Landmark ruling, Dave Morris obituary; RADAR challenges political parties

What a lovely weekend! The BBQ was trundled out of the garage and ceremonially cleaned! (My granddaughter spotted a spider making a bid for freedom from under the grill. It was last seen climbing the table leg!) There is something about a Sunday in the sunshine surrounded by friends and family I hope you did something equally lovely! The garden is looking stunning with everything bursting into colour! It’s a real pity that the local rabbit population have also discovered the lushness of our plants!! I’ve refused point blank to read Peter the Rabbit to my grandchildren as a way of registering a protest!
Disabled woman secures £125,000 in landmark discrimination case

A disabled woman who secured a ground-breaking discrimination ruling from the House of Lords is to receive £125,000 in compensation.

Elizabeth Boyle, from Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland, had alleged disability and sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair selection for redundancy against her former employer, SCA Packaging.

A vital ruling in the case by the House of Lords last July also meant that more disabled people with fluctuating conditions would be protected by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The DDA says that someone with a condition that does not currently have a substantial effect on them but varies in severity should still be viewed as disabled if they are “likely” to become substantially affected again in the future.

But the Law Lords ruled that this use of “likely” meant “could well happen”, rather than the previously accepted definition of “more probable than not”.

Boyle had worked for SCA Packaging for 32 years.

She had developed vocal nodules, which she helped to manage by speaking quietly, limiting the use of her voice, and other measures.

But her employer decided to remove partitions near her desk, even though it meant she would have to speak more loudly and risk her condition returning.

In October 2001, she began proceedings under the DDA, alleging she was being discriminated against through her employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Seven months later, she was made redundant and brought further claims, including victimisation under the DDA.

The company argued Boyle was not disabled as her condition no longer had an adverse effect on her life.

But after ruling in Boyle’s favour last July, and finding that she was a disabled person under the DDA, the Law Lords referred the case back to an industrial tribunal.

Boyle and SCA Packaging then agreed on the financial settlement without the case needing to be heard, although the company did not admit liability.

Boyle said: “This has been a nine year battle that caused so much stress to me and my family.

“However, because of the ruling made in my case, other disabled people can benefit too.”

Eileen Lavery, head of strategic enforcement for the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said the case had “broadened the protection” to disabled people under the DDA.

She said the Lords ruling was “particularly important” for people with conditions that can be controlled by treatment, or fluctuating conditions that have temporarily ceased to have an effect but are likely to recur, such as arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
Movement mourns loss of David Morris

The disability movement united this week to mourn the loss of David Morris, a hugely respected campaigner, artist and pioneer of the independent living movement, who died suddenly on Sunday.

The UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) said his passing left a “major gap in our landscape”, while other leading activists paid tribute to his passion, commitment and “incredible contributions” to equality and human rights.

There was a two-minute silence in his honour on Tuesday at an election hustings hosted by Inclusion London, the new pan-London Deaf and disabled people’s organisation that he helped develop.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said Morris had “helped shape the independent living movement in the 1980s”.

In 1989, he founded Independent Living Alternatives, which supports disabled people who need personal assistance. On its website, he described how disabled people have “an inalienable right to independent living”, but added: “In essence, independent living is a misnomer: as disabled people we should be able to just think about living as anybody else.”

Morris played a leading role in nearly every major development around disability equality in London over the last 10 years, including both Liberty – London’s annual disability arts festival – and the mayor’s Disability Capital event.

He had recently played a key role in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, as the organising committee’s external access and inclusion coordinator, on secondment from his job with the Greater London Authority.

Last September, he told Disability Capital that 2012 was a chance to leave “a real legacy for generations to come” and that London in 2012 would see the largest ever number of disabled and Deaf people in any city at one time.

Kirsten Hearn, who chaired the Inclusion London event, told the audience of disabled activists that Morris would be “the most enormous loss to our community”.

She worked with him after he was appointed senior disability adviser to the then mayor, Ken Livingstone, and said he helped deliver Livingstone’s vision around access to transport, leading to the current fleet of low-floor, “talking” buses.

She said: “Some of the changes and differences that were made in London for disabled people were made because Dave was dogged and persistent in all that he did.

