Unmasking the Pimpernel

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven? Is he in hell?
Where is that damned elusive Pimpernel!

Many of you will recall these famous lines from the play and novel “The Scarlet Pimpernel”. You may remember the Scarlet Pimpernel worked in the dark; his identity was only known to a few loyal supporters under a cloak of secrecy. I’m struck by the similarities between the Pimpernel’s behaviour and the response of today’s senior business leaders towards disability. Business leaders who are themselves disabled keep quiet and this often leads to a feeling that it’s a taboo subject. Disability lurks in the shadows and those employees who have non-visible impairments only tell trusted colleagues or friends. Very Pimpernelesque!

A recent report Disability Confidence: The Business Leadership Imperative’ supported by EY (formerly Ernst & Young) has found that business leaders with disabilities are twice as likely to be underrepresented in companies globally: though 1 in 7 of the world’s population live with a disability, fewer than half this figure (1 in 14 or 7%) of board-level executives consider themselves to have a disability. Of these, 1 in 5 does not feel comfortable revealing their disability to colleagues – highlighting that disability continues to be a taboo subject for many of the world’s leading businesses.

Another report this time published by the Thomas Pocklington Trust found that disabled people are being marginalised, 26% of British people admitted that they avoided conversations with disabled people, just over half felt that they did not have much in common with disabled people and 30% were concerned about causing offence and 17% didn’t know what to talk about. Evidence perhaps that reinforces the notion that it is better to keep quiet about having a disability.

A worldwide call to action for business to recognise the value of disabled people found disability is still woefully absent from the majority of board-level discussions globally – with the majority (56%) of global senior executives rarely or never discussing disability on their leadership agendas.

Despite all this gloom and despond, the question of disability employment was for the first time part of the agenda for business leaders attending the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Thought leaders from the world of disability were rightly excited. An enthusiastic panel of disability experts appeared on the platform and shared their thoughts and ideas about how global businesses could take advantage of the disabled talent that is just waiting to be unleashed. Sadly very few business leaders attended so the panel’s pearls of wisdom fell on empty seats. If we are to take any comfort from this sorry state of affairs it is that at least the subject was on the agenda.

There are other signs that some things might be changing.

A CEO of a large corporate experienced a severe mental illness and as a result, had to take time away from work to receive treatment. In my experience what usually happens next in these situations is a generous severance package is put together and the search begins for a replacement. Not in this case. The individual concerned made a full recovery and was supported back into their role. What makes this story even more unusual was that the CEO then talked openly and publicly about what had happened.

By so doing they offered reassurance to those in a similar position that it is possible to continue working in the most demanding roles after experiencing a serious mental health challenge. In this particular company, at least, mental illness is now openly discussed. Programmes are being developed to assist and there appears to be a steady change in the corporate culture which now encourages people with non-visible impairments to share their stories.

At last the Pimpernel has been brought into the light.

Planes and Boats and the search for winter sun

I’ve just returned from a lovely break in the Carribean. Winter in the UK or somewhere nice and warm? Not a difficult decision! Two weeks cruising on a luxury liner being spoilt rotten sounds like a good idea. Well like everything there is another side.

First you have to get to the Carribean. This usually involves a long haul flight of around eight hours on an aircraft that lacks accessible toilets. One of the fundamental rules of flying long distances is to drink plenty of water. Not advisable if you can’t visit the bathroom. Our flight out to Barbados was nine and half hour long, the seats lacked and any form of adjustment and were extremely uncomfortable. Once we landed I had to wait an hour to be off-loaded from the plane. We were then taken straight to the ship, bypassing customs and the airport terminal toilets; the journey lasted another forty-five minutes. Embarkation took around half an hour, so I went eleven and three quarter hours without using the loo! Much self-control and crossing of legs is the name of the game

Cruise liners are brilliant from an access point of view, and P&O’s ship the Azura is no exception. She has spacious wheelchair accessible cabins with roll in showers,  lift access to all decks, swimming pool hoists making swimming possible for the most severely disabled passenger.

Picture of cruise ships berthed in the Dominican Republic
Cruise ships berthed in the Dominican Republic

The trouble begins when you go ashore. Our ship was able to berth in all the places we visited, so there was no need to use tender boats. To appreciate the Caribbean islands you need to venture inland, unfortunately, very few tour buses are wheelchair accessible. The result is that mobility impaired people are forced to stay close to the port to while away their time in endless identical shopping malls. P & O do provide a list of available tours but on our cruise, the accessible buses that were available only had one wheelchair space. I saw, at least, a dozen wheelchair users so this provision was wholly inadequate. In one location they had provided a shuttle bus to get passengers from the ship to the town. Unfortunately, those people using wheelchairs, but who could walk a little, were refused access because there was nowhere to store the wheelchair. It seemed a little ironic that the very people the shuttle was designed to help were excluded from using it.

I do understand some of the places we visited do not have the resources to provide the kind of accessibility we have come to expect in the UK but what I find puzzling is why P & O won’t do more to cater for the increasing number of mobility impaired passengers. The last straw was we

Sign in St Maarten advertising accessible tours
Sign in St Maarten advertising accessible tours

left the ship in St Maarten to see a kiosk a hundred yards from the port entrance advertising wheelchair accessible tours.

Many disabled people find cruising one of the best ways of taking a holiday, it is possible to see places that you might not otherwise be able to visit. I’d be interested to hear about your experiences so please send me your comments and I will do my best to see they are passed on.

To end on a more positive note the sun shone beautifully, my tan has improved, my waistline has expanded as a result of the food being plentiful and excellent, and we met some fascinating people.

Here are some links to this week’s other news. I hope you find them of interest.

Government agrees four more years of ILF transition cash for councils

Maximus ‘has falsified results of fitness for work tests’, says MP

Anger at Osborne’s working-age benefits freeze

Police duo jailed over failure to protect disabled murder victim

News provided by John Pring at

www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 

Open employment, Football Cat, Euthanasia

Hello once again after a bit of a lull! The garden now looks like a desert and even the rabbits have moved next door. A great pity according to my son who is keen to use the new air rifle purchased to protect the strawberries!! He makes an interesting sight sitting in his bedroom wearing camouflage and a mud covered face. (I should mention he’s 20 not 6!)

Last week I attended a lovely evening hosted by Kay Allen from Royal Mail at the House of Lords. This was to celebrate Lord Morris’s Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which became law 40 years ago. The guests ranged from those who were activists at the time through to people dealing with disability issues in today’s world. Moving tributes were paid to Alf Morris and the evening served as reminder of how far we have come over the last four decades. The clips that follow make the point very eloquently that there is still much to do!
Campaigners face new euthanasia battle

Disabled activists campaigning against the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia are facing yet another attempt to force the government to weaken the law.

