Welcome! These postings are getting wider apart! I blame it all on the nice weather and a desire to take advantage of it.
A couple of things to share before dealing with the news this week. I’ve just spent a few very relaxing days in the Ribble Valley in our motor home. All was well until my powered wheelchair decided not to be powered anymore. Stuck on a pavement in the middle of Clitheroe with no way of moving is an experience not be missed. Sue, my wife, valiantly suggested pushing the 180 kilo chair with me in it the mile and half back to the camp ground. Enter Transit Van man!! He drove Sue to the site to pick up our ramps and promptly mobilised a few people to push the chair into the van. I sat in the back in total darkness but remembered the chair has lights! We arrived safe and sound and I was decanted onto the grass. The only downside is that I emerged resembling a ghost completely covered in plaster dust! Who cares!! I love Transit Van man!
Another exciting project is now underway in collaboration with Grant Kennedy CEO at Direct Enquiries. After Grant helped my local football team with sponsorship the players have agreed to undertake 350 assessments of the local facilities in Hertfordshire and elsewhere so that anyone using the Direct Enquiries website will be able to get information on accessible venues in the area. The players are really keen to help, standby for good information on nightclubs, bars, restaurants and pubs!! Enjoy the rest.
Employers ‘missing out on young disabled talent’
Talented and highly-educated young disabled people are continuing to miss out on opportunities for training, employment and career progression, according to a new report.
The Right to Work report is the latest investigation by the Trailblazers group of young disabled campaigners – run by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign – and surveyed more than 100 young disabled people.
Two-thirds of them said they may have had job applications rejected by employers because of discrimination. A similar number believed the job application process puts them at a disadvantage, while about 70 per cent said physical access to the workplace was one of the biggest obstacles they faced in obtaining paid work.
One in seven disabled graduates – with an average age of 26 – had never had a paid job, while one in five survey respondents felt they had been forced out of a job due to poor disability awareness.
Some campaigners said interviews or work experience had been called off when the employer realised they were disabled.
Members of Trailblazers also carried out undercover investigations of access at Jobcentre Plus offices and recruitment agencies across the UK.
Now they want the government and employers to set up a national disabled graduates training scheme, promote the business case for employing “talented, qualified and dedicated” disabled candidates, and encourage disability equality training for line managers
They also want to see more accessible facilities at Jobcentre Plus offices and recruitment agencies, and more disabled people employed as disability employment advisers by Jobcentre Plus.
And they called for greater promotion of the Access to Work scheme and for it to be extended to disabled volunteers, interns, and those on work placements.
Jagdeep Sehmbi, a wheelchair-user and multimedia communications graduate from Birmingham, said: “When I was applying for jobs, I noticed that as soon as I mentioned I needed wheelchair access the attitude would change – whereas I had initially felt a conversation was leading to an invite for interview, it suddenly ended with being told they would get back to me, which never happened.”
Bobby Ancil, Trailblazers project manager, said: “More than anything in this report, we were struck by the amount of talented and bright individuals employers are missing out on because they can’t see past disability.
“It is shocking that so many well-qualified people who want to work are unable to find jobs.”
To read the report, visit: www.mdctrailblazers.org
Minister hints that ILF could be scrapped
The minister for disabled people has hinted that the government could be set to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) as part of its spending review.
In a ministerial statement this week, Maria Miller MP attacked the previous government for failing to “take a principled and strategic decision” on the fund’s future.
Miller said an independent review of the fund in 2007 suggested the government should make a decision on its future in 2009-10, “based on the presumption” that ILF support would be merged with local authority funding for personal budgets.
Miller also criticised the Labour government for taking a last-minute decision to cut the ILF budget for 2010-11 by £11 million to £348 million in March this year.
Miller said this move – as well as the “uncertainty and sensitivity” of methods of forecasting spending on the fund – led to the ILF’s decision to restrict new applicants to those in paid work of 16 hours or more, and then later to close the fund to all new applicants for the rest of 2010-2011.
Miller added: “The confusion and uncertainty caused by this chain of events is unacceptable.”
She said the ILF had now put in place a “more robust methodology” for forecasting its spending and had “safeguarded the support allocated to the 21,000 existing recipients of the fund”.
She said: “I have asked the [Department for Work and Pensions] and the ILF to ensure that all the lessons are learned from this situation and that appropriate procedures are put in place to ensure that the fund’s budget remains on track.”
She added: “The coalition government are committed to ensuring severely disabled people receive the support they need and, working closely with the trustees, we will consider and settle the long-term future of the ILF as part of the forthcoming spending review.”
But confusion still surrounds the timing of the Labour government’s decision to cut the ILF budget and how that affected the decision to restrict eligibility.
Disability News Service was told by ILF on 24 March – after it had announced the decision to restrict eligibility – that the budget for 2010-11 would be £359 million.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman was this week unable to clarify exactly when the decision to cut the budget was taken.
And when asked whether Miller’s statement implied that the government was planning to scrap the ILF, he said: “The future of the ILF is going to be reviewed in the autumn. Watch this space. I cannot speculate.”
Work Choice given government go-ahead
The coalition government is to go ahead with plans to launch a new work programme for disabled people with higher support needs.