“He was a quiet but vociferous man. He didn’t make a lot of audible noise but he never shut up. He would simply persist. I personally will miss him hugely and I am sure that many of us will.”
ELECTION 2010: RADAR’s plan for new government’s ‘first 100 days’

A campaigning disability organisation has laid out seven “radical but practical” measures the next government should introduce in its first 100 days in office so that it can “blaze a trail for disability equality”.

RADAR says in its election manifesto – launched this week – that introducing the seven policies would immediately improve opportunities for disabled people, “without breaking the bank”.

And it is calling on campaigners to ask their local parliamentary candidates to pledge to support the policies.

Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, said that adopting the seven measures would allow the new government to send out “strong signals” about how it would approach issues such as social care and support, and disabled people leading change.

The seven measures are:
Introducing social care “portability”, so a disabled person could take their support package with them if they moved to a home in a different local authority area.
Giving disabled people looking for work an indication of the access to work funding they would receive if they secured a job.
Setting up a taskforce to develop a strategy for ending disability poverty by 2025.
Changing the local housing allowance rules so disabled people who need an overnight support worker could claim for a second bedroom.
Drawing up regulations to ensure “effective and enforceable” public sector equality duties under the Equality Act.
Repealing the law that says MPs must lose their seat if detained under the Mental Health Act for more than six months.
Send a “strong signal” that disabled people’s leadership aspirations will be met, through issuing statements and giving a high profile to disabled politicians.

The manifesto also includes a wide range of other polices that should be introduced during the next parliament, as well as longer-term measures.

The policies focus on independent living, disability poverty and financial exclusion, access, realising the potential of disabled people, and equality and justice.

They include: a national action plan for inclusive education; an “intensive” campaign to raise awareness among disabled people of the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; stronger and more effective enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation; and the introduction of a national disability hate crime register.

Sayce said: “We have said in the manifesto that factoring disability into mainstream policies just makes for better policies.

“Think of disabled people as contributors, leaders, and think about disability when you are considering schools or housing or anti-poverty, because that will just make for better policies.”
Crow’s Resistance receives US seal of approval

A British disabled film-maker’s acclaimed installation exploring the horrors of the targeted killing of disabled people in Nazi Germany is to be exhibited at one of America’s most renowned cultural venues.

Liz Crow’s Resistance: which way the future? is to be shown at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, even though Crow has yet to find a venue willing to exhibit it in London.

This week, the film installation was brought to Mansfield, where Crow was hoping it would receive similar acclaim as at its launch at DaDa Fest in Liverpool last November.

Crow said it was “hugely exciting” that Resistance would be exhibited by the Smithsonian, but she said she was frustrated at how difficult it had been to find exhibition spaces willing to host the installation in the UK.

She said: “It seems to really connect with people and really get them thinking. My fear is that it will never realise that potential. It would be such a waste if it doesn’t get out there.”

The Aktion T4 programme is believed to have led to the targeted killing of as many as 200,000 disabled people in Germany, and possibly many thousands more, and became the blueprint for the “Final Solution”, through which the Nazis hoped to wipe out Jews, gay people and other minority groups.

Crow’s installation features a short drama about T4, a filmed conversation between three of the actors from the drama, and a series of voices of disabled people talking about their present-day, “sharp end” experiences of both discrimination and inclusion.

It explores the values that permitted the T4 programme to take place but also reveals how people found the courage to resist.

Crow said she tries to draw visitors out of the “historical hopelessness” of T4 into exploring how they as individuals could prevent the kind of oppression that surfaced in Nazi Germany.

She said: “This is an episode of history that is virtually hidden, yet the values that underpinned it still echo through disabled people’s lives today.”

Disablist hate crime, the campaign to legalise assisted suicide and pre-natal screening and abortion all “challenge the worth of disabled people’s lives and even their right to exist”, she said.

She added: “The campaigns that were needed, the resistance that was needed during the Nazi regime, are still needed now. We still need to create change on the same kind of issues.”

Disabled people who have visited the installation tended to be struck by its historical elements, she said, while non-disabled visitors tended to be affected most by the realisation that such oppression was still taking place today.

In the absence of such issues being debated during the election campaign, she said she hoped a tour of Resistance could become a platform for such issues to be discussed.

She said: “I don’t feel like this is a project of mine. I would love it if people took it and used it to create change.”

Resistance is at The Old Library, Leeming Street, Mansfield, from Tuesday 20 April to Saturday 1 May, with public access from Monday to Friday, noon-2pm, and on Saturdays, from 11am-3pm.

