Surprises and tragedy in equal measure.

At long last, the summer has arrived! Time to take off my fleece!

What an extraordinary few weeks it has been. First, we had all the drama of the Brexit vote and then all the carnage that followed. A new non-elected Prime Minister and Philip Hammond appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Boris Johnson inflicted on the rest of the world as our Foreign Secretary with Nigel F and Michael Gove nowhere to be seen. I don’t have the time or the space to update you regarding the state of Her Majestys Opposition! Alongside all of this mainland Europe and the USA, witnessed multiple shootings and stabbings, some clearly connected to terrorism others attributed to mental health issues.

More recently in Japan 19 learning disabled people were murdered, and 25 others were seriously injured by Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old care worker who gained access to the residential setting where they lived. It came to light shortly after these murderous attacks that Uematsu had a history of mental health difficulties. Uematsu declared

A table with flowers on it outside the residential care setting in Japan.
A person places flowers on a table outside the care home.

his hatred for the 800 million people with disabilities across the world, saying they should be exterminated, and the cost of caring for them should be spent on other things. It is alleged that he supported Adolf Hitler’s views on eugenics and had written to Japanese officials volunteering to kill disabled people as they were a drain on society.

These horrific incidents have done nothing to enhance the way the public views disabled people, particularly those who rely on the state for their support or those who are trying to manage a complex mental health condition. Now more than ever we need to reinforce the fact that most people with mental health conditions are not violent and that disabled people, in general, can and do make significant and valuable contributions to our society.

Finally just an update; as most of you know, I’ve reunited with my old chum Simon Minty and together we are having a lot of fun putting together a regular podcast. If you’d like to take a listen please visit us at  Phil and Simon Show

And after, all that here are some news stories that might interest you. As always these are provided by John Pring www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Embassy vigil will show solidarity with Japanese victims

Government’s hate crime plans unforgivable failure on disability

Rebooted “Disability Confident’ shockingly bad

Concern over Mordaunts ‘troubling’ appointment as Disability Minister

 

 

 

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

 

 

London Councils pose questions on welfare reform, Failure to treat Eddie Kidd attack as a hate crime, NHS backs GP comments on fitness to work, BBC failure on Humphrys documentary

I’ve just spent a very pleasant afternoon sitting out in the garden. My next door neighbour, who is a very keen gardener, recently “qualified” as a bee keeper and has a new bee hive. Since he acquired it and populated it with bees I’ve noticed that we seem to have a lot more of the little creatures flying around in our garden. A very welcome sight given the concerns about falling numbers of bees. Of course it might just be a coincidence or we simply acquired a lot of new neighbours.

As I watched the bees working on our lavender plants I singled out one for closer scrutiny. He/she worked away on a number of flowers but never revisited one that had already been visited. How on earth does a bee work that out? The bee didn’t appear to think “did I do that flower properly? Perhaps I ‘d better just check”. He/she did it right first time and moved on!

I think my brain is bigger than a bees but I find myself revisiting stuff all the time. If the computer starts misbehaving I keep trying the same key strokes in the vain hope that this time I will get a different result! Are you a bit like that? I like the bee’s approach do it properly in the first place and then move on or if what you’re trying to do isn’t working trying something different.

Finally a reminder that our book “Why are you pretending to be normal?” provides ideas and tips on how disabled people, family, friends, managers can start doing things differently in order to manage disability more effectively. More information atwww.philandfriends.co.uk/book

News Roundup

London councils set to pose question DWP fears to ask

Local authorities in London are set to do what the government has refused to do, and commission research into the impact of the coalition’s welfare reforms on disabled people.

The research will look at the impact of three of the government’s major welfare reforms: universal credit, the “bedroom tax” and the benefit cap.

The decision by London Councils, which represents the capital’s local authorities, to commission the research raises new questions about the refusal by work and pensions ministers to investigate the cumulative impact of their own reforms and cuts to benefits on disabled people.

Only last month, Mark Hoban, the Conservative minister for employment, said that a cumulative impact assessment would be “so complex and subject to so many variables that it would be meaningless, helping neither individuals nor policy makers, and it would soon be incorrect and out of date”.

Although the London Councils research will not look at the impact of all of the many benefit cuts and reforms, the three it will be examining are central to the government’s welfare agenda and will have a significant impact on disabled people.

Universal credit, which is gradually being introduced, will see key means-tested benefits and tax credits combined into a single payment, but a report published last year, Holes in the Safety Net, concluded that about 450,000 disabled people could eventually lose out under the changes.

The “bedroom tax” housing regulations came into force on 1 April and financially punish tenants in social housing who are assessed as “under-occupying” their homes, with campaigners warning that it is leading to disabled people across the country facing the risk of eviction.

And the benefit cap, currently being rolled out across the country, restricts the total amount of benefits working-age households can receive to £500 per week, with many families set to lose hundreds of pounds a month.

Because of exemptions and other measures aimed at disabled people with higher support needs, all three reforms are set to hit those with lower support needs hardest, matching the prime minister’s pledge to target government funding at those who are “most disabled”.

Marie Pye, former head of public sector delivery at the Disability Rights Commission and now a Labour councillor in Waltham Forest and lead on equality for London Councils, said: “We need to understand across London what the impact of these three changes is on disabled people. We need to look at the reality of what they are doing to disabled people’s lives.

“We also need to try and identify the best practice among authorities that are trying to mitigate the impact and support disabled people, so we can all learn from that.”

Pye said London Councils had decided not to look at the impact of cuts and reforms to disability benefits, but to examine instead the impact of the government’s wider welfare reform agenda on disabled people, many of whom would not qualify for benefits such as the new personal independence payment.

London’s high rent levels also mean that measures affecting housing benefit – as all three of the reforms do – are particularly significant to disabled people in the capital.

Pye added: “I think it is absolutely essential that any analysis of the impact of welfare reform specifically looks at the impact on disabled people as a wider group, on all of us in our different situations.”

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said the decision to carry out the research was “brilliant news”.

She said: “It is very welcome and we would be really keen to be involved.”

And she added: “We think it is very interesting that London Councils are doing it but the government is still insisting that it is too complex to do.”

A London Councils spokesman said the report was “currently at the commissioning stage”, with officers “writing up the criteria for shortlisting” researchers to carry out the work, and the report itself likely to be published “around Christmas”.

But he later sent a statement claiming – despite his own comments and those of Marie Pye – that “no final decision has been made on whether to go ahead with the research as it is still in the pre-commissioning stage”.
Questions for judge over failure to treat Eddie Kidd attack by wife as hate crime

A judge failed to treat a series of assaults on former motorcycle stuntman Eddie Kidd by his wife as disability hate crime, even though she called him a “fucking spastic” during one of the attacks.

Samantha Kidd was jailed for five months last week after admitting four counts of assaulting her husband.

But it is the latest in a string of cases in which the criminal justice system has ignored what seemed to be clear examples of disability hate crime.

Sussex police treated the crimes as both domestic violence and hate crime from the beginning of their investigation, while the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) also argued that the language used by Samantha Kidd made the case a disability hate crime.

But despite Kidd calling her husband a “fucking spastic” as she assaulted him, Judge William Ashworth made it clear that he was sentencing her on the basis of domestic violence against a “vulnerable” person, and not for a disability hate crime.

