Simon Minty on his most useful gadgets

I’ve known Simon Minty for many years in fact for a number of those years we were business partners, so I feel I know him pretty well. In this conversation, Simon talks about the things he finds invaluable in helping to maintain his level of independence and I must admit there were one or two surprises.

 Simon has delivered training and consultancy in the field of equalities since 1997. He has personal experience of disability, being of short stature and of limited mobility.

Based in London, Simon works throughout the UK and internationally. Simon’s passion for equality, his innate and learned knowledge of disability, his ability to listen and address the issue in hand combined with an infectious sense of humour has enabled him to successfully work with clients from a small NGO to a multi-national investment bank.  

He’s produced numerous videos and co-produced and performed in the sell-out Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Abnormally Funny People in 2005, returning again in 2015. He is a host of BBC Ouch podcast and the Phil & Simon Show

A keen traveller, he won the Travel X Travel Writer of the Year 1999 – Best Television Feature for his Channel 4 travel programme in China.

Go Go Elite Traveller Plus
Folding Step Stool Folding Step Stool
Uber App
City Maps
Google Maps Step Free Access article

The Generation Game

The Generation Game

How often do you hear, ‘what do the young people want?’ Perhaps not often enough. Certainly not as often as ‘how things have changed since my day!’ 

We wanted to hear from the next generation so we invited the multi-talented Abbi Brown on to our show. She works for the ad agency behind the now famous Malteser adverts on Channel 4.

With Abbi we explore whether you can make more of a difference from the inside or outside, who her (disabled) role models were when she was growing up and does she think there’s a disability movement these days. Indeed, what is activism these days, what are the next generation ‘fighting for’ if anything and does social media help or hinder? We also talk about using the bus and not thinking twice about it. 

Abbi has personal experience of disability with OI (brittle bones) deafness and mental health problems. 

You can follow Abbi on 

Twitter @AbbiSigns 

Instagram abbisigns  

YouTube  Ithinkmynameismoose

To travel or not to travel that is the question.

How many of you reading this think about the cutlery you might use when you go out for a meal? The chances are you’ll be much more interested in the menu, the prices, the people you’re eating with and the restaurant’s ambience.

A similar situation arises when considering going to the seaside on a gloriously hot summer’s afternoon. If you’re fastidious, you’ll check your car tyres, the oil, you’ll fill up the windscreen washer bottle, and you’ll make a list of things to take that will make the trip more enjoyable. I doubt that you’ll think to check on the availability of toilet facilities at motorway services on route or at your destination!  

For many disabled people, particularly those with severe or complex mobility impairments, the exact opposite applies. The availability of appropriate toilet facilities will be uppermost in their minds, and the lack of certainty about whether the necessary facilities are available may be enough to prevent the trip to the restaurant or the seaside.

What’s ironic is that accessible facilities have not kept pace with the increasing availability of personal transport through programmes like the Motability Scheme. The motor industry and, in particular, mobility vehicle adapters have continued to design and develop all manner of gizmos that enable even the most severely disabled person to either own and drive an accessible vehicle or to be safely and comfortably carried in one as a passenger. The variety of electronic devices now available is mind-boggling. Vehicle tail lifts make it possible for extremely heavy powered wheelchairs to be lifted and secured; seat transfer systems assist people to move from their wheelchairs into the driving seat, electronic hand controls take the strain out of steering, braking and changing gear. All these innovations, of course, come at a price but what is the point of spending thousands of pounds on an accessible vehicle if you can’t enjoy an accessible environment on the route to and at your journeys end?

It’s not all bad news. Wheelchair users have seen significant improvements in the provision of accessible toilets.  The National Key Scheme better known as the Radar key began in 1981. Since then, more than 400 local authorities and thousands of businesses have joined the Scheme. Some 9,000 toilets are now listed as being accessible via the Radar key, but the figure is probably much higher. Wheelchair accessible restrooms are far more common, most motorway services, mainline railway stations,  shopping malls and theme parks have had these facilities for a very long time.

A study in 2009 by the University of Dundee found there were 250,000 people in the UK for whom a standard accessible toilet does not meet their needs.  Accessible restrooms are great for those who can get themselves out of a wheelchair unaided. However, lots of people cant do this, such as people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and some older people. John Lewis, the famous high street retailer, recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons when a mother complained that she had been forced to change her severely disabled child on the toilet floor.  John Lewis defended itself by arguing that it didn’t have enough space to provide bigger toilets but promised to review this when it refurbishes or builds new stores.

The Changing Places campaign ( begun back in 2003 seeks to ensure that the most severely disabled person has access to appropriate toilet facilities thereby enabling them to do what most of us do without even thinking about. As a result of the Campaigns activities, there are now well over one thousand Changing Places toilets across the UK. These toilets provide not only, as you might expect, a w.c. and wash basin but also offer a hoist, a sizeable drop-down table for changing purposes and plenty of space to enable carers or support workers to assist the person where necessary. It is becoming increasingly possible to plan a trip using the Campaign’s route planner to identify suitable toilet facilities on your journey. As an example, I plotted a route from Hertford in Hertfordshire to the Brighton Marina in Sussex and found at least seven facilities that meet the Changing Places criteria.

Picture of a Mobiloo vehicle showing entry ramp at the rear and an open side entry
Mobiloo vehicle

A more recent exciting innovation which began in 2014 is the development of the Mobiloo. ( The concept is very similar to the Changing Places facilities, but with a significant difference. The toilet equipment is fitted inside a small van or lorry which means it can be located at just about any outdoor event, space permitting of course. Mobiloo is a social enterprise that now has a fleet of seven vehicles across the UK.  The vehicles are for hire and come with a volunteer driver who shows people how to use the equipment onboard.  The Mobiloo opens up all manner of fascinating travel possibilities; gymkhanas, craft fairs, sports events, music festivals, Glyndebourne and Glastonbury here we come!