For further information about the installation, visit www.roaring-girl.com

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Assisted Suicide – the ongoing debate!

Slightly late posting this weeks news items. Two or three reasons for this, probably better described as excuses! First my grand-daughter had her first birthday this weekend so lots of celebrations as you might expect!! Anna was totally bemused by all the fuss and in line with other one year olds concentrated entirely on the wrapping paper, not the presents!! Second reason the b…..y car broke down again and is being removed by the RAC as we speak! Third reason, and the most serious, trying to respond to the flurry of programmes and editorial copy surrounding the assisted suicide debate. As chair of RADAR I have been trying to put across the point that until we can be completely sure that we are providing the very best support and palliative care services available to terminally ill people and their families the discussion about helping them to die is hugely premature! I don’t know if any of you caught the Channel 4 programme about Mo Mowlem. An interesting portrayal of someone and their family trying to cope with a terminal illness. Never any question that Mo wanted to end it all! However it seemed that she and her husband could avail themselves of a great deal of support which made her sad passing the more dignified. Not so for most families trying to deal with the same very difficult situation. Let me know what you think. Have a good week.
Campaigners fight again to hold the line on assisted suicide

Disability organisations have had to line up yet again against any weakening of the law on assisted suicide, following two high profile court cases and the publication of proposed new laws in Scotland.

Kay Gilderdale, from Stonegate, East Sussex, was cleared of attempted murder, having admitted a charge of assisting in the suicide of her disabled daughter, Lynn, who had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). She was given a conditional discharge.

Frances Inglis, from Dagenham, east London, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life, and a recommended minimum of nine years in prison, after a court heard how she used a heroin overdose to kill her disabled son Tom, who had brain damage, because she felt his life was not worth living.

And Margo MacDonald MSP, who has Parkinson’s disease, published her end of life assistance (Scotland) bill, which would allow those “whose life has become intolerable”, and who met a series of conditions, to “legally access assistance to end their life”.

Those who were terminally ill – or “permanently physically incapacitated” as a result of a progressive condition or “trauma” and “unable to live independently” – would qualify.

The disability charity RADAR said it was committed to the principle that “those who have a hand in the death of another person, regardless of that person’s disability or the stated motivation of the perpetrator, should have to answer for their actions before a court of law”.

It said that Tom Inglis’s impairment “did not give another person, even his mother, the right to take his life based on their own judgements”.

And it said that he had “the same rights to legal protection and justice as anyone else, and the prospect of setting out circumstances in which people whose lives are deemed by others to be intolerable can be stripped of those rights is chilling beyond measure”.

Caroline Ellis, RADAR’s joint deputy chief executive, whose teenage son has CFS, said: “Singling out individuals for legalised killing based on their medical condition or prognosis would be discriminatory and repugnant.”

She said the “real outrage” was the lack of effective treatment or support for people with CFS and that she never wants her son to “feel like society is giving up on him”.

She added: “The idea that the law could be relaxed in future to encourage people to give up sends chills down my spine.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has yet to finalise its position on assisted suicide, but Mike Smith, the new chair of its disability committee, said he personally did not believe there were “adequate safeguards to protect disabled and older people to allow assisted dying”.

He said: “It is too easy for society to view disability as a negative thing and whilst that is the case there will be coercion and in the current world we live in and the negative views of disability, I have very grave reservations about relaxing laws on assisted dying.”

Alison Davis, national co-ordinator of No Less Human, which campaigns for disabled people’s right to life, said “sick and disabled people living in Scotland will immediately be viewed as suitable candidates for death” if MacDonald’s bill becomes law.

She said this would “inevitably” make it easier for similar laws to be passed elsewhere in the UK.

A poll last year for the Care Not Killing Alliance in Scotland found 65 MSPs were opposed to legalising assisted suicide, with 18 in favour and 24 undecided.
Improvements to equality bill will safeguard ‘holy grail’

A disabled peer has hailed improvements to the public sector equality duty – the “holy grail” of the equality bill – as a “huge breakthrough” in the fight to maintain disabled people’s protection from discrimination.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell introduced the amendments to strengthen the equality duty in the bill so it did not provide a lower level of protection than the Disability Discrimination Act’s disability equality duty.

