Hello once again. How are you enjoying this lovely hot weather? My garden looks like a desert but after the winter we’ve endured I refuse to complain.
I’ve just spent a few very nice days visiting old friends in Devon, a real pleasure. One couple live in Dawlish and I can’t visit them without remembering the only summer holiday I had as a young child with my Mum, brother and sister. (Holidays were a real luxury in those days!) The Golden Sands Holiday Park is still in Dawlish Warren and aside from more modern mobile homes it looks much the same as it did then. I suspect it provides similar services to those we enjoyed back in the 1950’s. There are however some significant differences. We travelled down to Dawlish from Paddington on a steam train! Huffing and puffing its way along a lovely stretch of coast passing wondrously red stone rocks and sandy beaches.
On arrival we found our ‘chalet’ and then set off to explore. (Bear in mind at the time I wore full length calipers and used crutches to move about). We hired a three person cycle and my younger brother and sister pedalled me around the holiday park. On one famous occasion they lost control of the machine and we crashed into a tree dumping me unceremoniously on the tarmac. No crash helmets, no risks assessments, no health and safety but crutches and calipers everywhere!
I recall the weather was blisteringly hot and within two days my Mum was confined to bed with heat stroke, I don’t recall suntan creams being available. As a result of her ‘illness’ we were left to our own devices. A chap who had the chalet next us and who also owned a motorcycle with a sidecar, took me to the beach each day while my brother and sister walked! We stayed playing on the sand and in the sea without supervision until it was time to return to our chalet. My kindly driver complete with a leather crash-helmet, goggles and large gloves drove me back while once again my brother and sister walked.
So as I sat in Dawlish Warren in 2013 I reflected on the changes.
We have become so risk averse and as a result I suspect we’ve limited our children’s experiences. What is truly remarkable is that three under ten year olds, one with a severe disability, didn’t attract any real attention. I suspect this is because in those days everyone looked out for every-one’s kids so in some respects we were less at risk then than we might be now. Who now would chastise someone else’s child or interfere with what’s going on around them? Of course steam trains are no more and it is rare to spot a motor cycle combination. Hopefully though there are still plenty of kind hearted neighbours and brothers and sisters who take risks with their disabled siblings!
Changing the subject somewhat don’t’ forget “Why are you pretending to be normal?” our self- help book written for disabled people, their employers, friends and families is available fromwww.philandfriends.co.uk/book or the Kindle version can be purchased at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-are-pretending-normal-ebook/dp/B00DPKDXYM
British Paralympic Association admits it has just one disabled director
Shocked activists have criticised the British Paralympic Association (BPA) after its “astonishing” and “appalling” admission that only one of its nine directors is disabled.
The organisation – which prepares and manages the British team at every Paralympic Games, and is responsible for promoting the Paralympic movement in Britain – made the admission after announcing the appointment of three new non-executive directors to its board.
None of the three new directors – civil servant Emma Boggis, who manages the Cabinet Office’s Olympic and Paralympic legacy unit; Norman Brodie, who headed Cadbury’s London 2012 marketing operation; and Greg Nugent, who was director of brand, marketing and culture at the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG – are disabled people.
He said: “They may talk of legacy [from London 2012] but how is that legacy reflected in their own internal structure?
“When you look at how far we have come in ensuring that disabled people’s voices are heard in all areas of life it shows how backward-looking BPA’s philosophy is.
“They are an organisation for disabled people and not of disabled people, which is highly disappointing when it is disabled people who have made BPA what it is.
“What they are saying here is that they do not consider disabled people to have the right kind of skills, professionalism and background that can help them to develop as an organisation.”
Dhani, who plays and coaches with the London Raiders wheelchair basketball club in east London, added: “It is very sad and disappointing that BPA have not given due regard to looking at the talents and skills of disabled people and particularly disabled athletes as suitable candidates for joining their board.
“When you look at the success of the Paralympics and Olympics, it was disabled athletes who made the games what they were.”
Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, said BPA was guilty of a “missed opportunity to lead by example”.
She said: “It is very disappointing when there has been so much dialogue and discussion around the legacy [from London 2012].
“It is very undermining of the level of expertise that the elite athletes have built up. For disabled sportspeople the career progression [within disability sports administration] is very, very limited. The opportunities are minimal.”
Newman, a keen sailor, said UKDPC had tried to promote change in disability sport by talking to governing bodies, but added: “It is very difficult when you have a governing body that doesn’t allow the benefit of lived experience to influence decisions.”
BPA said the new appointments followed a “thorough recruitment process”, and that the trio would provide “leadership”, “strategic direction” and “governance oversight”, focusing on “vision, core values and objectives”.
Asked whether it was acceptable to have just one disabled director, a BPA spokeswoman said: “The BPA is a sports organisation, and the appointment of our board members is made based on their knowledge, experience and passion for Paralympic sport.”