The Labour government had announced plans to replace specialist programmes such as WORKSTEP with a new scheme called Work Choice this autumn.
But the future of the new programme had been cast into doubt because of the new government’s plans for a single work programme for all people on out-of-work benefits.
Maria Miller, the disabled people’s minister, announced this week that Work Choice would be launched on 25 October and would “sit alongside” the single work programme.
Miller said Work Choice would “help into work disabled people who face the most complex and long-term barriers to employment and who may require high intensity support in the workplace”.
She said it would replace the “existing confusing array” of specialist disability employment programmes – WORKSTEP, Work Preparation and the Job Introduction Scheme.
And she said it would “greatly improve upon the effectiveness of current provision by tailoring support to the needs of each severely disabled individual to help move them into and stay in long-term sustainable jobs”.
There will also be a cut in the number of contracts with employment support providers from more than 200 to just 28.
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman denied that the move signalled a rethink on plans for a single, overarching work programme.
He said: “They want provision for the hardest to help groups. It is very important to have that.”
Meanwhile, new DWP figures show that the number of disabled people who received support through the Access to Work (ATW) programme rose from more than 32,000 in 2008-09 to more than 37,000 in 2009-10.
Of those receiving funding to provide adaptations, equipment and other work support in 2009-10, only 390 had mental health conditions, while 1,720 had learning difficulties, 5,450 had hearing impairments and 5,280 were visually-impaired.
More than 11,500 ATW awards were made for aids and equipment, nearly 10,000 for support workers, and 12,700 for travel to work, while 250 were made for adaptations to workplaces, and 270 for adaptations to vehicles.
UKDPC uncovers widespread reports of hate crime deaths
New research by a leading disabled activist has uncovered reports of more than 20 violent deaths of disabled people – many of them likely to be disability hate crimes – over just three months.
The report, by hate crime campaigner Anne Novis for the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), found reports of 141 offences that appeared to involve targeted hostility towards disabled people.
Of these crimes – which include physical assaults, rape, robbery, torture and arson – at least 21 involved the violent deaths of disabled people.
Some of the reports come from trials of people accused of murder and other serious offences, while others were media reports of how disabled people had died violent deaths and where the perpetrators had yet to be arrested.
Novis said she hoped her report would deliver a “wake-up call” on the extent of disability hate crime, but would also help disabled people’s organisations secure funding for their own hate crime projects.
The report has already been submitted as evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into disability-related harassment. A second, wider report by Novis for UKDPC into the extent of disability hate crime over the last three years will also be submitted to the inquiry.
Jaspal Dhani, UKDPC’s chief executive, said the crimes collated by Novis were “only the tip of the iceberg” and showed how much work needed to be done by the government to comply with its duties under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
He said: “I think that if the public became aware of the extent of the problem they would be horrified.”
Novis said she believed disability hate crime was increasing “significantly”, and was even more widespread than described in her report, partly because of under-reporting by disabled people.
Her report is based on “informal research” that draws evidence from online articles, disabled people’s blogs and disability discussion forums, and provides a “snapshot” of reports of disability hate crime over a three-month period from March to May 2010.
Novis called for disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to be given funding to carry out formal, detailed research into the extent of disability hate crime.
She said the targeted hostility experienced by disabled people was being aggravated by the debate around welfare reform, the government’s call for cuts to the disability benefits budget and the media focus on disability benefit fraud.
DLA survey results come at perfect time
A disabled people’s organisation has told two government ministers that their cost-cutting disability living allowance (DLA) reforms could be “counter-productive” and make it harder for disabled people to work.
Both the disabled people’s minister, Maria Miller, and the care services minister, Paul Burstow, visited Essex Coalition of Disabled People (ECDP) last week, just as it was about to publish its survey on the government’s planned changes to DLA.
In June, the government announced a major reform of DLA, with tighter eligibility, a new medical test and reassessments for all claimants of working age over the three years from 2013.
The ECDP survey found 93 per cent of disabled people were very or quite concerned about the planned changes to DLA, while more than three-quarters said the changes were likely to have a big or fairly big impact on their everyday lives.
More than half of the 141 respondents feared their DLA could be taken away, while a third thought they might not be able to work if this happened.
Rich Watts, ECDP’s director of policy and development, said: “What we were very keen to impress on [the two ministers] was that our survey said that one in three people said they were unlikely to work as a result of the changes in DLA.
“These changes could be counter-productive to their goal of getting people back in work.
“To both of them we said: ‘Rather than swinging the axe we would like you to talk to disabled people and their organisations on how to approach this and how to minimise the impact on disabled people.’”
Watts said there had been a strong sense of “injustice” among the disabled people who took part in the survey, who believed the government was “picking on disabled people” and “trying to lump us into the same category as benefits scroungers”.
Many were worried about the prospect of another hugely stressful assessment.
He added: “Some people just seemed tired that they worked so hard to get the right care and support but will have to go through this all over again.”
One respondent accused the government of “putting disability back under the medical microscope”.
Another said: “Having endured the form and the medical, I dread having to go through the whole process again along with millions of others.”
And a third disabled person said: “Without my DLA I would lose my adapted car, my independence and my job. DLA supports me to contribute because it enables me to work full time.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com