Welcome to 2015. I hope you had a good time over the Christmas holiday and that 2015 is a peaceful and prosperous one for you all.
I’m writing this on a train while travelling up to Glasgow and am reminded that the price of an annual season ticket is to increase in the next few weeks. This increase is necessary, we are told, because of the need to maintain and improve the rail infrastructure. Predictably long suffering rail commuters spoke out against the increase but are, no doubt, resigned to the inevitable. We are told that if we want a reliable and efficient rail system then they will have to pay for it.
At about the same time as the fare increase announcements, our newspapers were full of stories about long wait times for ambulances, A&E departments awash with casualties, people in corridors lying on trolleys for hours while waiting for beds. This prompted me to think, why can’t we apply the same principle used to justify increased rail fares to health and social care? Let’s increase taxation and invest the money in improving the system. When was the last time any political party suggested this as an option?
It seems to me we have a choice to make. We can either accept massive cuts in health and social care spending and stop moaning about older people dying on hospital trolleys, or we can all agree to pay higher taxes to fund improvements to health and social services. Am I the only person who thinks like this? What do you think?
Here’s some news which might be of interest.
Iain Duncan Smith facing ‘hypocrisy’ claims over inaccessible office
The architect of the government’s sweeping welfare reforms is facing accusations of hypocrisy, after becoming the third minister with responsibilities for disability equality to be shamed over an inaccessible constituency office.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been the key figure behind the coalition’s attempts to force disabled people off out-of-work benefits, and has spoken of wanting to see a society that “uses all its talents”, with businesses sharing best practice on employing disabled people.
But to enter Duncan Smith’s constituency office in Station Road, Chingford, north-east London, visitors need to negotiate a double doorstep and then climb a flight of stairs.
A volunteer who answered the front door leading to the rented first-floor offices, the headquarters of Chingford and Woodford Green Conservative Association, told Disability News Service (DNS) that the association could not afford to rent accessible premises.
She said: “That was a decision we had to take when we had to rent premises in order to cut costs.
“We have never had premises that have not been upstairs. The costs of obtaining such premises on a ground-floor level – they are very difficult to find – isn’t open to us.”
She also suggested that there would be security considerations if they rented ground-floor premises on the high street.
The conservative association volunteer, who declined to give her name, said that being in Station Road, a busy high street, was a good choice because it was “accessible to most people”.
She said: “They can get here by bus and train. We have to think what is best for our constituents as a whole.
“I am not saying our disabled constituents are not important – we would always make alternative arrangements for them if needed.”
She said the association had moved to the offices five years ago, in 2009, before the last general election.
And she said there were handrails on the stairs that lead to the two offices, and added: “We are only on the first floor. We couldn’t take an office on the second floor because we realised that would make it absolutely impossible.”
Duncan Smith is the most senior of three coalition ministers to have been embarrassed so far over an inaccessible constituency office.
Last month, the Conservative minister for disabled people, Mark Harper, refused to answer a string of potentially embarrassing questions about his inaccessible constituency office in Gloucestershire.
Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat minister for women and equalities, is also facing similar questions over her constituency office in East Dunbartonshire.
Last year, at the Working Together conference in London – which launched the government’s Disability Confident campaign – Duncan Smith told delegates: “For too long, then, we have let individuals’ potential go to waste and allowed people to believe that their talents were simply not valued or even not valued enough.”
He added: “There’s never been a better time to be disability confident.”
Linda Burnip, a co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “Hypocrites like IDS and Mark Harper say disabled people should be in work and not reliant on benefits, yet at the same time they make absolutely no effort to have accessible constituency offices.
“Not only does this prevent disabled people from accessing any services they might provide to non-disabled constituents, but it also ensures that they never even have to consider employing a disabled person, or provide them with the opportunity to gain the kind of experience and skills that could lead to them achieving elected office themselves in the future.
“Clearly they prefer disabled people to be kept firmly out of sight, out of mind, and out of politics.”
Dame Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP for Aberdeen South and chair of the Commons work and pensions committee that monitors the work of Duncan Smith’s department, said: “I don’t think it is good enough.
“I believe that MPs’ offices should be accessible, not just for public access but so they can be good employers and open up their offices to people with disabilities as well. That should be a basic requirement.
