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Sajid Javid: We must shield disabled people from cost of living crisis




Mr Javid made his promise after he saw examples of hardships faced by disabled people and their families during an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Presenter Martin Lewis, the founder of MoneySavingExpert, told the Secretary of State about one woman whose husband used a ventilator, and whose energy costs were set to rise from around £180 a month to £270 in April and then £360 in October.

Reading her comments, Mr Lewis said: “We don’t have the heating on and sit with blankets on us.”

And a single disabled mother said that, although her benefits through Personal Independence Payments (PIP) had risen by £3 a month, her council tax had gone up by £5 a month while her electricity bill was set to double from £76 to £143.

When Mr Javid was asked by Mr Lewis whether he would “champion” those who were most vulnerable, he said: “Yes, absolutely. Those are some of the most important people in our society and exactly the kind of people we should do everything we can to support, including from my department and the NHS.”

He added that there was already “a huge amount of support”.

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing, which is why we have set out a £21billion package of support, including a £150 council tax rebate and a further £200 energy bill discount.”

But Una Summerson of Contact, the charity for families with disabled children, is calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make the £200 energy rebate non-repayable. She said: “Families who care for a disabled child already pay £600 extra on energy costs – and that’s before bills soar next month.

“We have huge concerns about how they are going to cope.

“Many need to run life-saving equipment like ventilators and food pumps or have extra washing due to continence issues, while some children are less mobile and get colder quicker and others have conditions that mean they can’t regulate body temperature. The Chancellor has an opportunity to convert the £200 energy rebate into a non-repayable grant.”

Katie Schmuecker, deputy director at anti-poverty charity Joseph Rowntree Trust, said: “News that inflation could hit eight percent and energy bills soar further this year is causing untold anxiety as people are already wondering how they will get to the end of the month.”

Sarah Pennells, consumer finance specialist at Royal London, said: “The Warm Home Discount scheme is going to be expanded, but it still won’t reach everyone who needs help – including many disabled people.”


Comment by James Taylor

Disabled people and their families are being left high and dry in the worst cost-of-living crisis for decades.

Scope research has found they are more than twice as likely to have a cold house and three times as likely to be unable to afford food.

The vast majority, 76 percent, have had to tighten their belts and cut household spending as prices rise.

Meanwhile, Scope’s Disability Energy Support service has seen a huge rise in demand from disabled people worried about their bills.

For a lot of our callers, there is no choice, they need a constant supply of energy for their equipment.

Spiralling living costs are pushing many disabled people to the brink. Many have been cutting back for months. Plenty already face sky-high costs.

One person has a five-year-old son with cerebral palsy, scoliosis and epilepsy, and he needs an electric wheelchair, two electric lifts, a hospital bed and three monitoring cameras. His energy bill will rise by 45 percent from next month.

He told us: “The amount of equipment my son needs which is plugged into the wall means I can’t reduce my energy and I feel like we are being punished for that.”

The scale of the problem means we need urgent action from the Government.

We need to see financial support targeted at disabled households.

Plans to cut 200,000 of them out of the Warm Home Discount – an important grant – need to be scrapped.

And the Chancellor must listen to calls to uplift benefits in line with inflation.

A 3.1 percent rise in benefit levels come April does little when inflation is at seven percent and rising.

Life costs more if you’re disabled, but what’s on offer right now doesn’t touch the sides of these costs.

Many disabled people will be watching the Chancellor closely tomorrow. We can’t afford for him to get it wrong.

• James Taylor works at Disability equality charity Scope



'Have to kick the pedal to the metal' Ex-Ukrainian leader slams Macron tank aide hesitancy




Ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk sat down on LBC Radio to discuss NATO leaders. NATO has been allying themselves with Ukraine, sending help and weaponry and taking fleeing Ukrainian refugees. NATO members held a conference on the Russian invasion earlier this week to discuss more ways to help Ukraine.

Mr Yatsenyuk pushed for Macron to send over military tanks as promised, slamming him for dragging his feet, and claiming that the war in Ukraine affects the security of every European country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said: “That’s what Putin is closely watching, as for now, Putin didn’t expect this kind of unity and consolidated and concerted actions against the Russian federation.

“But you know, the time is running and we don’t have enough time to wait until some EU member states decide to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“Or to impose tougher and stronger sanctions on the Russian Federation, so the EU has to be decisive and they have to speed up the process of new sanctions.

“And the shipment and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, because it’s not just about Ukraina and they realise it clearly, this is about the free world.

“And this is about the security of every single nation in the European Union, so the French have to kick the pedal to the metal.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained this week that he expected “serious steps” from Western-allied countries.

