Just about to set off for the accessible narrow boat for a jaunt around the inland waterways but just had enough time to put this together. I hope it’s useful as always and I’ll update you with nautical tales on my return!
Movement unites for new Resistance to assisted suicide threat
Leading disabled activists have issued a “call to arms” to disabled people to fight off new attempts to weaken the law on assisted suicide.
They warned that MPs and peers were already planning a fresh bid to legalise assisted suicide through a private members’ bill.
The call came at the launch of the new Resistance campaign by the disabled people’s network Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK).
Among the disabled people’s organisations backing the campaign at its launch in Westminster were the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council, RADAR and the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL).
Every MP will be asked to sign the new Resistance Charter 2010, which opposes a change in the law, calls for equal legal protection for disabled and terminally-ill people, and pledges to support their access to the palliative care and independent living services they need.
Supporters of the campaign can sign an online petition calling on MPs to sign the charter.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell, convenor of NDY UK, told the launch event that MPs and peers were “definitely” preparing to introduce a new private members’ bill to weaken the law, and warned: “I can almost say with certainty that one will come in this parliament.”
She added: “It is tough on disabled people to have to fight yet again for their survival and their support. We want assistance to live, not assistance to die.”
And she issued a “call to arms” to disabled people to persuade their MPs to sign the charter. She said disabled people needed to be “more visible, more vocal and more active” in telling British society that they do not want the law to change.
She also fiercely criticised large sections of the media over its coverage of the assisted suicide debate, and said they were “very used to colluding in our misery, our discomfort and our unhappiness”.
There have been two attempts to legalise assisted suicide in the past four years at Westminster, with another bill currently being discussed by the Scottish parliament.
Mike Smith, chair of NCIL, said the campaign to weaken the law was driven by fear.
He said the many new MPs who have been elected for the first time would not yet be aware of the complexity of the issues around assisted suicide, which was “why this campaign is so important”.
Campaigners say the high-profile disabled people who have tried to have the law changed – including Diane Pretty and Debbie Purdy – are “the exception rather than the rule”.
The event was funded by the anti-euthanasia campaign alliance Care Not Killing, which also launched a new DVD, which includes the personal stories of disabled people arguing for their right to life.
To sign up to the campaign, visit: www.theresistancecampaign.org.uk
Civil servants ‘criticised DWP’ for failing to fund Pathways to Work
Senior civil servants criticised the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for failing to invest enough money in its employment programme for disabled people, it has been claimed.
Disability Alliance (DA), the disability poverty charity, said Cabinet Office civil servants believed the failure to spend enough money on the Pathways to Work programme caused its disappointing results.
DA’s comments came as a report by the public spending watchdog concluded that Pathways had proved “poor value for money”.
Early results from the Pathways pilots that began in 2003 were positive, but the National Audit Office (NAO) said the scheme had had a “limited impact” in reducing the number of people receiving incapacity benefits once it was rolled out across the country.
The report concludes that the voluntary aspects of the support offered through Pathways – much of it provided by the private and voluntary sector – appeared to have had “no impact”, with new claimants just as likely to find a job without it.
The number of people claiming incapacity benefits – including incapacity benefit, income support on the grounds of disability, and the new employment and support allowance (ESA) – has fallen slightly in recent years, but has remained at more than 2.5 million for over a decade.
The NAO report – Support to Incapacity Benefits Claimants through Pathways to Work – says the contribution of Pathways to a fall of 125,000 between February 2005 and August 2009 was probably “modest”.
It concludes that it was probably the prospect of compulsory work-focused interviews and earlier medical assessments that caused the fall, while theemployment support provided through Pathways appears to have had no impact on the number of disabled people finding work.
The report also suggests that the introduction of the new, tougher work capability assessment – set to be gradually rolled out to all old-style incapacity benefit claimants from this autumn – was likely to be a “key instrument” in reducing the number of claimants.
The report also concludes that the voluntary and private sector Pathways providers “consistently underperformed” against their targets.
The new coalition government is planning to scrap all of Labour’s work programmes – including Pathways – and replace them with one single welfare-to-work programme.