“It would be a good learning experience for them and perhaps they could have a bit more understanding of some of the difficulties disabled people have in trying to get into the workplace.”
Dame Anne, who is a wheelchair-user herself so has to have an accessible constituency office, said: “If we are serious about equality and open access then no MP should be even considering renting an office that is not wheelchair-accessible.”
But she said that renting an accessible office would probably mean an MP having to pay more rent.
Dame Anne said this would be difficult for some MPs because the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) “demands that you have to have the cheapest office you can get”.
She called for new IPSA guidance to state that “it is not acceptable for MPs to have an office that is not accessible”.
But an IPSA spokesman said: “We don’t force MPs to take the cheapest office. We do provide a budget for MPs, and of course that is not limitless.
“We are absolutely clear that if an MP rents an office and there is some work that needs to be done to make it accessible to wheelchairs or others, then we will support that.
“Do we issue guidance that says all offices should be on the ground floor? The answer to that is no.”
He said MPs had to use their own “discretion” when they rented their offices, and “apply a judgement” as to whether they rented more expensive offices in the centre of town or cheaper facilities further out, or whether they chose larger or smaller offices.
It is not the first time that Duncan Smith has been accused of hypocrisy after a clash between his public statements and private behaviour.
Three years ago, DNS reported how he was caught using an accessible toilet, just minutes after telling a live television audience that parents must teach their children “right from wrong”.
Rikki Williams, Duncan Smith’s agent, said: “Any constituent who wants to contact Iain can do so either via the telephone or email.
“If they want to meet with Iain he can meet anyone at a number of locations, at home, at a café or in the association office.”
Asked how a wheelchair-user could play a full part in the constituency association, work as a volunteer in the office, carry out paid work for Duncan Smith, or visit the office for any other reason, and whether Duncan Smith thought it was acceptable for an MP to have an inaccessible constituency office, he refused to comment further.
Protesters’ picture perfect response to Falconer’s bill
Disabled activists were outside the House of Lords today (Friday) for a highly personal protest about the latest attempts to legalise assisted suicide.
As peers continued the committee stage of Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill, protesters from Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK) made their voices heard outside parliament.
But they also displayed 80 hard-hitting placards featuring the message: “Assist Us To Live Not Die.”
Each placard includes the name and picture of a disabled or terminally-ill person whose impairment has prevented them from attending the protest, and a message explaining why they oppose the bill.
One of them, Chris, says on his placard: “I have a job, I have family, I want to live, NOT BE KILLED OFF!”
Another, Meghan, says: “House of Lords: If your laws have not stopped discrimination against disabled persons in everyday life, then they will not stop discrimination in the practice of assisted suicide.”
Deborah says: “I live with chronic pain. I feel devalued when told this is a reason to die.”
Performer John Kelly says on his placard: “We gotta fight for the right to live… to rock n’ roll… to party, not die. Give us our basics, and we’ll show ya, life’s worth living.”
Another performer, comedian Laurence Clark, says: “Throughout my life, doctors’ negative prognoses about me have consistently proved wrong.
“So it’s not a good idea to legalise ending people’s lives on the basis of such wisdom.”
Activist Lisa Egan says: “I want access to the same suicide prevention measures and mental healthcare available to people who are physically healthy. Not to be offered assisted suicide instead.”
Dennis Queen, a leading NDY UK member, says on her placard: “I need help like everyone else, not euthanasia!”
And Liz Carr, the actor and performer who is also playing a key role in the NDY UK campaign, says on her placard: “To prevent even one innocent life being lost, capital punishment is no longer legal in the UK.
“How then can we justify state assisted killing of ill and disabled people in the UK? Kill the Bill – Not Us!”
Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill would make it legal for doctors to help end the lives of those they judged to be terminally-ill, if the individual requested such help.
NDY UK said that “celebrity supporters” of the bill were well-known but politicians needed to “hear and value the opinions of people living with terminal illnesses and severe disabilities”, because the proposed legislation would put lives at risk, while the safeguards contained in the bill were inadequate.
NDY UK member Sian Vasey added: “When people ask to be assisted to die, this is often in isolation and before everything possible has been done to alleviate their situation in terms of medical, social and emotional support.
“Fears for the future are the most common reasons for a person to request assisted suicide.”