Crimes which are dealt with by the courts as hate crimes result in higher sentences under section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Brighton magistrates court had heard how Kidd punched, slapped and kicked her husband, and had to be pulled away after being found with her hands on his throat.

On another occasion last year, she kicked him after a care worker struggled to help him from his car and into a wheelchair.

She was arrested after the couple split up and the incidents were reported to the police.

A CPS spokesman said: “This case was flagged by the CPS as a disability hate crime. At the sentence hearing, we argued that the language used by the defendant towards the victim made this case a disability hate crime.

“Although the defence argued that the defendant was not motivated by hostility towards the victim’s disability, we maintained that the language still demonstrated hostility.”

A spokesman for Sussex police said the officers investigating the offences had recognised them as potential disability hate crimes, had asked Samantha Kidd about “hate comments” when she was interviewed, and had discussed the hate aspect of the case with CPS lawyers.

Eddie Kidd was one of the world’s most famous stunt performers through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, also working as a stunt double in films such as Goldeneye and The Living Daylights, and was the first rider to jump the Great Wall of China.

He became disabled after crashing his motorcycle during a stunt in 1996, which left him with brain damage and severe physical impairments.
NHS backs GP over ‘inflammatory’ comments on ‘fitness for work’

The NHS is refusing to take any action over a GP who made “inflammatory” comments about claimants of incapacity benefits in his national magazine column.

Dr Phil Peverley, who works at a practice in Sunderland, made the comments in Pulse, the weekly magazine for GPs.

He told his readers that Atos Healthcare – the firm which carries out “fitness for work” tests on behalf of the government – “nearly always gets it right”, apparently ignoring the huge number of successful appeals against benefit decisions made as a result of Atos recommendations.

Peverley complained that “entire surgeries could be filled with the disgruntled unworking well, full of indignation at being considered reasonably healthy”, and that a “proportion of punters are hell bent on trying to prove they’re really ill, and need us to confirm it”.

He said he had even considered putting up a picture of the renowned disabled scientist Professor Stephen Hawking in his surgery, with a caption that says: “This bloke is not on the sick.”

The column led to news stories in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, both citing his remark about Hawking.

There was also a stream of supportive comments from GP readers of Pulse, with one doctor claiming that he was “going to get a photo of Prof Hawking up on the wall as you suggest”.

Another said: “Atos gets it right nearly 100 per cent of the time, personally I would like to shake them by the hand and say job well done. The fact is everyone can work no matter what their illness is.”

The column, and the follow-ups by the Mail and Telegraph, led to a joint statement from the user-led campaign groups Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Black Triangle, who said Peverley’s “inflammatory” column had been reported to the General Medical Council (GMC).

They said the column was “an insult to all those that suffer the misery and anxiety of Atos within the regime designed to remove support from disabled people” and to those who have died “shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’”.

They pointed out that the British Medical Association voted last year to demand that the work capability assessment be ended with “immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause unavoidable harm”.

And they said the comparison with Hawking was “beyond bizarre”, as he has “the funds to ensure a network of PA support, home adaptations and technical aids – something far out of the reach of the majority of disabled people – where even a basic level of support is becoming increasingly unlikely in the current slash and burn climate”.

A spokeswoman for NHS England (Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear) said: “Dr Peverley has his individual views which he expresses clearly in the column.

“GPs are accountable to the GMC for their professional conduct and, if anyone has any concerns relating to this, the GMC can be approached direct for further advice.

“NHS England, through the local area team, would only get involved if it was proven that Dr Peverley’s views were affecting his ability to provide an appropriate clinical service for the NHS.”

The magazine also stood by Peverley, describing him as “one of Pulse’s most valued, multiple award-winning columnists”.

Editor Steve Nowottny said: “His monthly column does not necessarily speak for Pulse, or the majority of GPs, but represents his own personal perspective as a hard-working, coalface GP seeing patients day in and day out.”

He said the column had tackled an “important and difficult question around the role GPs should play, if at all, in sickness certification” and had “clearly provoked an intense and healthy debate”.

He stressed that it was only the latest in a series of articles Pulse had run on the impact of benefits assessments on GPs and patients.

Nowottny pointed to other opinion articles, for example a piece by Dr Martin Brunet and another by Dr Graham Kramer, which had taken “a very different stance”.

He added: “We aim to fully represent the broad spectrum of opinion within the profession, and sickness certification is clearly an area which requires further debate.”

A GMC spokeswoman said she could not confirm whether they had received any complaints about Peverley, and added: “We are not able to confirm if there are any investigations ongoing. We do have a duty of confidentiality.”

A spokesman for Professor Hawking at the University of Cambridge said: “Professor Hawking does not wish to comment thank you.”
BBC fails to solve mystery over Humphrys documentary complaints

The BBC has refused to explain exactly what happened to nearly 50 disability-related complaints about a controversial documentary that was accused of “scapegoating” benefit claimants.

Last week, the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee published its findings on two appeals over complaints about The Future State of Welfare, a BBC2 documentary fronted by the BBC journalist and Today presenter John Humphrys.

The committee partially upheld one complaint on the grounds of accuracy and impartiality, but failed to address any of the many concerns raised about the way the documentary seemed to misrepresent the government’s cuts and reforms to out-of-work disability benefits.

Disabled activists flooded Twitter on the night of the broadcast in November 2011, criticising Humphrys for “scapegoating” benefit claimants, with one saying he was “disgusted at lack of rigour with factual claims” (@MasonDAutistic) and another describing it as the “scariest piece of #Tory propaganda seen since 80s” (@Quinonostante).

But despite up to 50 complaints about the way the documentary addressed disability benefit reform, none of these issues were dealt with by the trust, the BBC’s governing body.

Disabled people who viewed the programme were furious at its claim that government figures showed “three-quarters of new claimants who were tested were deemed not to merit” employment and support allowance.

In fact, government figures showed that of those tested through the work capability assessment (WCA), and once the many successful appeals were included, only just over half of new claimants had been found fit for work.

The committee did refer to this complaint in its report, but said only that it “did not qualify to proceed to appeal”.

The programme also failed to mention the widespread criticisms of the severity, inaccuracy and inflexibility of the WCA.

Instead, Humphrys told viewers that “more stringent” tests had been brought in to “try to flush out people who are claiming on health grounds when they should not be”.

Humphrys also failed to point out that government figures showed incapacity benefit (IB) fraud was just 0.3 per cent of spending.

Other viewers were unhappy that the programme had asked pollsters Ipsos MORI to put a leading question about IB to members of the public, asking them if they agreed with the statement: “We need stricter tests to ensure people claiming IB because of sickness or disability are genuinely unable to work.”

None of these complaints were addressed in last week’s ruling by the BBC Trust’s committee.

The disabled activist and blogger Sue Marsh, a leading campaigner for WCA reform, welcomed the trust’s ruling, which she said showed the programme had been “biased”.

She said: “I thought it was literally the most unbalanced, biased piece of reporting on the reforms I had seen. I was staggered that it went out as it did.”

But she added: “It is strange that there was nothing in the trust’s report about the people who had complained from the disability community.

“I had so much feedback from people saying they had complained, and I would be very surprised if they were satisfied with any explanation that didn’t apologise.”

In 2011, a BBC spokesman told Disability News Service (DNS) that the programme could not be described as disablist because “those who are genuinely unable to work through disability or incapacity should not be impacted by the change in policy we examine”.