Lawyers for Tony Nicklinson, a stroke survivor with high support needs, announced this week that they want the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to issue guidelines stating when it would be in the public interest to prosecute cases of euthanasia.

They said that Nicklinson, who can only move his head and eyes, has made a “clear and settled” decision that he wants to die when ready to do so, but is unable to carry out that wish himself.

He wants his wife to be able to end his life without facing prosecution for murder.

The case is similar to that of Debbie Purdy, who used the courts to force the DPP to list the factors to be considered by prosecutors when deciding whether to charge someone with assisted suicide.

But Nicklinson wants the DPP to issue guidance for cases of euthanasia, in which someone actively takes a disabled person’s life, rather than assisting them to take their own life.

The DPP, Keir Starmer, has refused to issue new guidance because he believes existing guidelines and advice for prosecutors are “sufficient”.

Nicklinson’s lawyers this week issued legal proceedings in the high court seeking a judicial review of the DPP’s refusal to issue new guidance.

But the Care Not Killing alliance – whose members include RADAR – said the current law “acts as a powerful deterrent” and changing the law was opposed by “the vast majority of disabled people and disability rights organisations in our country” and would “contribute to a mindset that the lives of sick or disabled people are somehow less worth living”.

In a witness statement, Nicklinson said he had “no privacy or dignity left” and added: “I am fed up with my life and don’t want to spend the next 20 years or so like this.”

Saimo Chahal, Nicklinson’s solicitor, said: “The law of murder is inflexible and the Law Commission was right when, in 2006, it recommended that the law should be reviewed, particularly in the context of mercy killing.”

A spokeswoman for the DPP said there were “a number of important distinctions between assisted suicide, euthanasia and so-called mercy killing”.

She said: “Suicide, whether assisted or not, and murder are very different acts in that the former requires a person to take their own life, whereas the latter involves a person doing an act that ends the life of another.”
Open employment with support ‘is the ideal’, says RADAR

Disabled people should be supported to find mainstream employment rather than “special” jobs in separate, sheltered workplaces, according to a new report.

The Supporting Sustainable Careers report by RADAR suggests ten “propositions” that would make it easier for disabled people to gain decent pay, career development opportunities, status and inclusion in society, and freedom from discrimination.

It concludes that in general – although not for every disabled person – open employment with the necessary support meets more of these “key factors” than other options, such as sheltered workplaces.

The report was funded by Remploy, which still employs about 3,000 disabled people in 54 sheltered factories, despite closing 29 factories as part of a controversial modernisation programme.

Tim Matthews, chief executive of Remploy, told Disability News Service at the report’s launch that he doubted whether there would be a long-term role for employment settings where there were “100 per cent disabled people congregating together”.

He said that “there may well be a place for sheltered factories in the future” but they would “increasingly” have to fulfil the criteria outlined in the report, such as providing career progression, offering “real jobs” that were not subsidised and being part of an inclusive workforce.

RADAR’s report also says that the continued existence of separate workplaces just for disabled people makes it harder to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination in mainstream workplaces.

And it says disabled people should be offered extra support to keep their jobs – particularly in the light of current public spending cuts – because they face greater risks of long-term unemployment.

The highest priority, says the report, is to enable disabled people to achieve “career security” – building up the skills and experience to move from one job to another.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said: “In past recessions, disabled people have ended up living on benefits for decades.

“As public sector jobs are cut we need to stop that happening again – by using scarce resources efficiently on the type of employment support we know works.

“That means offering all disabled people the chance of a regular job as jobs come back on stream, help to get the skills the economy needs and pay that is at least the minimum wage. Everyone needs to raise their expectations of what disabled people can do.”

Researchers for the report talked to more than 50 disabled RADAR members, disability organisations, trade unionists and supported employment providers.

Among its other “propositions”, the report says disabled people should have the opportunity to manage and control their own job support, while more social firms should be led and managed by disabled people.

It also says that there is “no place” for sheltered work that contributes to the economy but offers less than the minimum wage, while businesses should only let contracts to social firms or supportive businesses that offer at least the minimum wage to their disabled employees.

And it calls for disabled volunteers to be offered career development support so they can move on to paid employment.
Football cat cruelty advert cleared by watchdog

The advertising watchdog has ruled that a TV advert that features a blind footballer accidentally kicking a cat is not offensive and does not need to be taken off air.

More than 1,000 viewers complained to the advertising watchdog about the advert for the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power – so far seen by an estimated ten million adults – which features two blind football teams using a ball with a bell inside it.

When the ball is kicked out of play, a cat with a bell around its neck runs onto the pitch, and is kicked into a tree by a player who mistakes it for the ball.

Of those who complained, 220 viewers said it was offensive to blind people while more than 1,000 complained on the grounds of animal cruelty.

Paddy Power told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ad “enabled them to promote and create awareness of a lesser-known sport”, “would enhance appreciation of the skill required by those who participated in the sport” and was “humorous and slapstick in nature”.

The company claimed it had received “extremely positive feedback from the blind and partially sighted community”.

The ASA claimed the ad “featured, and was supported by members of the England Blind Football Team” and that it was “unlikely to be seen by most viewers as malicious or to imply that blind people were likely to cause harm to animals”.

It concluded that the ad was “unlikely to be seen as humiliating, stigmatising or undermining to blind people and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence”.

It ruled that Paddy Power had not breached the advertising standards code, either in its depiction of blind people or in its treatment of cruelty to animals.

A spokesman for the Football Association (FA), football’s governing body, which supports the national blind football squad, said only former international players had taken part in the advert, and so the part of the ASA ruling that said the advert was supported by members of the England team was “not strictly accurate”.

But no-one from the FA was available to comment further on the ASA ruling.

The world blind football championship is due to take place in England from 14 to 22 August.
UK ‘could learn from developing world’ on disability equality

Disability organisations in the UK could learn from developing countries about how to cope with the impact of public sector funding cuts, according to a leading disabled human rights expert.

Diane Mulligan, who leads the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s work on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said many developing countries had been forced to be “creative” in how they promote disability equality.

She told Disability News Service: “With the austerity measures being taken by the new coalition government, we can learn a lot from the global south on how to do things well within a limited budget and resources.”

In using role models to change attitudes to disabled people, some developing countries have focused on everyday disabled people doing everyday things, rather than “over-performers” such as Paralympians or the Labour MP David Blunkett, she said. Other developing countries have developed low-cost accessible latrines.

