New legal bid re ILF, DWP to help watchdog, Spartacus report re Fitness for Work, Disabled students fall through the cracks, Government to axe rail access schemes, Personalisation strategy concerns, Disability Hate crime councils failing

A month has passed without an update but there have been some very good reasons for the silence.

You may recall that our house was flood damaged on the 6th of February and on the 15th of April the first workmen arrive to start repairing things. To be fair a lot of discussion has taken place concerning how to do the work but let me stay in the property. As you can imagine our house is tailor made for me so moving into temporary accommodation would be a nightmare. The insurers are trying to accommodate my disability if you’ll pardon the pun.

The 29th of March saw the birth of our fourth grandchild little Molly Abigail eight pounds two ounces and very beautiful. She arrived in a hurry and is settling in well and her mum and dad are trying to adjust to the complete transformation in their lives. My daughter Grace, Molly’s mum, spends most of her day beaming from ear to ear and we remember back to her arrival all those years ago.

Finally a big thank you to all of you that so generously donated money to my two sons George and Jack who ran in this years London Marathon on behalf of Disability Rights UK. They raised over £3700, which is absolutely fantastic. Jack who is eleven years younger than his brother completed the course eleven minutes faster in 4hours 32 minutes. They were both completely exhausted at the end of what proved to be an extraordinarily gruelling event. We are so very proud of them both. Heres the link to a very short video diary. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10203657138692787&set=vb.1346375216&type=2&theater

So after all that excitement here’s this week’s updates on what’s been going in the disability world.

News Roundup

Campaigners launch new legal bid to halt Independent Living Fund closure

Users of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) have launched a fresh legal bid to halt its closure, Disability News Service can reveal.

Three ILF-users are threatening a second judicial review of the coalition’s decision to close the fund, a government-funded trust which helps about 18,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.

Many campaigners believed the battle had been won when five ILF-users secured a high-profile court of appeal victory last November over the closure decision.

But despite the court ruling that Esther McVey – at the time the minister for disabled people – had breached the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty, the judgment meant only that the government had to reconsider its decision, this time paying “proper attention” to its legal obligations.

Mike Penning, the new minister, told MPs on 6 March that he had done just that and had decided to go ahead with the original decision to close ILF and transfer non-ring-fenced funding to local authorities, although he delayed the closure date by three months until 30 June 2015.

Now three of the disabled campaigners who took the original court action – Stuart Bracking, Gabriel Pepper and Paris L’Amour – are renewing their legal battle, and other ILF-users have expressed interest in joining them.

They say that Penning has breached the public sector equality duty in a similar way to McVey.

They claim that his department’s latest equality analysis fails to reflect what the court of appeal described as “the inevitable and considerable adverse impact which the closure of the fund will have”.

They have written a “letter before claim” to the Department for Work and Pensions, calling on it to withdraw its closure decision, which they say is unlawful.

If Penning fails to act, they could seek a fresh judicial review in the high court.

Louise Whitfield, of solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn, who represents the three ILF-users, said today (11 April): “I think there is a realistic hope that this will halt the closure.

“My clients’ concerns are so grave about the implications of closing the fund that they still feel it is essential that the government have a real hard look at what the impact would be on severely disabled people, and that just hasn’t happened.

“There is no real recognition that this is going to be devastating for large numbers of severely disabled people.”

News of the latest court action came as ILF-users called on the disability movement to show its support for their fight against closure on a European day of action.

They want fellow ILF-users and their families, disability organisations and disabled activists in the UK to join organisations across Europe that will be highlighting the impact of austerity cuts on the lives of disabled people.

The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is organising the first European Independent Living Day on 5 May, the culmination of its Stop Disability Cuts campaign.

It wants disabled people and their organisations to hold meetings, protests, marches or even flash mobs simultaneously in cities throughout Europe, while ENIL will organise a press conference in Brussels on the same day.

Three of the five ILF-users who beat the government in court – Bracking, Pepper and Anne Pridmore – have published a statement calling on the movement to support European Independent Living Day as part of the campaign to save ILF.

That call has been backed by more than 100 ILF-users, relatives, disabled people’s organisations and activists.

Bracking said that people were “terrified” about the impact of the closure on their lives, and added: “I think that is part of the tactics of the Department for Work and Pensions because fear paralyses people and stops them responding and fighting back.”

But he said that saving ILF could be a historic achievement, so members of the disability movement need to “fight as hard as we can”.