This week, a BBC News and Current Affairs spokeswoman said that all complaints relating to the programme had now been dealt with.

She said the “overwhelming majority” of the 144 people who complained about the programme had been “satisfied” with the BBC’s initial response, while “a handful” had appealed to the editorial complaints unit, the next stage in the complaints process.

She said these other complaints were now all “resolved”, with everyone “happy” with the response they had received, with the exception of the two the trust ruled on last week.

The spokeswoman said: “We won’t comment further on the detail of the complaints as that is a private matter between the complainant and the BBC.”

But she said that requests to film the WCA process for the documentary had been refused and Humphrys had spoken during the programme to a disabled person who had undergone an assessment, and “clearly outlined how distressing she had found it”.

She said the claim that three-quarters of new claimants failed to secure ESA was “based on figures released by the Department of Work and Pensions”.

One of the disabled activists who did complain about the programme has told DNS he believes the BBC deliberately obstructed his complaints for more than a year.

The activist, who blogs as Mason Dixon, Autistic, was forced to abandon his complaint last December because he had “no faith left in the corporation to be fair and uphold even their own written standards”.

He said he had assumed that the BBC would be “keen to preserve its journalistic integrity and the authenticity of its reputation” and that there would be “pro-active interest in correcting errors”.

Instead, he said, he encountered “dismissive indifference and stone-walling”, and was repeatedly “fobbed off” when he asked the BBC to make reasonable adjustments for him during the complaints process.

He finally called a halt to his complaint for impairment-related reasons after trying for more than a year to convince the BBC to address his concerns about the programme.

He added: “What I’ve encountered from the BBC suggests it is rotten from the inside-out; no scruples, no remorse, no concern for ethics or standards.”

The committee found last week that the documentary failed to provide the “crucial” information that nearly half of the increase in the benefits bill mentioned by the programme was due to an increase in spending on pensions, while out-of-work benefits – the subject of the documentary – were responsible for a much smaller proportion of the increase.

It also concluded that the statistics that were provided by the programme “all tended to provide the Government’s perspective”.

And it decided that the failure of accuracy had led to a breach in impartiality, although it cleared Humphrys of presenting “a personal view on a controversial subject”.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Disabled volunteers will make the Games, ILF closure, Hate Crime Government no to research

At last something resembling summer has arrived. I spent the whole of Sunday with my son at the Oval watching England’s cricketers being systematically and comprehensively taken apart. Not a pretty sight but at least the weather was lovely!

This week we hear the seriously disturbing news that the Independent Living Fund (ILF) is to be closed. For those of you who don’t know this is government funding which helps severely disabled people to pay for services that enable them to live inclusive lives. Many years ago when I was the Chair of the Disabled Association of Hillingdon (DASH) the fund was very new and we worked with a young guy who was quadriplegic to help him to move away from his parents into a home of his own. After training and support from DASH he employed his own support workers using a mix of ILF and local authority money. It’s safe to say that had the ILF not been available he would have been forced to live in residential care.

What does the government propose doing for today’s severely disabled people who want nothing more than to make the same choices as their non-disabled counterparts?

News Roundup

London 2012: Thousands of disabled volunteers will help to ‘make the games’

Disabled people are set to play a prominent and public part in both the London 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics, after organisers revealed that they would make up five per cent of the huge volunteer workforce.

The London 2012 organising committee LOCOG told Disability News Service (DNS) that about five per cent of the 70,000 volunteers who have been signed up – about 3,500 people – had described themselves as disabled.

The “games makers”, as London 2012 volunteers are called, will perform valuable roles across the venues at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Some will check tickets or direct spectators to venues, while others will assist in medal ceremonies, work as part of the London 2012 mobility service, transport athletes, or help with the games results service.

LOCOG said that about half of those disabled people who applied to be games makers had been successful, compared with less than a third of non-disabled applicants.

The figures are welcome news to LOCOG, after DNS revealed that fewer than 100 of the 3,000 adult volunteers set to take part in the Paralympics opening ceremony would be disabled, and that disabled people were also set to be out-numbered on the Paralympic torch relay.

Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals, has spoken of how the recruitment of disabled volunteers would play a vital part in the success of the games.

She said two years ago that she hoped between five and seven per cent of the volunteers would be disabled people, and that having thousands of disabled volunteers would “help break down people’s attitudes to disability and impairment”.

A LOCOG spokeswoman said they were “very pleased” with the number of disabled games makers they had recruited.

She said: “We made a big effort to make sure disabled people knew there were opportunities, and to show them we would provide reasonable adjustments when we could and make sure they knew they could be a games maker and be supported.”

She added: “From the start we said we wanted the games to be for everyone. It will show the world that we took that commitment seriously and that we have worked hard over the last few years to make sure we have a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

She said LOCOG also hoped that its efforts would leave a “legacy” that would encourage disabled people to volunteer after the games had ended.
Pioneer warns of ‘disastrous’ consequences of ILF closure

One of the pioneers of the independent living movement has warned the government that its decision to shut the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2015 could force thousands of disabled people out of their homes and into residential care.

John Evans said that such a move, announced last week in a long-awaited consultation paper, would be “disastrous” and would “destroy people both mentally and physically”.

Evans was a co-founder of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) and is now an influential disability rights consultant, a board member of the European Disability Forum, and a member of the National Co-production Advisory Group.

But more than 30 years ago, he was one of the five members of Project 81, disabled residents of a Leonard Cheshire home in Hampshire who negotiated a deal with the local authorities funding them that enabled them to move out of the institution and into their own homes in the community.

Now, three decades later, he fears that he and many other ILF-recipients – all of whom have high support needs – could be forced back into residential care.

He said: “My biggest fear ever since that day has been will I ever return to that. Right now it is looking like a reality.”

Evans said he believed that most of the nearly 20,000 recipients of ILF support were now thinking about this “potential threat”.

Maria Miller, the Conservative minister for disabled people, announced in December 2010 that ILF – a government-funded trust which currently helps 19,700 disabled people to live independently – would remain closed permanently to new applicants, while the packages of current users would be protected until 2015.

But in last week’s consultation paper, the government made it clear that it also wants to close the ILF to existing users from April 2015, with funding passed to local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Asked what his message would be to Miller, Evans said: “Realise the potential hazardous consequences of your decisions, look at the long-term impact on the health and security of those people’s lives.

“Would you like to have your money taken away if you were disabled and were being threatened by going into residential care and not being able to live in your own home?”

He said he doubted whether cash-strapped local authorities would pass on all of the funding given to them by the government when it closed ILF.

He said: “I have talked to local authorities. They don’t know what to do. They are struggling with their budgets at the moment. They are having to make cutbacks even before this comes in.”

Like many other recipients, he requires 24-hour care, and uses ILF to top up the funding provided by his local authority.

He describes himself as an ILF “success story”. He has used the funding to live in his own home and work as a self-employed consultant.

Evans said: “ILF liberated many disabled people and was instrumental in getting a lot of disabled people into work.”

He added: “The government says things have changed now and the ILF is out-of-date, but what it is providing support for is not. People like myself have not changed.”

Sue Bott, director of development for Disability Rights UK, said the government must explain how people with high support needs would be funded in the future, and that she doubted whether cash-strapped councils would pass on all the funding given to them.