But Neil Coyle, director of policy for DA, said it was clear from discussions with the DWP and Cabinet Office that there was a “belief among senior civil servants that Pathways was under-funded”.
He said the Cabinet Office believed that if Pathways had been “fully resourced to meet the needs of disabled people…it may have been as successful as the pilots indicated it could be”.
Coyle said Pathways had helped disabled people who needed dedicated support to find the right job, and DA was concerned that the criticism of Pathways was not being matched by efforts to provide the support disabled people needed to “level the playing field”.
In a prepared statement, the Conservative employment minister Chris Grayling said: “It’s clear that the welfare to work programmes developed by the previous government have failed to deliver real change for people trapped in benefit dependency.
“The new administration will develop a national work programme designed to transform welfare-to-work in Britain for all benefit claimants.”
When asked whether there had been criticism of the DWP by the Cabinet Office, both the DWP and the Cabinet Office referred Disability News Service to Grayling’s prepared statement.
Civil Service recruits record number of disabled high-flyers
New government figures show a record number of disabled graduates have been successful in a recruitment scheme that aims to find the future leaders of the Civil Service.
The Fast Stream annual report for the year to November 2009 shows that 92 of the 629 candidates offered jobs (nearly 15 per cent) were disabled people, a rise of two percentage points on 2008.
In 1998, there were just 12 disabled graduates taken on through Fast Stream, and in 2007 just 33.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, welcomed the figures. She said: “The numbers recruited have gone up which suggests that they are identifying talented disabled people.
“This is great because for so long disabled people have been in the lower echelons of public service and not given the chance to get into the most senior roles.”
The report also reveals a slight fall in the total number of applications to Fast Stream from disabled graduates, from 738 in 2008 (5.1 per cent of total applications) to 697 in 2009 (4.7 per cent).
A Cabinet Office spokesman said it welcomed the rise in successful disabled applicants, which would help in its efforts to produce a more “diverse and representative workforce”.
He said efforts to increase the number of disabled applicants included a Fast Stream summer internship scheme, seen as a stepping stone for those seeking a career in the Civil Service.
But he said the Cabinet Office would “as a matter of course” examine why the number of disabled applicants fell slightly last year.
He also stressed that the freeze on Civil Service recruitment announced by the new coalition government last month would not apply to the Fast Stream scheme.
Robots ‘will help with independent living within five years’
A new report for the communications watchdog OFCOM has predicted that assistive technology could help disabled and older people live “longer and richer lives” at home over the next 20 years.
Within five years, disabled and older people could be using robots at home to perform basic household tasks, according to the report, Assisted Living Technologies for Older and Disabled People in 2030.
The report says technology could deliver better opportunities for entertainment, education and social interaction; help improve fitness; make it easier to work from home; and improve social and health care.
Progress should be boosted by cheaper equipment and mass availability of broadband.
The report also predicts a wider use of internet-based video-calling – providing opportunities for social contact with friends and family – web-based learning, and access to other services on the internet, such as shopping and banking.
And it says more disabled and older people should be able to work or volunteer from home.
There should also be opportunities for improved telehealth services, with technology used to deliver health care, treatment, or monitoring services, while telecare services will be used to monitor people at home, using devices such as sensors that summon help after a fall.
Telehealth and telecare could mean fewer trips to hospital and make people feel more secure at home, as well as giving them more control over their condition, the report says.
But the report also warns that increased use of assisted living technology risks isolation for disabled and older people, and the loss of face-to-face contact. Other concerns include the cost, reliability and accessibility of equipment.
Alan Norton, chief executive of Assist UK, which leads the national network of disabled living centres, said: “I do feel that there is a great opportunity to use technology and make life easier for disabled people to enjoy a full life.
“In most applications that’s great, but you have to be careful about total isolation.
“The risk is that people are isolated in their environment, which may be totally independent, but social interaction needs to be there.”
But Norton said the benefits of new assistive technology would certainly outweigh the risks, while robotics would have a “massive role to play”.
He said that assistive technology needed to be built into everyday objects, such as light switches and cooker controls, and added: “I think technology will be built in and it will become a matter of fact in everybody’s life.”
But he said manufacturers needed to work more closely with disabled people on the design and development of new products.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com