Equality Act, DLA, UN, House Building

Welcome! Amazing weather I’ve never eaten so many salads or barbecued food all very healthy of course. I should just warn you that the weather is about to change as we’ve purchased a small paddling pool for the grandchildren!!

I hope you enjoy, if that’s the right expression, this weeks news. I think it’s a little depressing personally.
Campaigners fear government will water down Equality Act

Campaigners fear that delays in bringing forward key elements of the Equality Act could mean the coalition government is planning to water down parts of the legislation.

The government announced this week that much of Labour’s act – which streamlines existing equality laws and provides new protection in some areas – would come into force this October, as planned.

This will include laws banning employers from using health questionnaires to discriminate against disabled job applicants; providing protection from indirect disability discrimination; and making it easier to prove that someone seeking protection under the act is a disabled person.

But the coalition government has yet to consult on the draft regulations that will describe the specific duties that public bodies such as councils and NHS trusts will have to meet as part of a new single equality duty.

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) told Disability News Service this week that the public sector duty and the draft regulations were being considered as part of a review of laws passed by the previous government but not yet implemented.

A GEO spokeswoman said the government was “looking at how the rest of the act can be implemented in the best way for business”.

Earlier this week, Theresa May, the home secretary and minister for women and equalities, said: “A successful economy needs the full participation of all its citizens and we are committed to implementing the act in the best way for business.”

The duties have been a key area of concern for many campaigners. Only when the government publishes the draft regulations will disabled people know how far the government wants public bodies to go in promoting disability equality.

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said she was concerned about the government’s delay in publishing the draft regulations, and feared that this might signal a weakening of the specific duties.

She highlighted concerns that the government’s comments about business might mean it is planning to water down Labour’s plans for specific duties on procurement.

The procurement duties could force public bodies to consider disability and other equality factors in the £125 billion a year they spend on buying goods and services from the private sector.
Government research finds DLA plays vital role

Disability living allowance (DLA) allows disabled people to maintain control and independence in their lives, and helps them avoid having to move into residential care, according to new government-funded research.

The Impact of Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance report, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), says there is “a wide range of ways” in which DLA and AA enable disabled and older people to pay for the services and goods they need.

The report’s authors – who carried out face-to-face interviews with 45 recipients of DLA and attendance allowance (AA) – say that working-age recipients were “unanimous in expressing views that DLA made a big difference to them”.

Their report concludes that “while DLA or AA often does not go directly towards paying for personal care, the benefits have a key role in reducing potential demand for formal services”, and help people avoid residential care and in “maintaining or avoiding deterioration in health”.

The findings are likely to be seized upon by disabled campaigners fighting government plans to slash the disability benefits bill, with both the chancellor, George Osborne, and Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, highlighting the cost of the DLA budget in recent weeks.

The report says disabled people use DLA and AA to manage their lives “by being able to afford market prices for housework, laundry, garden maintenance, odd jobs and taxi rides; by buying frozen meals or buying hot meals outside the home; by relying on frequent use of telephones, and by running private vehicles”.

The disabled people who were interviewed said DLA and AA provided a safety net, helped them manage their debts, and allowed them to work, to live at home and to be part of society.

A second piece of research for the DWP reports on the possible reasons for the low number of DLA claimants in work.

The Disability Living Allowance and Work report concludes that DLA recipients are, on average, “more severely disabled than other disabled people, and that they suffer higher levels of disadvantage and lower employment rates as a result”.

But it also says that DLA claimants are “significantly less likely to have a job” than other disabled people facing similar employment barriers.

The report says this could be because receiving DLA “will reduce the financial incentive to take up employment”, that taking a job could put their benefits at risk, and because there is a “widespread perception” that DLA provides compensation for those unable to work because of their impairment.

But the report also says that DLA can help people remain in work, and it calls for more support to help those recently disabled to keep their jobs.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said there was a “perverse incentive” for people claiming DLA not to work because of the risk of a DWP spot check on their eligibility if they take a job.

He added: “Actually, if you are going to go into work you are more likely to need support with travel, work clothes and more personal assistance.”

DA is about to begin new research into how DLA is spent, whether it meets people’s needs, how well it supports them to work and whether it “does the job it was intended to do”.

He said: “We are not saying DLA is perfect. We acknowledge there are issues within DLA that we would like to see addressed.”

