Hello once again after a bit of a lull! The garden now looks like a desert and even the rabbits have moved next door. A great pity according to my son who is keen to use the new air rifle purchased to protect the strawberries!! He makes an interesting sight sitting in his bedroom wearing camouflage and a mud covered face. (I should mention he’s 20 not 6!)
Last week I attended a lovely evening hosted by Kay Allen from Royal Mail at the House of Lords. This was to celebrate Lord Morris’s Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which became law 40 years ago. The guests ranged from those who were activists at the time through to people dealing with disability issues in today’s world. Moving tributes were paid to Alf Morris and the evening served as reminder of how far we have come over the last four decades. The clips that follow make the point very eloquently that there is still much to do!
Campaigners face new euthanasia battle
Disabled activists campaigning against the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia are facing yet another attempt to force the government to weaken the law.
Lawyers for Tony Nicklinson, a stroke survivor with high support needs, announced this week that they want the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to issue guidelines stating when it would be in the public interest to prosecute cases of euthanasia.
They said that Nicklinson, who can only move his head and eyes, has made a “clear and settled” decision that he wants to die when ready to do so, but is unable to carry out that wish himself.
He wants his wife to be able to end his life without facing prosecution for murder.
The case is similar to that of Debbie Purdy, who used the courts to force the DPP to list the factors to be considered by prosecutors when deciding whether to charge someone with assisted suicide.
But Nicklinson wants the DPP to issue guidance for cases of euthanasia, in which someone actively takes a disabled person’s life, rather than assisting them to take their own life.
The DPP, Keir Starmer, has refused to issue new guidance because he believes existing guidelines and advice for prosecutors are “sufficient”.
Nicklinson’s lawyers this week issued legal proceedings in the high court seeking a judicial review of the DPP’s refusal to issue new guidance.
But the Care Not Killing alliance – whose members include RADAR – said the current law “acts as a powerful deterrent” and changing the law was opposed by “the vast majority of disabled people and disability rights organisations in our country” and would “contribute to a mindset that the lives of sick or disabled people are somehow less worth living”.
In a witness statement, Nicklinson said he had “no privacy or dignity left” and added: “I am fed up with my life and don’t want to spend the next 20 years or so like this.”
Saimo Chahal, Nicklinson’s solicitor, said: “The law of murder is inflexible and the Law Commission was right when, in 2006, it recommended that the law should be reviewed, particularly in the context of mercy killing.”
A spokeswoman for the DPP said there were “a number of important distinctions between assisted suicide, euthanasia and so-called mercy killing”.
She said: “Suicide, whether assisted or not, and murder are very different acts in that the former requires a person to take their own life, whereas the latter involves a person doing an act that ends the life of another.”
Open employment with support ‘is the ideal’, says RADAR
Disabled people should be supported to find mainstream employment rather than “special” jobs in separate, sheltered workplaces, according to a new report.
The Supporting Sustainable Careers report by RADAR suggests ten “propositions” that would make it easier for disabled people to gain decent pay, career development opportunities, status and inclusion in society, and freedom from discrimination.
It concludes that in general – although not for every disabled person – open employment with the necessary support meets more of these “key factors” than other options, such as sheltered workplaces.
The report was funded by Remploy, which still employs about 3,000 disabled people in 54 sheltered factories, despite closing 29 factories as part of a controversial modernisation programme.
Tim Matthews, chief executive of Remploy, told Disability News Service at the report’s launch that he doubted whether there would be a long-term role for employment settings where there were “100 per cent disabled people congregating together”.
He said that “there may well be a place for sheltered factories in the future” but they would “increasingly” have to fulfil the criteria outlined in the report, such as providing career progression, offering “real jobs” that were not subsidised and being part of an inclusive workforce.
RADAR’s report also says that the continued existence of separate workplaces just for disabled people makes it harder to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination in mainstream workplaces.
And it says disabled people should be offered extra support to keep their jobs – particularly in the light of current public spending cuts – because they face greater risks of long-term unemployment.
The highest priority, says the report, is to enable disabled people to achieve “career security” – building up the skills and experience to move from one job to another.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said: “In past recessions, disabled people have ended up living on benefits for decades.
“As public sector jobs are cut we need to stop that happening again – by using scarce resources efficiently on the type of employment support we know works.
“That means offering all disabled people the chance of a regular job as jobs come back on stream, help to get the skills the economy needs and pay that is at least the minimum wage. Everyone needs to raise their expectations of what disabled people can do.”
Researchers for the report talked to more than 50 disabled RADAR members, disability organisations, trade unionists and supported employment providers.
Among its other “propositions”, the report says disabled people should have the opportunity to manage and control their own job support, while more social firms should be led and managed by disabled people.
It also says that there is “no place” for sheltered work that contributes to the economy but offers less than the minimum wage, while businesses should only let contracts to social firms or supportive businesses that offer at least the minimum wage to their disabled employees.
And it calls for disabled volunteers to be offered career development support so they can move on to paid employment.