She also said there was no guarantee that the ILF money distributed by the government to local authorities would be allocated according to the number of ILF-users in each area.

This could mean that those local authorities that had done most to promote ILF to disabled people would find themselves hardest hit by its closure.

Bott said she believed there would need to be a new, separate source of funding for people with high support needs to replace ILF so that people like John Evans were “not faced with the prospect of being incarcerated in residential care”.

She said: “Ironically these people were the pioneers of the independent living movement and now they are being forgotten about and ignored.”

She added: “It is one thing to fight the cuts, but it is totally devastating when your whole life’s work is getting reversed in a matter of a few months.

“I cannot contemplate the enormity of what it would mean. The only comparison I can think of for myself is if I suddenly found myself back in special school.”

She called for the scope of the ILF consultation to be widened, so the government could consider widening the criteria for continuing healthcare, which – with the increasing use of personal health budgets – might provide new opportunities for health funding to be used in the same way as local authority personal budgets.

DR UK will be consulting its member organisations before responding to the ILF consultation, which ends on 10 October.
Government refuses to research hate crime impact of special schools

The Department for Education (DfE) has rejected a key recommendation of the equality watchdog’s disability hate crime inquiry, which could have undermined the government’s anti-inclusion stance on the education of disabled children.

Although most of the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) Hidden in Plain Sight report were accepted by the government this week, the DfE refused to fund research that could have undermined its backing for segregated education.

The EHRC’s inquiry report, published last September, concluded that hundreds of thousands of disabled people a year were subjected to disability-related harassment, but that public bodies were guilty of a “systematic, institutional failure” to recognise the problem.

And it suggested that the failure to include disabled people in society – including the history of forcing disabled people to live in institutions, and segregated employment and education – had helped cause disability-related harassment.

It called for the government to commission research on how segregated education, or inadequate support in mainstream education, affected children’s schooling and the ability of disabled children to “re-integrate into wider society”, as well as the extent to which segregation “adversely impacts on non-disabled children’s views of disability and disabled people”.

But DfE this week rejected the recommendation, and said it wanted to see “the development of a diverse range of good quality provision for disabled children, whether in mainstream or special school”.

The government’s pledge to “remove the bias towards inclusion” in disabled children’s education has sparked anger and protests by disabled activists since the coalition came to power.

Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator for the Alliance for Inclusive Education, said they were “very disappointed” that the government did not want to commission the research.

She said: “It clearly indicates that the government wants to go ahead with providing a greater amount of segregated education provision without considering the long-term impact on disabled children and young people who experience segregated education.”

The only other major EHRC recommendation rejected outright was a call for the government to introduce national reports and plans on disability-related harassment. The Home Office and Ministry of Justice said it was “more appropriate” for these to be issued locally.

Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said he would give the government’s overall response just “five out of ten”.

He said: “What they are doing is taking out the bits that are going to be costly and annoying and leaving in the bits that are up to everybody else.”

He said he was particularly disappointed with the government’s rejection of the need for national action to tackle disability hate crime.

Brookes welcomed the government’s praise for the partnership work on tackling hate crime that he had supported in his home town of Blackpool, which had led to a “dramatic increase” in disabled people having the confidence to report hate crime.

But he said the government needed to take a leading role and not just leave it to local agencies.

The EHRC said it was “pleased that the government has agreed with a significant majority of our recommendations”.

An EHRC spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing the detailed response, alongside the responses of nearly 50 other national organisations and bodies, and will be reporting on them in our Manifesto for Change report which will come out this autumn.”

Minister wants eight-year delay in new rights for disabled passengers

The government is seeking to delay major parts of a new European regulation that would have given powerful rights to disabled bus and coach passengers.

The European Union regulation on bus and coach passenger rights is due to come into force on 1 March 2013.

It includes a right to full compensation for lost or damaged wheelchairs, non-discrimination in booking tickets and boarding vehicles, and disability awareness training for all staff who deal with customers.

But EU states have the right to seek lengthy exemptions from other key parts of the regulation, and a consultation document published this week by Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker says the coalition wants to “make use of all available exemptions in order to delay costs to industry and give them more time to prepare”.

These other rights for disabled passengers only apply to journeys over 155 miles, but EU member states can still exempt their regular domestic bus and coach services from these rights for up to eight years.

The rights the UK government wants to delay include the right to compensation if a passenger has a reservation and has explained their need for assistance in advance but is still prevented from boarding the coach or bus.

The government also wants to delay a disabled passenger’s right to free assistance at major coach terminals and on board coaches, if they have notified the provider at least 36 hours before departure; and the right to be accompanied by their own assistant at no extra charge if the transport provider is unable to provide suitable support.

The Department for Transport said the eight-year delay would mean “significant monetised benefits” – of more than £8 million – for bus and coach operators and the bodies that run major coach terminals such as London Victoria and Birmingham.

But it admitted that the delay would cause “costs to passengers, including disabled people and people with reduced mobility” of more than £1 million.

The government also wants to take advantage of another exemption, delaying compulsory disability awareness training for bus and coach drivers by five years.

The consultation document points out that disabled people in the UK will still have the protection of the Equality Act.

Baker said: “We want people taking coach trips and long-distance bus journeys to get a fair deal. However, we also want to avoid tying operators up in expensive and unnecessary burdens.

“I believe that the approach outlined in this consultation finds the right balance between passenger protection and operator competitiveness and I hope that groups likely to be affected by these changes will agree when they respond to our proposals.”

The consultation closes on 11 October.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Direct Enquirers, DLA, Work Choice, Hate Crime, ILF Cuts

Welcome! These postings are getting wider apart! I blame it all on the nice weather and a desire to take advantage of it.

A couple of things to share before dealing with the news this week. I’ve just spent a few very relaxing days in the Ribble Valley in our motor home. All was well until my powered wheelchair decided not to be powered anymore. Stuck on a pavement in the middle of Clitheroe with no way of moving is an experience not be missed. Sue, my wife, valiantly suggested pushing the 180 kilo chair with me in it the mile and half back to the camp ground. Enter Transit Van man!! He drove Sue to the site to pick up our ramps and promptly mobilised a few people to push the chair into the van. I sat in the back in total darkness but remembered the chair has lights! We arrived safe and sound and I was decanted onto the grass. The only downside is that I emerged resembling a ghost completely covered in plaster dust! Who cares!! I love Transit Van man!

Another exciting project is now underway in collaboration with Grant Kennedy CEO at Direct Enquiries. After Grant helped my local football team with sponsorship the players have agreed to undertake 350 assessments of the local facilities in Hertfordshire and elsewhere so that anyone using the Direct Enquiries website will be able to get information on accessible venues in the area. The players are really keen to help, standby for good information on nightclubs, bars, restaurants and pubs!! Enjoy the rest.
Employers ‘missing out on young disabled talent’

Talented and highly-educated young disabled people are continuing to miss out on opportunities for training, employment and career progression, according to a new report.

The Right to Work report is the latest investigation by the Trailblazers group of young disabled campaigners – run by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign – and surveyed more than 100 young disabled people.

Two-thirds of them said they may have had job applications rejected by employers because of discrimination. A similar number believed the job application process puts them at a disadvantage, while about 70 per cent said physical access to the workplace was one of the biggest obstacles they faced in obtaining paid work.