He said: “It is important to try to encourage formation of campaign groups, however limited, across the country.

“We can turn this around. The effects are so dreadful on disabled people’s lives, and the closure date is still 15 months away.

“The issue for politicians will be whether they can hold their nerve. As it gets closer, more and more people will wake up to what it is going to mean for them.”

Even small public events on 5 May will raise awareness of the need to oppose the closure, and other cuts to services and benefits, he said.

In a statement accompanying the call to action on 5 May, Bracking, Pepper and Pridmore warn: “The disabled people’s movement across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has a proud history of campaigning for independent living rights, but the gains of a generation ago for disabled people of working age are now under threat, as are the social opportunities pursued by many disabled people with complex conditions.”

They say the innovations of the independent living movement have been marginalised, while its organisations and projects have been starved of funding.

“But what is perhaps worst of all is many of those severely disabled people who have assumed the demanding responsibility of organising and managing their own complex personal assistance support, and do so 52 weeks a year without any financial rewards, are defined as being ‘economically inactive’.”

They add: “Our movement has a collective responsibility to defend the gains we have made, and renew its commitment to campaign for full civil and human rights for all disabled people and their families.

“The European Independent Living Day is an opportunity we should not waste.”

The statement has been signed by leading disabled activists such as Anne Rae, chair of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People; Debbie Jolly, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts and an ENIL board member; Kevin Caulfield, an ILF-user and chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts; actor, performer and activist Liz Carr, another ILF-user; and Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London.

ENIL’s Stop Disability Cuts campaign has been running in the lead-up to May’s elections to the European parliament, and highlights the disproportionate effects of the austerity measures which have taken place at EU and national level on the lives of disabled people across Europe.

It says that these breach the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has been ratified by the European Union and 25 of its member states.
DWP admits it is helping watchdog with ‘cumulative impact’ project

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted it is helping equality experts devise a way to assess the overall impact of spending cuts on disabled people, even though ministers have repeatedly claimed such a project is impossible.

Disability News Service (DNS) revealed last week that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was working with the Treasury and other “key” departments to develop a way of assessing the cumulative impact of spending decisions on different equality groups.

The commission believes its project will promote “equality and fair financial decision-making” in next year’s spending review, and try to ensure that the potential for spending decisions to widen or close equality gaps is “given proper consideration”.

The project is, in effect, devising a way of carrying out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of spending decisions on disabled people, something MPs and disabled activists – including the Pat’s Petition campaign and, later, the WOW petition campaign – have been demanding from DWP since at least 2011.

DWP has now confirmed to DNS that it is working on the project with EHRC, the Treasury and other government departments, even though a string of work and pensions ministers have previously ridiculed the idea.

Mark Hoban, at the time the Conservative minister for employment, said last July that a CIA would be “so complex and subject to so many variables that it would be meaningless”.

Esther McVey also dismissed the idea, telling DNS that the information gathered would be “incoherent and inconsistent”.

And Mike Penning, her successor as minister for disabled people, told MPs last week that a CIA was not possible because there were “no real results that can be broken down and are reliable enough to show the effect on disabled people”.

But this week, a DWP spokeswoman admitted that it was one of the departments working with EHRC and the Treasury on the CIA project, although its views about such assessments were “unchanged”.

She said: “DWP does know about EHRC’s work in this area – we and other government departments have representatives engaging with EHRC on their project.

“There is no contradiction between, on one hand, government departments being willing to engage with EHRC on their work to determine what they will want to recommend in this area and, on the other hand, our view (shared by the authoritative Institute for Fiscal Studies) that results cannot be reliably disaggregated for disabled people.”

She added: “We look forward to reading the final recommendations from EHRC after they complete their still on-going assessment of their evidence on this issue.”

But Dame Anne Begg, the Labour chair of the Commons work and pensions select committee, who has repeatedly called for DWP to carry out a CIA, said: “It sounds as though they are trying to find a way of doing what DWP said was impossible. It’s something that should have been done all along.”

But she said what would be crucial would be how any research was used by the government in making future spending decisions.

Dame Anne said she believed work and pensions ministers always knew that such research was possible.

She said: “They simply didn’t want to do it, so they were just looking for excuses not to do it.”

She added: “I think part of the reason DWP was resistant to having a CIA was that if they had found out that all their welfare reforms were having a disproportionate and negative effect on the income of disadvantaged groups, they would have had to do something about it.”

