DLA Cuts, Legal Aid Cuts, Euthansia, Jobs, Hate Crime, Taxicard cuts

Some of you will have read about the government’s intention to cut the mobility component from the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for those living in residential care.

An assumption is being made that residents have access to the unit’s minibus. It is true that part of the fees received by residential settings are intended to cover travel costs.

Many, many years ago I ran a residential institution and we had a minibus. Unfortunately it was extremely difficult to find people who were qualified to drive it and who could be covered on the insurance policy. Secondly the cost of using the minibus was also taken into account every time a trip took place, no budget, no trip! Thirdly the minibus could only be used if everybody wanted to go to the same place.

I just don’t believe that modern residential settings have a surplus of drivers and the budgets to run say, 20 disabled individuals to 20 different locations at 20 different times! It strikes me as ironic that DLA is about promoting independence and personal mobility but the cuts will have the effect of keeping some disabled people indoors. How does that fit with the government’s stated intention to get disabled people off benefits and back into work?

Legal aid cuts could have ‘profound’ impact

Planned cuts in government spending on legal aid will have a serious impact on disabled people’s access to justice, say campaigners.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) this week launched a consultation on its plans for reforming legal aid in England and Wales, which it said would target support on “those who need it most”.

If all the proposals were implemented, they would save an estimated £350 million a year from the £2 billion legal aid budget by 2014-15.

Justice secretary Ken Clarke said the proposals would “ensure access to public funding in those cases that really require it, the protection of the most vulnerable in society and the efficient performance of the justice system”.

Legal aid would be retained in areas such as community care, asylum and people with mental health conditions who have been sectioned appealing against the terms of their detention.

But among those areas where eligibility for legal aid is set to be removed are legal advice on special educational needs appeals, employment claims, and appeals against refusal of benefits such as disability living allowance and employment and support allowance (ESA).

The consultation document claims advice on benefits appeals is available from other sources, including charities such as Disability Alliance (DA), the Child Poverty Action Group and Age UK.

But DA has already written to the MoJ, saying the claims are “factually incorrect and extremely misleading”.

Neil Coyle, DA’s director of policy, says in the letter: “The implication that charities like Disability Alliance are available to help people in the advent of legal aid cuts misrepresents the reality [which is] that we do not provide such support.”

He adds: “We are particularly concerned that ministers are made immediately aware that potential changes to legal aid and reductions in support simply cannot be met by small charities such as Disability Alliance – despite the statement included in the consultation.”

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said the planned cuts were “appalling”, and pointed to the huge numbers of successful appeals being made by disabled people whose ESA claims have been rejected.

She said the cuts would have a severe impact on disabled people, including disabled children fighting for their right to support at school.

She added: “Legal aid is already pared to the bone – it is already extremely difficult to get legal aid. This will have a profound effect in denying people access to justice.”

The National Aids Trust also said it was “extremely disappointed” at the proposals to cut legal aid for employment cases, just weeks after the new Equality Act came into force and gave disabled people new protection from workplace discrimination.

The charity also expressed concerns about the cuts to legal aid for benefits advice.

Euthanasia report is ‘victory for disability movement in Scotland’

Disabled activists have welcomed a Scottish parliamentary committee’s recommendation that MSPs reject plans to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in Scotland.

The committee, set up to consider the end of life assistance (Scotland) bill, outlined a series of flaws in the legislation proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald, and concluded that it could not recommend its “general principles” to the Scottish parliament.

The bill, which is set to be debated by MSPs on Thursday (25 November), 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 for assistance to end their lives.

Surveys suggest a large majority of MSPs will now vote against the bill.

The committee concluded in its report on the bill that society’s “wider” interests should prevail over an individual’s right to exercise control over the time of their death, and highlighted evidence that the bill could have “a negative effect for disabled people”.

It also criticised the “extraordinarily wide” number of disabled people who would be covered by the law and warned that “using the inability to live independently as an eligibility requirement for end-of-life assistance” could have “unintended consequences”.

And it pointed to the “particularly compelling” evidence given by disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), who argued that disabled people’s lives could be “intolerable” simply because society was failing to provide “sufficient and appropriate support”.

It concluded that Scottish law on assisted suicide and euthanasia was clear and unambiguous and dismissed “spurious” calls for clarity.

Pam Duncan, a board member of Inclusion Scotland, who gave evidence opposing the bill, said she was “really pleased” with the report, which had been “a lot stronger than we expected”.

She said that DPOs had played a crucial part in convincing the committee that the bill should not become law.

She said: “It says something about the strength of the disabled people’s movement in Scotland that we were able to get that voice out and get people heard.”

Duncan said the report had sent a message to MSPs and wider society about “the value of the lives of disabled people”.

Catherine Garrod, a member of Inclusion Scotland, also welcomed the report, and added: “We thought the committee would come back with a neutral report which would just highlight the pros and cons. We didn’t think they would make a recommendation.”

But both Duncan and Garrod said the bill had been a major distraction from the need to campaign against the spending cuts that are set to have a major impact on disabled people’s right to independent living.

Garrod said: “The disability movement wants to be focused on fighting those cuts and fighting for those rights rather than this distraction.”

Government research offers new evidence of struggle for jobs

Government research has provided stark new evidence that disabled people found fit for work through a controversial new assessment are struggling to find jobs.

The research by the Institute for Employment Studies for the Department for Work and Pensions interviewed 3,650 people who had applied for employment and support allowance (ESA), the replacement for incapacity benefit (IB).

Of those found “fit for work”, only 13 per cent were in work by the time they were questioned at least six months later, with half insisting that they were off work because they were sick or disabled and another 28 per cent saying they were unemployed.

The survey – carried out between December 2009 and Feb 2010 – also provides further evidence that the work capability assessment (WCA) is failing to reflect people’s impairments accurately.

Only 29 per cent of those found “fit for work” felt that the healthcare professional who carried out the assessment understood their condition, although the levels of satisfaction were far higher (71 per cent) among those found not fit for work.

And 87 per cent of those found fit for work felt the WCA report did not reflect their condition well, rising to 93 per cent of those with a mental health condition.

The disability poverty charity Disability Alliance said it was not surprised that many disabled people found fit for work were failing to find jobs.

Neil Coyle, DA’s director of policy, said: “Sadly, there are not enough appropriate jobs available and this will get worse through public and private sector job cuts and changes to programmes of support for disabled people.”

Coyle said DA was also not surprised that the WCA had “once again been found wanting”, because it “consistently under-assesses disabled people’s needs and routinely finds people with significant health problems (or) impairments fully fit for work”.

He called on the government to address the problems with the WCA before it starts its main programme of reassessing those on “old-style” IB next spring.

A DWP spokesman said: “We know there have been concerns around the WCA which is why employment minister Chris Grayling asked Professor Malcolm Harrington to conduct a thorough independent review, involving a number of charities representing disabled people, to iron out any issues and recommend any changes.

“The new Work Programme, which will come on stream next year will ensure that everyone who can work will get the help and support they need to get the skills and training which will make them job ready.”

Court recognises murder as hate crime, but legal flaws exposed

Hate crime campaigners have welcomed the recognition in court that the brutal murder of a disabled man in his own flat was a disability hate crime.

Martin Mather, 23, was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to beating Philip Holmes to death at his flat in Rhyl, north Wales, in April this year.

The judge, Mr Justice Griffith Williams, told Mather he will serve at least 17 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Holmes, who had a mobility impairment, was found dead in his flat by his support worker on 16 April.

Because it was a murder case, the law did not allow the judge to increase Mather’s sentence on the grounds that it was a disability hate crime, even though both the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and North Wales police had treated it as a hate crime.