We’ve come a long way since the days of institutional care for the most severely disabled people in our society. Independent living, autonomy, accessible housing, personal transport are not just pipe dreams; they are becoming the norm. We will know we’ve cracked it when those with the most complex disabilities can travel around the country without worrying about whether they can find and use the loo!


( This article 1st appeared on website)

Motability Scheme under threat

As you may be aware, The Daily Mail (5th February and 18th February) published articles accusing Motability of “hoarding £2.4 billion and paying its boss £1.7 million” here’s a link to the article and Both Motability and Motability Operations have now published letters setting out clarifications of some of the accusations made in the debate, and these are on their websites
Following this coverage, a parliamentary select committee initiated by Esther McVey, formerly the Minister for Disabled People and now Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is to undertake an “investigation”.  Frank Field MP will chair the committee.

I’d like to spend a moment or two remembering the Motability journey if you’ll pardon the pun. I remember the days of the infamous three-wheeled invalid carriage and the feeling of being treated like a second-class citizen regarding personal transport, travel and independence.  Buses, trains and taxis were mostly inaccessible, and many severely disabled people relied on the goodwill of others to get around.

Picture of a Tippen Delta 2 invalid carriage
Tippen Delta 2 1962

The Motability Scheme began back in 1977, and it made a difference, but for a long time, it wasn’t great. Back then it felt like the staff were doing you a favour by allowing you to lease a car, rather than recognising that you chose to hand over your Mobility allowance to get it. The Scheme was bureaucratic and complicated, if, for example, you scratched your car while loading your wheelchair, you were penalised. It seemed back then that the focus was on the car rather than the disabled person.
Since his appointment over ten years ago, the current CEO of Motability Operations, Mike Betts, and his team have entirely transformed the organisation, and as a result, the Scheme has seen a massive increase in its disabled customers. Motability Operations is now a commercial organisation with a real understanding of the needs of disabled people. It has a supportive infrastructure and an enlightened business model. This approach has resulted in a better deal for its 600,000 disabled customers, with excellent customer service that’s available to all. The Daily Mail has chosen to mislead and confuse these facts in its story quite deliberately.
I should declare an interest at this point. I have been a long-time supporter of the Motability Scheme, and I’m a satisfied customer.
It wouldn’t be overdramatic to say that some of these recent accusations amount to an attack on the Scheme, and the way it is run.  We need to ensure that everyone is made aware of the facts and that we demonstrate our support for the values of the Scheme, personal, choice, independence, control and outstanding customer service.

What price independence?

Those of you who know me reasonably well will know that I’m a bit of a petrol head. I simply love driving! I know that’s not terribly cool theses days given the effects on the planet, but I blame my obsession on the fact that I’m a wheelchair user and as a result, I love the freedom that driving gives me.

In my time I’ve driven some pretty incredible motors. My journey started way back in the 1960’s with the appropriately named Tippen Delta 2 a three-wheeled invalid carriage supplied by the then Ministry of Health which preceded the Motability Scheme. I managed to overturn my aptly named “Tippen” on several occasions. These vehicles were primitive, unreliable and eventually banned from Britain’s roads in 2003 as they were deemed to be too dangerous! Those of us who survived this unique driving experience used to wonder whether this was a secret initiative designed to reduce the population of disabled drivers!

Picture of a Tippen Delta 2 invalid carriage
Tippen Delta 2 1962

After seven years of crashing around in invalid carriages, I bought my first “proper” car a used two-seater sports car the MG Midget; a Porsche-engined VW Beetle followed, then a Saab Aero. I ended this extravagant period of my life with a BMW 5 Series, a Mercedes E class estate and finally a Range Rover!

The invalid carriage was an ill-equipped, unreliable and dangerous vehicle but I loved it. I still remember the pleasure and excitement of being able to go out when I pleased; I could go where I wanted and most of all I had control and choice. The Range Rover provided all of the same benefits but with leather seats!

As I’ve got older and my physical abilities have waned I’ve moved from walking on crutches to using manual wheelchairs and now to powered wheelchairs. This physical deterioration has had a profound effect on what vehicles I am now able to drive. The observant among you will quickly realise that you can’t fit a large powered wheelchair into most saloon cars. My solution has been to use wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV) supplied via the Motability Scheme. So the wheel has turned full circle!

MG Midget Sports Car
MG Midget Sports Car

The Motability Scheme is a far cry from the old invalid carriage days and has provided complete driving solutions to hundreds of thousands of severely disabled people for years; incidentally, they celebrate their fortieth anniversary in May.  I’ve variously leased through the Scheme a Chrysler Voyager, a VW Transporter and currently a VW Caddy. All accomplished, reliable vehicles but not quite BMWs although the costs including adaptations are not that different.

For many severely disabled people, their only real option for independent travel is the Motability Scheme, but the government’s recent changes to the benefits system are having a profound negative effect. Since 2013 51,000 people have had to return their Motability vehicles because they failed to satisfy the new criteria used to qualify for higher rate personal independent payments (PIP). It is estimated that the final figure will be closer to 150,000 returned vehicles. What lies behind these numbers are individual human stories. Disabled people are potentially losing their jobs because they can’t get to work, being prevented from seeing family and friends, stopped from going on holiday, reliant on others for medical appointments, shopping and leisure pursuits.

The Motability Scheme plays a vital role in ensuring that disabled people can live independently. For many of those who use the Scheme, it is the only way they can afford to lease an appropriate vehicle for their level of impairment. The draconian measures being used to reduce the benefits bill are having a devastating and disproportionate impact on the lives of many disabled people, for those who rely on PIP in order to fund their personal transport, the future looks very bleak indeed.

It’s one thing to have less money to spend, most of us have been through that,  it’s quite another to also lose your ability to live independently.


In Awe of the NHS

Hello once again.  The last time I wrote to you I was waxing lyrical about my Caribbean cruise, well, it didn’t take long for me to come down to earth with a bump.