One in seven disabled graduates – with an average age of 26 – had never had a paid job, while one in five survey respondents felt they had been forced out of a job due to poor disability awareness.

Some campaigners said interviews or work experience had been called off when the employer realised they were disabled.

Members of Trailblazers also carried out undercover investigations of access at Jobcentre Plus offices and recruitment agencies across the UK.

Now they want the government and employers to set up a national disabled graduates training scheme, promote the business case for employing “talented, qualified and dedicated” disabled candidates, and encourage disability equality training for line managers

They also want to see more accessible facilities at Jobcentre Plus offices and recruitment agencies, and more disabled people employed as disability employment advisers by Jobcentre Plus.

And they called for greater promotion of the Access to Work scheme and for it to be extended to disabled volunteers, interns, and those on work placements.

Jagdeep Sehmbi, a wheelchair-user and multimedia communications graduate from Birmingham, said: “When I was applying for jobs, I noticed that as soon as I mentioned I needed wheelchair access the attitude would change – whereas I had initially felt a conversation was leading to an invite for interview, it suddenly ended with being told they would get back to me, which never happened.”

Bobby Ancil, Trailblazers project manager, said: “More than anything in this report, we were struck by the amount of talented and bright individuals employers are missing out on because they can’t see past disability.

“It is shocking that so many well-qualified people who want to work are unable to find jobs.”

To read the report, visit: www.mdctrailblazers.org
Minister hints that ILF could be scrapped

The minister for disabled people has hinted that the government could be set to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) as part of its spending review.

In a ministerial statement this week, Maria Miller MP attacked the previous government for failing to “take a principled and strategic decision” on the fund’s future.

Miller said an independent review of the fund in 2007 suggested the government should make a decision on its future in 2009-10, “based on the presumption” that ILF support would be merged with local authority funding for personal budgets.

Miller also criticised the Labour government for taking a last-minute decision to cut the ILF budget for 2010-11 by £11 million to £348 million in March this year.

Miller said this move – as well as the “uncertainty and sensitivity” of methods of forecasting spending on the fund – led to the ILF’s decision to restrict new applicants to those in paid work of 16 hours or more, and then later to close the fund to all new applicants for the rest of 2010-2011.

Miller added: “The confusion and uncertainty caused by this chain of events is unacceptable.”

She said the ILF had now put in place a “more robust methodology” for forecasting its spending and had “safeguarded the support allocated to the 21,000 existing recipients of the fund”.

She said: “I have asked the [Department for Work and Pensions] and the ILF to ensure that all the lessons are learned from this situation and that appropriate procedures are put in place to ensure that the fund’s budget remains on track.”

She added: “The coalition government are committed to ensuring severely disabled people receive the support they need and, working closely with the trustees, we will consider and settle the long-term future of the ILF as part of the forthcoming spending review.”

But confusion still surrounds the timing of the Labour government’s decision to cut the ILF budget and how that affected the decision to restrict eligibility.

Disability News Service was told by ILF on 24 March – after it had announced the decision to restrict eligibility – that the budget for 2010-11 would be £359 million.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman was this week unable to clarify exactly when the decision to cut the budget was taken.

And when asked whether Miller’s statement implied that the government was planning to scrap the ILF, he said: “The future of the ILF is going to be reviewed in the autumn. Watch this space. I cannot speculate.”
Work Choice given government go-ahead

The coalition government is to go ahead with plans to launch a new work programme for disabled people with higher support needs.

The Labour government had announced plans to replace specialist programmes such as WORKSTEP with a new scheme called Work Choice this autumn.

But the future of the new programme had been cast into doubt because of the new government’s plans for a single work programme for all people on out-of-work benefits.

Maria Miller, the disabled people’s minister, announced this week that Work Choice would be launched on 25 October and would “sit alongside” the single work programme.

Miller said Work Choice would “help into work disabled people who face the most complex and long-term barriers to employment and who may require high intensity support in the workplace”.

She said it would replace the “existing confusing array” of specialist disability employment programmes – WORKSTEP, Work Preparation and the Job Introduction Scheme.

And she said it would “greatly improve upon the effectiveness of current provision by tailoring support to the needs of each severely disabled individual to help move them into and stay in long-term sustainable jobs”.

There will also be a cut in the number of contracts with employment support providers from more than 200 to just 28.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman denied that the move signalled a rethink on plans for a single, overarching work programme.

He said: “They want provision for the hardest to help groups. It is very important to have that.”

Meanwhile, new DWP figures show that the number of disabled people who received support through the Access to Work (ATW) programme rose from more than 32,000 in 2008-09 to more than 37,000 in 2009-10.

Of those receiving funding to provide adaptations, equipment and other work support in 2009-10, only 390 had mental health conditions, while 1,720 had learning difficulties, 5,450 had hearing impairments and 5,280 were visually-impaired.

More than 11,500 ATW awards were made for aids and equipment, nearly 10,000 for support workers, and 12,700 for travel to work, while 250 were made for adaptations to workplaces, and 270 for adaptations to vehicles.
UKDPC uncovers widespread reports of hate crime deaths

New research by a leading disabled activist has uncovered reports of more than 20 violent deaths of disabled people – many of them likely to be disability hate crimes – over just three months.

The report, by hate crime campaigner Anne Novis for the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), found reports of 141 offences that appeared to involve targeted hostility towards disabled people.

Of these crimes – which include physical assaults, rape, robbery, torture and arson – at least 21 involved the violent deaths of disabled people.

Some of the reports come from trials of people accused of murder and other serious offences, while others were media reports of how disabled people had died violent deaths and where the perpetrators had yet to be arrested.

Novis said she hoped her report would deliver a “wake-up call” on the extent of disability hate crime, but would also help disabled people’s organisations secure funding for their own hate crime projects.

The report has already been submitted as evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into disability-related harassment. A second, wider report by Novis for UKDPC into the extent of disability hate crime over the last three years will also be submitted to the inquiry.

Jaspal Dhani, UKDPC’s chief executive, said the crimes collated by Novis were “only the tip of the iceberg” and showed how much work needed to be done by the government to comply with its duties under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

He said: “I think that if the public became aware of the extent of the problem they would be horrified.”

Novis said she believed disability hate crime was increasing “significantly”, and was even more widespread than described in her report, partly because of under-reporting by disabled people.

Her report is based on “informal research” that draws evidence from online articles, disabled people’s blogs and disability discussion forums, and provides a “snapshot” of reports of disability hate crime over a three-month period from March to May 2010.

Novis called for disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to be given funding to carry out formal, detailed research into the extent of disability hate crime.

She said the targeted hostility experienced by disabled people was being aggravated by the debate around welfare reform, the government’s call for cuts to the disability benefits budget and the media focus on disability benefit fraud.
DLA survey results come at perfect time

A disabled people’s organisation has told two government ministers that their cost-cutting disability living allowance (DLA) reforms could be “counter-productive” and make it harder for disabled people to work.

Both the disabled people’s minister, Maria Miller, and the care services minister, Paul Burstow, visited Essex Coalition of Disabled People (ECDP) last week, just as it was about to publish its survey on the government’s planned changes to DLA.

In June, the government announced a major reform of DLA, with tighter eligibility, a new medical test and reassessments for all claimants of working age over the three years from 2013.

The ECDP survey found 93 per cent of disabled people were very or quite concerned about the planned changes to DLA, while more than three-quarters said the changes were likely to have a big or fairly big impact on their everyday lives.