The CPS drew the court’s attention to the “hostility” Mather had shown towards Holmes as a disabled person when interviewed by police but the judge was only able to increase the sentence on the grounds of Holmes’s “vulnerability”.

Detective chief inspector John Hanson said Mather had carried out a “brutal and sustained attack” on Holmes.

He said: “Having attacked his disabled victim, a man who couldn’t walk without a frame, he left him on the floor in his flat, closing the door behind him and making no attempt to help or call assistance.

“He showed a callous disregard for Philip and whilst in police custody showed no remorse whatsoever for his actions.”

The court heard that Holmes suffered massive internal injuries consistent with a sustained violent assault.

Gareth Preston, CPS North Wales crown advocate, said: “It is hard to know for certain the exact motivation behind this attack – only Martin Mather truly knows what drove him to commit such an horrific crime.

“What is clear is that Mr Mather was aware of, and exploited, Philip Holmes’ vulnerable situation.

“In interviews with police after his arrest, Mr Mather also made disparaging remarks about Philip Holmes that displayed hostility toward his disability.”

Anne Novis, a leading disabled activist and anti-hate crime campaigner, welcomed the statement in court by the CPS that the murder was a disability hate crime and said this recognition would be “good for community confidence”.

But she said the case highlighted why there was a need for tougher disability hate crime laws, to ensure equality with how other types of hate crime were treated by the courts.

Taxicard cuts are ‘severe blow’ to disabled Londoners

New cuts and fare increases across London’s Taxicard system will be a “severe blow” to the freedom and independence of thousands of disabled and older people and push them further into poverty, say campaigners.

London Councils (LC) – the organisation representing the capital’s local authorities – has told the 32 individual borough councils that take part in Taxicard to limit the benefits of the scheme, which is used by 88,000 Londoners who find it hard to use public transport.

Four campaigning organisations – Inclusion London, Transport for All, London Visual Impairment Forum and Age Concern London – had asked London Councils to protect the scheme, which is funded by London boroughs and Transport for London.

The letter said the cuts and fare increases would mean “greater poverty” for thousands of disabled and older people on low incomes who were already facing drastic cuts in public spending.

They are particularly angry about the decision to end “double swiping”, which allows Taxicard users to use two credits on a single trip, doubling their range to six-to-eight miles from home.

Their letter said: “Ending double swiping is, for those with no other means of transport, effectively imprisoning them within a radius of a few miles around their house.”

Taxicard users will also have to pay at least £2.50 per trip as a contribution – an increase of £1 – while the maximum subsidy per trip will be cut by £1.

And they will be allowed a maximum of one return trip a week, an increase in some boroughs but a sharp fall in others.

Faryal Velmi, director of Transport for All, said the changes were “rushed through with no opportunity for Taxicard users to have their say” and that more time was needed for a full consultation.

A London Councils spokeswoman said: “London Councils’ transport and environment committee has recommended a series of changes and it is down to individual boroughs to consult and decide in their area.”

While this is true, councils that fail to implement the changes and then spend more than their allocated budget will be suspended from the scheme for the rest of the year.

London Councils said the changes were needed because Taxicard journeys had risen by 18 per cent, from 741,142 between April and August 2009 to 872,824 between April and August 2010.

Without the new measures, spending would exceed the scheme’s £19.2 million budget for 2010-11.

And she said the £1.50 minimum cost of a trip had not increased in more than 10 years.

But she was unable to confirm claims that the maximum subsidies payable per trip had also not risen for at least five years, cutting the distance disabled people can travel in a single Taxicard trip.

Europe’s disability strategy is ‘great step forward’

Europe’s leading disabled people’s organisation (DPO) has welcomed the European Union’s (EU) new 10-year disability strategy as a “great step” for disabled people.

The European Disability Strategy was published this week by the European Commission and sets out to provide a “framework for action” at European and national level until 2020, including more than 160 “key actions” over the next five years.

The European Disability Forum (EDF), which represents an estimated 80 million disabled people across the EU, said it welcomed the action across eight areas, including accessibility, participation in society, equality, employment, education and training, and health.

Among measures EDF welcomed were plans for a European Accessibility Act, aimed at improving access to goods and services; a proposal to ensure all public sector websites are accessible by 2015; measures to give disabled people the right to free movement and residence across the EU; and a promise to use EU funds to improve accessibility.

The strategy also pledges to use EU funds to support disabled people to move from institutional to community-based care.

And it promises to promote inclusive education and lifelong learning for disabled pupils and students.

But among its criticisms of the strategy, EDF said there should have been a greater emphasis on the need – as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – for EU member states to consult and involve DPOs when making decisions that will affect disabled people.

And EDF said all relevant European laws – and not just employment legislation, as the strategy says – should be checked to ensure they comply with the UN convention when being reviewed.

Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF’s president, said: “The disability strategy is a great step for persons with disabilities: it is more ambitious than the last action plan [the EU Disability Action Plan for 2003-2010] and it includes a lot of our proposals.

“If implemented, the strategy could be of benefit to 80 million Europeans with disabilities.”

European parliament president Jerzy Buzek has promised EDF a meeting every two years between the presidents of the commission and the parliament and disabled people’s organizations to assess progress on the strategy.

An EDF spokeswoman said its focus would now be on ensuring the strategy and its actions were implemented, particularly over the next five years.

Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, said her goal was “a truly barrier-free Europe” for disabled people by 2020.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

FCO, Welfare Reform, DLA, Disabled Surfers

The law of “unintended consequence” is alive and well. Two recent examples involve Jane Cordell a deaf woman who recently lost her discrimination case against the FCO in part because her reasonable adjustments costs were deemed to be to expensive. Several years ago government departments were told they could no longer use Access to Work funding and should fund the costs themselves. One of the consequences of this change is the FCO’s refusal to fund Jane’s adjustments. The second consequence concerns her ability to gain significant promotions within the FCO. Without the adjustment she cannot work effectively at the most senior levels. So we’ve saved money and wrecked a promising career. Stephen Hawkins, David Blunkett, Sir Bert Massie, Baroness Jane Campbell all have significant impairments, all have played a major part in the lives of people in this country and all are of course talented. I wonder what the impact would have been on each of them had they not received appropriate support in order to make their important contributions. Talent needs to be nurtured not squashed!
Welfare reform white paper: Disabled people to face harsh sanctions

Disabled people will face harsh penalties if they fail to comply with government efforts to help them prepare for work, according to a new welfare reform white paper.

Launching a “root and branch reform”, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the government could “not afford to simply continue tinkering around the edges of the welfare system”.

His white paper, Universal Credit: Welfare that Works, includes plans to introduce potential sanctions for disabled people who have been found “not fit for work” but still capable of “work-related activity”.

They may have to take steps to prepare for work, and could lose their work-related benefits temporarily if they fail to comply with the regime.

Claimants of jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) – many of whom will be disabled people found “fit for work” through the controversial work capability assessment – could lose their JSA for a longer period, potentially as long as three years for “the most extreme cases”.

And many JSA claimants will be forced to undertake up to four weeks of unpaid work to help them develop “labour-market discipline”.

The white paper also fleshes out plans for a new universal credit (UC), which will see a range of benefits – including housing benefit, income support, income-based JSA and income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) – replaced by one single payment.

Disability living allowance and contributory ESA are among the non-means-tested benefits that will not be replaced by UC, which will begin to be introduced in 2013.

The UC will provide a basic sum, with extra cash for disabled people, and to take account of children, caring responsibilities, and housing need.

Benefits will be withdrawn “slowly and rationally” from this payment as claimants return to work and increase their working hours. The changes should mean that those returning to work keep 35p of every extra pound they earn.

