Living Fund enabled many disabled people to continue to live with dignity and to work making a positive contribution to society and the government decision to close it led to many protests and to legal actions to try and stop it under the Equality Act.

Although a court ruled that the minister concerned had acted illegally, all it required was that the new minister reconsidered the plans. He did so, and decided to go ahead, though with a three month delay. And a judge ruled in December 2014 that although in axing the ILF he knew that the closure would mean many disabled people would lose their ability to live independently in the community his decision was legal.

The decision to end ILF was clearly wrong, clearly immoral, but so long as the legal niceties were observed the government was able to go ahead with it, and our law gave no protection.

The vigil outside the court while the case was being heard attracted wide support, including from Inclusion London, Norfolk and Suffolk DPAC local DPACs, the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Transport for All, Winvisable, PCS Union, the TUC, and other organisations,and there was even a simultaneous vigil in Toronto, Canada. Three MPs, John McDonnell, Andy Slaughter and Jeremy Corbyn, came to give their support, and there were speeches by campaigners including Paula Peters and Andy Greene, with John Kelly singing.

As expected the vigil ended with a short direct action by DPAC and others, briefly blocking the Strand outside the law courts.

Free Shaker Aamer

This was one of a long series of regular vigils opposite Parliament for Shaker Aamer, an innocent charity worker arrested by bandits and handed over to US forces who have imprisoned and tortured him for over 12 years. He was cleared for release in 2007 but remained in Guantanamo with our government failing to press for his release because his testimony could embarrass MI6 as well as the US.

London Panoramas

I had time before another protest to visit an exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands and on the journey to pause and make some panoramic images.

Probably the most interesting were inside Westminster station, where “the beams and buttresses, designed by Hopkins Architects and completed in 1999 for the opening of the Jubilee Line are also the foundations of the block of parliamentary offices above the station, Portcullis House, and were deliberately Piranesian, though sometimes I get more of the feeling of Escher as you seem to walk endlessly up escalators and around the interior.”

Democracy Camp – Poet Arrested

I returned to Parliament Square where the Democracy Camp was still holding workshops, though police and the GLA ‘heritage wardens’ had fenced off the main grass area.

Danny, one of the protesters had been sitting on the plinth next to the statue of Churchill since the previous afternoon and poet Martin Powell arrived with a pot of food for him, which he tossed up to him, going straight into his hands, despite police warning him he could be arrested.

How can feeding the hungry be a crime?” he asked and he was arrested and led away in handcuffs around two sides of Parliament Squareperforming his poem ‘The Missing Peace’. I left while Danny was still on the plinth, though later that evening police finally found a ladder and brought him down after over 26 hours.

Musical Poor Doors

It was Class War’s 14th weekly protest at the ‘rich door’ of Redrow’s One Commercial St flats and it was a lively affair, with the banners dancing to the music of Rhythms of Resistance, a poetic performance and some rousing speeches against social apartheid.

There were a lot of police present and some stood in front of the door and ushered a few people in and out but made no attempt to stop the hour long protest, which though noisy remained entirely peaceful. Some of the police clearly enjoyed the music and watching the dancing.


More at:
Musical Poor Doors
Democracy Camp – Poet Arrested
Canary Wharf & Westminster Tube
End UK shame over Shaker Aamer
DPAC High Court Vigil for ILF


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Occupy Westminster Abbey – save the ILF

Monday, June 28th, 2021

Broad Sanctuary, Westminster Abbey. 28th June 2014

The Independent Living Fund, ILF, was introduced in 1988 to provide financial support to disabled people with high support needs, including those with severe learning difficulties, cerebral palsy, and a variety of other conditions.

Around 18,000 people relied on the ILF, mainly using the average of £300 a week it provided to employ personal assistants or carers to enable them to live independently, enabling some to work and pursue careers. It was administered independently from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who provided the funding.

The ILF scheme was closed to new applicants in 2010 and the responsibility for providing support in England was passed to local authorities with the ILF ending on 30th June 2015.

There were various problems with the ILF, with regional variations, but the primary reason behind the changes was probably to cut costs. Although the government promised to provide funding to the local authorities for a transitional period, this was around 13% less than under the ILF, and the money, given to cash-strapped authorities already subject to swingeing cuts was not ring-fenced, and so likely to be appropriated for other purposes.