More than half of the 141 respondents feared their DLA could be taken away, while a third thought they might not be able to work if this happened.

Rich Watts, ECDP’s director of policy and development, said: “What we were very keen to impress on [the two ministers] was that our survey said that one in three people said they were unlikely to work as a result of the changes in DLA.

“These changes could be counter-productive to their goal of getting people back in work.

“To both of them we said: ‘Rather than swinging the axe we would like you to talk to disabled people and their organisations on how to approach this and how to minimise the impact on disabled people.’”

Watts said there had been a strong sense of “injustice” among the disabled people who took part in the survey, who believed the government was “picking on disabled people” and “trying to lump us into the same category as benefits scroungers”.

Many were worried about the prospect of another hugely stressful assessment.

He added: “Some people just seemed tired that they worked so hard to get the right care and support but will have to go through this all over again.”

One respondent accused the government of “putting disability back under the medical microscope”.

Another said: “Having endured the form and the medical, I dread having to go through the whole process again along with millions of others.”

And a third disabled person said: “Without my DLA I would lose my adapted car, my independence and my job. DLA supports me to contribute because it enables me to work full time.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Welfare Reform, Hate Crime, Landmark Human Rights ruling

Well another bank holiday over and I hope you enjoyed yours! It’s my wife’s birthday this week so we decided to celebrate by taking everyone off to a Point to Point race meeting on bank holiday Monday. To say we all froze is an understatement! The wind howled and hailstones stung our cheeks! To cap it all we all lost the stake money my wife had so generously given each of us!! The one ray of sunshine concerned the provision of two fully wheelchair accessible toilets right in the middle of a field! Well done I say! Have a great short week!!
ELECTION 2010: Key concerns remain over welfare reform

Striking differences have emerged between the Liberal Democrats and the other two main parties over how they would treat disabled people on out-of-work benefits.

Important questions also remain over both Labour and Conservative plans on welfare reform.

Both Labour and the Conservatives plan to reassess every person currently receiving incapacity benefit (IB).

Labour plans to start doing this from October, building up to testing 10,000 people a week through its controversial work capability assessment (WCA).

Both parties appeared to confirm this week that there would be no exemptions from these reassessments for any disabled person, even those who are terminally-ill.

Theresa May, the Conservative work and pensions spokeswoman, confirmed the party’s commitment in a BBC interview that every person on IB would be “reassessed”.

She said: “We will be covering those 2.6 million people on IB. Some of those will not be able to work. All will be reassessed.”

And a Labour spokesman said: “My understanding is because it is going from one form of benefit to another an assessment has to take place.”

But there are also question-marks over the Tories’ figures, with May insisting –as the manifesto does – that a Conservative government would reassess the “2.6 million people on IB”.

In fact, the latest Department for Work and Pensions figures state that in August 2009 there were about 2.26 million on IB and another 375,000 on its replacement, the new employment and support allowance (ESA). This comes to a total of about 2.6 million.

May’s statement – and the manifesto – implies that a Conservative government would retest all those disabled people on ESA who have already taken and “passed” the WCA, as well as those still on IB.

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman, put clear water between his party and the other two on the issue.

Also speaking on the BBC, he said that both the Conservatives and Labour were planning to “go through the stock of people” on IB and “reassign” them onto jobseeker’s allowance, which is paid at a lower rate, “essentially as a benefit cut”.

He said: “I fear that under a Labour or Tory administration it is going to be about hitting people on benefits harder and harder rather than supporting them, which is what the Liberal Democrats are proposing.”

Webb outlined what appeared to be a new policy, a “partial capacity benefit” which he said would not be saying “you either work or you don’t work, you’re sick or you’re not sick”.

He said: “It’s based on what you can do, perhaps part-time work, perhaps intermittent work, because at the moment people are afraid to take jobs or to work part-time because they lose benefits.

“We need to work with the grain of people, particularly people who have been on benefits for a long time.”

No-one from any of the parties was available to talk about their welfare reform policies in depth this week.
Serious concerns again over latest hate crime murder

Serious concerns have been raised again about the way the police deal with disability hate crime, after members of a family were sentenced for the brutal murder of a disabled man they had beaten and tortured for years.

Michael Gilbert was held captive by the Watt family in Luton for about 10 years and was regularly beaten, stabbed, tormented, treated “like a slave” and had his benefits money stolen.

Four members of the Watt family, and two of their girlfriends, were sentenced to a total of 93 years in prison for offences connected with Gilbert’s death in January 2009, including causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.

Three of them – James Watt, the ringleader, Natasha Oldfield and Nichola Roberts – were found guilty of murder. Watt will serve a minimum of 36 years in prison, Oldfield 18 years and Roberts at least 15 years.

But court documents make it clear that Bedfordshire police were told on at least three occasions – twice by Gilbert himself and once by his then girlfriend – that he had been abducted.

Lancashire police were also told of similar allegations after Gilbert had escaped to Blackburn but was abducted and brought back to Luton by the Watts.

Other agencies in contact with Gilbert also saw evidence that he was being assaulted.

Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the National Disability Hate Crime Network, said he was pleased at the “fairly substantial” sentences imposed in the case.

But he said a police force had yet again failed to treat serious violent offences against a disabled person as disability hate crime.

He said: “The police described him as vulnerable. They should have said he was a disabled person who was targeted and brutalised by this mob of thugs.

“What it does prove yet again is that various police forces need to get their act together and work at a common standard level.”

He said it also appeared clear that various agencies had yet again failed to communicate with each other over a disability hate crime.

Paul Fawcett, head of marketing and communications for the charity Victim Support, said that dealing with the justice system “can be a difficult and alien experience for anybody” and that for people with “additional challenges” such as some disabled people “it can be particularly bewildering and difficult”.

He said: “This would appear to be a case, without singling anyone out, where there was a collective failure of the system to identify that somebody was at risk and to intervene and deal with it.”

Bedfordshire police said at a media briefing during the trial that Gilbert had refused police help and so there was “nothing that any authorities could have done”.

It has also emerged that following the latest annual assessment of Luton council’s adult social care department by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the council had to draw up an action plan to “address issues highlighted by the commission relating to safeguarding”.

A CQC spokeswoman said they would be “reviewing what action has been taken when we carry out a full assessment of the service later this year”.

The Luton Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults Board has launched a serious case review “to establish whether there are any lessons to be learned” from the Michael Gilbert case and “if anything could have been done differently by the local professionals and agencies who work to safeguard vulnerable adults”.

Luton council said it could not comment further because of the review, as did Bedfordshire police.
Court case on support is landmark for human rights

A disabled woman was today set to ask a court to prevent a council cutting the support she needs to maintain her dignity, in a case with vital human rights implications for disabled people receiving care.

Elaine McDonald says Kensington and Chelsea council’s decision to cut her care package from more than £700 to £450 per week, reducing her night time support, would breach her right to be treated with dignity.

Douglas Joy, a senior solicitor with Disability Law Service, which is conducting McDonald’s case with funding from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the court would decide whether she has a right to dignity under the Human Rights Act.

McDonald, a former principal ballerina with the Scottish Ballet, became disabled following a stroke in 1999 and needs support because of problems with strength, mobility, vision and spatial awareness.