Disabled people will be among those groups who can earn more – the white paper suggests £7,000 per household a year – before any benefits start to be withdrawn.

Duncan Smith said his reforms would “cut a swathe through the massive complexity of the existing benefit system and make it less bureaucratic to run”.

Maria Miller, speaking at a Disability Alliance conference on the day of the launch, said the current welfare system was “torturously complicated”, and the new UC would mean “everyone who is in a position to work will be better off”.

She said that “many disabled people who want to work and are not able to will be able to get into work, maybe for the first time”, with people with fluctuating conditions particularly benefiting, while the UC would also “make it easier to reduce fraud and error”.
Minister ignores calls for DLA rethink

The minister for disabled people has ignored calls to reconsider plans to cut a vital mobility-based benefit from disabled people in residential care.

The call from a leading disabled activist came after Maria Miller spoke about her government’s welfare reforms at a conference organised by the disability poverty charity Disability Alliance.

Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, told Miller that disability living allowance (DLA) had “done much to improve the life chances of disabled people”.

She said the government’s proposal to remove the mobility component of DLA from most disabled people in residential care was “very misinformed and penny-pinching”, and risked adding to their isolation.

She said: “For me, independent living is not about living in your own home, it is about having choice and control and being able to be an active citizen.

“That applies as much to people in residential care as it does to other disabled people.”

And she drew loud applause from other activists when she called on the minister to reconsider the DLA cut.

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, also attacked proposed cuts to DLA, asking the minister how she could “reconcile” the government’s plans to cut DLA spending by 20 per cent with “your statement that there are fair choices being made”.

Miller ignored Bott’s call to reconsider the cut to the mobility component, but said: “The reason why we have put the reform in place around DLA is because we believe there is a way we can make the money work better for us there.”

She claimed – as she has done previously – that council care packages should already include funding for disabled people’s mobility needs.

She said councils were currently looking at the DLA people in residential care received and then “making assumptions about the sort of package an individual might need”.

She added: “At the moment, there is a duplication of benefits there and with the financial problems we have got it is a way of trying to eke out £100 million.

“This really should not affect materially the access disabled people have to be able to get out and about.”

She also told the conference that the government had no plans to start means-testing DLA, while the new DLA assessment it plans to introduce would be “objective” and would not be a “medical assessment”, as it was mistakenly described by the chancellor in his emergency budget in June.

Meanwhile, members of Disability Alliance agreed at their annual general meeting (AGM), held before the conference, to approve plans to move towards a merger with NCIL and RADAR.

Members of NCIL and RADAR had already backed the plans at their own AGMs this autumn.
Campaign will sign up disabled surfers to fix the web

A new campaign is hoping tens of thousands of disabled people will help to fix the problems caused by inaccessible websites.

Fix the Web hopes its scheme will enable access problems on up to 250,000 websites to be reported to their owners within two years.

The campaign, backed by the disability charity AbilityNet, is led by Citizens Online, which campaigns for wider access to the internet.

Fix the Web aims to provide disabled people with a “quick and easy” way to make complaints about inaccessible websites.

Any disabled person will be able to report an access problem through the Fix the Web site, via Twitter or by email, while filing this report should take less than a minute.

Thousands of volunteers will then take up the complaints on their behalf and liaise with the owners of the websites over fixing the problems.

AbilityNet said four-fifths of websites were still failing to meet minimum accessibility criteria, with problems including images with no captions or alternative text; the use of distracting animations; and websites that can only be used by mouse-users.

Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion, said: “A raft of legislation already obliges website providers to ensure accessibility…but the business case for so doing is overwhelming.”

Citizens Online said blind web-users report wasting 30 per cent of their web time because of problems with access.

Disabled web-surfer Mandy de la Mare said the campaign was “a fantastic idea”.

She added: “I have tried complaining to various websites but either the forms were not accessible for me or if I do manage to lodge a complaint, I do not get a reply.”

For more details, visit: www.fixtheweb.net
Doubt cast on impartiality of assisted suicide commission

A leading think-tank claims a new commission set up to investigate legalising assisted suicide will be independent and impartial, even though it is funded and chaired by leading pro-legalisation campaigners.

The Commission on Assisted Dying will be chaired by the former Labour minister Lord Falconer and part-funded by the author Terry Pratchett, and has been set up on their behalf by the pro-assisted suicide campaigning charity Dignity in Dying.

Lord Falconer has spoken in the Lords on the issue – last year he tried unsuccessfully to introduce a pro-assisted suicide amendment to a bill in the Lords – while Pratchett has also been outspoken in calls for legalisation since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The think-tank Demos will launch the commission on 30 November and it will sit for nearly a year, aiming to “explore a safeguarded process for assisted dying”.

It is the latest in a long line of attempts – all fiercely opposed by disabled people’s organisations – to force through legalised assisted suicide or euthanasia.

A Demos spokeswoman insisted that the commission would be independent of Demos, which will act as its “secretariat”, and of the two donors funding its work – one of whom is Pratchett – and Dignity in Dying.

When asked how a commission chaired by Lord Falconer, co-funded by Terry Pratchett and set up by Dignity in Dying could be impartial, she said: “Because the other commissioners come from a wide range of backgrounds and their job is not to come to the commission with pre-formed ideas, it is to assess the evidence brought before the commission and make judgments on that.”

But she declined to name the other commissioners, and refused to say whether they were supporters of “assisted dying”, adding: “They have been selected because they represent a range of backgrounds and experiences.”

Asked if the commission would be biased towards legalising assisted suicide, she said: “It is an entirely independent commission that will make its conclusions based on the evidence brought before it.”

But Baroness [Jane] Campbell, a leading disabled campaigner against legalising assisted suicide, said that at this stage – before the full make-up of the commission was known – it “does not look in the least independent”.

She added: “Demos may make all the claims of independence it likes, but if the commissioners and funders are heavily weighted towards those who support assisted suicide then the manner with which they will look at the evidence will be seen through this prism.”

Baroness Campbell said she was keen to discover whether the commission would involve “knowledgeable disabled people with the experience of severe impairment”.
Court’s decision could open door to more council cuts

Campaigners fear that a court’s decision to back a council that cut a disabled woman’s care package – despite assessing her as needing that support – could lead to other local authorities taking similar action.

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

McDonald, a former principal ballerina with the Scottish Ballet, became disabled following a stroke in 1999 and later broke a hip as a result of a night-time fall. She had been provided with a weekly package of 22.5 hours of daytime support and another 10 hours of care seven nights a week.

A needs assessment by the council found night-time care was essential to provide supervision to prevent her falling while using the commode during the night, due to a bladder condition.

But two years ago – despite that assessment – the council said it planned to cut her care package, and that she could be given incontinence pads instead of an overnight care worker, even though she is not incontinent.

Although the Court of Appeal said the council had breached the law by threatening to cut her care provision in 2008, it said later reviews of her care in November 2009 and April 2010 meant they were then acting lawfully.

The court ruled that the council had not breached McDonald’s human rights or the Disability Discrimination Act.

Lord Justice Rix concluded that the council’s decision to meet her toileting need by using pads was “a reasonable decision” which “provides safety and a large degree of independence and privacy”.

And he said the council was right to balance its desire to help McDonald “with its responsibilities to all its clients within the limited resources available to it in its budget”.

But Douglas Joy, senior solicitor with Disability Law Service (DLS), which took McDonald’s case, said the court had found that a council could review a service-user’s care needs – and then reduce their support – without conducting a new assessment, in effect “assessing by stealth”.

He said: “It is a well-founded rule of community care that if there is an assessed need, they have a duty to provide it.

“But local authorities can now say to people, ‘OK, we had a review and now as a result we have decided to cut or change your needs.’”