When asked if this suggested that BPA believed there were no retired Paralympians with the requisite “knowledge, experience and passion for Paralympic sport”, she declined to comment further.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment.
The Cabinet Office’s Olympic and Paralympic legacy unit also declined to comment, saying: “It is not for the government to tell anyone about the composition of its board.”
Tim Reddish, BPA’s chair and its only disabled director, said earlier that he was confident the appointments would help the organisation “make further progress on our ambition to make the UK the leading nation in Paralympic sport and, through this, to inspire a better world for disabled people”.
Court bid seeks independent probes into detention deaths
A mental health trust was guilty of discrimination by failing to ensure there was an independent investigation into the death of a leading disabled campaigner, the high court heard this week.
Janey Antoniou killed herself in October 2010 while in the care of Central and Northwest London NHS Trust, and a subsequent inquest was highly critical of the trust’s risk management.
A judicial review taken against the trust, health secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England by her husband, Michael, and funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), began today (Thursday) and was expected to finish tomorrow.
Wendy Hewitt, EHRC’s deputy director of legal, said: “Anyone detained against their will in an institution is in a very vulnerable situation. If they die, it is essential that there is an independent investigation.
“The risks of an institution investigating its own actions, as in this case, are obvious and it also means that lessons that could reduce the chances of other people dying may be overlooked.
“Deaths in prisons or in police cells are automatically subject to an investigation by an independent body. Deaths of persons detained in psychiatric hospitals, who may be even more vulnerable, are not.
“We are backing this review to ensure that a proper investigation happens in all such cases.”
The commission believes that the failure to refer such deaths automatically to an independent body for investigation is discriminatory under the Equality Act, and violates the right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights.
It also believes that the state should have “proper systems” to prevent self-harm and suicide by all detained patients, guidance to make sure those systems are followed, and “an effective independent judicial system so the cause of death can be established”.
A spokeswoman for Central and Northwest London NHS Trust said it was “not appropriate” to comment until the judicial review had finished.
Antoniou fought to improve the care of people with mental heath conditions and to battle the stigma they faced. Rethink, the mental health charity she worked with, said she spoke to tens of thousands of people about the realities of living with mental illness.
She was also the service-user representative on the panel that developed the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s schizophrenia guidelines.
Last month, Rethink launched an award in her name – funded by her family – to recognise those who are continuing her work educating people about mental illness and bringing about change in the mental health sector.
Meanwhile, new figures from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) show that seven of the 15 people who died in police custody in 2012-13 had mental health conditions. Four of those who died had been restrained by police officers.
Dame Anne Owers, chair of the IPCC, said it was “of continuing concern” that almost half of those who died in police custody had mental health conditions, as did nearly two-thirds of those who killed themselves within two days of release from custody.
She said it was “clearly important” that the police received better training in dealing with people with mental ill-health.
And she said the figures “also point to gaps and failings in the services that ought to support those with mental illness – before, instead of and after contact with the criminal justice system”.
DWP orders new ‘fitness for work’ providers, but Atos clings on
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is to bring in new companies to carry out its “fitness for work” tests, in addition to its controversial current provider, Atos Healthcare.
DWP said the move was needed to provide extra capacity and “drive down waiting times”, as it copes with a huge backlog of the work capability assessments (WCAs).
The move has been seen by many as a sign of government frustration with the performance of Atos, the company which currently carries out all of the tests, although a DWP spokesman said it was “too early” to say if Atos would now be providing fewer assessments.
This frustration was highlighted when the DWP also announced that there had been a reduction in the quality of written reports produced by Atos assessors.
The quality of the Atos assessment reports are graded A-C and an audit carried out this spring showed more than two-fifths of those checked – all written between October 2012 and March 2013 – were given a C-grade.
DWP stressed that the reports that failed the “rigorous quality standard” were no more likely to result in the claimant being found fit for work or appealing against the decision.
But it warned that the audit result was “contractually unacceptable” and that it was considering all its options under its assessment contract with Atos, although it would not say what those options were.
A DWP spokesman said: “I don’t think I can give you an exhaustive list of what options are being considered. Considering all the options is reasonably self-explanatory.”
The disabled activist and blogger Sue Marsh, a leading campaigner for WCA reform, said she believed the DWP move to take on new providers was not about improving the quality of assessments, but about “trying to force more and more people” through the WCA system.
She believes the government wants to complete the reassessment of about 1.5 million people claiming old-style incapacity benefit, which was due to be completed next spring but appears to be months behind schedule.
Marsh believes the government are deliberately “dragging their feet” over implementing recommendations from the three reviews of the WCA carried out by Professor Malcolm Harrington – such as allowing audio recording of assessments and introducing mental function champions – so that they can find more IB claimants fit for work.
DWP hopes the new contractors will be delivering assessments by next summer, only one year before the current Atos contract ends in 2015.