She had been provided with a weekly package of 22.5 hours of daytime support and another 10 hours of care four nights a week, worth a total of £703.59 per week.

Her council needs assessment found that nighttime care was essential to provide supervision to prevent her falling while using the commode during the night, due to a bladder condition.

But in December 2008, the council said it would cut her care package, saying she could be given incontinence pads instead of an overnight care worker, even though she is not incontinent.

In March 2009, a high court judge refused McDonald permission for a judicial review of the council’s decision, ruling that the issue was one of safety, and that incontinence pads would safeguard her from risk by ensuring she did not have to repeatedly use a commode during the night.

But following a successful appeal, McDonald was given permission for a judicial review of the council’s decision at the court of appeal, with Lord Justice Laws stating the case was “arguable and important”.

Her full support package has been maintained until her case is resolved.

Joy said: “We have come across other local authorities that have relied on the original high court case and cottoned on to this [argument] that all you need to do is safeguard. Hopefully, if we are successful it will right the wrong.”

McDonald’s lawyers were set to argue that the council’s decision to cut her night time support would breach her right to respect for her private life under article eight of the Human Rights Act.

They were also set to argue that her need under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act is for assistance to use the commode at night, rather than an underlying need to be “kept safe”.

And they were expected to say that McDonald has been discriminated against under the Disability Discrimination Act.

A council spokesman said: “When the judgement comes out we will be in the best position to comment.”

The court was expected to reserve judgement until a future date.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

A post election collection

Apologies for the slightly late arrival of this newsletter! Sitting up all night to watch an inconclusive election followed by days of manoeuvring by the three main political parties all conspired to distract me. At least I can now reveal that Jonathan Shaw the former Minister for Disabled People has departed the scene and been replaced by ??? no announcement as I write this but Mark Harper must be a strong candidate for the role. One other snippet before we draw a line under the election and prepare for swinging cuts is the victory in Eastbourne of Stephen Lloyd Liberal Democrat a disabled person and a passionate supporter of equal rights for disabled people. Congrats to him.
Sainsbury’s to sponsor 2012 Paralympics

The organisers of London 2012 have signed up the supermarket giant Sainsbury’s as a headline sponsor of the Paralympics.

LOCOG, the 2012 organising committee, said the deal to become a “tier one partner” was the “largest sponsorship ever” of a Paralympics, although it would not reveal how much the retailer had paid.

Sainsbury’s is the first “partner” to sponsor just the 2012 Paralympics, rather than the London Olympics and Paralympics as a whole.

Sainsbury’s said it would use its network of 850 stores to promote the Paralympics in the run-up to 2012, and would sell merchandise linked to both the event and the ParalympicsGB team.

It will also run a media campaign in 2012 to support the Paralympics, and will be one of two sponsors to have their names on athletes’ shirts.

Sainsbury’s said it would also work with LOCOG’s education team to develop “opportunities” around its own Active Kids programme, which provides sports equipment and coaching to children.

But a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said it was too early to say how else they might use the opportunity to promote equality for disabled people.

Phil Lane, chief executive of ParalympicsGB, said: “It is a testament not just to the growth of the Paralympic movement but also to the success of the British Paralympic team that a sponsor of the size and profile of Sainsbury’s has signed up.”

Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said: “With such a well-known company becoming an exclusive partner, this will set new promotional opportunities for the Paralympic Games and the movement, leaving a powerful legacy in communities across the UK.”

And Lord [Seb] Coe, chair of LOCOG, said: “The support for the Paralympic Games in the UK is incredible and I’m thrilled that we are now in a position to confirm our first stand-alone Paralympics sponsor.”

Justin King, Sainsbury’s chief executive, said the Paralympics would complement his company’s “commitment to promote a healthy, fitter lifestyle across all ages and abilities”.
Figures show long waits for home adaptations

Disabled and older people have been waiting up to eight years for their councils to carry out the adaptations they need to live independently at home, according to new figures.

The statistics – revealed through Freedom of Information Act requests – show the time taken between an assessment of a request for support, and the adaptation work taking place.

Of the 84 English councils that provided information about their longest delays in 2008-09, 47 admitted their longest waits were at least two years, 28 said they were more than three years and 15 had longest waits of more than four years.

The investigation into the system of disabled facilities grants (DFGs), which fund improvements such as installing a downstairs bathroom, a ramp, or better lighting, was carried out by the Sunday Telegraph.

Staffordshire County Council said its longest delay was eight years, while in the London borough of Barnet it was more than six years, with another seven councils saying their longest delay was more than five years.

A Staffordshire council spokesman said the system was “fundamentally flawed”, with county council occupational therapists responsible for assessments, while Staffordshire’s eight district councils administered DFGs.

But it said it had halved its backlog since 2007 – following an £800,000 investment – with average waits falling by 28 per cent.

A pilot scheme involving one of the districts cut average waits from 80 weeks to 14. The county council is now hoping to roll this scheme out across Staffordshire.

Barnet council said its longest wait of more than six years was an exceptional delay caused by a dispute with the applicant, which failed to “accurately portray the experience of residents in the borough”, where average waits are about 26 weeks.

But the council was unable to provide details of the next longest wait after six years.

Dexter Hanoomansingh, director of Disability Action in the Borough of Barnet (DABB), said six months was still a “disappointing statistic”, while DABB had received reports of lengthy waits just to secure initial assessments.

He said: “We hope more can be done to bring down that waiting time and address need in a shorter time frame.”

He said he believed such problems were shared by councils “up and down the country”.

And he said increasing numbers of disabled people were seeking advice from a solicitor specialising in housing issues – including problems with DFGs – who held a monthly clinic at DABB.

In March, the government announced a seven per cent increase – to £167.3 million – in the annual payments it makes to councils in England to help them fund DFGs.
Rail access budget ‘halved’

The government appears to have slashed one of the budgets for improving access at railway stations by more than half.

The Department for Transport (DfT) had been intending to spend £7.9 million on improving access at stations across Britain in 2010-11 through the small schemes fund of its Access for All programme.

But the DfT has apparently now cut that figure to £3.9 million.

It is unclear whether the DfT has also cut the budget of the larger part of the Access for All budget which is aimed at improving access at the busiest stations. That annual budget is usually about five times bigger than the small schemes fund.

The DfT was unable to comment this week because of election rules.

But its apparent decision to cut the budget of the small schemes fund was attacked in a letter written to the DfT by the Scottish government’s transport minister, Stewart Stevenson.

Stevenson said the DFT had intended to allocate £7.9 million to the fund in 2010-11, but had now cut that to just £3.9 million across Britain, with the amount for Scotland reduced to £390,000, also a cut of more than half.

A spokesman for Stevenson, a member of the Scottish National Party, said: “How can wasting billions on nuclear weapons possibly be justified, while slashing funding by more than half on an excellent programme to improve access to the rail network for disabled people?

“This budget cut must be suspended, so that the issue can be revisited after the UK election.”

The Access for All fund was launched with a £370 million government funding pot in 2006, to improve access at train stations across England, Wales and Scotland.

Organisations such as councils and regional transport bodies can bid for cash but must match any funding they secure.
Protesters call for inquiry into death of disabled woman

Disabled campaigners have held a public protest over the case of a disabled woman who died in despair at her failure to secure the accessible housing and support she needed.

Protesters outside Camden council’s department of housing and adult social care called for a public inquiry into the council’s treatment of Jennyfer Spencer.