In the final few days of our cruise we learned that my wife’s mother Jean, a lovely 89-year-old was suddenly taken seriously ill. At almost the same time, I took to my bed with the worst case of flu I have ever experienced. Four days under a duvet and then as weak as a kitten for three weeks afterwards. My illness meant that I couldn’t visit my mother-in-law as often as I would have liked.

Sadly after two months of struggle Jean finally departed this life and we were left to remember a loving, supportive, generous, and caring woman. Her passing caused me to reflect on the NHS and the care that she had received from all the staff who looked after her.

A picture of Jean and her granddaughters wedding
A picture of Jean at her granddaughter’s wedding

Jean spent two months in the hospital, first in intensive care and then on surgical and rehabilitation wards. What you notice immediately, when you spend any time in an NHS hospital, is that the doctors and nurses come from all over the world. (Where would the NHS be without immigration?) The second thing that is very obvious is the high number of agency staff working on the wards. The nurses seemed to change on a daily basis so it was rare to see the same person two days running. This inevitably led to things not being followed through, presumably because the handover between shifts with so many ‘temporary’ staff was less than perfect. An example of things falling through the cracks was that monitoring food and liquid intake were sometimes not recorded, this led to increased anxiety for us as we couldn’t tell whether Jean’s lack of physical improvement was due to not drinking or eating enough.

Another significant issue facing staff was the high turnover of patients, this was quite extraordinary and the beds on all the wards that Jean spent time on were never empty for long. Many of the patients were elderly and very confused and the nursing staff in particular needed to exercise extraordinary sensitivity in dealing with some of the challenging behaviours that they exhibited. I was in awe of their professionalism and patience.

As many of you know I have been involved in campaigns to prevent assisted dying being made legal in the UK.  I was concerned that the end of life care that Jean might receive would not be of the highest standard given the demands on the staff and other resources, my concerns were unjustified.

In the final days of Jean’s life, everything that could be done to keep her pain-free and comfortable was done. On the night of her death, she was moved to a side room where we could be with her. Her passing was peaceful and dignified, and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who was involved in making this possible.  We are indeed a fortunate nation to have the NHS and the dedicated people who work in it.

Picture head and shoulders of Blake the black Labrador
Our 13-year-old black Labrador, Blake RIP

Finally just to put a tin lid on what has been a tough few weeks our 13-year-old Labrador, Blake, collapsed, despite the vet’s best efforts there was nothing that could be done to help him. He too departed this life with dignity, and we miss him but differently.

Can’t wait for May!!

Here are the links to the latest news. I hope they are of interest.

Capita faces fresh call to be stripped of PIP contracts

Latest ‘reckless’ DSA reforms could leave disabled students without support

Fears over government links as equality watchdog launches welfare probe

Government ‘must see disabled people as innovators and contributors’

Rail access improvements set for delays… along with nearly £50 million funding

All news provided by John Pring Disability News Service

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



Work Choice, NCIL votes Yes, Human Rights Fears, Welsh Railway Station Access, Miller Savaged

Another interesting week like so many others of course. You’ll be delighted to hear that I’ve finally shaken off man flu. As you know it is awful and the only treatment is complete unquestioning sympathy from everyone dealing with the sufferer!!

Perhaps more important has been the initial responses to the government’s proposed spending cuts. Many disability organisations are really concerned about the impact on their stakeholders and the current media attention, which seems to focus on two main issues. First cutting benefits is about fairness! Disabled people claiming housing benefit should have it reduced because non-disabled people can’t afford £20,000 a year rent on their salaries and that’s not fair. All that is required is for non-disabled people to acquire MS, Cancer or Parkinson’s disease and they might then qualify for the reduced housing benefit!! Second everyone claiming incapacity benefit is clearly work shy or a malingerer and need to be reassessed in order to get them back into work. What is interesting here is that people tend to become disabled while working so what is being done to help employers retain staff? Perhaps an employee and employer should be assessed together to see what adjustments are required to keep people off benefits. Rant over I hope you enjoy this weeks selection of news items.
Government admits Work Choice numbers ‘are lower’

The government has admitted that its new work programme, aimed at providing intensive support for those facing the highest employment barriers, will help far fewer disabled people than it previously suggested.

Launching Work Choice this week, the government said the voluntary programme would support 23,000 “severely disabled” people every year.

But in a written answer to Conservative MP Rehman Chishti, Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, said the government expected “around 79,000 people” to have access to Work Choice by 2015.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman admitted that “many customers” would be on the scheme for more than a year and so only an estimated 79,000 people would be helped, an annual average of less than 16,000 over five years.

On the day the government launched the scheme, Miller told a joint meeting of disability-related all party parliamentary groups that Work Choice would “deliver far simpler and far more effective support for severely disabled people”.

She said the programme would provide “pre-employment support for disabled people so they can get the best jobs they can do and post-employment support so they don’t just fall out of the job when things get a bit tough”.

Miller said the government wanted to give more than one million disabled people the support they needed to get off benefits and into work, through Work Choice and the new Work Programme.

But a series of speakers questioned where the government would find these jobs.

The disabled peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson cast huge doubt on where the jobs would come from, because of the “underlying discrimination against disabled people trying to get into work”.

She said she knew of disabled people who were applying for 50 or 60 jobs and were “being turned away for a whole host of really bizarre reasons”, when “the real reason was that they are disabled”.

She said it was “really painful that these people are being targeted as scroungers when they absolutely, genuinely want to be in work”.

Tom Clarke MP, who chairs the all party parliamentary group on learning disability, told the minister that the jobs “just aren’t there” and for people with learning difficulties “that becomes an even bigger problem”, particularly because of the lack of advocacy.

Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, also cast doubt on the government’s plans.

He said: “If the Labour government couldn’t achieve a significant reduction in the number of people on these benefits when the economy was booming, then the new government’s approach…may have to run very, very hard just to stand still.”
NCIL members vote for merger to ‘keep independent living alive’

The National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) has taken a large step towards a merger with two other leading disability organisations, after members were warned it was unlikely to survive on its own.