Joy said DLS was hoping to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

With councils across the country facing cuts in government funding of 26 per cent over the next four years, he said he feared the ruling would make it easier for other councils to cut disabled people’s support packages.

He said increasing numbers of disabled people were contacting the DLS legal advice line to say they had been told by their local authority that their needs were not going to be met “and the underlying reason for this is just spending cuts”.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which funded McDonald’s appeal, said the judgment was “bad news for service-users and disabled people who receive community care”.

An EHRC spokeswoman added: “It is likely that local authorities will try and use the judgment to reduce community care and services for disabled people.”

Cllr Julie Mills, the council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said it was an “immensely important case”, and that, despite McDonald’s “strong preference” for a night-time carer, urinary problems were “a very common feature of getting older”.

She said: “I am pleased that the court has recognised that in making these difficult decisions the council must have regard to the resources available to others in need, as well as those of the appellant.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Housing, Diplomat, Autism and ODI

Hello once again! This posting is a little briefer than normal as I’m heading up to Scotland for the week to run a personal development programme for disabled staff. I’ve just spent half the day trying to figure out how to pack everything I need and still be able to carry it on the wheelchair! Clothes aren’t an issue it’s battery chargers and other electrical appliances that cause the problems. Things like these don’t easily fit into a crushable bag!! I always elect to go by train because at least I can guarantee my chair will arrive and be in one piece unlike many of my experiences with air travel!! The challenge with the train is more about having assistance available to get on and off! So if the next blog comes from Inverness you’ll know I couldn’t get off in Edinburgh! Have a good week.
2012 homes legacy given lukewarm welcome

Nearly 250 new wheelchair-accessible flats and houses should be available for disabled people to rent or buy on the Olympic Park after the London 2012 games, the public body responsible for building the athletes’ village has revealed.

More than a quarter of the 240 homes will be rented social housing, with most of the rest available to buy.

The homes will be converted from the athletes’ village – in Stratford, in the east London borough of Newham – after the games in the summer of 2012.

The number of wheelchair-accessible homes has been obtained by Disability News Service from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).

As well as the 240 wheelchair-accessible properties, all 2,818 homes in the village will meet the Lifetime Homes Standard – key features that should be included in the design of accessible and adaptable housing.

The figures mean the ODA will meet its pledge that ten per cent of all the socially rented housing will be wheelchair-accessible, along with eight per cent of all the “intermediate” housing – homes to buy or rent at levels above those of social rented housing, but below market prices or rents – and those homes sold at “market” rates.

Of the 2,818 new homes available after the games, 675 will be socially rented, of which about 68 will be wheelchair-accessible. There will also be 329 homes put aside for intermediate accommodation, of which about 27 will be wheelchair-accessible.

Of the remaining 1,814 homes – eight per cent of which will be wheelchair-accessible – most will be sold at market rates, with some possibly made available as intermediate housing.

Ellen Clifford, interim director of the user-led Newham Coalition, welcomed the Lifetime Homes commitment, but said they would like to have seen more wheelchair-accessible homes because of the shortage of accessible housing, particularly in Newham itself.

She said adaptations in the borough can take “unacceptably long” because of “bureaucracy and inefficiencies”, leaving disabled people “trapped in their own homes and unsuitable accommodation”.

She said: “What will be key will be the systems for allocating and advertising the accessible homes.”

Clifford said the new wheelchair-accessible homes could provide opportunities “to extend choice and control and non-residential options to disabled people, and we will be calling on the local authority for a planned approach in co-production with disabled people to maximise the opportunity”.

Inclusion London said it would have liked at least ten per cent of all the new housing to be wheelchair-accessible, as laid out in the London Plan.

Anne Kane, Inclusion London’s policy manager, said the housing benefit cuts announced by the coalition government would “price housing out of the reach of many lower-income people, many of whom will be disabled people”, so the provision of affordable housing for disabled people was an “absolutely key” issue.

And Peter Lainson, chair of the Stratford City Consultative Access Group, said he hoped there was enough “focused marketing” to ensure the market housing was bought by wheelchair-users and would not have to be sold on the “open market” to non-disabled people.
Diplomat loses legal fight over reasonable adjustments

A high-flying diplomat’s career is “in limbo” after she lost a disability discrimination case against the Foreign Office over the support she needed to do her job in a new posting.

Jane Cordell, who is profoundly Deaf, had been offered the job of deputy ambassador to Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan, but the offer was withdrawn because the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the cost of providing lip-speakers to support her would be too high.

Cordell, who now has a London desk job, had been praised by the FCO for her performance in her previous posting in Poland – and received awards from the Polish authorities for her disability rights work – for which the government provided lip-speakers at an annual cost of about £146,000.

But the employment tribunal heard that a new FCO reasonable adjustments policy had been introduced after Cordell started working in Poland.

She argued that funding lip-speakers for the Kazakhstan posting was a “reasonable adjustment” under the Disability Discrimination Act, and estimated the cost to be about £200,000 a year, while the FCO’s estimate was nearly £300,000.

But the tribunal found that the FCO did not discriminate against her by refusing to fund the lip-speakers, and dismissed her claims for direct disability discrimination, disability-related discrimination and a failure to make reasonable adjustments.

In its judgment, the tribunal said the likely annual cost of the adjustments was more than five times Cordell’s salary, which would not be “reasonable”.

Cordell said she was proud of her work with the FCO, but added: “I am also proud to have brought my case to tribunal. People with disabilities and long-term illnesses who want to be economically active and independent need answers to the questions the case poses.”

RADAR said it was “shocked” by the FCO’s failure to fund the adjustments Cordell needed, which is said was a “real setback” to equality in the workplace.

Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, said the decision “puts a cap on ambition” and sends the message to disabled people that “the highest level jobs will be debarred” and that some of them “are just too expensive to employ and will never achieve equality”.

She said that Cordell “could have been an incredible international role model and ambassador for Britain”.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which helped fund Cordell’s case, said her career was now “in limbo” because the FCO had failed to clarify how much support she was entitled to, a decision which “directly influences whether she can be posted abroad in the future”.

An EHRC spokeswoman said: “We thought it was an interesting test case because she is such a high-flyer, a senior woman. We thought we might get some clarity around what tribunals thought was reasonable.”

She added: “It is important that reasonable adjustments are provided to allow disabled people to participate fully in the workforce and allow talented people like Jane to realise their full potential.”
Treasury ‘kept ODI in the dark’ over DLA cut

The government failed to tell its own expert disability department about its plans to cut a key mobility-based disability benefit until just hours before the measure was announced, a disabled peer has revealed.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell told fellow peers that the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) was given just a few hours’ notice of Treasury plans to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from most disabled people in residential care.

The chancellor, George Osborne, announced in last month’s spending review that, from 2012-13, only those disabled people who fund their own residential care would be able to claim the benefit.

Baroness Campbell told a Lords debate on the impact of the spending review that the move would have “the most disproportionately devastating consequences” on the lives of 58,000 disabled young people and working-age adults.

She said it conflicted with government policies to promote personalisation and independent living and encourage disabled people into work, and would breach the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

She said: “Residential care homes are not intended to be prisons. We all enjoy activities outside our homes. It should be no different for those living in residential care homes.”

She told peers about a disabled couple in residential care who, without their DLA mobility component, “will no longer be able to visit the doctor, dentist, bank, church, library or shops, let alone relatives and friends”.

She said the DLA cut would make “Britain’s most severely disabled people the group who lose most” from the spending review, while it “literally removes their mobility” and “makes neither moral nor financial sense”.