An Atos spokeswoman said the company continued to “support the need to increase the number of health professionals on the ground to minimise waiting times and improve the system for those going through it”, but added: “We have always known that this contract will end and there will be a re-tender.”
She insisted there had been a number of improvements to the assessment, but added: “There is certainly more capacity needed and we do support that.
“[Our assessors] are not supposed to rush through assessments and they don’t rush through assessments but there are a lot more people going through the system.”
She said this was why Atos was now carrying out assessments in the evenings and at weekends.
The new regional contracts are likely to be divided up in the same way as assessments for the new personal independence payment, with one contract covering London and the south, another for central England and Wales, and a third covering Scotland and the north of England.
Meanwhile, new DWP figures show that the number of disabled people benefiting from the government’s Access to Work (AtW) scheme increased last year.
The figures show that the number of people receiving support from AtW rose from 30,790 in 2011-12 to 31,400 in 2012-13.
Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, admitted last October that AtW spending had plummeted from £107 million in 2010-2011 to just £93 million in 2011-12, while the number of disabled people claiming funding had fallen from a peak of 37,000 in 2009-10.
Last week, McVey announced that AtW would now be available for all young disabled people on traineeships and work experience.
Debts, strike action and ‘damage’ at one of London’s oldest DPOs
Disabled employees of one of the capital’s oldest disabled people’s organisations have gone on strike because they haven’t been paid for four months.
The future of Brent Association of Disabled People (BADP) is now seriously in doubt because of concerns about the way it has been run, while it is believed to owe tens of thousands of pounds in tax and interest payments to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
BADP was funded by Brent council to act as an umbrella body for disabled people in the borough, and to provide advice, but has not been given any funding this year because of its difficulties.
Because two sources of lottery funding have also been withheld, it has made it impossible to pay staff.
Vincent Cox, BADP’s director, was suspended by the board of trustees in December, while both the chair and vice-chair have resigned.
“We have had support from the council and [Brent Council for Voluntary Services] and are now in the process of repairing the damage to get BADP functioning effectively again.
“I believe that with competent responses and action plan, BADP’s position can be corrected quickly.”
He added: “During this entire episode I have attempted to maintain a standard of professionalism that would allow the organisation to recover.”
The Charity Commission’s website shows that BADP’s annual return and accounts for 2011-2012 are now 175 days overdue.
Jean Brewer, a trustee and formerly BADP’s company secretary, said the situation was “very difficult” but that the board were being unfairly “bad-mouthed”.
She said: “I am very sad that we found ourselves in the situation that we are in.”
Brewer said the board had been placed in an impossible position because they had not been given the paperwork they needed relating to the organisation’s three funding streams.
Despite the problems, the organisation – which provides information, advocacy and welfare rights advice – is continuing to provide some services to disabled people in Brent, north-west London.
Jimmy Telesford, an information and advice advocate, who has been with BADP for seven years but is not on strike, said: “It is just a real mess. As a disabled person I don’t want to be unemployed. It is hard enough to get a job at any time. It’s going to be virtually impossible at this time.”
He added: “BADP has had problems with governance for a long time. It has been known by the council and no-one has done anything.
“My hope is that we can carry on providing services because the council are not unhappy with the services, they are just unhappy with the governance.”
Telesford has contacted the Charity Commission, the council and HMRC in a bid to save the organisation and its services.
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “Concerns have recently been raised with the commission regarding Brent Association of Disabled People… and the financial management of the charity by the trustees.
“The commission is currently looking at these concerns to determine whether there is regulatory action for us to take.”
She added: “We expect trustees to always act in the best interests of the charity and ensure that it is able to fulfil its charitable purpose.
“It is trustees that are responsible for the daily management and administration of a charity and the commission cannot intervene in this.
“However, when concerns are raised about the actions of the trustees, we will carefully consider the evidence provided before determining what, if any, next steps should be taken.”
A Brent council spokeswoman said: “The council is aware that BADP has encountered some governance and financial difficulties.
“The council has not funded the organisation in 2013-2014… (The council’s) executive agreed in July to seek alternative interim service provision and also commission further service provision from 1 April 2014.”
A spokesman for Brent CVS said they had been supporting BADP, but could not give further details for reasons of confidentiality.
But he said: “As with any charity, we would say that if there are too many liabilities it may be better to close down and re-start. By definition, a charity is not allowed to be in debt.”
An HMRC spokesman said: “For legal reasons, we cannot discuss individual taxpayer affairs.
“Anyone who is struggling to pay an HMRC debt should call us. HMRC has an outstanding track record in supporting those who are experiencing genuine difficulty paying their debts, and this approach will continue.”