But he said the government’s plans were about cutting the number of people receiving DLA by 20 per cent, rather than addressing the problems with how DLA works.
Leap in ESA appeals ‘exposes flaws in system’

The number of disabled people appealing against a decision to refuse their claim for the new out-of-work disability benefit has rocketed over the last year.

New figures released by the Tribunals Service show that in the first quarter of 2009-10 there were about 10,000 employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals.

By the second quarter of the year, this had leaped to 29,000, with a further steep increase to 41,000 in the third quarter, and up again to more than 46,000 in the first three months of 2010.

The figures also show that nearly two-fifths of ESA appeals that were completed at a hearing last year were successful.

ESA replaced incapacity benefit for new claimants in October 2008, with those claiming the benefit being subjected to the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA).

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

In March, a report by Citizens Advice said “high numbers” of “seriously ill and disabled people” had been found “fit for work” after taking the assessment.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said the number of appeals had increased because ESA was a new benefit and there were long “time lapses” in the application process, including a 13-week assessment phase and the length of time Jobcentre Plus has to submit an appeal to the Tribunals Service.

She said that, although ESA started in October 2008, there were not significant numbers of appeals until March 2010, while appeals were “now in a relatively steady state”.

But Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said the change to ESA “has not been communicated well”, so many people were appealing because they did not understand why their claim had been turned down.

This has added to the problems with the WCA, which was “not doing the job it was intended to do” and was “undermining the changes to the welfare reform system”.

He added: “There really is an imperative to get the assessment right first time and ensure communication is done well, so we avoid unnecessary expenditure [on appeals] at a time when all government departments are being squeezed so significantly.”
Campaigners fear government could bow to building lobby

Campaigners fear the government could bow to pressure from the house-building lobby and delay the implementation of compulsory accessibility and adaptability standards for all new homes.

The Foundation for Lifetime Homes and Neighbourhoods – the accessible housing provider Habinteg, RADAR, Age UK and the Town and Country Planning Association – spoke out as it launched a new version of its Lifetime Homes Standard following a consultation.

The standard is a set of 16 design criteria – key features that should be included in the design of accessible and adaptable housing.

The foundation said it was vital that all new homes were designed according to the Lifetime Homes Standard, with 300,000 disabled and older people living in unsuitable housing.

The Labour government had agreed that all public sector housing in England would be built to the Lifetime Homes Standard from 2011 (it is already a requirement in Wales and Northern Ireland), with a target of 2013 for all private sector homes.

But it backed away from this commitment in last December’s pre-budget report, saying it wanted “a proportionate approach” and that any move to make the standard mandatory for all new homes would not be until 2013 “at the earliest”.

Labour’s review of Lifetime Homes policy is continuing under the new coalition government.

Andy Shipley, the foundation’s Lifetime Homes coordinator, said: “The government has committed to continuing the review but it is still unclear which way they are going to go with it and how committed they are to seeing Lifetime Homes as the way forward.”

And he warned that even the target for Lifetime Homes to be mandatory for all public sector homes by 2011 was now not guaranteed.

He said there was “considerable concern” that the government would bow to demands from housing developers for a “lighter regulatory touch” because of the state of the economy.

No-one from the Communities and Local Government department was available to comment.

The disabled peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins, a patron of the foundation, has called on the government to consider “the range of social, health, welfare and economic savings” made by adopting the Lifetime Homes Standard.

During a Lords debate on affordable housing, she added: “In developing their social care policy, will the government include the benefits of the universal adoption of the Lifetime Homes Standard as an efficient way to support care delivery in the home?”

Baroness Hanham, the junior communities and local government minister, said that the Lifetime Homes Standard “remains an aspiration that should be met, even if not for every single home”.
Disabled campaigner nominated for UN role

A leading disabled campaigner has been nominated by the UK government to join the worldwide body that monitors how countries are implementing the UN disability convention.

Diane Mulligan was put forward by Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, as the UK candidate to join the UN expert committee on the rights of disabled people.

If she is elected in 2012, she will become one of the 12 human rights experts who monitor how the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is being implemented around the world.

Mulligan is a long-standing member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) disability committee, and leads its work on the UN convention, representing it in Europe and at the UN.

She was also appointed this year to the government’s network of disability equality advisers, Equality 2025, and in January was recognised with an OBE for nearly 20 years’ work with disabled people in developing countries and in the UK.

Mulligan is a former director of the charity VSO in Indonesia, set up the Sussex Amputee Support Group, and is an advisor on disability and social inclusion for the development charity Sightsavers.

