Apologies for the slightly late arrival of this newsletter! Sitting up all night to watch an inconclusive election followed by days of manoeuvring by the three main political parties all conspired to distract me. At least I can now reveal that Jonathan Shaw the former Minister for Disabled People has departed the scene and been replaced by ??? no announcement as I write this but Mark Harper must be a strong candidate for the role. One other snippet before we draw a line under the election and prepare for swinging cuts is the victory in Eastbourne of Stephen Lloyd Liberal Democrat a disabled person and a passionate supporter of equal rights for disabled people. Congrats to him.
Sainsbury’s to sponsor 2012 Paralympics
The organisers of London 2012 have signed up the supermarket giant Sainsbury’s as a headline sponsor of the Paralympics.
LOCOG, the 2012 organising committee, said the deal to become a “tier one partner” was the “largest sponsorship ever” of a Paralympics, although it would not reveal how much the retailer had paid.
Sainsbury’s is the first “partner” to sponsor just the 2012 Paralympics, rather than the London Olympics and Paralympics as a whole.
Sainsbury’s said it would use its network of 850 stores to promote the Paralympics in the run-up to 2012, and would sell merchandise linked to both the event and the ParalympicsGB team.
It will also run a media campaign in 2012 to support the Paralympics, and will be one of two sponsors to have their names on athletes’ shirts.
Sainsbury’s said it would also work with LOCOG’s education team to develop “opportunities” around its own Active Kids programme, which provides sports equipment and coaching to children.
But a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said it was too early to say how else they might use the opportunity to promote equality for disabled people.
Phil Lane, chief executive of ParalympicsGB, said: “It is a testament not just to the growth of the Paralympic movement but also to the success of the British Paralympic team that a sponsor of the size and profile of Sainsbury’s has signed up.”
Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said: “With such a well-known company becoming an exclusive partner, this will set new promotional opportunities for the Paralympic Games and the movement, leaving a powerful legacy in communities across the UK.”
And Lord [Seb] Coe, chair of LOCOG, said: “The support for the Paralympic Games in the UK is incredible and I’m thrilled that we are now in a position to confirm our first stand-alone Paralympics sponsor.”
Justin King, Sainsbury’s chief executive, said the Paralympics would complement his company’s “commitment to promote a healthy, fitter lifestyle across all ages and abilities”.
Figures show long waits for home adaptations
Disabled and older people have been waiting up to eight years for their councils to carry out the adaptations they need to live independently at home, according to new figures.
The statistics – revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests – show the time taken between an assessment of a request for support, and the adaptation work taking place.
Of the 84 English councils that provided information about their longest delays in 2008-09, 47 admitted their longest waits were at least two years, 28 said they were more than three years and 15 had longest waits of more than four years.
The investigation into the system of disabled facilities grants (DFGs), which fund improvements such as installing a downstairs bathroom, a ramp, or better lighting, was carried out by the Sunday Telegraph.
Staffordshire County Council said its longest delay was eight years, while in the London borough of Barnet it was more than six years, with another seven councils saying their longest delay was more than five years.
A Staffordshire council spokesman said the system was “fundamentally flawed”, with county council occupational therapists responsible for assessments, while Staffordshire’s eight district councils administered DFGs.
But it said it had halved its backlog since 2007 – following an £800,000 investment – with average waits falling by 28 per cent.
A pilot scheme involving one of the districts cut average waits from 80 weeks to 14. The county council is now hoping to roll this scheme out across Staffordshire.
Barnet council said its longest wait of more than six years was an exceptional delay caused by a dispute with the applicant, which failed to “accurately portray the experience of residents in the borough”, where average waits are about 26 weeks.
But the council was unable to provide details of the next longest wait after six years.
Dexter Hanoomansingh, director of Disability Action in the Borough of Barnet (DABB), said six months was still a “disappointing statistic”, while DABB had received reports of lengthy waits just to secure initial assessments.
He said: “We hope more can be done to bring down that waiting time and address need in a shorter time frame.”
He said he believed such problems were shared by councils “up and down the country”.
And he said increasing numbers of disabled people were seeking advice from a solicitor specialising in housing issues – including problems with DFGs – who held a monthly clinic at DABB.
In March, the government announced a seven per cent increase – to £167.3 million – in the annual payments it makes to councils in England to help them fund DFGs.
Rail access budget ‘halved’
The government appears to have slashed one of the budgets for improving access at railway stations by more than half.
The Department for Transport (DfT) had been intending to spend £7.9 million on improving access at stations across Britain in 2010-11 through the small schemes fund of its Access for All programme.
But the DfT has apparently now cut that figure to £3.9 million.
It is unclear whether the DfT has also cut the budget of the larger part of the Access for All budget which is aimed at improving access at the busiest stations. That annual budget is usually about five times bigger than the small schemes fund.
The DfT was unable to comment this week because of election rules.
But its apparent decision to cut the budget of the small schemes fund was attacked in a letter written to the DfT by the Scottish government’s transport minister, Stewart Stevenson.
Stevenson said the DFT had intended to allocate £7.9 million to the fund in 2010-11, but had now cut that to just £3.9 million across Britain, with the amount for Scotland reduced to £390,000, also a cut of more than half.
A spokesman for Stevenson, a member of the Scottish National Party, said: “How can wasting billions on nuclear weapons possibly be justified, while slashing funding by more than half on an excellent programme to improve access to the rail network for disabled people?
“This budget cut must be suspended, so that the issue can be revisited after the UK election.”
The Access for All fund was launched with a £370 million government funding pot in 2006, to improve access at train stations across England, Wales and Scotland.
Organisations such as councils and regional transport bodies can bid for cash but must match any funding they secure.
Protesters call for inquiry into death of disabled woman
Disabled campaigners have held a public protest over the case of a disabled woman who died in despair at her failure to secure the accessible housing and support she needed.
Protesters outside Camden council’s department of housing and adult social care called for a public inquiry into the council’s treatment of Jennyfer Spencer.
Their campaign is led by two disabled people’s organisations, the Campaign Against Care Charges (Camden) and WinVisible, the national disabled women’s charity.
Spencer, a wheelchair-user and former primary school teacher, had spent seven years living in a fifth-floor, inaccessible flat. Her support package of direct payments had also been withdrawn.
Her body was found on 1 March, along with a letter addressed to a local paper detailing her despair at her long battle with the council.
Claire Glasman, a volunteer with WinVisible, said after this week’s protest: “People spoke about how – like Jennyfer Spencer – there are a lot of people being neglected and at risk.
“People are having their direct payments cut or dropping out [of receiving council support] because of charging.
“People are very disturbed about what happened to Jennyfer Spencer and also worried on their own behalf. We all know it could happen to us as well.”
She said she feared that other disabled people could die in similar circumstances unless there was an inquiry.
The council claims that Spencer had a “long history of refusing to engage with services”, and that her direct payments were cancelled because the money was just being left in her bank account.
It said it made repeated attempts to engage with Spencer, including contacts through her legal representative, her GP and the community mental health team.
It said that any suggestion that it had failed to meet the needs of Spencer was “conjecture” and pointed out that no cause of death had yet been established at an inquest.
A council spokeswoman said there were “currently no plans for a public inquiry”.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com