Despite several concerns raised by disabled activists at NCIL’s annual general meeting (agm) in London, none of its member organisations voted against plans to move towards a merger with RADAR and Disability Alliance (DA), with possible unification next summer.

In NCIL’s annual review, its chair, Mike Smith, said the decision to aim to merge next year was mainly taken because “the present political and financial situation pose serious threats both to disabled people’s rights and to the financial position of our three organisations”.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, an NCIL board member and one of its co-founders, gave an emotional speech at the agm in which she warned: “Quite frankly, I believe if we do not do it, within six months there will be no NCIL.”

She said NCIL’s campaigning was “the reason that many of us have direct payments in this room today”, but she believed NCIL would be “safe” with RADAR, which had gone through “a phenomenal change over the last few years” and “will support us to continue our work”.

John Evans, her fellow NCIL co-founder, said: “My heart and my gut and my independent living background say we shouldn’t do this…we need our identity, but I don’t see an alternative given the financial situation.”

But he added: “Independent living has to be at the heart of the organisation and it has to be in the name, without a doubt.”

Smith said: “It’s not about creating one organisation for disabled people. It’s about making sure independent living as a concept and as a movement has a future and has longevity.”

Sue Bott, NCIL’s director, said the move was “actually very, very positive” and would “give us a bigger voice”, and added: “It does give us a better chance to support our members because we can bring in the experts and knowledge of all three organisations.”

But Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), pointed out that UKDPC had put itself in “special measures” three years ago and was now “strengthened” and “growing”.

She warned of the danger of an organisation setting itself up to be the only voice of disabled people and of disagreements within a movement that has “already been driven apart by conflict over the last 15 years”.

She said UKDPC would “politely decline” an invitation to join the coalition but would “continue to support NCIL” – which was originally part of BCODP, the former name for UKDPC – and pledged to “work alongside you and the new organisation if that is the direction you go in”.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, whose members have already backed the merger plans, promised the agm that it would be a “partnership on an equal basis”.

But Dr Ju Gosling, co-chair of the LGBT disabled people’s organisation Regard, said she believed an independent NCIL would fit the government’s “Big Society” plans better than a “big super-organisation”.

Earlier in the day, she had raised concerns that the merger could undermine the work of UKDPC, which is leading on work around the UN disability convention.

After the agm, Gosling said she believed the merger was “completely unnecessary”, and added: “I can see how it benefits RADAR but I can’t see how it benefits NCIL.”

But Sayce said the history of the disability movement showed how it had “come together and been united” at difficult times.

She said the new organisation would play a crucial role in influencing national policy, supporting local DPOs and influencing local decision-making in “very difficult circumstances”.
Human rights fears over detained patients

Hospitals could be breaching the human rights of mental health patients by keeping wards permanently locked and imposing blanket bans on mobile phones and internet access, according to a report by the care watchdog.

The concerns were raised in the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) first annual report on the use of the Mental Health Act (MHA), which focuses on how services are using their powers under the act to treat patients detained in hospital or subject to community treatment orders.

The report found 45,755 people had been detained in hospital for assessment or treatment – higher than ever before.

And it raises concerns about the excessive use of control, restraint and seclusion by hospitals.

Cynthia Bower, CQC’s chief executive, said: “We recognise the importance of ensuring people’s safety, but more hospitals are keeping psychiatric wards locked at all times, even though they often accommodate voluntary as well as detained patients.

“In some places there are blanket bans on mobile phones and internet access. These sorts of measures could compromise patients’ privacy or dignity, hold back their progress and even breach their human rights.”

CQC said it was also concerned about the number of patients certified as consenting to treatment, but who appeared to be refusing consent or to lack the capacity to do so. It called for “significant improvement” in this area.

And it said improving patient involvement in assessing their own needs and planning their care should be “a major priority for many services”.

The report also raises concerns about the use of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs), after it found 4,107 were used in 2009/10 – more than ten times the number predicted by the Department of Health before their introduction.

CTOs are aimed at people who do not comply with treatment, to avoid having to detain them in hospital, but campaigners warned during Labour’s battle to force through its Mental Health Act in 2007 that they could be overused.

The commission found 30 per cent of people on CTOs had no history of refusing to co-operate with their treatment, while black and minority ethnic groups appeared to be over-represented among those on CTOs.

Bower said CQC had found “too much poor and unacceptable practice” and would “use our powers to ensure that care providers address these issues and make real improvements”.

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the mental health charity Rethink, said the report suggested professionals were “sometimes opting for the easier option instead of prioritising patients’ best interests”.

He added: “This could be breaking the law and breaching the human rights of people with mental illness. It is almost certainly causing distress and hampering recovery.”
Welsh station access is ‘unacceptable’, say assembly members

Access to railway stations in Wales is “unacceptable”, with more than half of the 221 stations across Wales not fully accessible, according to a new report by a committee of politicians.

The report by the Welsh assembly’s equality of opportunity committee said there were “significant shortcomings” in access, with a third of stations having no wheelchair access to platforms and 89 per cent of stations having no wheelchair-accessible toilets.

But the report fails to recommend a “full upgrading” of all stations, because it says the cost would be “prohibitively expensive”, and instead recommends a “process of prioritisation”.

The report also warns that there has been a failure by industry and government to reach a consensus on what level of accessibility to aim for.

Among the problems highlighted in the report are footbridge-only access to platforms, unreliable lifts, large gaps between trains and platforms, understaffing and a lack of clear audio-visual information.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission passed the committee examples of complaints it had received from disabled people, including a passenger told he could not travel by rail from Swansea to London unless he gave 12 hours’ notice to open the gate leading onto the station, and a wheelchair-user told he might not be able to travel from Pembrokeshire to Cardiff if the ramps were being used on another platform.

The Neath Port Talbot Disability Network told the committee that a wheelchair-user who wanted to travel into Port Talbot Station at 6pm on a Sunday evening would have to travel to either Neath or Bridgend and then use a taxi to get to Port Talbot.