And she said she was “deeply concerned” that the Treasury failed to carry out an impact assessment on the spending cut or discuss it in advance with the ODI or other disability experts.

Lord Sassoon, commercial secretary to the Treasury, told Baroness Campbell that he would “note carefully” her concerns, and that her speech, and others, illustrate“just how difficult it is to reshape the welfare system in the radical way that we intend at a time of considerable retrenchment in the public finances”.

Another disabled peer, Lord [Colin] Low, criticised the government’s decision to impose a “completely arbitrary” one-year time limit on disabled people who claim the contributory version of employment and support allowance (ESA).

He said there were “simply not the jobs to enable everyone on ESA to get a job within 12 months”.

Lord Low said the measure – which will affect those in the “work-related activity group” – was “sadistically harsh”, comes at “completely the wrong time”, and was “self-defeating” because it would “completely undermine” the government’s efforts to support disabled people into work.

He said the “damaging and unjust consequences” of time-limiting ESA were “just one of many reasons” why the government should “seriously rethink” its spending review.

The Department for Work and Pensions refused to comment when asked for its reaction to the Treasury’s failure to carry out an impact assessment or discuss the DLA cut in advance with the ODI.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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 www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Cuts Cuts and Thrice Cuts!

So now we all know!! The Chancellor has spoken and the axe is being wielded!! I guess we all accept that cuts are inevitable Britain faces serious financial difficulties and we are clearly overspending. My problem is I’m not sure about the fairness of some of the proposed cuts. Most analysts seem to agree that slashing benefits will hit the poorest hardest and among them of course are disabled people. Cuts in services and benefits paid to enable independence will have profound effects on those with the most severe impairments. For example someone who relies on support workers to get them up and get them to work. These benefits are paid for by the local authority or the independent living fund and the cuts mean these services are may be dramatically reduced. Employers are not likely to accept for very long poor or unreliable attendance that the withdrawal of such services will cause. Losing a job as result means one less taxpayer and the state having to pick up the bill. This week’s news therefore, as you might expect is full of concerns about the Chancellors proposals.
Government spending review: New benefit cuts spark anger

Hundreds of thousands of disabled people are set to lose their out-of-work disability benefits, as part of new government plans to cut another £7 billion a year from the welfare bill.

The announcement by the chancellor, George Osborne, in this week’s spending review sparked genuine anger from disabled people’s organisations.

Osborne said that disabled people receiving the “contributory” version of employment and support allowance (ESA) – those with a certain level of other income from partners or savings – will only be allowed to claim ESA of up to £91.40 a week for one year.

Although the measure will only affect those in the “work-related activity group” – rather than those in the “support group”, who have the highest barriers to work – it will cut an estimated £2 billion a year from disabled people’s income by 2014-15.

The £7 billion-a-year welfare cuts announced by Osborne are on top of the £11 billion-a-year cuts announced in June’s emergency budget, which included a 20 per cent reduction in spending on disability living allowance (DLA) by 2016 and cuts to housing benefit.

Osborne also confirmed measures announced at the Conservative party conference, including a weekly benefits cap for “workless households”, and reforms to the benefits system that will see the replacement of all working-age benefits and tax credits with a single “universal credit”.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance (DA), said the ESA announcement was “deeply worrying” and “risks increasing disability poverty”.

He said DA had calculated that a disabled person whose partner was earning just £160 a week before tax would not be able to claim any alternative benefit such as jobseeker’s allowance once they lost their ESA.

He said: “If your partner is on a low income it is either in their interest to lose you or lose their job, which will cause family breakdown, poverty and disincentive to work and increase welfare dependency.”

Coyle added: “Disabled people have every right to believe that fairness is not being hard-wired into the welfare and broad government agenda.

“The overall picture is bleak and the message that we are all in this together simply doesn’t stack up when an equivalent figure is being cut from ESA as is expected to be raised by the new bankers’ tax.”

He said the ESA measure would affect many of the 360,000 disabled people already set to lose their DLA, with some disabled people being “cut adrift from the entire welfare state”.

Inclusion London, the capital’s new Deaf and disabled people’s organisation, said the cuts were “absolutely draconian”, and accused the government of aiming “a dagger at the heart of the welfare state, certainly as far as disabled people are concerned”.

Anne Kane, Inclusion London’s policy manager, said the government appeared not to have thought through its deficit reduction plans, because the cuts would lead to disabled people losing their benefits, facing mass unemployment, losing their housing and being forced to sleep on the streets.

RADAR warned that “inadequate support, unwilling employers and a dearth of suitable jobs” could mean the one-year time limit would have a “negative and disproportionate impact on disabled people seeking work”.

And Ellen Clifford, interim director of the user-led Newham Coalition, said she was “angry and appalled” at the “depth and scale” of the government’s spending cuts, which “throw the notion of equality for disabled people out of the window”.

She said cutting ESA would not encourage disabled people into work because there were no jobs available and there was still discrimination in the workplace.

She added: “Removing benefits from disabled people is not going to magically transform the workplace but it will create misery and poverty for people who already endure daily barriers that the politicians responsible for these cuts could not even imagine.”

Emily Brothers, president of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK, said she was “dismayed” by the “highly discriminatory one-year time limit”.

And she said the government’s package of spending cuts “cynically attacks working-age blind people wishing to find a job to do, whilst they experience a series of obstacles to progress”.
Government spending review: New DLA cuts are ‘threat to inclusion’

A disabled people’s organisation has described government plans to remove a benefit that supports inclusion in the community from disabled people in residential care as “really nasty” and “a blow against social inclusion”.

George Osborne, the chancellor, announced in this week’s spending review that disabled people living in residential homes – unless they self-fund their care – will no longer be able to claim the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from 2012-13.

Although people living in residential care – apart from self-funders – cannot currently claim the care element of DLA, they can claim the mobility component. And those receiving the higher rate mobility component can use it to obtain their own car through the Motability scheme.

The government said the cut would affect about 58,000 disabled people, who receive an average of £33.40 per week, and would save £135 million a year by 2014-15.

Together with planned cuts of 20 per cent to spending on DLA for working-age disabled people, announced in Osborne’s emergency budget in June, the new measure is likely to lead to a large reduction in the number of people able to benefit from the Motability scheme.

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said the measure was “really nasty” and would affect disabled people “right across the age spectrum” and not just older people.

She said: “This will intensify the isolation of people who are in institutional care. It’s just really horrible. It’s a blow against social inclusion.”

Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns for the disabled motorists’ charity Mobilise, said it would remove disabled people’s independence and force them to become “passive people who are just told what to do”.

She said the government’s plans to cut spending on DLA could lead to a huge reduction in the number of people able to obtain a vehicle through the Motability scheme.

Dolphin added: “For a lot of people, having a Motability vehicle allows them to take part in education, [allows them to access] healthcare and gives them the opportunity to go to work.

“If people can’t get that vehicle, the chances of getting employment are reduced.”

RADAR said it also had “significant concerns” about the measure.

And Anne Pridmore, chair of Being the Boss, a user-led organisation which supports disabled people who employ personal assistants, said: “To cut the mobility component from people in residential care – I have not got words to express what I feel about that.

“I am fast coming to realise that the majority of non-disabled people and these MPs do not realise the implications of the decisions they are making, and if they do, they do not care.”
Government spending review: Equality watchdog looks set for huge cuts

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) looks set to face a cut to its budget of at least 40 per cent, according to government figures.

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) announced this week – as part of the government’s spending review – that its own spending would be cut from £76 million this year to £47.1 million in 2014-15, a reduction of 38 per cent.

As almost four-fifths of the GEO’s budget is spent on the EHRC – £62 million this year – it appears inevitable that cuts of about 40 per cent will also be made to the EHRC budget.