Mulligan, a long-standing member of the EHRC’s disability committee and a new member of the government’s Equality 2025 advisory network, said the impact of funding cuts on disabled people would become clearer in the autumn when the government starts “spelling out some detail on welfare reform, independent living and social care”.

But she said the “age of austerity” and the lack of resources might prove to be “beneficial”, as it could force disability organisations to come together and cooperate in campaigning for the government to fully implement the UN convention in the UK.

She believes the UN convention will have an impact on disabled people’s rights in the UK, in areas such as independent living, particularly as disabled people will be able to hold the government to account for its decisions, as it has signed up to the convention’s optional protocol.

But she said the disability movement and other disability organisations would have to work together “with a united voice” and “forget our differences” if they want to “make much headway” in ensuring disability rights are fully implemented.

She added: “It is easy to fight your own corner but there is strength in coalitions.”

Earlier this month, Mulligan was nominated as the UK’s candidate for election in 2012 for one of 18 seats on the UN’s expert committee whichmonitors implementation of the convention in those countries where it has been ratified.

She has government funding for her campaign to run for election over the next two years and wants the majority of that money to be spent working with DPOs, so she will know their key concerns.

One area she will focus on in the lead-up to the election is examining why the Labour government ratified the convention with reservations and an “interpretive declaration” – the government’s convention opt-outs – on inclusive education, immigration, employment in the armed services and benefits.

As a member of the EHRC disability committee, Mulligan said she will ask the new coalition government to say when it will re-examine these opt-outs. “I am very interested to know why other countries didn’t feel the need to put reservations or interpretive declarations in place – there needs to be a conversation with the new government about that approach.”

One of the opt-outs concerns the convention’s demand for an inclusive education system.

Mulligan said Cuba was the only country in the world with a truly inclusive education system. “Cuba is not a particularly rich country but they decided that they were going to have an inclusive education system even if it meant there was one-to-one support for three children in a classroom. And it works, and it works really well.”

But she warned: “It is going to cost quite a lot of money. Unless you are prepared to invest, it is not going to happen.”

Mulligan was speaking as the EHRC published a new guide to the UN convention, describing disabled people’s rights and how to use them.

The guide sets out how disability organisations can use the convention in negotiations, in advocacy and in legal cases, and how they can send their own reports to the UN on how the government is implementing the convention.

Mike Smith, chair of the EHRC’s disability committee, said the EHRC would “continue to work with the government to make sure that it is implemented fully”.

He said: “The convention is not just a paper ‘declaration’ without any teeth. It requires government to take action to remove barriers and give disabled people real freedom, dignity and equality.

“Our role is to ensure Britain makes rapid progress towards making the convention rights a reality for disabled people.”

The guide is available at: www.equalityhumanrights.com/UNCRPDguide

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Work Capability Assessment, Senior Disabled People research findings, National Care Service announcement

So that’s Easter over then! Very nice too, plenty of good company and lots of nice food! Unfortunately the Easter eggs appear to have had a very strange effect on my waist line! My granddaughter had her first Easter egg! A momentous occasion followed by a massive cleanup operation! Chocolate is an interesting substance to remove from things!!

So we now have an election date. It will be very interesting to see how much attention those seeking our votes will pay to the needs of disabled people. I have a feeling I know the answer but being an optimist I’ll hope for the best. Here are the last stories untainted by election fever before we get inundated with election spin!
Work test plans ‘could blight lives of hundreds of thousands’

Government plans to start using its controversial work capability assessment (WCA) to test all those still receiving incapacity benefit (IB) could “blight” the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled people, say critics.

Work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper confirmed that the government would start testing the 1.5 million people still receiving IB from October, building up to more than 10,000 tests a week, with IB phased out by April 2014.

Since October 2008, new applicants for out-of-work disability benefits have had to undergo the new test – repeatedly criticised as too strict and inflexible by campaigners – in order to qualify for employment and support allowance (ESA), the replacement for IB.

This week’s announcement came as the government revealed minor changes to the WCA, following the long-awaited publication of an internal review.

The assessment should now be easier to understand and more sensitive to fluctuating conditions such as ms and mental illness, while some people, such as those awaiting chemotherapy or with severe mental health conditions, will be exempt from the test.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) welcomed the exemptions but said the review does not reflect the problems the WCA is causing many disabled people, and the test remained “inflexible”, failed to recognise the impact of some impairments and “prevents people accessing tailored support to get work”.

A DBC spokesman added: “The Disability Benefits Consortium was asked to contribute to the review but is frustrated that concerns over the stringency of the assessment have largely gone unaddressed and opportunities for improvement have been missed.”

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, a consortium member, said the review’s findings were “unacceptable” and failed to recognise the high levels of workplace discrimination that make it even harder for many disabled people to find jobs.

He added: “What is most worrying is that this pretence that [the WCA] is effective is going to blight potentially hundreds of thousands of people’s lives when you see migration from IB.”

Cooper also announced a series of other measures around welfare reform and disabled people.

There will be extra support for those who have been on IB for many years and are pronounced fit for work after taking the WCA, with compulsory jobs or work placements for those who don’t find work after two years on jobseeker’s allowance.

There will also be a guaranteed place on Work Choice – the specialist disability employment programme that will replace Workstep from October – for those on ESA who do not find a job after two years.

Those receiving ESA and considered able to take part in work-related activity will receive personalised support alongside a strict regime of requirements they will have to meet to continue receiving the benefit, with most expected to move off ESA within two years.

From April 2011, a new employment support programme for disabled people will replace Pathways to Work – which the government said was “not flexible or cost effective enough”.

And changes to the access to work programme will see larger employers pay a higher contribution towards workplace adjustments, subsidising the costs of smaller employers.

Cooper said: “This is a ‘something for something’ approach which gives people more help alongside a responsibility to take it up so that no one who is fit for work is left to a life on benefits.”

The DWP said it expected that its reforms to IB and ESA would produce over £1.5 billion savings over the next five years.
RADAR finds disabled people achieving high-flying success

A groundbreaking report has concluded that disabled people working in both the private and public sectors can and do reach the highest levels of seniority.

The disability charity RADAR heard from more than 900 disabled people in a survey of high-achievers, of whom more than 100 earned at least £80,000 a year. More than half of these high-earners had been disabled for over 20 years.

Despite the evidence of success, the survey – which also heard from more than 500 non-disabled people – found that non-disabled people were more than three times as likely as disabled people to earn over £80,000 a year.