Her amendments make clear that public authorities – such as local councils or NHS trusts – must not only have “due regard” to eliminating discrimination against disabled people but in doing so must take account of people’s impairments, even if that means treating them more favourably than non-disabled people.

Baroness Campbell said: “Reasonable adjustments tailored to our particular disability-related needs lie at the heart of disability equality. Without them, we are marginalised at the fringes of society.”

The bill as it stood previously could have led to public bodies “thinking that they need to do less to take account of the needs of disabled people than they do under the current disability equality duty…the consequences of that would be disastrous.”

Baroness Thornton, for the government, said it would “under no circumstances” want public bodies to “misinterpret the new duty as imposing lesser requirements than the existing disability duty”.

She said the government was happy to accept the amendments, which were agreed as the bill continued its committee stage in the House of Lords.

Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, said the public sector duty was the most important part of the bill for disabled people, and that the amendments were “absolutely vital” as they ensure that public authorities know that disability “is different to all the other strands”.

Earlier this week, another disabled peer, Lord [Colin] Low, failed to persuade the government to remove the blanket ban on disabled people serving in the armed forces.

Lord Low told the Lords that the blanket ban was “based on a very narrow and outdated stereotype of disability”, that impairments such as severe disfigurement, diabetes and controlled epilepsy would not “necessarily disable a person from active service” and that “everyone should be considered on their merits”.

Baroness Royall said the government would “perhaps” work on his suggestion of drawing up a code of practice on employing disabled people that would meet the concerns of armed services chiefs. But she stressed that this would not be as a part of the equality bill.
Report finds nearly a third of disabled people in poverty

An independent report on income inequalities – commissioned by the government – has concluded that nearly a third of disabled people are living in poverty.

Official statistics previously estimated about a quarter of disabled people were in poverty, but An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK says the figure is probably more than 30 per cent.

This is because the report’s authors believe official measures of poverty should not count those disability benefits – such as disability living allowance – that help cover the extra costs of an impairment.

The report also concludes that there appears to be “straightforward discrimination in recruitment” affecting disabled people, particularly in the private sector.

It says recent experiments suggest that “those disclosing a disability are less likely to be called for interview than those with otherwise identical CVs”.

And it calls for a stronger government focus on boosting the employment of disabled people, particularly those with mental health conditions.

The report says the problem “is most intense” for those with low or no qualifications, and that employment rates for disabled men with low or no qualifications have “fallen considerably” in the last 25 years.

Nearly a third of working age adults who are disabled according to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) – and also have a condition that limits the work they can do – have no qualifications, compared with 12 per cent of non-disabled adults.

The report says the average (median) weekly income of men who are both DDA-disabled and have a work-limiting condition is less than half that of non-disabled men (£157 compared with £316 per week). The corresponding figures for women are £131 and £198.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission welcomed the report. Neil Kinghan, its director general, said: “The value of this report is how it pinpoints the combinations of circumstance that create the most acute instances of disadvantage: that as well as socio-economic class, race, gender, disability and other factors still matter very deeply.”

The commission will soon publish research on how employers can improve workplace support for disabled people, for example through reasonable adjustments, and particularly focusing on those with mental health conditions.

Susan Scott-Parker, chief executive of the Employers’ Forum on Disability, said the findings were “a stark reminder” of the barriers disabled people can face, and showed that employers must ensure their appraisal and promotion processes do not discriminate against disabled people.

But she warned that “any work to tackle inequality through employment policies needs to position employers as part of the solution, not the problem”.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.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

RADAR searches for leaders of the future

A disability organisation is looking for 100 ambitious disabled people to help become future leaders in the public, private and charity sectors.

RADAR’s new leadership programme will bring together aspiring disabled leaders and provide them with the skills and personal development training they need.

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

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

RADAR secured funding over three years for the new programme from the Department for Communities and Local Government, following its previous leadership work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Disability Rights Commission.

David Stocks, RADAR’s empowerment manager, who is a graduate of one of its previous leadership schemes, said it was “of the utmost importance” to “help disabled people realise their potential as leaders”.

He said: “Disabled people are not getting enough input into the way the country is run and their voice is not being heard.

“It is time to tap into the great pool of talent that is waiting to be realised within those living with ill-health, injury or disability.”

RADAR is particularly looking for applications from disabled people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and those with learning difficulties, neuro-diversity conditions and mental health conditions, as all four groups are particularly under-represented in leadership positions.