A GEO spokesman said the department was still deciding how its spending settlement would impact on the EHRC and its other work.

But he added: “Around 75 to 80 per cent of our budget at the moment goes to the EHRC so you can see where that is heading.”

The GEO is working on proposals for reforming the EHRC and handing some of its current functions to government departments, or even the private and voluntary sector.

The GEO spokesman said: “We want [them] to focus on their work as an equality and human rights regulator.”

But he added: “We do not want to speculate on what specific parts of their functions might go to other departments or to the GEO or the third sector or private organisations. We are still looking at that.”

An EHRC spokeswoman said: “They are going to put forward proposals. Those proposals will be subject to consultation and our board will consider them and respond to them.”

In a statement, the GEO said it would concentrate in the future on “promoting a fair and flexible labour market, changing culture and attitudes, promoting civic society and supporting equality through a streamlined legislative and policy framework”.
Government spending review: Social care looks set for further cuts

Councils look set to be forced to make further large cuts to their adult social care budgets, despite the government announcing an extra £2 billion a year to protect social care services.

Disability organisations said the extra money would be swallowed up by huge cuts in government funding to local authorities, leading to higher charges and further cuts to care and support for disabled people.

In this week’s spending review, George Osborne, the chancellor, announced an extra £1 billion a year for social care through grants to local authorities by 2015, with another £1 billion a year from the NHS to support joint working with councils.

Up to £300m of the NHS money will be for “re-ablement” – rehabilitation after a spell in hospital – while the rest will be used to support other social care services.

The government said it would also ensure that existing social care grants to local authorities rise in line with inflation to £1.4 billion by 2014-15.

But none of the new funding will be “ring-fenced” and Osborne announced cuts in total government funding of local councils of 26 per cent over the next four years.

In a letter to directors of social services, David Behan, the government’s director general of social care, said the extra social care funding would “make it possible to protect people’s access to care, without tightening eligibility”.

He said councils would still need to make “significant efficiency savings”, for example by helping people to stay independent, through assistive technology, “driving forward” personalisation and maximising spending on “frontline services”.

But Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said many councils were already consulting on tightening eligibility criteria for care and increasing charges.

He said: “Cuts to councils’ budgets will mean disabled people lose some social services or pay more to receive essential support.”

And he said that disabled people needed more support from public services than non-disabled people, and would therefore be affected by spending cuts across the public sector. Cuts to police spending, for example, could harm efforts to address disability hate crime.

Ellen Clifford, interim director of the London user-led organisation Newham Coalition, warned that social services departments were “not yet equipped to cope” with moves towards personalisation of social care, and that this policy would fail without more investment.

She added: “Without this, self-directed support will fail, but more than that the lives of disabled people are being put at real risk.”

Clifford also warned that disabled people would be disproportionately affected by government cuts to funding for social housing.

Osborne also announced that “priority” would be given to “protecting” disabled facilities grants (DFG) – which fund improvements such as installing a downstairs bathroom or a ramp in disabled people’s homes.

But this DFG money will not be ring-fenced, so there is no guarantee that it will be used for this purpose by cash-strapped councils.

Government spending on DFG will rise from £168.8 million to £180 million in 2011-12, and to £185 million a year by 2014-15.

The Department of Health also said it was expanding access to “talking therapies” for people with mental health conditions – a move welcomed by mental health charities such as Mind and Rethink – but was scrapping the commitment by the previous government to expand free prescriptions to people with long-term conditions.
Activists plan ‘medication strike’ over spending cuts

Mental health service-users are holding a one-day national “medication strike” this week to protest about government cuts to spending on benefits for disabled people.

The action will take place on Tuesday 26 October and is being coordinated by the campaigning network Mad Pride.

Mad Pride hopes service-users across the country will refuse to take their medication or engage with mental health services on that day as a protest against the cuts.

Mark Roberts, a founder member of Mad Pride, said the action was “a shot across the bows” of the government, with further medication strikes being discussed.

But he said organisers do not believe a 24-hour strike will be harmful to those taking part.

The action will take place on the same day that activists gather at Speakers’ Corner in London, in another protest organised by Mad Pride against the coalition government’s “savage” welfare cuts.

The protests will particularly focus on planned cuts to spending on disability living allowance (DLA), incapacity benefits and housing benefit.

Mad Pride believes the benefits cuts will disproportionately affect people with mental health conditions and drive them into “dire poverty”.

It says the government wants the public to think that “people with depression, anxiety disorders and other ‘mental illnesses’ are malingerers and scroungers – when in fact most of us find it a terrible day to day struggle just to get by”.

Campaigners fear that the stress caused by the threat of benefits cuts will lead to a “huge increase” in suicides among people with mental health conditions.

They will distribute information at the protest aimed at supporting people to cope with the impact of the welfare cuts and telling them where they can find help and advice.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Department for Work and Pensions said: “Encouraging people to stop their medication is extremely irresponsible and can have serious consequences. No one should do so without seeking professional advice.

“Our benefit reforms will ensure that support goes to those who need it the most and can be sustained into the future.”

The protest will take place at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, on Tuesday 26 October, from 1pm.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Graham Bool tribute, Equality Act, Quango’s to go, Choice and Control

So another week done and the one just passed has been particularly sad for me as it included the funeral of one of my closest friends Graham Bool. Many of you have been kind enough to send me notes of condolence for which I am extremely grateful.

Graham and I first met at a special school in the 1950’s and continued our friendship until his untimely death on the 17th of September.

His working life started out as pretty average. Licking envelopes for the Ministry of Ag and Fisheries!! The whole direction changed when his passion for disability sport in particular wheelchair basketball, and photography led him to manage a photography shop in Piccadilly. Then after setting up his own business he began taking photos of disabled sporting events for Disability Now in 1990’s. He quickly established himself as the photographer of choice for dozens of business and sports clients. Graham was a big man; he had a big warm smile, a big moustache, a big handshake and a very big and generous heart. He was incredibly popular because of his ability to show a genuine interest in others. I will really miss him, I already am and I’m sure that those of you who knew him will also treasure the memory. He leaves behind two wonderful children Jessica and Roger.
Equality Act introduces new rights for disabled people

Major new laws to protect disabled people from discrimination come into force today (1 October), as part of the Equality Act.

The act – introduced and steered through parliament by the last Labour government – brings together nine separate pieces of existing legislation, but also includes a series of new rights for disabled people and other minority groups.

Much of the act has already been implemented, although the coalition government says other measures will be phased in over the next three years.

Among crucial measures introduced already are laws banning employers from using health questionnaires to discriminate against disabled job applicants – a move welcomed by disabled people’s organisations as a major step forward for disability rights.

Other measures which came into force on the 1st October will provide new protection from indirect disability discrimination, and should make it easier to prove that someone seeking protection under the act is a disabled person.

Theresa May, the home secretary and minister for women and equality, said the act would make it easier for businesses to comply with discrimination law by streamlining equality legislation, and would provide more protection for disabled people.

Other major improvements included in the act are likely to be introduced next year, including measures on accessible taxis and the provision of auxiliary aids for disabled pupils.

But disabled people’s organisations have raised major concerns about the coalition government’s plans for how public authorities should promote equality under the act.

In August, activists described draft regulations for these “specific duties” as an “enormous setback” in the battle for disability rights. Most of these duties are likely to come into force in April 2011.
DPTAC and ILF set to be thrown on quango bonfire

The coalition government looks set to scrap its advice body on accessible transport and the Independent Living Fund (ILF) as part of its programme of spending cuts, according to a leaked government document.

A leaked list of quangos set for abolition includes the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, the ILF and the Disability Employment Advisory Committee (DEAC), as well as the Disability Living/Attendance Allowance Advisory Board.