The survey found that high-earning disabled people were likely to have benefited from mentoring and support from senior colleagues throughout their careers, but disabled people were less than half as likely as non-disabled people to receive such support.

The Doing Seniority Differently report also says that people with mental health conditions are less likely than other disabled people to earn more than £80,000 a year, less likely to be board-level executive directors, and less likely to believe they had had the same career opportunities as other employees.

And of those disabled people who could hide their impairments, only one in eight is open about it to the board or senior management team.

RADAR also carried out in-depth interviews with some of the disabled high-achievers, who said they believed disabled people could bring skills such as empathy, creativity, resilience and flexibility to their leadership roles.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, who wrote the report, said these high-fliers had tried to improve their organisations and educate colleagues, “not waiting passively for access or cultural improvements”.

Sayce said: “When employers believe in talented disabled people, throw off risk-averse approaches, create cultures of openness, and offer mentoring – then many disabled people do indeed ‘fly high’.

“However, there is still a chasm of inequality between disabled and non-disabled people and it’s alarming that so many people feared that [if they were] open about their health condition or disability their careers would be jeopardized.”

Baroness [Jane] Campbell said the report “breaks new ground” by showing disabled people “what is possible” and offering “real learning on how to enable more disabled people to succeed”.

RADAR also launched Radiate, a network set up to allow disabled people working at senior levels to share skills, develop their talents and provide role models. The network is sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, which supported the research.

For more information, visit www.radar.org.uk/doingsenioritydifferently
National Care Service white paper: government unveils plans

The government has laid out plans for a “National Care Service” (NCS), based on the principle of free personal care for everyone who needs it.

Although many of the proposals in its Building the National Care Service white paper drew praise, the government was fiercely criticised for postponing a decision on how its reforms would be funded.

Health secretary Andy Burnham described the proposals as “bold and ambitious”, an “historic announcement” and “the biggest change to the welfare state since 1948”.

He pledged “nationally consistent” criteria that will state at which point a person becomes eligible for support, and “portable” assessments, so disabled people could move to a different part of England and not face a reassessment of their needs.

Burnham said care would be free at the point of use for everyone who needed it, giving disabled and older people “choice and control over their own care and their own lives”.

He also promised to “push forward” with the personalisation of services. By April 2012, everyone approaching a council for support will receive a personal budget.

And he said the government would not help fund its reforms by scrapping attendance allowance (AA) and disability living allowance for those over 65 – at least for the lifetime of the next parliament.

Burnham said this was because of the strong opposition to such proposals from disabled people and other campaigners during the government’s “Big Care Debate”. The white paper’s equality impact assessment goes even further and says the NCS will be built around AA and DLA, “maintaining these benefits as a flexible form of support”.

Other pledges include “accurate, relevant and accessible” information about entitlements and assessments, and easier access to both social care and disability benefits.

The first stage of reform will be introducing free personal care at home for those with the highest needs, through the personal care at home bill.

The government hopes that two key concessions on the bill – delaying its implementation until April 2011 and agreeing that MPs and peers would have to approve its implementation after it became law – will be enough to secure its passage through the Lords.

The second stage of the reforms, from 2014, will see those staying in residential care for longer than two years receiving free personal care.

The government will also set up a commission to recommend the “fairest and most sustainable” way to fund the NCS and a “leadership group” of “expert stakeholders” to advise on implementing its reforms, and introduce an NCS bill early in the next parliament.

The final stage of reform will be the full introduction of the NCS with a new funding system, soon after the next but one general election.

The white paper is at www.dh.gov.uk

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Equality 2025, Access to Work, Work Test concerns and Equality Bill amendments. Happy holiday!!

Sorry I’m a little late this week! Easter is upon us and therefore just like you I’m trying to tie everything up before the break! Somebody once told me that if we were as efficient as we are just before going on holiday we’d be the most productive nation on the planet!! Some truth in that I think! Anyway I hope you enjoy the bank holiday and we get some hint of the spring! Enjoy!
Minister announces new line-up for smaller Equality 2025

The government has announced the 10 disabled members of its new, smaller network of disability equality advisers.

Equality 2025 was set up in 2006 to advise the government on achieving equality for disabled people by 2025.

But the government decided last year to cut its membership of more than 20 disabled people and turn it instead into a “high-level advisory group”.

The plans caused some concern among disabled activists, who also called for the body to be given a higher profile and “more clout”.

Equality 2025 members have defended their work and say they cannot publicise the vital advice they give to government departments on disability equality because of the need for confidentiality.

Jonathan Shaw, the minister for disabled people, announced the reappointment of five Equality 2025 members, as well as the chair, Rowen Jade, a respected disability equality consultant, campaigner and writer.

The other members reappointed are: Haji Saghir Alam, a human rights and diversity expert and member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) disability committee; Nick Danagher, a consultant, trustee of the Independent Living Fund and director of Surrey Coalition of Disabled People; Miro Griffiths, a student at Liverpool University and former chair of Whizz-Kidz’s children’s board; Andy Rickell, chief executive of The Vassall Centre Trust and former chief executive of the British Council of Disabled People; and Fiona Wallace, chair of People First Mid Lothian, who has been involved in the Scottish self-advocacy movement since the late 1980s.

The four new members of the body are: Diane Mulligan, another member of the EHRC’s disability committee and social inclusion and disability advisor at Sightsavers International; Dr Rachel Perkins, a clinical psychologist and author of a well-received review for the government on helping people with mental health conditions into work; Tracey Proudlock, a human resources and recruitment expert who runs her own disability and access consultancy; and Colin Young, a former researcher with Capability Scotland with experience of advocating for young people.

All 10 will begin their three-year terms on 1 April.

Jade said: “I am looking forward to working with all of the Equality 2025 members at a time when so many government proposals and decisions are having such a significant impact on disabled people.”

Shaw said the 10 members would “bring a mix of experience, skills and enthusiasm to the job”.
Change to equality bill is access warning to service-providers

Disabled peers have again ensured that parts of the equality bill that protect disabled people from discrimination are as strong as similar measures in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

Changes agreed by the government will mean that the bill – which will replace the DDA and other equality legislation – does not weaken the existing legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments in the DDA.

The amendment clarifies the steps a service-provider or employer should take to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments if a physical feature is causing a disabled person a “substantial disadvantage”.

Concerns had been raised at an earlier stage of the bill by the disabled peers Lord [Colin] Low and Baroness [Jane] Campbell.

Baroness Thornton, for the government, said the amendment sets out “key considerations that should be taken into account when the duty to avoid the disadvantage caused by a physical feature is being addressed – whether by an employer, someone providing services or someone delivering public functions.”