Reports this week suggested that the pro-assisted suicide organisation Dignity in Dying (DiD) would not be staging a counter-demonstration outside the House of Lords, but would rely instead on social media to make its case.
NDY UK members had been concerned at what they say was aggressive behaviour by DiD supporters at a protest outside the Lords on 7 November, during the first day’s discussion of the bill’s committee stage.
One disabled protester was allegedly hit with a fist, others were intimidated and verbally abused, while some pro-euthanasia campaigners apparently encouraged drivers to run over disabled activists who were blocking the road in a peaceful direct action. The claims were denied at the time by DiD.
Meanwhile, disabled campaigners in Scotland staged their own protest outside the Scottish parliament, as MSPs on the health and sport committee discussed a bill originally devised by the late MSP Margo MacDonald.
The committee was holding the first of several sessions in which it will take expert evidence on issues such as the law, ethics and palliative care, and hear from disability organisations, including Inclusion Scotland.
New questions over safety of DWP’s benefit sanction rules
A minister is facing fresh questions over whether her department is failing to take suitable precautions when a “vulnerable” person is about to have their benefits sanctioned.
Esther McVey, the Conservative employment minister, caused alarm and confusion in November after she told her Labour shadow that it was not government policy to warn health or social services when vulnerable service-users were sanctioned.
Under current sanctioning rules, claimants lose at least a week’s benefit for missing a single appointment or session of work-related activity.
McVey told Stephen Timms in November in a written answer: “There is no formal policy to liaise with Health and Social Service agencies when a sanction is applied.”
Disabled activists told Disability News Service (DNS) at the time that her response was “appallingly callous”, and “makes a mockery of the government’s claim that sanctions policy is intended to move people into work for their own wellbeing”, while one campaigner said the failure “amounts to passive euthanasia”.
Earlier in November, DNS had revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had carried out 60 secret reviews into benefit-related deaths since February 2012.
Coalition ministers have consistently denied any connection between their welfare reforms and cuts and the deaths of benefit claimants.
But there have been numerous reports of disabled people whose deaths have been linked to the employment and support allowance (ESA) claim process, the refusal or removal of ESA and other benefits, and the DWP’s use of sanctions to temporarily remove benefits from a claimant. Many of these cases involved people with learning difficulties or mental health conditions.
DNS has now learned that there are procedures that DWP civil servants are supposed to follow when a “vulnerable” person is about to have their benefits sanctioned, particularly if they have learning difficulties, mental health conditions, or “health conditions which affect cognition”.
These “core visit” procedures state that benefit recipients who are seen as “vulnerable” and have failed to attend a work-focused interview or carry out work-related activity without “good cause” must receive a “core visit” from a DWP visiting officer before any sanction is imposed.
If they are unable to make contact with the claimant, DWP must “attempt to contact” the claimant’s representative or next of kin, their psychiatric nurse, social services or the police in order to “establish the claimant’s welfare”.
Only after these steps have been taken should a sanction should be considered.
But in a submission to the Commons work and pensions committee’s newly-launched inquiry into benefit sanctions, Disability Rights UK says there are “serious failings in the scope and application of the safeguards”, which were introduced in 2000 following the death of a man with schizophrenia.
The coroner in that case concluded that “neglect by the Benefits Agency had contributed to the death and suggested that the Benefits Agency should have special rules for those suffering from mental illness”.
But DR UK highlights in its evidence to the inquiry that there are “a number of problems” with the safeguards that were introduced in 2000.
The rules only apply to claimants of ESA, the out-of-work disability benefit, and not to disabled people claiming the mainstream jobseeker’s allowance, many of whom will have learning difficulties or mental health conditions.
DR UK also warns the committee that records on claimants’ vulnerability do not appear to be accessible to all relevant DWP staff, and “are not enshrined in legislation”.
A DWP spokesman said the Timms question had been “interpreted” by McVey to mean measures taken after a sanction was imposed, rather than before, which is why the minister said in November that there was no formal policy in place to warm health or social services when a vulnerable person was sanctioned.
He said in a statement: “The policy is being properly applied, and relates to how we support vulnerable people before any sanction is applied.
“We make every attempt to support vulnerable claimants who aren’t fulfilling their commitments to taxpayers to do the right thing so they don’t face a sanction.
