I make no apologies for the length of this Blog as so much seems to have been going on! I suppose December 3rd being the International Day of Disabled People might have contributed something to the flurry of stories.
As chair of RADAR it was a busy week. We held our “Summit” entitled Future Proofing Equality which focussed on a number of key issues that affect disabled people for example Leadership, Finance, IT, Access and 2012 and Independent Living. The event attracted close on 150 people drawn from all sectors; business, public and 3rd. This was followed by our People of the Year Awards celebration. We had 600 people in attendance with Frank Gardener acting as host. I got home at 2:30 am and when I left people were still dancing! A brilliant evening with some amazing individuals and organisations picking up awards. Well done to all at RADAR for putting together such a fantastic day and evening. It was also the week when I’m pleased to say that the EHRC has decided to launch an enquiry into harassment and hate crime provoked in part by the tragic case involving Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter Francceca. Let’s hope that some good will come out of this appalling tragedy. There is a report on this announcement below.
Disabled Person’s Organisations recognised in awards ceremony
Two disabled activists have won prestigious awards that recognise their work with pioneering disabled people’s organisations.
Mike Adams, chief executive of Essex Coalition of Disabled People (ECDP), said he was “honoured” to win RADAR’s person of the year award.
Adams has helped create a “beacon” user-led organisation that empowers disabled people to influence local services.
ECDP also provides high quality services to disabled people across Essex, and increasingly influences policy, both locally and nationally.
Since he took the post in 2007, Adams has overseen an increase in ECDP’s funding by 53 per cent, staffing by over 25 per cent and membership from 80 to nearly 1,500.
He said: “Our challenge is to make it the business of disabled people and disabled people’s organisations everywhere to lead the change required to enhance the everyday lives of disabled people in Essex and beyond.”
RADAR’s lifetime achievement award was won by Julie Jaye Charles, who has built up Equalities National Council (ENC), a national movement for black and minority ethnic (BME) disabled people and carers, since founding it in 2000.
Charles has helped develop advocacy, promote the take-up of direct payments in BME communities and helped tackle race discrimination in mental health services.
She said she was “still in shock” and “very humbled” by the award and hoped it would push the needs of BME disabled people higher up the agenda.
She said: “My pride comes from the amount of service-users that actually want to be part of ENC, who continue to knock on our door, just to be part of something that recognises their needs.”
The disabled young person of the year award was won by Riam Dean, who triumphed in a high-profile discrimination case after taking on the might of the American clothing giant Abercrombie & Fitch.
Other winners at the annual People of the Year Awards included the Association of Disabled Professionals, which won the careers award for its work in providing advice, peer support and networking opportunities for disabled people in professional and managerial positions.
And the efforts of a group of people with learning difficulties to encourage other disabled people to register to vote for the first time was recognised with RADAR’s access award.
Members of Promote the Vote, run by Cambridgeshire-based Speaking Up, have led 50 workshops explaining to other people with learning difficulties why they should vote, and have set up an accessible website to spread the word. (If you’d like to know more just visithttp://www.radar.org.uk/radarwebsite/tabid/265/default.aspx)
Equality watchdog to launch inquiry into violence and harassment
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has announced a major inquiry that aims to discover the true extent of the harassment and violence experienced by disabled people in England and Wales.
The commission announced in April that it would review how public bodies – such as local authorities and social landlords – were meeting their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act to take action to address violence and hostility targeted at disabled people.
But it has become so concerned by evidence it has heard since then of incidents of violence and harassment across the country that it has decided to hold a formal inquiry.
After the inquiry ends, the EHRC could decide to take legal action to force public authorities to comply with their duties.
The commission has pledged to put disabled people and their organisations at the heart of the inquiry, and there are likely to be public sessions around the country at which they can give evidence.
Neil Crowther, the EHRC’s disability programme director, said: “At its heart there needs to be a very strong involvement of disabled people and public authorities in a conversation about what needs to change.”
And he said there would probably be parts of the country where disabled people were at greater risk of harassment and violence than others.
Disabled anti-hate crime campaigners have welcomed the inquiry.
Anne Novis, who leads on hate crime issues for the United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council, said it was long overdue, and hoped the EHRC would work closely with disabled people and their organisations, which have been raising concerns around hate crime for “many years”.
And Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the National Disability Hate Crime Network, said the inquiry was a “good first step” in tackling the problem.
The inquiry’s results are likely to feed into a major EHRC report, due in 2011, in which it will analyse the UK government’s progress on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The announcement follows a string of high-profile cases of targeted violence and harassment against disabled people, including the death of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca following a sustained hate campaign by a local gang.
Mike Smith, the EHRC’s new disabled commissioner, said: “There have been many well-documented cases where targeted hostility, bullying and antisocial behaviour has escalated into more serious violence, murder or the death of disabled people.”
He said the Pilkington tragedy showed the importance of early intervention and preventative action, and warned that disabled people experiencing harassment can become “conditioned to hostile treatment”, are told to ignore it, or go to “enormous lengths” to avoid putting themselves at risk.
Draft terms of reference are expected early in the new year, with the inquiry likely to begin in early February and report within a year.
Home secretary attacked by MPs over McKinnon extradition
MPs and campaigners have attacked the home secretary’s latest refusal to halt the extradition of disabled computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States.
Alan Johnson MP had been considering new evidence relating to McKinnon’s mental health, which suggested that he was highly likely to try to kill himself if extradited.
McKinnon’s lawyers have now been given until 10 December to lodge papers seeking a judicial review of Johnson’s decision. If that fails, they could also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
McKinnon, from north London, who has Asperger’s syndrome, faces a trial for allegedly hacking into US defense department computer systems, and a possible prison sentence of 60 years if convicted.
During an emergency debate in the Commons, McKinnon’s MP, David Burrowes, accused Johnson and the government of being “spineless” and said the new medical evidence showed that “suicide is now a real probability and will be an almost certain inevitability should he experience extradition”.
He said: “Putting it more bluntly, how ill and vulnerable does Gary McKinnon need to be not to be extradited to the United States?”
A string of other MPs from across the political spectrum attacked the home secretary’s failure to halt the extradition.
But Johnson told MPs he had “looked at every single word submitted by Gary McKinnon’s lawyers on the evidence of his medical condition” and his decision was that extraditing McKinnon would not breach his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.
He added: “There are legitimate concerns about Mr McKinnon’s health, and the United States authorities have provided assurances, which were before the high court in July, that his needs will be met.”
And he said it was “clear” there was “no real risk” that McKinnon would serve any of his sentence in a “supermax” prison, if convicted.
He added: “Should Mr McKinnon be extradited, charged and convicted in the US and seek repatriation to the UK to serve his sentence in this country, the government will progress his application at the very earliest opportunity.”
The Royal Association for Disability Rights (RADAR) condemned the home secretary’s decision and said many disabled people had expressed their “outrage” at a decision that “flies in the face of justice and human rights”.
The National Autistic Society, which has provided emergency care for McKinnon – detailed in the new evidence – said it was “bitterly disappointed” by the home secretary’s decision.
News provided by John Pring firstname.lastname@example.org