Pat Onions, the founder of Pat’s Petition, also welcomed the decision to carry out the CIA research.

She said: “We called for this in our petition launched in 2011 and the need for an impact study has grown ever more urgent as new reforms have come so thick and fast.

“As people and families affected by these cuts we knew right off how the impacts would cut deep. That’s why we campaigned as early as we did.

“Common sense tells you that fully assessing anything first is vital and a necessity for safety.”

But she said that even if a CIA was carried out now, it would be too late for many people.

She said: “Disabled people are now in crisis and urgently need immediate damage limitation.

“Real families are affected already by these changes, and they need action now. Real people with real lives, not statistics.”
Spartacus report: Labour looks set to dump its ‘fitness for work’ test

Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people has suggested her party will replace the work capability assessment (WCA) if it wins power at the next election, after a report by disabled campaigners called for the “toxic” test to be scrapped.

Kate Green praised the Beyond the Barriers report, which examines the system of sickness and disability support, and said it was “full of interesting ideas” and that she would be treating it with “great seriousness”.

The report by the Spartacus online campaigning network – backed by evidence from more than 1,200 sick and disabled people, and drawing on the best of the systems used by seven other countries – concludes that the WCA is “inaccurate, unreliable and invalid”.

And it demands a new system that is “radical and ambitious” and “inspires, enables and encourages” disabled people, rather than the current “punishing, penalty-based system”.

Green said she agreed with Spartacus that the WCA and the rest of the system for testing eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA) had “fundamental problems”.

Although she was not in favour of scrapping it immediately – because there would be nothing to put in its place – she said she did want to see a “very fundamental reshaping” of the current system, and eventually “something that looks very different” to the “discredited” WCA, which was introduced by the previous Labour government in 2008.

Her concerns about the WCA include the points format of the computer-based test, and the way it takes a one-off “snapshot” of the impact of a person’s impairment – particularly a problem for those with fluctuating conditions – all of which was outlined in the report.

Green said: “I would hope it would be an urgent priority to look at what we should have that would work better.”

She has held more than 20 meetings with disabled people and disability groups – and people involved in designing the original WCA – over the last couple of months, in a bid to answer the question of how to reform the system.

She said that the Spartacus report – which also examines the failure of the government’s Work Programme – was a “really useful addition to that thinking”.

She said: “This isn’t a quick fix for me. We have got really fundamental problems… If we are going to embark on reform, I want it to be reform that actually gets it right.”

But Green warned that a Labour government would need to “work our way through step by step”, because the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was currently in a “very fragile state”, due to “huge problems” with the introduction of universal credit, and problems with the WCA and the new personal independence payment, as well as other coalition reforms.

She said a Labour government would have to be careful not to “knock the whole department over completely” with any new reforms.

The report of Labour’s own taskforce, led by Sir Bert Massie, former chair of the Disability Rights Commission, which has been examining how to “break the link between disability and poverty”, is likely to be published this month, and Green expects there to be “quite a lot of overlap between what the taskforce says and what this report says”.

DWP has refused to say whether it will read the Spartacus report, but a DWP spokesman said in a statement: “Through a series of independent reviews and by working with medical experts and charities, we have considerably improved the WCA process since 2010 to make it fairer and more accurate.

“More people with serious health conditions are getting unconditional support than ever (51 per cent of claimants).”

He added: “The Work Programme is overhauling how the very hardest to help people are supported off benefits and into a job by giving people two years of tailored support. Previous schemes didn’t do enough to help disabled people into work.”

Beyond the Barriers points out that the latest government figures show just five per cent of ESA claimants achieved a job outcome within a year through the Work Programme, and just 1.8 per cent of those previously claiming the old incapacity benefit.

Stef Benstead, the report’s lead researcher, said she was not optimistic that Conservatives would accept the report’s recommendations, because the party was pushing for less support and tighter conditions on benefit claimants.

But she was more hopeful about Labour, as Green “seems to totally get it that ESA does not work and needs to be totally over-hauled”.

She said: “I get the impression that the Labour party under Ed Miliband is very different to Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.”

Among others who have reacted positively to the report are Dame Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP and chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, who said it was an “important contribution” to the debate on how to replace the “much-hated” WCA with a “good and fair test”.

Disability Rights UK also welcomed the report and its recommendations.