“This can include home visits, especially for people with mental health conditions or learning disabilities.
“When we have tried twice without success to visit someone in their home, we would then contact either a family member, Community Psychiatric Nurse, Social Services or the police.”
A spokesman for Timms said that a “common sense” reading of his question was that it referred to measures taken before a sanction was imposed, and not afterwards.
Access to Work crisis: Claimants face court action over unpaid bills
Disabled people are being threatened with legal action by a company exasperated by the government’s failure to pay invoices agreed through its Access to Work (AtW) scheme.
One self-employed AtW claimant, Jane*, has told how ergonomic office furniture suppliers Back Care Solutions warned her and other claimants whose invoices had not been paid by AtW that they faced being taken to court.
The purchase of a piece of office equipment to help Jane at work had been agreed with AtW, and the furniture was delivered two months later by Back Care.
But several months afterwards she received an email from Back Care threatening her with legal action over the unpaid invoice.
And AtW – which provides funding to support disabled people faced with barriers in the workplace – is failing to respond to Jane’s increasingly desperate attempts to persuade it to pay the invoice.
She said: “I don’t want to have to go to court. The way [Back Care] put it in the email they sent was that the invoice had not been paid and they are trying to run a business and that AtW is one of their main clients.”
DNS has learned that the company has threatened similar legal action against other AtW claimants, although Back Care will not confirm how many individuals are affected.
A Back Care spokesman said: “It isn’t really something we want to comment on. If it is to do with Access to Work invoices not being paid, that is something for AtW really.
“It is something between AtW and the company that they are paying the invoices for or on behalf of. It is not something we would want to comment on.”
There are concerns that other companies – also losing patience with the administrative problems at AtW and its failure to pay its bills – might also be threatening legal action against AtW customers over unpaid invoices.
So far, DWP has not commented on the concerns.
Over the last year, DNS has run a series of stories on disabled people concerned about AtW administrative problems, delays and cuts to funding.
Last month, the Commons work and pensions committee concluded that AtW had been undermined by “poor administration”, and relied on “inefficient and outmoded paper-based processes”, while its new central call centre system “does not work well for many service-users”.
*Not her real name
Bedroom tax five win permission for Supreme Court appeal
Five disabled adults have won permission to take their legal battle against the government’s “bedroom tax” to the Supreme Court.
The five – including Jayson and Jacqueline Carmichael, from Southport – were seeking the hearing after a “baffling” court of appeal ruling last February that the new housing benefit regulations were lawful.
But it could take as long as 15 months for the appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court, although lawyers for the five are considering applying for an earlier hearing.
The court of appeal ruled last year that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) regulations – referred to by the government as the spare room subsidy removal (SRSR) policy – do discriminate against some disabled people, but that this discrimination was justified, and therefore lawful.
The regulations, introduced in April 2013, mean that tenants in social housing are punished financially if they are assessed as “under-occupying” their homes, with about two-thirds of those affected disabled people.
Many disabled people need extra rooms for impairment-related reasons, or find it impossible to move to smaller accommodation because of the shortage of accessible, affordable properties.
But the judges ruled that the needs of disabled people subject to the bedroom tax were being met by the payment of discretionary housing payments (DHPs) – extra funds provided by the government to local authorities to distribute – and that for disabled people who needed an extra room, their need for help with their rent was better dealt with by DHPs than housing benefit.
The government believes that the SRSR regulations should apply to disabled adults who need their own bedrooms for impairment-related reasons, even though disabled children in similar situations are now exempt.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “As at least two-thirds of those affected by bedroom tax are disabled people who have a range of important support and access needs which are being totally ignored by bedroom tax legislation, this case is of vital importance in ensuring disabled people’s rights are upheld.
“We know that the empty rhetoric that the ConDems espouse that disabled people’s needs will be met through the use of DHPs is simply another of their untruths and that many disabled people are having such payments refused.
“Added to those issues, the lack of available, affordable and accessible housing makes the bedroom tax particularly unjust for those who do have specific housing needs.”
Two law firms, Public Law Solicitors and Leigh Day, representing the five disabled adults, will take the legal challenge to the Supreme Court.