And research by the MS Society found 83 per cent of all stations in Wales were unstaffed, with only six staffed 24-hours-a-day.

The Welsh Assembly Government does not have full control over the Welsh railway network, with stations owned by Network Rail and leased by Arriva Trains Wales, which also runs many of the train services, and much of railway policy controlled by the UK government’s Department for Transport.

But the report calls on Welsh ministers to use the powers they have to increase funding, and to lobby the UK government to prioritise access improvements when it sets targets for Network Rail for 2014-2018.

The report also calls for a greater involvement of disabled people in planning and monitoring access improvements, and more access information to be displayed in stations.

And the committee wants the Welsh government to encourage councils and other public bodies to work with the rail industry to encourage the take-up of disabled people’s railcards.
Miller savaged over cuts to disability benefits

Furious politicians and disability campaigners have attacked the minister for disabled people after she tried to justify the latest round of government cuts to disability benefits.

Activists, and MPs and peers from more than 10 disability-related all party parliamentary groups – including those on disability, learning disability and autism – were particularly angry about government plans to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from council-funded residents of care homes.

Maria Miller MP claimed the move was a “tough decision” but was taken because the money to pay for people’s mobility was “duplicated” in the support provided by local councils through care and support packages, a claim greeted with disbelieving laughter by campaigners.

Lord [Brian] Rix, a crossbench peer and president of Mencap, drew loud applause when he told Miller: “I can’t tell you the anger I felt…at the removal of the mobility allowance.”

He said this would affect 60,000 people with learning difficulties who “rely on the mobility allowance” to get out of their care setting “to go anywhere”.

He added: “To say local authorities are going to help – local authorities are cutting back, charging for everything. It’s an impossible situation.”

Lord Rix also drew applause from the audience when he said that the government’s claim that everyone would suffer equally from the cuts “doesn’t make any sense whatsoever”.

And a representative of the disability organisation SeeAbility drew further loud applause later in the meeting when he pleaded with the minister to “think again” on cutting the mobility component.

He said the move was “the wrong choice” and that cutting it would make a small saving but would make a “huge difference” to disabled people’s ability to “do things that they will not be able to do if you withdraw that benefit”, such as accessing the community or visiting a loved one.

Miller appealed to those at the meeting to “look at the totality of the measures” the government had introduced around disability.

She said that by “simply picking on one element like that” people were “not really grasping what we are trying to do”.

She added: “We are offering more support than ever before to disabled people to get into work. You do need to look at those different issues side by side.”

But she promised: “We will absolutely make sure that we watch carefully how this is implemented but this is a tough spending review but it is not going to be without pain and I understand people’s concerns about this.”

Anne McGuire, the co-chair of the all party parliamentary group on disability and a former Labour minister for disabled people, who herself has a long-term health condition, said she was disturbed by the decision to impose a one-year time limit for those people who claim the “contributory” form of employment and support allowance and are in the “work-related activity group”.

She said they would be likely to be “distant from the labour market” and that “for some of these people a year will just not be sufficient to re-engage with the labour market”.

Miller said the government had “thought long and hard about how we can make the savings needed”.

And she claimed: “Even in the teeth of a massive challenge we have married a real appetite for reform with a determination to support those people who need our help.”

She added: “It is important that we look at the ways that different changes in the benefits system are introduced and that they do not deliver a disproportionate effect on particularly vulnerable groups of people.”

Miller was also asked by the disabled Labour peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins how the government would ensure that the £1 billion social care grant announced in the spending review – which was not ring-fenced – would actually be spent by councils on social care.

But disability campaigners laughed again when Miller said that “that is what our local authority elected representatives are there to do”, and that by freeing up local councils to make their own spending decisions the government would ensure disabled people secured the right support packages.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said she was concerned at the government’s plans to cut housing benefit by ten per cent for anyone who had been on jobseeker’s allowance for a year, in the light of continuing “employer prejudice”.

Miller said: “It is a point it is important to look at and make sure how that is going to impact on different groups of people.”

News provided by John Pring at

Disabled Volunteers, Equality Threat, Treasury Website under attack

First an apology last week several of you contacted me because my blog was returning a “browser limitation” message whatever that means. Suffice it to say the problem has been rectified so I hope this posting is ok for you. I’m just about to head up to Northumberland for a few days break. Regularly readers will no doubt recall the wheelchair debacle the last time I tried this and you can rest assured I’ll tell all on my return! So far the wheelchair is performing well after the repair but who knows what lies in store.

Finally I had several messages of condolence regarding my father in law’s sudden death. The cremation and service were extremely moving and all who attended were reminded of what a lovely man he was. We will all miss him but recognise that he left a wonderful legacy in the way that he supported and cared for his family. I live with one of them and am tremendously grateful to him.

I’ll be in touch on my return in the meantime I hope you find these news items of interest.
Disabled volunteers ‘will play key 2012 role’

Recruiting thousands of disabled people to volunteer for the London 2012 Paralympics will play a vital part in the success of the games, according to one of Britain’s greatest Paralympians.

Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals, was speaking as the capital prepared to mark two years until the opening ceremony on 29 August 2012.

She said it was vital that disabled people signed up, and suggested that she would like at least five to seven per cent of volunteers to be disabled people.

She said: “I think we would have done well if we can get that. [Disabled people] will be able to give that much more practical advice that you can’t teach in any training session.

“It’s quite hard to train somebody in what it is like to travel around London as a wheelchair-user.”

Baroness Grey-Thompson, who is vice-chair of the 2012 organising committee’s sports advisory group, said having thousands of disabled volunteers would also “help break down people’s attitudes to disability and impairment”.

She said she would hold her fellow disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell to her pledge to volunteer.

Another major challenge, she said, would be ensuring the stadia for Paralympics events were full, or at least “fullish”.

Chris Holmes, who won nine Paralympic gold medals and is now director of Paralympic integration for LOCOG, the 2012 organising committee, said the “greatest challenge” was to secure the same level of “excitement and engagement” as with the Olympics.