The mental health charity Mind said Beyond the Barriers provided “interesting and constructive suggestions”, and the disability charity Scope said it “strongly” welcomed the report.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, said the report “demonstrates from a wealth of evidence the failure of the current ESA system and the assessments driving it”, but also proposes a “credible, alternative approach rooted in the experience and expertise” of disabled people.
Disabled students could ‘fall through the cracks’ after ‘deeply unfair’ reforms

“Deeply unfair” reforms to the system of higher education support in England will make it harder for disabled students to attend university and more likely to drop out of their courses, say campaigners.

The reforms to the disabled students’ allowance (DSA) system announced by the Conservative universities and science minister David Willetts this week appear to mirror the cuts to disability benefits that have angered disabled activists over the four years since the coalition came to power.

This is because Willetts said he wanted to focus funding – about £125 million was spent on DSAs in 2011-12 – on those with the highest support needs, with many students with lower support needs having to rely instead on their university to provide equipment or make other reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act.

Similar language has been used repeatedly by ministers to justify cuts to disability benefits, with work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith often explaining that his disability living allowance reforms were “focusing support on those who need it most”.

Willetts had already announced that maximum DSA grants for 2015-16 would be frozen at the same cash levels as 2014-15, a real-terms cut.

Critics say the reforms – which only apply to students from England – could make some universities less keen to offer places to disabled students.

The National Union of Students (NUS) said it was “deeply concerned” by the announcement, which it said could see “fewer students receiving the support they need to stay the course”, while it was likely that many students would “fall through the cracks”.

DSAs are non-means-tested grants that assist with the extra costs a disabled student faces during higher education study, for example by funding the purchase of laptops and specialist equipment, or paying support workers and additional travel costs.

Universities will now be expected to put strategies in place that will “reduce the need for support workers” and “encourage greater independence and autonomy” for students.

The government will no longer fund the purchase of “standard specification” computers, or even some higher-cost computers that are needed “simply because of the way in which a course is delivered”, and Willetts said DSA would no longer meet the extra costs of “specialist” accommodation, other than in “exceptional circumstances”.

He also said that DSAs would now only be provided to students who were seen as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 (those with impairments that have a substantial and long-term negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities).

He claimed that his “modernising” reforms would ensure that the “limited public funding available for DSAs” was “targeted in the best way… to achieve value for money, whilst ensuring those most in need get the help they require”.

He said it was the first time DSA had been reviewed in nearly 25 years, and added: “We recognise that students will continue to need support.

“However, we believe that [higher education institutions] are better placed to consider how to respond in many cases, including giving greater consideration to the delivery of their courses and how to provide support.”

The changes will be introduced for students applying for DSA for the first time for academic years beginning on or after 1 September 2015.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said it was not able to say whether spending on DSAs would be cut, as funding would remain “demand-led”.

He also said it was not possible to give an example of the kind of help that would still be funded, as potential support was “very wide-ranging”, and every student has “very individual needs”, while “technology continues to evolve and new support strategies develop”.

He said: “It is therefore not possible to give an exhaustive list of what we will fund, only what we will not fund.”

Hannah Paterson, NUS disabled students’ officer, said: “The prospect of deeply unfair cuts to support for disabled students should concern us all.

“We already know that disabled students are under greater financial strain than others.

“It is arrogant and out of touch to assume that disabled students can access ‘basic’ equipment or that universities will accept the new responsibilities ministers are seeking to place on them.”

Philip Connolly, policy and communications manager for Disability Rights UK, said the announcement was “unwelcome and undesirable” and mirrored the government’s drive to cut welfare spending by restricting eligibility.

He said that tying support to the definition of disability under the Equality Act would particularly impact on students with dyslexia, dyspraxia and other specific learning difficulties, who would be seen as “not disabled enough” for DSA.

And he suggested that the reforms could lead to the government breaching its duty to ensure that disabled students can access higher education “without discrimination and on an equal basis with others”, under article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Deb Viney, a director of the National Association of Disability Practitioners, whose members support disabled students in higher and further education – although speaking in her capacity as a disability practitioner at a London university – said she was “very concerned” about the changes.

She said there were “all sorts of concerns” about whether the reforms would affect the number of students with support needs who win university places, and particularly the number of those with lower support needs who drop out of university courses.

Viney said: “The effect will probably be more on the retention. They will get in OK, but they may struggle more than they did in the past.”

The DfE spokesman said: “We do not believe these proposals will discourage disabled students from going into higher education.