Baroness Campbell said: “The duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people lies at the heart of the DDA, and it is particularly important in relation to physical barriers that prevent disabled people accessing services, receiving public benefits or enjoying club facilities.

“It is a matter of exclusion or inclusion. While there have been huge improvements in accessibility in the past few years, all too many providers still do not understand their duties, or blatantly choose to disregard them.”

She said that using some of the “language” from the DDA in the equality bill – as the government had done – was “very important” and would confirm that the intention was to mirror the protection offered by the DDA “and not, as some providers think, to dilute the law” or make it easier for them to “disregard their duties”.

Baroness Thornton later paid tribute to the contributions of Baroness Campbell, Lord Low and their fellow disabled peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins in promoting the rights of disabled people through pushing for amendments to the bill as it passed through the Lords.

The bill has now been passed back to the Commons to approve the amendments agreed in the Lords – the final obstacle before it becomes law.

The personal care at home bill has also returned to the Commons, for MPs to consider amendments passed in the Lords.

A number of amendments approved during the bill’s report stage in the Lords would delay the implementation of free personal care at home for disabled and older people with the highest needs.
Access to work breakthrough for councillors

Disabled local councillors who need access adjustments to allow them to do their jobs have achieved a breakthrough in their fight for financial support from the access to work (ATW) scheme.

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas questioned the government last autumn after activists at the Liberal Democrat party conference told her that disabled councillors could not claim ATW support.

One county councillor told how he had been refused an ATW grant after he was elected because he was told he was not in a paid job, forcing the council to pay for the adjustments he needed.

He warned that disabled councillors from minority parties could be prevented from doing their jobs if their councils’ ruling groups refused to approve the necessary adjustments.

Baroness Thomas then asked the government to clarify the rules on whether councillors could apply for ATW support to help them carry out their council duties.

Her intervention followed earlier questions asked by her fellow Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Scott.

The government initially said that councillors could only apply for ATW funding if they received at least the national minimum wage for their council work.

But last week, Lord McKenzie, the work and pensions minister, told Baroness Thomas in a written answer that the government had reviewed its ATW guidance and agreed it was “unclear”.

He said the guidance had been revised and now states that any councillor receiving anything more than just meal and travel expenses will be treated as if they are in a job and can therefore apply for an ATW grant, even if they receive less than the minimum wage for their council work.

Baroness Thomas said: “We now have an absolute assurance from the government that disabled councillors who receive allowances as well as expenses are entitled to apply for the ATW scheme.

“This means no disabled person should be put off standing for office because of uncertainty over what support they can apply for. This is great news for disabled councillors all over the country.”
Report raises ‘grave concerns’ on work test

A new report has raised “grave concerns” about the impact of the government’s new work capability test on disabled people.

The Citizens Advice report says seriously ill people are being subjected to the work capability assessment (WCA), while the test fails to measure fitness for work effectively, and many of those assessed are subjected to poor quality medical assessments.

The WCA was introduced in October 2008 to test those claiming employment and support allowance, which replaced incapacity benefit for new claimants.

But there have been mounting concerns about the test, particularly over its inability to deal properly with people with fluctuating conditions.

The report, Not Working, is backed by 18 other voluntary organisations, most of which represent disabled people.

It calls for a full, independent review of the WCA, an assessment of its impact on health, and research into its reliability “as a matter of urgency”, and suggests that WCA reports should be sent to claimants so they can correct mistakes.

The report includes a string of cases in which medical examiners carried out hurried medicals, missed vital details, made “unjustifiable assumptions” or failed to place enough emphasis on the impact of mental health conditions on people’s ability to work.

It says Citizens Advice staff across England and Wales have reported “high numbers” of “seriously ill and disabled people” found “fit for work” after taking the assessment.

Many people who might have been able to work with the right support are effectively “written off” by being found ineligible for ESA. Many of them are also ineligible for jobseeker’s allowance or cannot cope with its strict conditions and so “end up with no work and very little income”.

So far, 69 per cent of those who complete assessments have been found “fit for work” and ineligible for ESA, far higher than the government’s prediction of 49 per cent.

David Harker, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We are seeing cases where the government’s aim of moving people into work is being totally undermined.”

He said disabled people were being “severely let down” by the WCA’s “crude approach”, and called for a “much more sophisticated approach” that also considers supporting medical evidence, fluctuating conditions and the external barriers disabled people face in finding work.

Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales have seen a rise of more than 40 per cent in people needing help with out-of-work disability benefits since ESA was introduced – in the last quarter of last year, more than 22,500 people sought advice about ESA.

Jonathan Shaw, the minister for disabled people, insisted that the WCA was working and that “for the first time disabled people are receiving the support they need to get back into work”.

He added: “We are already adapting the test and will continue to work with organisations like [Citizens Advice] to make sure their concerns are addressed.

“We want to be sure that the assessment fully takes into account all conditions, including autism and learning disabilities.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Work Assessments, Baywatch and Prison Discrimination

I’m working in Birmingham all week so thought I’d better get this out there before I go. As some of you will know I run a three day personal development programme for disabled people with a colleague Dave Rees. The idea originated with Lloyds Banking Group several years ago, and has also now been taken up by Accenture, it is proving to be a huge hit with those who attend. I find it incredibly rewarding and I’m always amazed at how totally brilliant so many disabled people are!! I guess I would say that wouldn’t I! My own personal view aside Lloyds have undertaken a study of the programme and the results are very encouraging. Course attendees stay longer, achieve more promotions and are seen more positively by the line managers.

I hope you find the news useful and feedback is alway very welcome.

New fears over impact of work assessment test

New job statistics provide worrying evidence that disabled people are dropping out of the welfare system after failing the government’s strict new work assessment test.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show the number of people who say they are “economically inactive” – neither in work nor available for work – has risen to 8.08 million, its highest ever level.

And the number giving “long-term sickness” as the reason for being economically inactive has risen in one year by 25,000 to 2.01 million, while those giving “temporary sickness” as a reason has risen by 8,000 to 177,000.

Mark Baker, policy chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium, said these figures could have been boosted by disabled people who fail the work capability assessment (WCA) and so do not qualify for employment and support allowance (ESA), the new out-of-work disability benefit.

He believes many then decide not to apply for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) because they cannot cope with its tougher regime and stricter conditions.

He said: “The JSA regime just alienates people. They will just want to survive on disability living allowance.

“JSA is a much tougher regime and it simply wasn’t designed for disabled people.”