Anne McMurdie, from Public Law Solicitors, which represents three of the disabled adults, said: “On the government’s own figures, at least 440,000 disabled households are losing out as a result of the bedroom tax.
“There is compelling and growing evidence of the terrible adverse impact on disabled tenants, having to make the dreadful choice between paying the rent and buying food or heating their homes.
“Disabled tenants are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for housing benefit to be paid at a level which meets their needs – for the same rights as others.
“Discretionary payments are not the answer.”
ODI’s future questioned after DWP refuses to calculate spending cuts
The future of the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has been cast into doubt, after the government claimed it was unable to calculate how much of its budget had been cut since 2012.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told Disability News Service (DNS) that it would be too expensive to work out how much had been spent on the ODI’s responsibilities.
In an answer to a DNS Freedom of Information Act request, the DWP claimed it would take more than three-and-a half working days to calculate the figures.
The ODI has its own web page and is responsible for supporting the cross-government role of the minister for disabled people; developing and monitoring the government’s disability strategy; and coordinating the cross-government implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
It also supports the government’s Disability Action Alliance and Fulfilling Potential Forum; strengthens disabled people’s user-led organisations; is responsible for the “Paralympic legacy”; oversees the Community Support Fund for disabled ex-Remploy employees; and encourages the use of the social model of disability,
But there have been growing concerns that the ODI is being downgraded in importance and might not survive another Conservative-led government.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “The ODI has played a vital role in the past.
“It is charged with a very specific and important set of responsibilities. For them not to know how much they are investing in that unit is extremely surprising.”
She said there was a “growing sense” that ODI might not be around after the election, which would be “extremely concerning”.
She said: “It is more important than ever, given the disproportionate impact of cuts that disabled people have experienced over the last five years, that there is expertise working strategically and across government that understands disability equality and understands co-production and works with disabled people’s organisations.
“It is absolutely vital and there are huge question-marks about whether ODI has the resources and the capacity to do that.
“I know a lot of personnel that were really key to the success of the ODI have left over the last five years and I have heard anecdotally about significant reduction in the ODI staff capacity, and that seems to be reflected in the question marks [over its funding].”
DWP said in its Freedom of Information Act response that ODI became a division within its Disability Directorate in April 2012, and that “finance is managed at the directorate level using one cost centre code which does not allow for easy identification of any part of the directorate’s spend”.
In September 2014, it said, there was a further merger between the Disability Directorate and the Health and Wellbeing Directorate to form a new Health, Disability and Employment Directorate.
New Year Honours: Commons prepares to welcome second disabled dame
A former minister for disabled people is set to become the House of Commons’ second disabled dame – at least for a few months – after being recognised in the latest new year honours list.
Anne McGuire, the Labour MP for Stirling and a former minister for disabled people, has been recognised for parliamentary and political services, following the same honour awarded four years ago to her disabled Scottish Labour colleague Dame Anne Begg.
McGuire, who has a long-term health condition, is co-chair of the all-party parliamentary disability group, but is retiring as an MP at May’s general election, although she said she has not decided what she will do next.
Before her first election as an MP in 1997, she was deputy director of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations.
She previously worked in an adult training centre and later managed employment programmes, before becoming national officer for CSV (Community Service Volunteers).
She also helped as a volunteer to establish a pioneering community housing scheme for adults with learning difficulties in the 1980s in her home town of Cumbernauld, a project which meant service-users were able to stay out of residential institutions.
She said: “I have always had the privilege of being able to do work that I enjoyed, all the way through my working life.
“I do things for the satisfaction of doing them. It’s not about my own self-esteem.”
She said she was “really very touched” by the “really nice reaction” to her damehood from many of the people and organisations she has worked with, including many disabled people and disability organisations.
She said: “I always felt I got a fair crack of the whip with people, maybe because of my experience before I came into politics.
“I tried always to make the time and understand why people had a particular point-of-view and I hope I always went the extra mile to try to do that.”
She said that being minister for disabled people had “brought together many strands of my life in the voluntary sector, working with disabled people, particularly people with learning disabilities and the whole equality agenda”.
She insisted that she had no idea why she had been singled out for a damehood, but she added: “I have always tried to do my best in whatever job I have done.”