“We recognise that students with disabilities will continue to need support to enter and remain in higher education and believe that in many cases institutions are better able to respond to non-complex requirements by making anticipatory adjustments or adjustments at an individual level.”
Government set to drop two more rail access schemes

Transport ministers look set to drop two more rail access improvement schemes, only days after admitting they had slashed spending on their main programme by nearly 30 per cent.

Campaigners described the cuts as a “kick in the teeth” for disabled and older rail passengers.

Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported that the government had cut the budget for the Access for All programme from £370 million over its first 10 years to just £103 million over the next four.

This will mean a drop from £37 million a year to less than £26 million a year across England, Wales and Scotland, and an average of less than 10 stations improved every year rather than 16 a year over its first 10 years.

But the Department for Transport (DfT) also has two smaller funding schemes, with a £37.5 million programme for mid-size projects, set up three years ago and due to end this year, and about £7 million-a-year funding available to train operators for smaller-scale access improvements, which has been used to improve more than 1,100 stations since 2006.

A DfT spokeswoman confirmed this week that there were “currently no plans to repeat the mid-tier programme”, which was set up using £37.5 million in savings from other programmes.

And she said she was “unable to confirm at this stage” whether the £7 million-a-year small programme – which is given by DfT to train operators based on the number of passengers who use the stations they manage – would be extended beyond 2015, even though Network Rail published its new £38 billion five-year plan last week.

She said: “We are currently discussing with train operators how they plan to spend their allocations for the 2014-15 financial year.”

She added: “It is important to remember that Access for All and our other funding schemes are over and above the access improvements that the industry is required to deliver as a matter of course whenever they carry out infrastructure works at stations.

“In addition, we are looking at how we can continue and build on the work already done under Access for All.”

Only about 450 of more than 2,500 UK railway stations currently have step-free access via lifts or ramps to all of their platforms.

Lianna Etkind, campaigns coordinator for the user-led charity Transport for All (TfA), said: “Cutting funding for rail access is not only a kick in the teeth to disabled and older passengers, it’s also a foolish measure that flies in the face of DfT’s own valuations of the economic benefit of the programme.”

She said that DfT’s figures show a “conservative estimate” of a £2.90 benefit for every £1 invested in Access for All.

She said: “Four out of five rail stations are inaccessible to those of us who can’t do steps, and slashing funding for access risks setting back transport equality yet again.

“We urge the government to invest in rail access schemes and influence the rail industry to play its part in funding access improvements.”

Etkind said that evidence showed clearly that station access improvements such as new lifts and signage benefit all passengers and lead to increased ticket sales.

She added: “It’s high time that the UK followed the example of other European countries and ensured that the rail companies pay their fair share of access improvements.

“Train companies, as well as nearby businesses, see increased revenue when station access is improved – why should they get all of the benefits whilst the taxpayer shoulders all the costs?”

She pointed to London Underground, which has “pioneered clever ways of leveraging third-party funds” for lift developments at Tower Hill tube station (paid for by a property developer through a “section 106” planning agreement) and at Harrow-on-the-Hill (paid for by selling part of the station carpark for a housing development).

She added: “TfA believe that access improvements need to be written into franchise agreements so that train companies are compelled to invest in a railway that is open to all.”
Personalisation strategy ‘is undermining care and support’

The government’s strategy for delivering its personalisation agenda is “undermining” the quality of care and support provided to disabled and older people, leading academics, consultants and campaigners have warned.

They have written this week to social services directors and other leaders in the social care sector, including the director general of social care in the Department of Health, to call for a change in direction in how personalised social care is delivered.

The group, headed by Professor Peter Beresford, an influential disabled activist and academic, say that delivering personalised* social care through what is called self-directed support is “failing” and “undermining the quality of the care and support provided”.

Under the self-directed support system, each individual’s personal budget to pay for their own care and support is supposedly allocated “up front” through a resource allocation system (RAS).

But the letter points to a paper published by the Social Services Research Group – co-authored by Beresford – which concludes that self-directed support is “causing significant damage”.

The paper adds: “There is an increasing urgency for sector and political leaders to recognise what is happening and bring about a change in direction. This is required if personalisation is to be a reality for all, not just a minority.”

The paper says that self-directed support has led to two parallel systems of allocating resources to disabled and older people, and that the RAS plays little or no part in the eventual funding an individual receives.