Their campaign is led by two disabled people’s organisations, the Campaign Against Care Charges (Camden) and WinVisible, the national disabled women’s charity.

Spencer, a wheelchair-user and former primary school teacher, had spent seven years living in a fifth-floor, inaccessible flat. Her support package of direct payments had also been withdrawn.

Her body was found on 1 March, along with a letter addressed to a local paper detailing her despair at her long battle with the council.

Claire Glasman, a volunteer with WinVisible, said after this week’s protest: “People spoke about how – like Jennyfer Spencer – there are a lot of people being neglected and at risk.

“People are having their direct payments cut or dropping out [of receiving council support] because of charging.

“People are very disturbed about what happened to Jennyfer Spencer and also worried on their own behalf. We all know it could happen to us as well.”

She said she feared that other disabled people could die in similar circumstances unless there was an inquiry.

The council claims that Spencer had a “long history of refusing to engage with services”, and that her direct payments were cancelled because the money was just being left in her bank account.

It said it made repeated attempts to engage with Spencer, including contacts through her legal representative, her GP and the community mental health team.

It said that any suggestion that it had failed to meet the needs of Spencer was “conjecture” and pointed out that no cause of death had yet been established at an inquest.

A council spokeswoman said there were “currently no plans for a public inquiry”.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

White Christmas??

It must be Christmas there is snow on the ground! Although I do recall not that many years ago when we had snow at the beginning of the cricket season! So this is the final blog until 30 December by which time many of you will have gained a few pounds, questioned the amount you spent and be preparing for the new year resolutions! I hope that you all have a really good time over the Christmas period and you are able to relax for some of the time!

Now down to business! This week we’ve seen developments concerning the Equalities Bill, Hate Crime and Assisted Suicide.
Disabled peers ready for battle on equality bill

Three disabled peers say they will fight to ensure that the equality bill does not lower the level of protection for disabled people currently provided by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins and Lord [Colin] Low were speaking during the second reading of the bill in the Lords.

Each welcomed the bill – which streamlines existing equality laws – but warned that parts of it provide less protection than the DDA.

Baroness Campbell said the bill could “genuinely transform opportunities over time” but gains made through the DDA must not be “lost in translation in the equality bill”.

She said she was particularly concerned that the public sector duty to promote equality would be weaker on disability equality than the DDA.

And she said the bill fails to make it “absolutely clear” that service-providers cannot charge to provide reasonable adjustments.

She also expressed concern that an immigration measure in the bill could lead to seriously-ill disabled people being denied entry or leave to remain in the UK “in contravention of the most basic human rights”.

Baroness Wilkins said she was disappointed the bill had not adopted a more “social model” definition of disability, to improve on the current situation where discrimination can only be proved if an impairment has lasted a year.

She said it was “a travesty” that so much tribunal time was wasted “arguing about how disabled someone is, rather than focusing on the discrimination that may have taken place”.

But she said she was “delighted” the bill would make it illegal for landlords to prevent reasonable requests from disabled tenants to make physical alterations to communal hallways and entrances, so they are not “imprisoned in their own home”, something she has campaigned for since 2004.

Lord Low said parts of the bill were “particularly welcome to disabled people”, including its reversal of the 2008 Lewisham v Malcolm Lords ruling, which “threatened to wreak so much havoc with the concept of disability-related discrimination”.

But he said several parts “remain of concern to disabled people”, including a clause that “explicitly authorises an exam system that disadvantages disabled candidates” and says minimising this is “merely desirable, not necessary”.

And Lord Low said he would table an amendment to “introduce an explicit duty to provide accessible information”.

Baroness Royall, for the government, said she was “carefully” considering the comments of the three peers, and others, on the public sector equality duty, and would discuss further the issue around reasonable adjustment costs.
Still no justice on disability hate crime, say professionals

The criminal justice system is still failing to take the issue of disability hate crime seriously enough, according to a poll of professionals.

Nearly 50 delegates from local authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service, police forces, central government and voluntary organisations attended theOvercoming a Crisis of Justice conference on disability hate crime.

During a voting session at the conference – organised by Westminster Briefing – nearly four-fifths of delegates said the criminal justice system failed to take disability hate crime as seriously as other hate crimes.

Nearly seven in ten said the court process was “unfriendly and inaccessible” to disabled people.

And 86 per cent said they believed that not enough was being done to ensure that disabled people were seen as targets of hostility, and not just “easy targets”.

But nearly half the delegates said that tackling disability hate crime was high on the agenda in their local area.

Katharine Quarmby, author of the Getting Away With Murder report on disability hate crime, who spoke at the conference, said there was a feeling of “real disappointment and frustration” that the criminal justice system was still failing to treat disabled people equally.

She said: “It was an audience of very highly-skilled professionals with a really good understanding of what’s happening on the ground.

“If they are so disappointed in the criminal justice system, it really shows that the system hasn’t changed.”

Quarmby said the conference also underlined the urgent need for research to discover what motivates offenders to target disabled people in hate crimes.

But she said she was encouraged that criminal justice agencies appeared to be much clearer that lower-level harassment of disabled people often develops into something much more serious, such as hate crime murders.

Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the National Disability Hate Crime Network, who chaired the conference, said he was encouraged that delegates had recognised the importance of taking such harassment seriously and “looking more systematically at this lower level of crime”.
Guidance on assisted suicide law ‘must be toughened’

New guidance aimed at clarifying the law on assisted suicide must make it clear that nearly everyone who helps a person to kill themselves will be prosecuted, according to leading disabled activists.

Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK) was responding to a public consultation on interim guidance published by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) in September.

The DPP laid out interim guidelines for England, Wales and Northern Ireland after the Law Lords backed Debbie Purdy’s demand for the law to be clarified.

Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, wanted to know in which circumstances her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her end her life at the Dignitas assisted suicide centre in Switzerland.

But NDY UK – whose members are disabled people campaigning against assisted suicide – says pro-euthanasia campaigners are trying to use Purdy’s case to “change the law by the back door” by “creating the impression that those who assist in a suicide will be immune from prosecution”.

NDY UK’s views have been endorsed by a swathe of influential disabled people’s organisations, including the United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council, RADAR and the National Centre for Independent Living.

Many disabled campaigners were angered by the interim guidance, which lists factors to be considered in deciding whether to prosecute.

It says a prosecution is less likely if the victim had a terminal illness, a “severe and incurable physical disability” or a “severe degenerative physical condition”.

But NDY UK says in its response to the consultation that a presumption that anyone assisting in a suicide would be prosecuted would protect those who feel pressured to kill themselves and reassure them that society valued their lives.

It would also send a message to those working in palliative care and hospices that their work was valued and “put the brakes on a growing negative culture, which does not value the lives of all people equally”.

And it would ensure the policy does not discriminate against disabled people, sending out “a very clear message that all people should be protected under the law, in the same way, with the same respect”.

NDY UK says the DPP should only be able to decline to prosecute if the suspect only assisted after “protracted and persistent pressure from the victim”.

NDY UK says this is the “only potentially acceptable factor against prosecution”, although there should be evidence that the suspect resisted this pressure and sought help from professionals to try to avoid the suicide.

A final policy is expected in the spring.

News provided by John Pring at jpringnews@googlemail.com

So much going on!

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 atjpringnews@googlemail.com