But the list appears to confirm that the government will not scrap Equality 2025, its advisory network of disabled people.

The leaked document, published by the BBC, suggests DEAC’s functions could be transferred to Equality 2025, while DPTAC’s role could be “mainstreamed”, with its “remaining functions” transferred to other bodies.

The ILF looks likely to have its budget – currently £359 million a year – transferred to local authorities, although this is “awaiting a final decision”.

In June, the ILF – which is funded by the government and supports disabled people with high support needs to live independently – admitted it would only be able to fund 600 of the 1,000 new awards it had intended to make this year.

The leaked document also says that the future of the Equality and Human Rights Commission is “still to be decided”, although most equality campaigners believe it will not be scrapped but will have its budget cut.

The leaked list says the future of Remploy is also under review. The organisation employs about 3,000 disabled people in 54 sheltered factories, despite closing 29 factories as part of a modernisation programme.

Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, said she feared the impact of the loss of the ILF would be “horrible”.

She said: “I am really, really concerned because we are talking about people with high support needs, and they have got to be met for you to have any chance of being able to participate in life as a citizen

“I really want to urge the government to draw breath and understand what things like the ILF do before reaching these decisions.”

Bott said indications from civil servants were that any funding saved by scrapping the ILF would only be provided by the government to local authorities for three or four years, and after that they would “just be expected to get on with it and fund people from existing resources”.

Alan Norton, a DPTAC member and chief executive of Assist UK, said it would be a “terrible mistake” if DPTAC was to be scrapped.

He said DPTAC – already set to be cut from 19 to just 10 members at the end of this year – was a “real success story” in which disabled people had “influenced change in the country”.

He added: “I really feel it is totally the wrong thing to do. It would put us backwards in many areas.”

Trevor Phillips, chair of the EHRC, told Disability News Service that he would be “a bit surprised” if the commission was scrapped, because “somebody has to do this job”.

But he added: “There is no issue about the idea that we need to do things differently. We are not afraid of change at all. [We have] no problem about somebody saying, ‘You could be better,’ because we think so.”

Marije Davidson, RADAR’s senior policy and parliamentary officer, said she had “concerns” about some of the bodies that could be scrapped, but what was important was how the government planned to replace the vital work they did.

She said there could be opportunities for third sector organisations to take on some of these roles.

And she said it was crucial that the government listened to disabled people when carrying out its equality impact assessment of its plans.

Sue Sharp, head of public policy and campaigns for Guide Dogs, said that scrapping DPTAC would be “a retrograde step”.

Sharp, who previously worked in the Department for Transport’s mobility and inclusion unit, said DPTAC provided a “unique” opportunity for both disabled people and industry to present their cases to government, and that it had a “long record of moving forward the agenda”.

She said this work would “not get done” if DPTAC was scrapped, with the responsibility for such work left to the third sector to fund itself.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government has made it clear that it is committed to radically increasing accountability and improving efficiency.

“As part of this, work is already underway to make substantial reforms to its public bodies. This work is on-going and an announcement will be made in due course.

“We deeply regret any extra uncertainty for employees that this irresponsible leak has caused.”
Choice and control ‘fault lines’ are ‘true measure of inequality’

Serious “fault lines” are emerging in society between how disabled and non-disabled people are able to enjoy choice and control in their lives, a major report by the equality watchdog will reveal next week.

The report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is set to show that inequalities in choice and control are “major issues”, particularly for disabled and older people.

Trevor Phillips, the EHRC’s chair, said the commission’s triennial review – which will be “the most complete map” yet of “non-economic inequalities” – would show why inequalities in “autonomy and choice” were “so important”.

The review, How Fair is Britain?, will be the first major study to bring together all the available evidence in this area, and the EHRC says it will “provide a unique insight into the current state of equality in Britain”.

The commission is required by law to report to parliament every three years on “how far Britain has come towards being a fair society – and how far we still have to go”.

Phillips told a fringe event at the Conservative conference in Birmingham that the “great object of policy must be to close the gaps in autonomy and choice”, which was “a difficult challenge”.

Phillips said he believed there should be “much more” measurement of the extent to which people have “control of how they live their lives” and “the feeling that I today have chosen what I could do”.

He added: “That is much more important than some of the ways we have measured equality so far.”

He said the EHRC’s first attempts at measuring inequality in choice and control were “inadequate” but better than anyone else has managed to date.

He said: “It is absolutely clear that this is a major issue for so many people in our society. I do think it is an area where we really have to apply our minds.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Graham Bool, IB Assessments, Pathways report, Euthanasia Bill in Scotland

This week’s news has been somewhat delayed. The reason for this is that one of my closest friends Graham Bool died very suddenly last Friday. For many of you the name may not ring many bells but you might have seen Graham a wheelchair user with his ginger hair taking photographs at an event you attended or possibly you knew him through his photographic coverage of several Paralympics. I went to school with Graham in the 1950’s and shared most of my life with him. He Is survived by two wonderful children Roger and Jessica who he cared for alone when his wife Fran died in the 1990’s. Graham was a warm hearted, generous and funny man. He had a real zest for life and I will miss him terribly.
Minister gives first estimates for IB reassessments

The government has given its first estimate of the number of people claiming long-term incapacity benefit (IB) who they expect will be found “fit for work” when reassessed using a controversial new test.

The work capability assessment (WCA) was introduced for new claimants of out-of-work disability benefits in October 2008, but the first pilot schemes to reassess disabled people already claiming IB will start next month in Aberdeen and Burnley.

Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, told work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith this week that she was concerned about her constituents in Aberdeen who claim IB and are set to be reassessed.

She said she was also worried that the government’s new Work Programme would not be running until after the pilot schemes had ended.

Duncan Smith, who was giving evidence to her committee, said he “recognised the problem” and would ask employment minister Chris Grayling to talk to her and “see if there are any measures we can take”.

He said his department had estimated that about 23 per cent of those on IB who are reassessed would be found fit for work.

He said the others would be able to claim the new employment and support allowance (ESA) – the replacement for IB – with an estimated 58 per cent to be moved to the work-related activity group, and about 19 per cent placed in the support group for those who do not have to do any work-related activity.

This compares with government figures which show that of new ESA claimants who have completed the WCA, two thirds (66 per cent) have been found fit for work and ineligible for ESA, with 24 per cent in the work-related activity group, and just ten per cent placed in the support group.

The evidence session came as the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) and Disability Alliance (DA) made serious criticisms of the WCA in their submissions to two public consultations.

UKDPC, responding to an independent review of the WCA, called on the government to do more to address the barriers in society that prevent disabled people finding work, such as discrimination by employers, inaccessible workplaces and the lack of accessible transport.

As well as a series of criticisms of the test, it warned that further cuts to social care funding “may prevent disabled people being able to get out of bed and actually go to work even if they are deemed to be fit for work”.

DA, responding to an investigation by the social security advisory committee into proposed government changes to the WCA, also made a series of criticisms and said that the test fails to “adequately reflect the impact of impairments on disabled people’s day to day living”, while the changes “could well result in the problems increasing”.
RADAR, NCIL and DA set to merge: UKDPC raises concerns

The UK’s leading representative voice of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) has expressed surprise and concern over the proposed merger between three other national disability organisations.

RADAR, the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) and Disability Alliance (DA) announced this week that they hope to “unify” within the next 12 months.

But the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) said it was concerned that the new organisation could encroach on its own role representing disabled people and DPOs.

Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of UKDPC, said news of the proposed merger had come as a surprise and that he was “a little bit taken aback as to why dialogue has not happened with UKDPC”.