Holmes said that having so many elite Paralympic athletes in London would “phenomenally change people’s attitudes” and “ripple out” and improve education and employment opportunities for disabled people.

But both former athletes said there would need to be some realism about how far access to transport and services in London such as theatres, restaurants and hotels could be improved in time for 2012.

Baroness Grey-Thompson said: “I think it is still going to be a challenge. We are not going to make the whole of London accessible.

“It is how in games-time we can be as smart as possible in how people are advised to get around London.

“LOCOG can’t go round telling people to make their business wheelchair-accessible, but any smart businessman will make it happen.”

London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has announced that live coverage of the Paralympics will be screened in Trafalgar Square, which will also host performances – building on the annual Liberty disability arts festival – showcasing some of the best disability arts alongside mainstream arts groups.

For information on 2012 volunteering and tickets,
Government plans ‘make mockery’ of equality goal

New government plans for how public bodies should promote equality are an “enormous setback” in the battle for disability rights, according to horrified disabled people’s organisations and activists.

The Government Equalities Office consultation describes how public bodies such as councils, health trusts, police forces and government departments should eliminate discrimination and harassment and promote equality under the new Equality Act.

But campaigners have reacted with horror to the draft regulations, which describe the act’s “specific duties”, most of which will come into force in April 2011.

Under the government’s plans, councils and other public bodies would no longer have to set out how they plan to achieve their disability equality objectives.

They would merely have to publish at least one equality objective –which would not even need to be disability-related – with no duty to achieve it or explain how it would be achieved.

They would also have to publish statistics showing progress on equality issues, which the government claims will allow groups and individuals to “apply public pressure to drive a faster pace of change”.

The government also wants to scrap the legal duty for public bodies to consult with disabled people in advance about what action they plan on disability equality.

The Government Equalities Office said its new approach would “encourage public bodies to concentrate on achieving outcomes, rather than describing processes”.

But Caroline Gooding, an equality consultant and a former director with the Disability Rights Commission, said the draft duties were an “enormous setback” and would “put the brakes on the progress that we had begun to see”.

She has been examining research on the current disability equality duty – which will be replaced by the new laws – and has found that “time and time again it says the requirement to involve disabled people has been hugely productive in plans to promote equality”.

Instead of having to describe the actions they will take on equality, public bodies such as the Department of Health will now just be able to “pluck out of the air” a single equality objective.

Gooding added: “It will make it much harder for people working within public authorities to argue that effective action needs to be taken.”

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said the proposals “abandon the principle of mainstreaming equality” and “reduce to an absolute bare minimum the requirement of public authorities to take action to advance equality for disabled people”.

She said: “Authorities could take no more than one equality objective across all functions and all equality groups over a four-year period and then still take no action to achieve it.

“It makes a mockery of the idea of the goal of advancing equality for disabled people.”

RADAR said it was “extremely concerned” by the government’s plans. It said the existing specific duties had “empowered disabled people and disability groups to hold public bodies to account” and placed disabled people “at the heart of policy making and service development”.

Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, said: “We do not share the optimism of the coalition government that public sector professionals will do the right thing.

“Whilst some organisations will continue to build on the good work that they have been doing in the last few years, many others will fail to deliver disability equality without the steer that comes from the existing duties.”

The Scottish government and Welsh assembly government will issue their own consultations on the specific duties.

The consultation ends on 10 November. To take part,
EHRC asks government again for equality proof on cuts

The equality watchdog has asked the government for a second time to prove it is fulfilling its legal duty to consider the impact of spending cuts on disabled people, minority ethnic groups and women.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it could take legal action if the Treasury and other government departments fail to provide “robust evidence” that they have met their public sector equality duties on disability, race and gender.

If the government fails to comply with these duties, the EHRC has a range of powers, including a judicial review or formal inquiry, although the EHRC says such serious measures are “a long way away”.

The EHRC’s comments came as disability organisations denied reports that they were seeking their own judicial review.

A number of organisations, including Disability Alliance and Disability Law Service (DLS), had been considering a legal challenge, but both have now ruled out such a move.

Wonta Ansah-Twum, head of disability discrimination and employment for DLS, said: “We do believe the budget will have an adverse effect on disabled people and we do not believe there was a disability impact assessment.

“We wish we were in a position to mount a challenge, but because of limited resources we are not in a position to seek a judicial review because of its cost implications.”

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, added: “We would support a legal challenge but we don’t have the resources to do so.”

The EHRC said it was concerned about spending cuts announced in June’s emergency budget as well as any further cuts announced in October’s spending review.

The EHRC originally wrote to the Treasury and other government departments in June to ask for “reassurance” that they would comply with their legal duties.

Trevor Phillips, the EHRC chair, and Neil Kinghan, its director general, “re-registered” their concern at a meeting this week with Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury.

Phillips and Mike Smith, who chairs the EHRC’s disability committee, have also met with Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, to stress the importance of assessing the equality impact of spending decisions.

The EHRC said it wanted to ensure the government’s decisions were “evidence-based, fair and transparent”.

Kinghan said: “It is for the Treasury to demonstrate that it has complied with the legislation and assessed the impact of its decisions on vulnerable groups.

“If it cannot do so, then the commission will have to consider appropriate enforcement action.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “Departments consider the impact of the budget measures on gender, race and disability as they develop and implement the policies. This is in line with their legal obligations.”

Meanwhile, new research shows the impact of the economic crisis on disabled parents and parents of disabled children in Scotland.

A survey by the Parenting Across Scotland Partnership found 53 per cent of disabled parents and 64 per cent of parents with a disabled child found it more difficult to pay their bills than last year.
Website sparks wave of Motability hate comments

A flood of comments posted on a government website that call for the Motability car scheme to be scrapped or drastically cut back as a cost-cutting measure has left disabled campaigners bemused and angry.

The Treasury’s Spending Challenge website has received more than 44,000 suggestions from the public for how the government could save money, and is now asking people to rate which ideas they like best.