It also says that the Department of Health’s own evidence shows councils with the smallest proportions of people on self-directed support have more people saying they feel in control of their lives than councils with the highest proportions on self-directed support.

The paper concludes that the extra bureaucracy necessary to deliver this parallel system costs about £0.5 billion a year while “further depersonalising the assessment process and demoralising the social care workforce”.

The letter says the evidence shows that the model of self-directed support is “fundamentally flawed and not capable of delivering personalisation”.

But they say that the government’s care bill, which is approaching its final parliamentary stages, provides an opportunity to “re-envision” what a personal budget is.

And they call for “open, honest and informed debate” from social care sector leaders on the need to learn the right lessons from the “various attempts to deliver transformational change over the past 20 years”.

Those who have signed Beresford’s letter include the disabled academics Professor Colin Barnes and Professor Nick Watson, and the disabled consultant and campaigner Jane Young.

*The paper defines personalisation as support that is responsive to the individual and gives them greater control over their life, and a personal budget as a sum of money that enables someone to pay for the support that is most appropriate for them.
Councils failing on disability hate crime, says user-led research

Local authorities have failed to put policies in place to combat disability hate crime, more than two years after the publication of a major report by the equality watchdog, according to new user-led research.

The research was carried out by members of the Respond Action Group (RAG), all people with learning difficulties who volunteer with the charity Respond in London.

The action group sent questionnaires about disability hate crime to the chief executives of all 33 London local authorities, and then followed up with “mystery shopping” calls by two RAG members to Respond’s own council, Camden, and the seven that failed to reply to the questionnaire.

The results showed two-fifths of the councils answering the questionnaire had no strategy in place to implement the seven core recommendations of Hidden In Plain Sight, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report on disability-related harassment, which was published in September 2011.

But they also found that two-fifths of councils had no disability hate crime policies at all.

Four councils admitted they did not record and monitor disability hate crime, while another two failed to answer this question.

Nearly half of the councils do not have any disability hate crime information on their websites, and only three of those that do also include an easy-read version to make the information more accessible to people with learning difficulties.

Among its core recommendations, Hidden In Plain Sight called for “all frontline staff who may be required to recognise and respond to issues of disability-related harassment” to receive effective training, and for “real ownership of the issue in organisations critical to dealing with harassment”, such as local authorities.

Some councils were praised for their responses to the RAG questionnaire, with Barking and Dagenham, Bromley, Southwark and Sutton providing positive answers to all 10 questions and offering extra detail about their services and policies.

The mystery shopping exercise saw RAG members June Patterson and Harry Reynolds each ring the general enquiries number for all eight councils, and tell the council staff they spoke to that they had been spat at and verbally abused at a bus stop.

But both Patterson and Reynolds faced problems in dealing with the automated and voice-prompt telephone systems, which the report says are a “major barrier” to people with learning difficulties, and potentially breach the councils’ equality duties.

Patterson said: “It was confusing, I didn’t know which buttons to press to get help. It’s no wonder people with a learning disability don’t report hate crime.”

Staff at all but one of the eight councils – Camden was the exception – claimed during at least one of the two phone calls that disability hate crime was not their responsibility, and advised the mystery shopper to call the police instead.

Apart from one of the calls to Camden, the staff Patterson and Reynolds spoke to showed no awareness that a disability hate crime had been committed, and provided no names or contact details of services to call for support.

Patterson told an event held to launch the research: “I think it’s important that we take this report and say to [local authorities]: ‘Look, what are you going to do?’ We should make sure we are strong and [tell them] something should be done.”

After the launch, asked what his priority for change would be, Reynolds told Disability News Service: “The one thing I would change is to make it easier for people with learning disability when they are on the phone to the council.”

Patterson added: “To make sure that they listen to people with different types of disability.”

Louise Wallis, co-author of the report and Respond’s policy and campaigns officer, said: “We take the issue of disability hate crime very seriously, because of the many disabled people who have died.

“Councils need to wake up to the fact that their telephone systems are not accessible and that they need to provide disability hate crime training to all their frontline staff.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Author: PhilFriend

Dr Phil Friend (OBE FRSA) himself a wheelchair user, is acknowledged as the UK’s foremost consultant on disability matters. A powerful and highly popular communicator, his company – Phil & Friends – provides consultancy to many of the country’s best-known companies. In addition to his professional activities, he is also a respected champion for equal opportunities and diversity in general, where his special blend of humour and direct speaking has won admirers from around the world.

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