Stronger portability laws ‘would be fitting tribute’ to disabled activist
A campaigning peer has asked the government to honour the memory of a much-admired disabled activist by making crucial changes to its plans to introduce “portable” support packages through its new care bill.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell has fought for five years to persuade the government – both under Labour and the coalition – to introduce new laws that would ensure continuity of support for disabled people with care packages who move to new local authority areas.
During the latest session of the care bill’s Lords committee stage, Baroness Campbell told fellow peers that the need for “portability” was illustrated by the experience of her late friend Dave Morris.
Morris had moved house after being appointed as a senior policy adviser to the mayor of London.
But even though his new local authority had been given three months’ notice of the move, a support package had not been arranged by the time he moved in.
For the next five months, he had to rely on friends such as Baroness Campbell to pay for the personal assistants he needed for his 24-hour care, while the council argued over the details of his support package.
Baroness Campbell said: “He nearly lost his job and he could easily have ended up in hospital. He was a clever and articulate man—so what hope is there for those who are not?”
She said it was vital that the government ensured there was a “safety net” in place to provide continuity of support if the process was “not as seamless as it should be”.
She suggested in an amendment to the bill that the first local authority should continue to meet a disabled person’s needs until it was sure the second council had put its own arrangements in place.
She added: “It is too risky to assume that nothing will go wrong. Dave Morris’s story gives the lie to that.”
She also put down three other portability amendments: to ensure that the new local authority paid “due regard” – rather than just “regard” – to a disabled person’s existing care plan when it assessed them; that service-users should be kept informed on how their cases were progressing; and that the new local authority should aim to secure the same end result as the existing care plan.
She added: “I have done my homework and have consulted local authorities and service-users on this issue for nearly five years. Please let us honour Dave Morris’s memory by getting continuity of care just right.”
The disabled Labour peer Baroness Wilkins, who supported the amendments, praised Baroness Campbell’s “tenacity” in pursuing the issue of portability.
She said: “We all know that there is huge stress in moving home and, if you are a person in need of care, that stress is beyond words… it is a monumental risk.”
The Liberal Democrat peer Baronness Northover, for the government, argued that there “should not be a gap” when a disabled person moved from one council area to another, under its new plans, while there would be guidance for local authorities.
She said the government would clarify in guidance how someone should be kept informed about their new support package, and insisted that changes made to the bill would ensure that a disabled person would be “fully involved in the development of their care and support plan, and as such, can ensure that this continues to meet the outcomes they want to achieve”.
But Baroness Campbell said that “clarifying in guidance” did not yet reassure her and she was “still deeply concerned that the Dave Morris example will happen again and again”.
She said that she did not feel that there was yet an “adequate safety net allowing the disabled person and their carer to be confident that the bills will be paid on day one”.
Although she withdrew her amendments, she asked for the government to continue to work with her on the portability issue.
Meanwhile, the coalition has allocated more than £120 million to be used to build homes for disabled and older people across the country.
It is the first part of a £300 million fund that has been set aside to boost the supported housing market.
The Department of Health said it was issuing £92 million to the Homes and Communities Agency, which will work with 86 organisations to build 2,875 new homes across England, and £29 million to London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, who will work with 35 agencies to build 669 homes in the capital.
Mayor’s vision for London omits disabled people
London’s mayor has come under fire after he published an 84-page document detailing his “vision” for the capital over the next seven years, without mentioning disabled people once.
The 2020 Vision report, written by Boris Johnson, details his “agenda for London”, or the steps London needs to be taking between now and 2020 so that it is “the envy of the world in 2050 and beyond”.
But that vision does not appear to include any improvements to access on the tube, rail or bus networks, commitments to inclusive education, or efforts to increase the participation of disabled children and young people in sport.
The report – subtitled “The Greatest City on Earth: Ambitions for London” – includes 27 planned improvements to London’s transport network, with not a single mention of access.
It also talks about policing, without mentioning attempts to combat disability hate crime, and discusses the city’s housing needs, without commenting on the shortage of accessible homes for disabled and older people.
The report also omits any reference to the needs of disabled people in sections on volunteering, cultural attractions and employment.
Tracey Proudlock, director of the disability and access consultancy Proudlock Associates, said she was “really saddened” by the failure to mention disability in Johnson’s report.
She said: “It is a leadership document about strategy for London. Disability has to be in there.”
Proudlock, who lives in north London, said: “It is a great missed opportunity to give a message to people and on a day-to-day level it lets people down.
“Disabled people often say they seem invisible and this backs up their claim, because they are not there in that document.
“When you talk about strategy and vision for London, you have to talk about inclusion. People will look at that document and they will think there is no role for them in the mayor’s vision.”
A spokesman for the mayor said: “The 2020 Vision is a very broad document. It is about establishing a general over-arching principle. It is not going down to talking about every individual community.
“It is quite a broad thing and you know the mayor remains committed to making London as accessible as possible for disabled people.
“It doesn’t drill down to specific details within the over-arching vision.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com