Mr Zelensky repeated the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be imposed by NATO forces and complained that the Western allies had not yet provided Ukraine with sufficient planes, up to date modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

Mr Zelensky added: “At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us.”

President Zelensky also expressed that he was grateful for the support Ukraine was continuing to receive from individual NATO member countries from around the world.

Mr Zelensky added: “But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he said. “It feels like we’re in the grey zone between the West and Russia, but we’re protecting all our and your shared values.

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Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been playing an active role in trying to de-escalate the war with Russia by imposing tight sanctions on Russia to try and stop Putin’s warpath of destruction.

Ms Truss has warned that infighting between NATO countries at the moment could be highly detrimental for progress in ending the war.

Mr Truss said: “Russia’s targeting of critical national infrastructure is calculated and dangerous.

“It shows Putin is prepared to risk lives to sow division and confusion among allies.”


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Brexit news: What happens when Article 16 is triggered?




After Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was confirmed, the two parties have been attempting to renegotiate terms for a special Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. Coined the Northern Ireland protocol it’s been a point of contention that’s led to threats from each side of triggering a mechanism called Article 16. But what is it?

What is Article 16?

The UK and EU agreed to the creation of the Northern Ireland protocol, in October 2019.

By allowing goods to flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the deal removed the threat of a hard border.

But the arrangement has also resulted in what’s been labelled as an ‘Irish Sea border’.

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Goods that now arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to more stringent checks and controls.

In the scenario that either the UK or EU feel that the protocol is leading to significant issues or hampering their capacity to trade, then they have the option of activating Article 16.

The component sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures, which in reality would amount to suspending parts of the deal.

Specifically, Article 16 says safeguard measures can be taken if the protocol is leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that are liable to persist.

He said: “Triggering Article 16 now would severely disrupt the unity of the UK and EU response to the war in Ukraine.

“It is thus perhaps not surprising that key US figures chose this week to restate that any uncertainty around the stability of the Good Friday Agreement would hinder a future UK-US trade deal.”

In recent months talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic have stalled, leading to calls from Brexiteers for the UK to act.

However, Professor Menon cautioned that triggering Article 16 won’t “rid” Britain of the protocol.

He added: “I think the British Government if it triggers Article 16 will do something relatively small and contained.

“And then there’s not a massive bust-up. You don’t end up getting rid of the protocol. You end up with months if not years of negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

“So, it’s a way of doing something but it’s not a way of solving anything. In a sense you’re still stuck with the protocol and you’re still negotiating about the future of the protocol.”

In essence, were Article 16 to be triggered it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the ground.

Many of the checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland have already been unilaterally suspended.

Triggering the mechanism itself would only start a formal dispute process that requires both sides to go into talks to resolve.


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NATO slammed as former US Army chief exposes ‘two big issues’ in united Russia response




US Army vice chief of staff general Jack Keane, sat down on LBC radio to talk about the NATO conference which took place earlier this week. Mr Keane discussed the possibility that Putin could deploy chemical biological weapons on the battlefield. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already used the highly condemned thermobaric weapons since the war started just over a month ago.

The US Army chief acknowledged there had been no public policy declaration on the consequences Putin would face if he was to take such a barbaric action.

Mr Keane said: “Listen I was very disappointed by the NATO summit.

“I totally applaud the fact that they’re going to increase by 40k troops in Eastern Europe.

“And they’re increasing sanctions and it seems like a sense of unity.

“But on two big issues, it’s got to be disappointing, there’s no NATO public policy declaration.

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Mr Keane added: “At the end of that summit to deal with this particular issue, chemical biological weapons and nuclear weapons which the Russians have been waving in front of our face now for almost 30 days.

“What we need is… Think policy statement, not something that’s left to a reporter to ask a question on.

“And then you get a statement that you just repeated, which leads to more confirmation than anything else.

“A much better statement, using my words… I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths.

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“But with me, the use of any form of WMB would be unacceptable.

“We will not let it stand, it will result in decisive consequential actions and all options are on the table.

“Words to that effect, in a public policy statement, and we didn’t get it and it’s really unfortunate.

“And what it does it leaves in the minds of Putin and his  leaders just what would the reaction be, ambiguous like that and I think it’s very unfortunate.”

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Fear of the Russian military deploying chemical biological weapons has been heightened.

Ukrainian outlet InformNapalm has warned that: “Our conclusions may sound premature or too apocalyptic, but after the missile attacks and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, which the Russian army resorted to, we believe that it is necessary to make these data public and try to thwart any such intentions of Russia.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Thursday: “We’ve tried to be very clear about the gravity of the use of any such chemical weapons.

“These are agents that should never be employed and certainly not on the battlefield, as we are concerned Russia might.”


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