He said there were serious concerns that many disabled people were being “left in the space between work and welfare”.

He added: “We are extremely worried about it and our suspicion is that many of the people are just falling out of the system.”

Citizens Advice said it was “very concerned” at the large numbers of disabled people and those with serious illnesses being found fit for work after taking the WCA.

A Citizens Advice spokeswoman said: “By being found ineligible for ESA, some move onto JSA, which offers considerably less support. Others are moved off benefits altogether, with no support at all.

“We had understood that the aim of ESA was to move people into work, not simply off benefits.

“Both of these groups are being let down by the system and find themselves much further away from a situation where they may be able to return to sustainable work in the future.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman insisted that those who move to JSA after failing the WCA receive “immediate back to work support”.

He said disabled claimants and those with health conditions can discuss limitations on their availability.

Their condition or impairment is also taken into account “when discussing and agreeing jobsearch activities”, while Jobcentre Plus offers additional support through disability employment advisers.

But he could not say whether the government believed more disabled people were becoming “economically inactive” because of concerns about the JSA regime.

Baywatch survey provides more evidence that fining works

A national survey of supermarket carparks appears to provide further proof that fining motorists who misuse accessible parking spaces cuts levels of abuse.

But the survey by more than 550 disabled supporters of the Baywatch campaign also found levels of abuse in two of the big four supermarket chains had increased since the previous survey in 2007.

And the new survey found some disabled shoppers were experiencing threats and verbal abuse when they challenged motorists who were misusing accessible spaces.

The best performer in the survey was Sainsbury’s, with nearly half of surveyors who visited their carparks last September reporting no abuse of any accessible bays.

More than half of those who visited Sainsbury’s also reported seeing signs warning that people using accessible bays without displaying a blue badge would be fined.

Although 16 per cent of Sainsbury’s total spaces surveyed were being used by a vehicle that was not displaying a blue badge, this was an improvement of two percentage points since the 2007 survey.

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “Last year we introduced a nationwide scheme of monitors to help keep our disabled bays open for those who need them. It is great to hear that they are having a real impact.”

The worst performer was Tesco, with nearly one in four bays abused, a slight increase in misuse since 2007.

According to Baywatch, Tesco has started to enforce bays at some of its supermarkets, but “only a measly 10 per cent of people reported any sign of this”.

Asda – the first supermarket to introduce widespread fining for abuse in 2008 – saw misuse of its bays fall from 23 per cent in 2007 to 19 per cent.

But Morrisons, which failed to follow Asda’s lead on fining, saw abuse rise from 13 to 17 per cent of bays.

Helen Smith, director of policy and campaigns for the disabled motorists’ charity Mobilise, which runs the Baywatch campaign with the British Polio Fellowship and Disability Now magazine, said the survey showed that fining bay abusers works.

She added: “In order to see real improvements for their disabled customers, supermarkets need to do more than just put up signs – they need to practice active enforcement as well.

“It’s not acceptable for supermarkets to pass the buck on to their disabled customers by refusing to monitor their bays.

“Instead, supermarkets should ensure that disabled customers can come in and shop – without fear of intimidation.”

Prison service breached disability discrimination laws, says court

A court has ruled that the prison service breached disability and race discrimination laws in its treatment of foreign prisoners in the UK.

The High Court ruling came in a case taken by the Equality and Human Rights Commission against the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which delivers prison and probation services in England and Wales.

The EHRC launched the judicial review after NOMS implemented a new policy of transferring foreign prisoners between prisons, but failed to consider its impact on disabled or ethnic minority prisoners.

Public bodies such as prisons are legally required to carry out assessments of how their policies will affect disabled people, ethnic minorities and women.

The EHRC said the failure took place despite “widespread documentation” by the prisons inspectorate of “significant discrimination and disadvantage” faced by disabled and ethnic minority foreign prisoners.

The court found NOMS failed to carry out any formal assessments, and described its reasons for failing to do so as “unconvincing”.

After the EHRC started legal proceedings, NOMS carried out retrospective equality impact assessments, which the court said satisfied the law.

EHRC commissioner Kay Carberry said the ruling sent “a clear message” to all public bodies, which should “take the lead in this area and not wait for legal action before seeking to comply with the law”.

She added: “We expect the prison authority to monitor the impact of the policy to make sure that foreign national prisoners are treated in the same way and have the same access to support and rehabilitation courses as all other prisoners.”

The disability charity RADAR welcomed the ruling and said transfers can have a “major impact” upon disabled prisoners, as many of Britain’s prisons are “elderly institutions”.

Last May, RADAR condemned the treatment of two disabled prisoners at HMP Parkhurst, who were left without proper washing facilities for months because of inaccessible bathrooms.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said: “I hope this judgment will go a considerable way towards preventing any further unequal or inhuman treatment of disabled prisoners.”

But a Prison Service spokesman said: “We regret the fact that the EHRC chose to challenge a policy designed to improve services provided to foreign national prisoners.”

He said the policy – designed to locate foreign prisoners in fewer prisons – remained in place, but could not say whether the government would appeal.

He said the policy was “not a blanket process and individual circumstances will be taken into account before any prisoner is allocated or otherwise moved between jails”.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Winners and Possible losers

Last week was a pretty good one. I attended two evening events the first launched the “OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition” a programme aimed at making IT more accessible to disabled people. The other arranged by the Employer’s Forum on Disability demonstrated real progress regarding the portrayal of disability on television. Clips from Eastenders and Hollyoaks plus interviews with producers and actors showed how far things have moved over the last decade.

Sadly the old adage that we take two steps forward and then one back seems true based on this weeks clippings. The Equality Bill has been enhanced after vigourous campaigning but entitlement to disability benefits seems to be more difficult to get based on the latest figures. Drop me a note if you want more information.
Equality bill amendments ‘will transform rights’

Campaigners and disabled peers say two key sets of government amendments to the equality bill will transform disability rights in employment and education.

One series of amendments will tighten the ban – added to the bill at an earlier stage – on employers using health questionnaires to discriminate against job applicants with hidden impairments.

The amendments, added during the bill’s committee stage in the Lords, mean there will be fewer exceptions to the ban and will allow the Equality and Human Rights Commission to enforce the new laws.

The mental health charity Rethink said the amendments “could mark a turning point in equal opportunities”.

They were also welcomed by the disabled peers Lord [Colin] Low and Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who said she felt “very strongly” about the amendments, “having gone through many interrogations from interview panels in the past”.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, which has campaigned for more than ten years to outlaw the questionnaires, said banning them was “probably the single biggest difference and improvement that could be made through the equality bill” on employment of disabled people.