Many suggestions posted on the site focus on disability living allowance (DLA) and the Motability car scheme, and appear to show no understanding of the purpose of DLA or how the car scheme works.

One person who used the website called the scheme a “scam”, while another said it was a “waste of money and should be scrapped for all but the most essential users”, while a third said the scheme was “just a fiddle by at least 80 per cent of disabled people”.

Another complained that if disabled people can drive “they can afford to buy and run their own car and not sponge off the hard working taxpayers”.

Helen Smith, director of policy and campaigns for the disabled motorists’ charity Mobilise, said she found it “really difficult to understand” the “bigoted and angry” comments that had been posted on the Treasury’s site.

She added: “I sincerely hope that the views of these people are not going to be taken seriously [by the government] because they obviously have no idea what they are talking about.

“A lot of people are using these cars to enable them to go to work and be tax-payers and take part in education and better themselves.”

Disabled activist Anne Novis said: “I am extremely disappointed that the Treasury has allowed these ideas on the website.

“They have allowed derogatory and offensive ideas to remain online to allow people to vote on.”

Disability News Service forwarded five examples of offensive public suggestions about the Motability scheme to the Treasury’s press office.

A Treasury spokesman said that three of them were “probably offensive” and so would be removed from the site.

He denied that the Treasury was breaching its public sector duty to promote disability equality and eliminate harassment by asking the public to vote on disablist and offensive suggestions.

He said: “The Spending Challenge website sought to encourage open debate but we were always clear that offensive ideas were not welcome.

“As the website makes clear, if anyone sees anything that they think is offensive or inappropriate, they should flag the content immediately and it will be removed asap if it does not comply with our moderation policy.”

A Motability spokeswoman said: “Having access to a safe and reliable vehicle gives disabled people the freedom and independence to play an active part in society.

“It allows them to pursue educational and employment opportunities and hobbies, as well as doing day to day chores and attending medical appointments.”

But she declined to comment when asked for the charity’s views about the comments posted on the website.

News provided by John Pring at

New Legislation, Routemasters, Accessible stations

So here we are refreshed by another short bank holiday which I hope you enjoyed. As you all know there has been an incredible flurry of activity coming out of the new government and we have already lost one senior figure! I’ve tried to provide some interesting insights into the government’s proposed legislative programme and I hope this is useful. Some interesting information around London’s buses and access to stations.

Just to let you know that I will be on holiday from 8th of June for two weeks one week of which is to be spent on a fully accessible narrow-boat. I will certainly let you know just how accessible it was when I return! So there will be no blog for a couple of weeks.
Triple alarm bells ringing over welfare reform

Campaigners have warned of a “triple-jeopardy” facing disabled people, after the government launched its plans for welfare reform.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative work and pensions secretary, pledged to fight poverty, simplify the benefits system and improve incentives to work.

Announcing his determination to “build a fairer society” and stressing his “personal commitment to equal opportunities for all”, he confirmed that the government would press ahead with plans to put all those currently claiming old-style incapacity benefit (IB) through the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA) in order to test their “readiness for work”.

Duncan Smith said those people found “immediately capable of work” would be moved on to jobseeker’s allowance, which is paid at a lower rate than IB.

He also confirmed that the government would move towards a single welfare-to-work programme, scrapping Labour’s jobs programmes such as Pathways to Work, which aims to find work for disabled people.

He will also chair a new committee on social justice, which will include fellow Cabinet ministers across government.

But Disability Alliance, the disability poverty charity, said the government’s plans had “sparked widespread fear” among disabled people and their organisations.

It said the WCA – introduced for new claimants of out-of-work disability benefits in 2008 – had proved to be “seriously flawed”, with an “incredibly high” number of appeals against decisions, and nearly two-fifths of appeals successful.

This week, Citizens Advice Scotland released a report that concluded that the WCA was “seriously flawed” and was “heaping unnecessary misery” on thousands of disabled people. It called for a major overhaul of the system.

DA also said it was unclear how a single work programme would meet disabled people’s needs and that a “‘one size fits all” approach does not always work for disabled people and may mean “additional barriers to work”.

It was also concerned that government plans to cut access to tax credits could contribute to higher poverty for disabled people in work, while a planned review of employment and workplace laws could lead to “a watering down” of employers’ obligations to level the playing field at work for disabled people.

Vanessa Stanislas, DA’s chief executive, said: “The commitment to improving the living standards of people living in unacceptable poverty is welcome, but much of the impact of the new government’s welfare proposals will be hardest felt by disabled people who already face multiple disadvantage.

“Disabled people now face the triple-jeopardy of inappropriate and inaccurate assessments of work ability; cuts to programmes to help find work; and reduced support in work, which may leave many more families at risk of poverty.”

The mental health charity Mind also raised serious concerns about the government’s reforms.

Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive, said the WCA was “not up to the job of measuring whether people with mental health problems are fit for work”.

He said: “We urge our new government to review the benefit assessment before rolling it out to millions more claimants, so that people aren’t deprived of their benefit and forced to look for work they can’t do.”

He also questioned government plans to sanction those on out-of-work benefits who turn down “reasonable” job offers.

He said that people “should not be forced to accept work that risks damaging their mental health, putting them back on benefits and back at square one”.

Farmer added: “Until we tackle stigma and discrimination in our workplaces, people with mental health problems will struggle to find work, whatever stick the welfare system beats them with.”
Government cuts raise fears

Disabled activists have warned that the £6.2 billion spending cuts announced by the government this week could have a severe impact on disabled people’s lives.

David Laws, (no longer Ed. Note) the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, announced heavy cuts to the budgets of nearly every government department, and warned: “The years of public sector plenty are over.”

He promised to “cut with care” and said the government would “protect the vital public services which we all depend upon, and those in our society who are least able to bear the burdens of national austerity”.

But Inclusion London, the capital’s new Deaf and disabled people’s organisation, warned that cuts on this scale were “likely to mean job losses and restrictions in service provision or quality”.