Local authorities were also not given any clear instructions or advice on how to proceed and there were great variations between local authorities in the support that was provided. A survey a year after the end of the scheme showed extreme differences, with some authorities providing similar levels of support to the ILF, but others operating at much reduced levels, creating the real hardship that protests such as this on Saturday 28th June 2014 campaigned against. The loss of ILF was indeed a disaster for many disabled people.

DPAC and others involved in the protest had managed to keep the details hidden from the police, perhaps because it is more difficult for able-bodied police working as undercover officers to infiltrate disabled groups. UK Uncut has provided a diversion with a protest outside Boots on Victoria St when DPAC and Occupy London supporters moved on to the green area in front of Westminster Abbey.

The protesters had hoped for some support from Westminster Abbey authorities as many Christians had called the government’s actions immoral. But they had picked the wrong place, and the Dean of Westminster refused even to talk to the protesters, calling on the police to get rid of them. Labour MP John McDonnell tried without success to phone the Dean who refused to take his call or to phone back.

The weather too was against the protesters, with rain falling steadily, and for once a police officer showed some quick thinking, moving to stand in the middle of the main tent the protesters were attempting to erect, without which there was simply not enough shelter for a lengthy occupation.

I was unsure whether I wanted to go inside the area or not when I arrived, and soon police were surrounding the fairly low wall stopping people from climbing over. But I was able to take pictures from outside and move around freely – and to go home when I decided there seemed to be little point in staying.

Occupy Westminster Abbey – save the ILF
UK Uncut ‘Boot Out Boots’

Fuel Poverty and Independent Living 2014

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Disabled activists were prominent, along with pensioners at the Fuel Poverty Action FPA) protest outside the British Gas AGM taking place at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster. And when that protest ended they made their way to the Dept of Work & Pensions protest against plans to end the Independent Living Fund.

There were over 10,000 excess deaths in Winter 2013-4 because people could not afford to heat their homes, the situation exacerbated after British Gas raised its prices in November, gas by 10.4 %, electricity by 8.4 %. Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013.

FPA call for an increased investment in renewable energy, which in the long term will result in cheaper energy and will help us tackle climate change. But this isn’t popular with the big six energy companies (and the government which is led by their lobbyists) as it enables greater local generation and control of energy, threatening their monopoly of energy production and profits.

They say “Our energy system & economy are run to make private profit at all costs – our rights to warm home and a safe climate are sidelined. We’re being ripped off and left to freeze. We say: things have to change. We need and affordable. sustainable energy system owned by us, not big business.”

At the protest they launched their ‘Energy Bill of Rights’ with the following statements:

  • We all have the right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not harm us, the environment, or the climate.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not threaten health, safety, water, air, or the local environment of a community.
  • We all have the right to a fair energy pricing that does not penalise those who use less.
  • We all have the right not to be cut off from energy supply.
  • We all have the right not to be forced to have a prepayment meter.
  • We all have the right to energy that is owned by us and run in our interests.
  • We all have the right to properly insulated, well repaired housing that does not waste energy.

They were joined by an actor carrying a skull, one of a group which had entered the Centrica AGM and performed Hamlet’s iconic monologue ‘To Heat or Eat, that is the question’ and repeated this for the protesters.

For a final photo opportunity, the protesters planted 100 small windmills made of British Gas bills in the grass outside the centre.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) helps over 18,000 disabled people who have high support needs to live an independent life in the community rather than live in residential care. The funding is ring-fenced and is highly cost-effective compared with the costs of residential care, the care package costing on average £300 per person per week.

Despite this and a Court of Appeal ruling that the minister had not specifically considered the duties imposed by the Equality Act, and that the proposals were unlawful, the DWP announced in March 2014 that the scheme will end in June 2015. Responsibility for care will pass to the local authorities, and provision will be subject to the usual constraints and cuts of local authority expenditure.

At the centre of the protest was a small cage, with the message ‘NO ILF – NO LIFE’ across its top, and below the barred window ‘Without Support We Become Prisoners In Our Own Homes – Save the Independent Living Fund’. Squeezed into this was Paula Peters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, the group who had organised the protest.

Many at the protest were going on to lobby their MPs, and one who had travelled from Newcastle had phoned Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside, who came down the the protest. She tried to deliver a letter from the protesters to the DWP but was at first refused entry by the DWP security, though eventually they allowed her to do so through a side entrance away from the protest.


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