Independent Living Fund: Minister’s ‘unbelievable’ failure to prove Commons boast
The minister for disabled people has been accused of an “unbelievable” and “very worrying” failure to prove his claim that disability organisations “agree with the government” on its policy to shut the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
Mark Harper told MPs last month that he had “talked to disability organisations… and they agree with the government” that the ILF should be closed and non-ring-fenced funding passed instead to local authorities.
But disabled campaigners strongly questioned his claims of support among disability organisations, and challenged him to name those who supported the government’s position.
In the wake of his comments, both Disability News Service (DNS) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) made requests under the Freedom of Information Act for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to name these organisations.
This week, replying to those requests, DWP said it had “conducted a search” of departmental records and concluded that “the information you have requested is not held”.
DWP also said that the minister’s private office had confirmed that Harper “does meet regularly with a large number of disability organisations and holds a wide range of discussions, both formal and informal”.
These include monthly meetings with members of the Disability Charities Consortium, and attendance at the government’s Fulfilling Potential Forum.
But Harper’s team declined to say who the minister was referring to when he told MPs that disability organisations “agree with the government”.
Linda Burnip, who put in the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request on behalf of DPAC, said: “It’s very worrying that Mark Harper seems to have no idea who he has actually spoken to about disability issues and in particular who he has actually spoken to about the closure of the ILF.
“Regardless of not knowing who he has spoken to, he still claims that he has been told by someone or some organisation supposedly representing disabled people that closing the ILF will be a good thing to do.
“We know it is not the case that disabled people’s organisations have said this.”
She said that DWP won last year’s court case – which aimed to overturn the closure decision – “based solely on being able to prove that the previous minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, was fully aware of how damaging the closure would be to disabled people’s rights to live independently in the community”, so Harper’s failure to explain who he had spoken to was “unsatisfactory and highly dubious”.
Michelle Maher, from the WOWcampaign, said the FoIA response was “just unbelievable” because Harper had made a “clear claim” that disability groups had endorsed the government’s decision to close ILF and pass the non-ring-fenced funding to local authorities.
She said the fact that no names had been released “speaks volumes”, because DWP would have been “singing their names from the roof tops” if disability organisations were backing its policy.
The FoIA response came as about 100 activists – many of them ILF-users – marched in the rain on Downing Street, held up traffic in Whitehall, and then lobbied MPs, in a last-ditch bid to avoid the planned closure of the ILF on 30 June.
A meeting in Westminster Hall, organised by the Green MP Caroline Lucas, was attended by 19 MPs who expressed support for the campaign to save the ILF – a government-resourced trust which helps about 17,000 people with the highest support needs to live independently – including members of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP.
New Year Honours: Maynard hopes CBE will help her spread inclusion message
A leading consultant on inclusion is hoping that being awarded a CBE will help in her quest to push for change in mainstream organisations that will benefit disabled people across society.
Dr Alice Maynard is one of many disabled people recognised in the latest new year honours list.
Maynard, who is made a CBE for services to disabled people and their families, was chair of the disability charity Scope from 2008 to 2014, is a founding director of the Association of Chairs, and is founder of the consultancy Future Inclusion.
She said the recognition was “amazing” and “brilliant”, and was probably largely due to her work with Scope, which she said was a “good organisation” that is “making significant difference for disabled people and their families”.
One of her achievements, she said, was to work with the charity to ensure that its work was carried out more “co-productively” with disabled people.
She said she hoped the CBE was also recognition of her pioneering work in the transport industry, which dates back to her first piece of research in 1992.
But she stressed that progress in such areas was slow and halting. “You look at what you have achieved but you think, ‘It’s not there yet, it’s not good enough yet.’
“Some things that you do, particularly in the disability arena, get undone. A lot of what you do in disability and equality issues is really two steps forward and one step back, or even one-and-a-half or two steps back. That’s why it takes so long to achieve things.”
She added: “I am really grateful to the organisations that I have worked with, because you don’t get this kind of thing by your sole efforts.
“It is a reflection of the people I have worked with, the organisations I have worked with, the things we have done together, and so I am really grateful to those organisations right across the sphere that have enabled me to do really interesting stuff. In particular, I am really grateful to Scope.”
Maynard said she was “not a crusading campaigner” but instead was good at working with organisations.