She said: “It will build confidence amongst people with HIV, mental health conditions and other hidden disabilities that they will be judged fairly, on merit.”

The second set of amendments lays out new measures to give disabled pupils the right to support at school through access to auxiliary aids and services – such as computer technology to help visually-impaired pupils, or adaptive keyboards – another key, longstanding demand of disability rights campaigners.

Education secretary Ed Balls had pledged to bring in such laws after they were recommended by the Lamb inquiry on special educational needs.

Baroness Royall, for the government, said it was “right and proper that all members of our society…have access to education and the educational aids they need in order to thrive as individuals and to participate as full members of our society.”

The disabled peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins said: “Too many disabled children face barriers to participation in learning and school life, because if they do not have a statement of special educational needs, they have no enforceable entitlement to extra support.”

She said the amendments would “provide many thousands of disabled pupils, and their parents, with the confidence to get the practical support they need to take part in school life”.

The amendments were also backed by Lord Low and both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.

Caroline Ellis, RADAR’s joint deputy chief executive, described the new measures as “a big gain” and “a very practical way of boosting inclusion”.
Figures show thousands missing out on employment support

New government figures have confirmed that only a small proportion of people applying for out-of-work disability benefits are “passing” the strict new test, the work capability assessment (WCA).

The government claimed the figures showed that “thousands of people are now moving towards work rather than being left to claim sickness benefit”.

But of the 326,500 people who completed new claims between October 2008 and May 2009, only about 59,000 (18 per cent) were found eligible for the new employment and support allowance (ESA). Of these, about 18,000 (5.5 per cent) do not have to take part in work-related activity.

More than two in five (about 135,000 people) were found to be “fit for work” and so ineligible for ESA and the personalised support it would have entitled them to through the government’s Pathways to Work programme.

The remaining 133,000 claimants stopped claiming before completing the WCA.

Those who “fail” the WCA are placed on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), and receive £25 less a week, although the Department for Work and Pensions said some JSA “customers” with health conditions can volunteer to be “fast-tracked” to receive “much more intensive help and one-to-one support to improve their employability”.

Campaigning organisations have repeatedly warned that the WCA is inflexible, riddled with errors and fails to reflect disabled people’s daily lives.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said: “We are aware that too many disabled people are being misassessed in an overly rigid system and failing to access the support arrangements that could help them find work.”

But he said he was “hopeful” that the current government review of the WCA would “lead to a more effective system able to identify the needs of disabled people”, with Pathways to Work offered to more people.

Jonathan Shaw, the minister for disabled people, said the government was reviewing the WCA to “see where improvements and changes need to be made to ensure that it is working as it should be”.

The government will start rolling out the WCA to existing incapacity benefit claimants this October. It is also reviewing the effectiveness of Pathways and aims to publish proposals this spring.

The new figures also reveal that, by the end of November 2009, 8,800 claimants had completed appeals against a decision that they were ineligible for ESA, and 3,300 were successful (37.5 per cent).

Previous figures suggested less than a third of claimants were winning their appeals.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Should we campaign to make snow wheelchair accessible!!

Let me begin by wishing you a very Happy New Year. I hope you had a really relaxing time over the Christmas holiday and are now revitalised and refreshed. That is of course if you have been able to get back to work at all!! Snow maybe picturesque, visually stunning and all that kind of thing but it’s a total nightmare to push through if you use a wheelchair, even worse if you use sticks! I think we require amendments to the DDA to either have all snow ramped or provide snow chains for wheelchairs as a reasonable adjustment!!Any supporters?

On a more serious note this very cold weather has clearly caused major problems for severely disabled people particularly those who are older. What is often overlooked, of course is the additional stress this places on those people who provide care or support to family members or neighbours etc. Where would we be without them! The knock on effect for some employers, of course, is that some of their staff are unable to come into work not because they can’t but because they have additional caring responsibilities which may be unknown to the employer. The recent press coverage of the impact on employers caused by the closure of schools has not picked up on this issue.

I’ve posted a couple of stories that I think might be of interest to you but as always do drop me a note if you want to know more or if you have an issue you think I might help with.

Government launches ‘urgent review’ of Pathways to Work

The government has admitted that its Pathways to Work programme to help disabled people into work is “less effective” than it first thought, and has launched an urgent review.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the programme – first piloted in 2003 – had not helped as many disabled people into work as it had hoped.

An independent study into Pathways to Work pilots had found that disabled people in Pathways areas were about 25 per cent more likely to be in work after 18 months than those in non-Pathways areas.

But a report published last October found that when Pathways – which can offer work-focused interviews, help applying for jobs and managing a health condition, and financial assistance – was rolled out to other Jobcentre Plus areas it had no effect on employment rates, compared with non-Pathways areas.

Now the government has launched an “evidence-gathering review” of the back-to-work support provided by Pathways to people on incapacity benefit and the new employment and support allowance.

It aims to publish proposals on the future of Pathways this spring, but says it wants to move to a “simpler, stronger, more personalised model of support”, with a focus on “rights and responsibilities” and value for money.

Adrian Whyatt, chair of the user group Neurodiversity International, said the government had awarded Pathways contracts to large organisations which failed to involve or understand disabled people, while disabled people’s organisations were too small to bid for contracts.

The contracts failed to ensure providers set up boards of disabled people to control the programmes, so there was a “lack of expertise” at “every stage of the process”, he added.

A DWP spokesman said Pathways had helped more than 173,000 people into work, and helped to “significantly” narrow the gap between the overall employment rate and that of disabled people.

But he said more needed to be done, which was why the government was reviewing Pathways “to explore how we can further support those who can work fulfil that goal”.

He said the government believed that “organisations of all sizes, small and large, from the public, private and voluntary sectors, have an important role to play in helping people back to work”.

He added: “We work continuously with providers to help them find ways to improve and enhance the service they provide to this customer group, actively encouraging prime contractors to engage with niche providers who have the specialist knowledge necessary.”
Seminars will help disabled people become NHS leaders

Disabled people who would like to take up senior roles within their local NHS are being urged to sign up for a seminar to help them make successful applications.

The seminars in Manchester and London are being run by the disability charity RADAR and the Appointments Commission, the independent body that helps government departments and NHS trusts appoint their board members.

Those who attend will be told how to apply for roles as non-executive directors in primary care trusts, ambulance service trusts, acute or foundation NHS trusts, or strategic health authorities, and what their duties would involve if successful.

Government figures show that only one in 20 appointees to the boards of the UK’s 1,200 public bodies is disabled or has a long-term health condition.