Mike Smith, chair of the EHRC’s disability committee, said: “It’s a huge credit to the work that Diane has done on disabled people’s rights that she is being put forward by the minister as a candidate for the UN committee for 2012.

“She’ll be up against candidates from around the world who are also leaders in this field.”

He said the EHRC, Foreign Office, Office for Disability Issues, disabled people’s organisations and others would support her through the selection process.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Rights and Wrongs

What’s grabbed my attention this week? Well a couple of things. Many of you will have heard the rumours about DLA and whether its to be cut. Well Andy Burnham the Health Secretary has made a statement which I’ve copied below. We’re not out of the woods but perhaps the news is a little less gloomy. I’ve also included a story about some younger disabled people who are about to expose access and I guess other barriers which prevent them from enjoying themselves in the ways that non-disabled young people do their thing! Pubs clubs and museums will form the basis of their enquiries. Good luck I say! Have a great weekend.
Minister promises DLA is safe – but only until you are 65

Health secretary Andy Burnham has promised that the government will not scrap disability living allowance (DLA), but only for disabled people under the age of 65.

Speaking at the national children and adult services conference in Harrogate, Burnham said he wanted to “close down” the debate and controversy over the future of DLA.

But he suggested that the government had previously been considering scrapping DLA, and that scrapping DLA for those aged over 65 was still an option.

Disabled people over 65 can currently receive DLA, as long as they claimed the benefit for the first time before they reached 65.

Burnham said: “We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.”

He said this was because “the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people”.

Questioned afterwards about the future of DLA, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “No decision on that has been made yet for those over 65.

“It is still open to consultation. Depending on what they say we will make a decision.”

Concerns over the future of DLA, a key disability benefit, which is not means-tested and is intended to cover the extra costs of an impairment, were raised after the government published its care and support green paper in July.

The green paper said the government was considering “integrating” some disability benefits, including attendance allowance (AA), to help social services fund means-tested personal budgets.

Thousands of disabled people have protested about the threat to DLA and AA.

More than 13,000 people signed up within five days to a campaign launched by the Benefits and Work website, while many disabled people expressed their concerns on the government’s Big Care Debate website.

And a petition calling on the prime minister to save AA and DLA, launched on the Number 10 website by members of the Disability Charities Consortium, has secured more than 18,000 signatures.

Burnham also repeated the threat to AA, saying that the government was still considering “bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as attendance allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people”.

He said anyone receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an “equivalent level of support and protection” under the new system.
Trailblazers set their sights on discrimination in pubs, clubs and museums

Young campaigners are to investigate whether cinemas, football grounds and museums are breaching the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), in their latest probe into the access barriers facing young disabled people.

Volunteers will conduct undercover investigations into leisure facilities in villages, towns and cities across the UK and will give star ratings to access at local facilities in their area, such as pubs, clubs, theatres and leisure centres.

Up to 150 young people will be involved in the investigation.

The latest study is the third part of the Inclusion Now! campaign run by theTrailblazers network of young volunteers, which is part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (MDC).

Already this year the Trailblazers have investigated the barriers in securing a university education and using public transport.

Now they hope to highlight barriers, present solutions and highlight good practice in the leisure industry, and name and shame the worst offenders.

And they have not ruled out taking legal action against leisure providers that refuse to improve poor access.

Leisure, transport and higher education were selected for investigation after being highlighted by Trailblazers as areas where they were facing access barriers.

Some wheelchair-users had been branded a “fire risk” at cinemas, and were refused entry to sports and music venues.

Trailblazer David Gale, from Carlisle, said he encounters “vast differences” in access at the football grounds he visits.

He said: “The DDA says that ‘reasonable adjustments’ need to be made to make sure venues and leisure attractions are fully accessible.

“This investigation will ask whether this law is being broken.

“I hope this investigation will expose what some places are doing right and how others can improve to make sure everyone can enjoy them.”

Philip Butcher, MDC’s chief executive, said: “Many people take for granted the ability to watch a film, to visit a museum or to support their local football team.

“This simply is not an option to some disabled people if leisure facilities fail to conform to the DDA.

“The Trailblazers are determined, motivated and passionate about making society more accessible and I’m sure this report will have impact.”

To take part in the investigation, including the chance to fill in an online survey, visit: http://www.mdctrailblazers.org/campaigns/185#