She said she hoped the recognition might enable her to work with “some bigger, more mainstream organisations and make change happen there that really benefits disabled people across society and to create a fairer society because there is an awful lot of unfairness and injustice out there that needs dealing with”.
Elsewhere in the honours list, an OBE is awarded to Conservative MP Charles Walker, who was one of the MPs who spoke about their own mental health conditions in a Commons debate in June 2012.
He has campaigned and spoken out repeatedly on mental health issues, particularly around efforts to reduce stigma.
April Barrett, a board member of the Dwarf Sports Association UK, chair of Birmingham Disability Sports Forum, and previously a board member of the English Federation of Disability Sport for 10 years, receives an MBE for services to disability sport.
She still competes in the shotput and javelin at the National Dwarf Games, and held the British record for the shotput in the over-35 category for many years before it was finally broken two years ago.
She said: “I campaign for equality. We are all born equal so let’s try and make society equal in whatever way we can.
“I would like to think I have played a part in helping to get people on the road to enjoying life and seeing ourselves as just ordinary people.”
She said she was “dumbfounded” when she was told she was to be given an MBE, and said she saw it as “an award for every restricted growth person in the country”.
She said: “It is something someone with restricted growth has achieved instead of seeing someone in the circus or on television or in pantomime.”
John Jenkins, a retired Paralympian, at table-tennis, and a former national champion at swimming, also receives an MBE.
He is the long-standing president and founder member of the disability sports charity SportsAble, a grassroots sports and social club in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and is recognised for services to disability sport.
SportsAble said Jenkins had “played an integral part in promoting and sustaining disability sport” in the south-east of England, and described him as “the anchor that holds SportsAble steady”, and its “lead volunteer – in actions as well as in words – in fundraising, sporting events and plans for the future”.
Jenkins is playing a lead role in the charity’s plans to turn the club into a regional centre of excellence for disability sport.
Another disabled MBE recipient is Joe Fisher, a patron and founding member of the Newcastle branch ofThe British Polio Fellowship (BPF), who is recognised for his services to charity, particularly BPF.
Fisher, now 92, has devoted more than 60 years’ service to the charity, after joining at the age of 26 and establishing a branch in Newcastle.
Six years later his branch bought a building and converted it into a hostel and training centre, which allowed people with polio to live on-site while learning a new trade.
The charity said this was a “revolutionary idea in the 50s, later expanded and developed by governments and charities alike”.
Fisher was also one of the early UK pioneers of selling charity Christmas cards, and at its height a team of 30 people with polio were employed full-time, with a turnover that today would be worth £3 million-a-year.
He said: “People were fully trained in the role they performed and these skills allowed them to secure mainstream employment.
“We trained people in the print side, invoicing, banking, accountancy, packing, order receipt, you name it.
“Once they had the skills, they could get out into the community to live normal lives and get work.
“It was organised, paid for and run by those living with polio and to support those with polio who had nowhere else to turn.”
He said he was “stunned, humbled, but of course very, very happy” to be recognised with an MBE, but pointed out that “many people worked hard to make the Newcastle branch of The British Polio Fellowship such a success”.
Also receiving an MBE is Frank Letch, who is recognised for services to disabled people and the community in Crediton, Devon.
Among his many years of voluntary service, he has spent 18 years as a board member of the charity Reach, which supports children with upper limb difference.
He is currently an ambassador for Reach, fundraising and raising awareness through visits to schools and other organisations.
The retired languages teacher is also a former ambassador for the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a past chair of his local access group, a board member and coach with the British Association for Cricketers with Disabilities, and a volunteer with the visual impairment charity Devon in Sight.
Letch has been elected mayor of Crediton’s town council seven times, and plans to stand again at this May’s elections.
He said he was “surprised and pleased” to be recognised, and paid tribute to the support of his wife Natalia over the last eight years.
He said he hoped his MBE might lead to more invitations to deliver talks, particularly to those in business who should learn that they “must not judge the book by its cover”.
Among other disabled people awarded MBEs is Joyce Mouriki, chair and co-founder of Voices of eXperience, who is recognised for services to mental healthcare.
She is also vice-chair and co-founder of her local service-user and carer organisation, is employed in patient and public involvement with NHS Quality Improvement Scotland, and is a member of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com