The government aims to increase this to nearly one in seven new appointments (14 per cent) by March 2011.

Those who attend the free seminars will meet recruitment consultants and disabled people who have secured senior NHS positions, as well as the chief executives of RADAR and the Appointments Commission.

There are up to 20 places available at each seminar, all for people living with ill-health, injury or disability.

Mark Shrimpton, RADAR’s joint deputy chief executive, said: “These free of charge events are fantastic opportunities for people affected by ill health, injury or disability to prime themselves to make successful applications to help run their local NHS services in a paid capacity.

“Delegates will get a whole day’s access to the CEOs of both RADAR and the Appointments Commission, as well as other key movers and shakers.”

The Appointments Commission will also provide support in pursuing an appointment after the event for delegates with the right skills and experience.

The all-day seminars take place in London on 11 February and in Manchester on 1 March.

For more information, contact Nisha Patel at nisha.patel@radar.org.uk ortel: 020 7503 6177.

News provided by John Pring atwww.disabilitynewsservice.com

Musings of the Week

Concerns over first government work test figures

The first official figures showing how the government’s work capability assessment (WCA) is working have revealed only a small proportion of those applying for out-of-work disability benefits are “passing” the strict new test.

Of about 175,000 people whose claims were completed between October 2008 and February this year, only about 32,000 –18 per cent – were placed on the new employment and support allowance (ESA).

Of the 32,000, just under a third were placed in the support group, for those who do not have to engage in work-related activity.

But about 69,000 of the claimants were pronounced “fit for work” and ineligible for ESA, while 74,000 stopped claiming before their assessment was finished.

The assessments – carried out by the government contractor ATOS Healthcare – are supposed to test whether someone requires personalised support to find work and so qualifies for ESA, which has replaced incapacity benefit (IB) for new claimants.

The government is to start rolling out the WCA to existing IB claimants next year.

The new figures also reveal that, by the end of August, 4,900 claimants had completed appeals against a decision that they were “fit for work” and ineligible for ESA, but only 1,500 were successful.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for the disability poverty charity Disability Alliance, said the WCA was “too rigid” and often failed to reflect disabled people’s daily lives.

He said the figures suggest the government’s welfare reforms could fail to secure work for many disabled people, which would be “deeply disappointing”.

He added: “The concern is that too many disabled people are not getting access to ESA and are put on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), where they do not get tailored support.

“Meanwhile, there are less jobs, more competition for work and rampant employer discrimination, particularly against those with mental health problems.”

He said this risks alienating disabled people and forcing them into poverty, as JSA is paid at a lower rate than ESA (up to £64.30 a week for JSA, compared with up to £89.80 for ESA).

Meanwhile, the government has announced a new Fit for Work scheme, which will encourage employers, GPs and councils to help people who become ill at work to manage their condition and stay in their job so they do not end up on benefits.

Ten pilot schemes will encourage local partnerships to pool funds to develop new services, bringing together support in areas such as health, employment, skills, housing and debt advice.
Government adviser ‘wary’ of legal right to independent living

A senior government adviser has dismissed calls for rights-based laws that would give disabled people a nationally-guaranteed entitlement to independent living support.

Dr Steve Feast, a senior health and wellbeing adviser in the Department of Health, said he would be “very wary” of writing such legislation and then waiting for the results to “trickle down” to disabled people.

Speaking in a debate on independent living organised by the disability charity RADAR following its agm, Feast said he was a “strong believer” in giving council leaders discretion in how they spend their money.

And he said he believed there should be a move away from “big government” and towards flexibility, local innovation, “empowered individuals” and a “needs-based approach”.

But Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, said legislation was needed so that “your ability to live a dignified life…to raise your kids, to love, learn, live and work” was not dependent on your local council.

She said such rights were “far too important to leave to local discretion” and that she had been “really struck with the number of people I have met recently who have had their care packages slashed”.

She added: “We are fed up to the back teeth of postcode lotteries and we are certainly fed up of professionals telling us what we need and how we should be living our lives.”

Disability consultant Haqeeq Bostan said disabled people’s organisations need to show they can deliver services themselves, with ring-fenced funding from central government.

Otherwise, he warned, “we will face fundamental cuts in the services we receive, in the support we have and the means to make the choices we want to”.

The motion they were debating stated that the government’s “vision for social care and support” would only be delivered through “rights-based legislation extending national entitlements” and that relying on local decision-making was a “recipe for disaster”.

Only Feast and Hackney councillor Nargis Khan – who also spoke opposing the motion – voted against it, while 25 people voted in favour and there were eight abstensions.

The debate took place just four days before Lord Ashley’s independent living bill – a private members’ bill that would give disabled people a legal right to independent living – was due to receive its second reading in the Commons.
12 October 2009 Government adviser ‘wary’ of legal right to independent living

A senior government adviser has dismissed calls for rights-based laws that would give disabled people a nationally-guaranteed entitlement to independent living support.

Dr Steve Feast, a senior health and wellbeing adviser in the Department of Health, said he would be “very wary” of writing such legislation and then waiting for the results to “trickle down” to disabled people.

Speaking in a debate on independent living organised by the disability charity RADAR following its agm, Feast said he was a “strong believer” in giving council leaders discretion in how they spend their money.

And he said he believed there should be a move away from “big government” and towards flexibility, local innovation, “empowered individuals” and a “needs-based approach”.

But Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, said legislation was needed so that “your ability to live a dignified life…to raise your kids, to love, learn, live and work” was not dependent on your local council.

She said such rights were “far too important to leave to local discretion” and that she had been “really struck with the number of people I have met recently who have had their care packages slashed”.

She added: “We are fed up to the back teeth of postcode lotteries and we are certainly fed up of professionals telling us what we need and how we should be living our lives.”

Disability consultant Haqeeq Bostan said disabled people’s organisations need to show they can deliver services themselves, with ring-fenced funding from central government.

Otherwise, he warned, “we will face fundamental cuts in the services we receive, in the support we have and the means to make the choices we want to”.

The motion they were debating stated that the government’s “vision for social care and support” would only be delivered through “rights-based legislation extending national entitlements” and that relying on local decision-making was a “recipe for disaster”.

Only Feast and Hackney councillor Nargis Khan – who also spoke opposing the motion – voted against it, while 25 people voted in favour and there were eight abstensions.

The debate took place just four days before Lord Ashley’s independent living bill – a private members’ bill that would give disabled people a legal right to independent living – was due to receive its second reading in the Commons.

News provided by John Pring at jpringnews@googlemail.com