A senior civil servant from the Office for Disability Issues will mentor those in each of the four groups.

All 100 successful applicants will be invited to four leadership development days between January and April 2010 in Manchester and Birmingham, with coaching, mentoring and workshops, and additional telephone support between the four events.

To find out more, visit:www.radar.org.uk/leadership/downloads.aspx

The closing date for applications is Monday, 7 December.

News provided by John Pring atjpringnews@googlemail.com

Musings of the Week

Concerns over first government work test figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News provided by John Pring at jpringnews@googlemail.com

The Future of EHRC

We have been concerned to hear of the departure from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of two major disability leaders, Jane Campbell and Bert Massie; and our members have raised queries and worries with us about difficulties at the Commission reported in the media.

The Commission is vitally important to the 11 million people in Britain living with ill-health, injury or disability. Disabled people campaigned for decades for disability rights law and a Commission to promote and enforce it. The EHRC has the remit to achieve greater equality and human rights for disabled people – in a context of equality and human rights for people from all parts of British society.

I urge the Commission to work with the disability sector over the next year and to show the steps it is taking to achieve greater equality and human rights for disabled people in practice. We are also asking our members to tell us what they most want the Commission to deliver, given its strategic objectives and priorities. We are seeking to work with the Commission and to hold it to account.

I am also writing to the Commission’s Chair to find out what the plans are to replace the disability expertise that Jane and Bert brought to the Commission. Delivering the Commission’s remit demands that the overall governance of the Commission attracts a high level of disability leadership.

I hope that disabled people will voice your priorities clearly, so we can together work to ensure the Commission delivers on its mandate for disabled people from all communities and in all our diversity. RADAR believes that as a minimum the Commission should:

  1. Use the Disability Equality Duty (and expected Equality Duty) to make a measurable difference on the ground to what public authorities and all the services they commission do to reduce the entrenched inequalities between disabled and non-disabled people. This includes positively tackling the disability employment, skills and pay gaps; and promoting equal participation through the social care, support and health systems. This requires the Commission to use all the levers it has – from promoting the value to Britain as a whole of full inclusion to taking strong action against those that do not comply.
  2. Tackle the endemic bullying and harassment experienced by disabled people on a day to day basis. Work to achieve the right to safety in practice, with public bodies (schools, housing bodies, local authorities, police) and extend advocacy and safe reporting centres with and for disabled people. 
  3. Effectively engage with diverse people living with ill-health, injury or disability – those for whom inequalities bite hardest – including those of us living with multiple impairments, mental health conditions, learning difficulties, neuro-diverse issues and people from excluded BME and faith communities.
  4. Let people know their rights, support significant legal cases and interventions and publicise the results so individuals know their rights and those with duties understand why and how to take action. 

We are conscious that the Disability Committee and Commission staff have already delivered some very good work on disability that is not necessarily well known, for instance:

  • Intervening in a House of Lords case and successfully challenging a Crown Prosecution Service decision to stop a prosecution in relation to a man with a mental health condition not deemed a ‘reliable witness’. He had been viciously attacked; and the judge ruled that the decision to stop the court case added insult to injury and was an infringement of his human rights. This is an important precedent setting judgement. 
  • Supporting other important legal cases, including one that required a major bank not just to compensate an individual denied access (he was expected to undertake his banking on the pavement, due to lack of wheelchair access); but also required action to achieve accessibility.
  • Producing major research on ‘targeted crime’ – that sets out recommendations on public bodies to tackle the grinding, day to day bullying and harassment that disabled people face, by using positive public sector duties and a human rights framework.
  • Agenda setting work on social care and support – From safety net to springboard – setting out ways forward that promote participation for disabled people, older people, carers/family and friends, women and men.

We urge the Commission to work with the disability sector to build on this early work and to engage with disability stakeholders and communicate results to us.

RADAR’s CEO is a member of the Disability Committee and will, with other Committee members, work strenuously to put the rights and aspirations of disabled people centre stage in Commission work, working with people from the other equalities areas to create integrated approaches where needed. The Disability Committee, made up of disabled people, has statutory powers including deciding on legal cases.

I will seek to assure myself that momentum in the Commission on disability is strong and RADAR will take its responsibility to hold the body to account in the interests of disabled people very seriously. I look forward to hearing from RADAR members and friends so we can work together to achieve this.

Phil Friend

Chair, RADAR