And Marie Pye, former head of public sector delivery at the Disability Rights Commission, and now a Labour local councillor in east London, said the prospect of cuts to public services was “really, really scary”.

Services such as providing social care and making buildings accessible were expensive, she said.

But Pye said that public bodies that carried out good quality equality impact assessments when making difficult spending decisions would be able to minimise the impact on disabled people.

She said that “disability-confident” public bodies would ensure that “fairness in services gets protected”, while those that were not would cause “difficulties” for disabled people.

Campaigners across the disability movement are stressing that the impact of the cuts on disabled people – both as public sector employees and as service-users – is still unclear.

A clearer picture is likely to emerge after the emergency budget on 22 June and the results of the government spending review, due this autumn.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said: “We are all aware the cuts in spending are inevitable, but we shall be monitoring those cuts very carefully to ensure that the cuts do not have impact negatively on people who already have higher levels of poverty and disadvantage.”

Among the cuts Laws announced were reductions of £1.165 billion in the annual grants made to local government.

Richard Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, welcomed a government decision not to cut the grant used to support moves towards the personalisation of care services, or any other adult social care grants.

The government also said it would stop its payments into child trust funds, while spending the extra contributions that would have gone to disabled children – £20 million a year – on 8,000 week-long “respite” breaks a year for the families of disabled children.

Laws also announced cuts of £600 million to the cost of quangos (non-government public bodies).

The following day, the Queen’s speech contained details of a bill to give ministers powers to abolish or merge quangos, with the government pledging: “The cost of bureaucracy and the number of public bodies will be reduced.”

Among those likely to face cuts is the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has faced repeated criticism over its performance since its launch in October 2007.

Last autumn, Mark Harper, then the Conservative shadow minister for disabled people, said his party would be watching the performance of the EHRC closely in the lead-up to the general election.

And he suggested it would need to improve its performance if it was to survive in its current form under a Conservative government.
Mayor failed to consult DPOs over new Routemaster design

Transport for London has admitted failing to consult with disabled people’s organisations on the final design of its new Routemaster bus.

The old Routemasters were scrapped by the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, largely because they were not accessible.

Unveiling the “final design” of the new bus, the current mayor, Boris Johnson, said it would become an “emblem of 21st century London” and swooned over the “green heart beating beneath its stylish, swooshing exterior”.

The bus will feature two staircases, two conventional doors and an open platform at the rear, allowing the “hop on, hop off” feature of the old Routemasters.

But when asked what consultation had taken place with disabled people, the mayor of London’s transport advisor, Kulveer Ranger, said: “Consultation has already taken place with London TravelWatch [the watchdog representing all transport users] and later this year a full mock-up of the bus will arrive in the capital, which will provide a good opportunity for groups representing disabled people to see the bus for themselves and feed back their opinions.”

Faryal Velmi, director of the campaigning accessible transport charityTransport for All, said she was “not impressed at all” with the lack of consultation.

She said there should have been “genuine consultation” which would have allowed disabled people’s “hard practical experiences”, as London’s buses have become more accessible, to be incorporated into the new design.

Andrew Little, chief executive of Inclusion London, the new organisation representing Deaf and disabled Londoners, said: “Designs for a new Routemaster should have involved consultation with disabled people from the outset.

“The mayor has a duty to pay due regard to disability equality and how can he do that without involving disabled people?

“Inaccessibility was central to why the old Routemaster was discontinued. Rather than wasting time and money on a vanity project to resurrect it, disabled Londoners need a mayor that puts equality first.

“The many millions of pounds spent could and should be used to fund the changes needed to make the Tube accessible and affordable – changes that Boris Johnson’s new transport strategy has cut.”

Ranger said the new bus would be “fully accessible” and its designs “already meet the stringent standards that have been laid down for London’s bus fleet”.

He said: “The iconic Routemaster that inspired the appearance of the new bus was criticised for its lack of accessibility.

“However, the mayor’s version will be fitted with a wheelchair ramp on the central door, a wheelchair bay, step-free low floor on the lower deck and Ibus onboard audio announcements.”
Government stays silent over rail access budget cuts

The Department for Transport (DfT) has refused to say whether it has slashed the budget of national schemes to improve access at railway stations.

The alleged cuts were first exposed in a letter written before the election to the DfT by the Scottish government’s transport minister, Stewart Stevenson.

Stevenson criticised the DFT’s decision to cut spending this year on the “small schemes” part of its Access for All budget from £7.9 million to just £3.9 million.

The DfT said previously that it could not comment because of the election.

It also refused to say whether the budget for the larger element of the Access for All scheme had also been cut. That part aims to improve access at the busiest stations and is about five times bigger than the small schemes fund.

But now the election is over, with a new coalition government, the DfT is still refusing to say whether Access for All has been cut.

A DfT spokesman said: “The question relates to a previous administration.”

He said “no decision was ever announced” and added: “The current position is we have a new government and all transport is being looked at.”

When asked whether the last government cut the Access for All budget, he said: “It is not appropriate to comment on speculation like that.”

Faryal Velmi, director of the campaigning accessible transport charity Transport for All, said: “It does seem that disabled people are bearing the brunt of cuts as usual. The rail network desperately needs to be made accessible.”

She said there had been some improvements, but added: “There is a lot to be done, especially in London, which is completely inaccessible.

“Access for All showed a commitment and if that is going to be subsumed and eaten up that is a big matter of concern.”

One announcement by the Labour government several weeks before the election suggests the DfT did slash the Access for All budget.

On 1 April, Labour rail minister Chris Mole announced a £2.9 million “funding boost” to improve access at 42 stations across England and Wales through the small schemes fund.

Although the announcement did not explicitly state that this was the entire allocation for 2010-2011, if it was, it would suggest – once funding for Northern Ireland and Scotland had been added in – that the budget had been cut to about £3.9 million.

The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee – the government’s advice body on accessible transport – said it was unable to comment.