Football cat cruelty advert cleared by watchdog
The advertising watchdog has ruled that a TV advert that features a blind footballer accidentally kicking a cat is not offensive and does not need to be taken off air.
More than 1,000 viewers complained to the advertising watchdog about the advert for the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power – so far seen by an estimated ten million adults – which features two blind football teams using a ball with a bell inside it.
When the ball is kicked out of play, a cat with a bell around its neck runs onto the pitch, and is kicked into a tree by a player who mistakes it for the ball.
Of those who complained, 220 viewers said it was offensive to blind people while more than 1,000 complained on the grounds of animal cruelty.
Paddy Power told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ad “enabled them to promote and create awareness of a lesser-known sport”, “would enhance appreciation of the skill required by those who participated in the sport” and was “humorous and slapstick in nature”.
The company claimed it had received “extremely positive feedback from the blind and partially sighted community”.
The ASA claimed the ad “featured, and was supported by members of the England Blind Football Team” and that it was “unlikely to be seen by most viewers as malicious or to imply that blind people were likely to cause harm to animals”.
It concluded that the ad was “unlikely to be seen as humiliating, stigmatising or undermining to blind people and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
It ruled that Paddy Power had not breached the advertising standards code, either in its depiction of blind people or in its treatment of cruelty to animals.
A spokesman for the Football Association (FA), football’s governing body, which supports the national blind football squad, said only former international players had taken part in the advert, and so the part of the ASA ruling that said the advert was supported by members of the England team was “not strictly accurate”.
But no-one from the FA was available to comment further on the ASA ruling.
The world blind football championship is due to take place in England from 14 to 22 August.
UK ‘could learn from developing world’ on disability equality
Disability organisations in the UK could learn from developing countries about how to cope with the impact of public sector funding cuts, according to a leading disabled human rights expert.
Diane Mulligan, who leads the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s work on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said many developing countries had been forced to be “creative” in how they promote disability equality.
She told Disability News Service: “With the austerity measures being taken by the new coalition government, we can learn a lot from the global south on how to do things well within a limited budget and resources.”
In using role models to change attitudes to disabled people, some developing countries have focused on everyday disabled people doing everyday things, rather than “over-performers” such as Paralympians or the Labour MP David Blunkett, she said. Other developing countries have developed low-cost accessible latrines.
Mulligan, a long-standing member of the EHRC’s disability committee and a new member of the government’s Equality 2025 advisory network, said the impact of funding cuts on disabled people would become clearer in the autumn when the government starts “spelling out some detail on welfare reform, independent living and social care”.
But she said the “age of austerity” and the lack of resources might prove to be “beneficial”, as it could force disability organisations to come together and cooperate in campaigning for the government to fully implement the UN convention in the UK.
She believes the UN convention will have an impact on disabled people’s rights in the UK, in areas such as independent living, particularly as disabled people will be able to hold the government to account for its decisions, as it has signed up to the convention’s optional protocol.
But she said the disability movement and other disability organisations would have to work together “with a united voice” and “forget our differences” if they want to “make much headway” in ensuring disability rights are fully implemented.
She added: “It is easy to fight your own corner but there is strength in coalitions.”
Earlier this month, Mulligan was nominated as the UK’s candidate for election in 2012 for one of 18 seats on the UN’s expert committee whichmonitors implementation of the convention in those countries where it has been ratified.
She has government funding for her campaign to run for election over the next two years and wants the majority of that money to be spent working with DPOs, so she will know their key concerns.
One area she will focus on in the lead-up to the election is examining why the Labour government ratified the convention with reservations and an “interpretive declaration” – the government’s convention opt-outs – on inclusive education, immigration, employment in the armed services and benefits.
As a member of the EHRC disability committee, Mulligan said she will ask the new coalition government to say when it will re-examine these opt-outs. “I am very interested to know why other countries didn’t feel the need to put reservations or interpretive declarations in place – there needs to be a conversation with the new government about that approach.”
One of the opt-outs concerns the convention’s demand for an inclusive education system.
Mulligan said Cuba was the only country in the world with a truly inclusive education system. “Cuba is not a particularly rich country but they decided that they were going to have an inclusive education system even if it meant there was one-to-one support for three children in a classroom. And it works, and it works really well.”
But she warned: “It is going to cost quite a lot of money. Unless you are prepared to invest, it is not going to happen.”
Mulligan was speaking as the EHRC published a new guide to the UN convention, describing disabled people’s rights and how to use them.
The guide sets out how disability organisations can use the convention in negotiations, in advocacy and in legal cases, and how they can send their own reports to the UN on how the government is implementing the convention.
Mike Smith, chair of the EHRC’s disability committee, said the EHRC would “continue to work with the government to make sure that it is implemented fully”.
He said: “The convention is not just a paper ‘declaration’ without any teeth. It requires government to take action to remove barriers and give disabled people real freedom, dignity and equality.
“Our role is to ensure Britain makes rapid progress towards making the convention rights a reality for disabled people.”
The guide is available at: www.equalityhumanrights.com/UNCRPDguide
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com