He said the new organisation “appears to be sharing the same aims and objectives” as UKDPC, such as representing DPOs’ views and influencing the policy agenda.

The announcement comes as UKDPC is itself steadily developing its own “new approach”, following Dhani’s appointment at the end of last year.

Dhani suggested that UKDPC, which represents DPOs and individual disabled people and works with “diverse communities”, could be “better positioned” to reach those communities than the new merged organisation.

He said: “We as an organisation are evaluating what this means in terms of a threat to UKDPC but also in terms of exploring future opportunities as well.

“The concern literally is not knowing how blurred the boundary is between what we are already doing and what they want to do.”

He said he had already arranged to meet Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, to discuss his concerns and “give us a chance to further explore what this new entity is about”.

But he said the announcement would also provide an opportunity for UKDPC to “re-evaluate and address what we are doing”.

This could mean a greater focus on particular areas, such as the concerns of disabled people from different minority groups, including the black and minority ethnic and LGBT communities, and older people.
15 September 2010: RADAR, NCIL and DA set to merge: Trio want a stronger voice

Three of the most influential national disability organisations are hoping to merge within 12 months, they announced this week.

RADAR, the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) and Disability Alliance (DA) said they had been “exploring” the possibility of closer working for the last 18 months.

Each organisation will now consult with its members about the proposal to create a single disabled people’s organisation, provisionally to be called the Disability Rights Partnership.

There are no plans for any redundancies among the combined 35 staff of the three organisations, RADAR said.

Neil Coyle, DA’s director of policy, said the “unification” was not because any of the organisations were facing financial problems, but because “we can do more collectively than we can apart”.

He said the new organisation would provide a more powerful voice to address disabled people’s concerns, and would build and improve upon the existing support and services provided by the three partners.

Sir Bert Massie, a former RADAR chief executive and still a vice-president, welcomed the move.

He said disabled people needed an organisation that could campaign and lobby government on the big issues but was not a service-provider reliant on short-term government contracts, like so many disability organisations.

Sir Bert said that RADAR’s campaigning influence and skill, DA’s expertise on the “huge” issue of disability benefits and NCIL’s work promoting independent living would “come together rather nicely”.

He added: “What’s important now is that it moves very quickly. What would be dangerous would be a long period of indecision.”

In a statement, RADAR, NCIL and DA said the new organisation would provide “an integrated service for disabled people” and would be led by disabled people.

They said this week’s announcement that Vanessa Stanislas, DA’s chief executive, would be leaving for another job on 1 October had “offered an opportunity to inject new energy” into their discussions.

They said their shared vision was about realising rights and equality for disabled people, but warned that society would only change when disability was “at the heart of public policy” and “when disabled people speak for themselves and determine their own future”.

RADAR was formed in 1977 and is a national campaigning network of disability organisations and disabled people; NCIL was set up by the British Council of Disabled People in 1996, becoming independent in 2003, and promotes the concept of independent living; while DA, which was formed in 1974, campaigns and provides information on the link between disability and poverty.

Members have been asked to give their views about the proposed merger by the end of this month, with debates to take place at their annual general meetings this autumn, with RADAR’s on 13 October. Final decisions are likely at general meetings next spring.

They hope the new organisation will be established by the middle of 2011.
‘Deep concerns’ over Ofsted’s SEN review

Inclusive education campaigners have raised “deep concerns” about crucial parts of a review of the special educational needs (SEN) system by the education watchdog.

Ofsted’s review, which was commissioned by the Labour government, points to “widespread weaknesses” in provision for disabled children and “evidence that the way the system is currently designed contributes to these problems”.

It says that, since 2003, the proportion of children with a statement of SEN – for those needing the most intensive support – has decreased from three to 2.7 per cent, while those needing less intensive support has risen from 14 per cent of all pupils in 2003 to 18.2 per cent in 2010.

About one in five children – approximately 1.7 million – are currently categorised as having SEN.

But the report claims as many as 460,000 of these children should not be classed as having SEN and, rather than needing “relatively expensive additional provision…simply need better teaching”.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) said it was “deeply concerned” about this claim and “does not share” Ofsted’s view.

Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s campaigns and policy coordinator, said: “We know how difficult it is for parents of disabled children to access the support they need to thrive in the mainstream environment. From our experience, a lot of those [460,000] children are those with undiagnosed conditions.”

ALLFIE said it was also very concerned about Ofsted’s recommendation that there should only be legal rights to provision for those disabled pupils covered by the Disability Discrimination Act [soon to be replaced by the Equality Act].

Aspis said this was “watering down” and “weakening” disabled children’s right to access the support they needed, and added: “When the child’s needs are identified, the provision must be provided – no ifs, no buts.”

But she welcomed the review’s call for simpler legislation and a more transparent SEN framework, and Ofsted’s acknowledgement that there was a lack of choice for disabled learners in further education.

Dr Artemi Sakellariadis, director of the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, said the Ofsted report shows the need for a “thorough” review of how provision is organized and the “significant discrepancies” between provision in different local authorities.

She also welcomed the call for simpler legislation, a “huge issue” which CSIE has been pushing the government to act on, as well as the demand for clarity on the different terms used by agencies to refer to disabled children.

And she praised the emphasis on the outcomes disabled children themselves said they wanted from their education, such as relationships and independence, rather than a narrow focus on educational attainment.

She added: “I hope this report challenges the government to develop a system where parents no longer feel they have to fight for the rights of their children.”

The government is due to publish a green paper on disabled children and those with special educational needs (SEN) this autumn.
Report finds Pathways was a dead end

A new report by MPs has called on the government to “fundamentally review” the employment support it provides for disabled people claiming out-of-work disability benefits.

The report by the public accounts committee (PAC) on Labour’s Pathways to Work programme for disabled people found the scheme was “not well implemented” and had little impact on moving disabled people into work.

It followed a report by the National Audit Office in June that also concluded that Pathways had provided “poor value for money”.

In 2008-09, £94 million (more than a third of its budget for that year) was spent on providing extra support that failed to deliver any additional jobs, says the new report.

The report calls on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to deliver “clear guidance” on the type of support that is likely to deliver additional jobs to those involved in the coalition government’s new single Work Programme that will launch next summer.

It raises concerns that those found fit for work under the controversial new work capability assessment (WCA) might not receive the job support they need under the Work Programme.

And it calls on the government to evaluate its capacity to support the “large numbers of people” on old-style incapacity benefit (IB) who will be found fit for work when reassessed under the WCA and are likely to need extra support because of the length of time they have been on IB.

The number of people claiming incapacity benefits – including IB, income support on the grounds of disability, and the new employment and support allowance (ESA) – fell by 125,000 between February 2005 and August 2009, but has remained at more than 2.5 million for over a decade.

More than £750 million has so far been spent on Pathways.

Margaret Hodge, the Labour chair of the PAC, said that “no-one knows” how much Pathways contributed to the fall of 125,000, and she criticised the failure to carry out a “rigorous evaluation” of the initial Pathways pilots that began in 2003, which gave an “over-optimistic” impression of what it could achieve.

The report criticises private sector Pathways providers, who “seriously underperformed”, doing less well than the government-run Jobcentre Plus, even though private contractors work in “easier” areas with fewer claimants and higher demand for labour.

Chris Grayling, the minister for employment, said: “This report is hugely disappointing and just underlines how misplaced many of the previous government’s labour policies were.”

Euthanasia protest will mark opposition to ‘very dangerous’ bill

Disabled anti-euthanasia campaigners are to stage a protest outside the Scottish parliament, as a committee of MSPs hears evidence on a proposed bill that would legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.

The end of life assistance (Scotland) bill 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 for assistance to end their lives under the bill, which has been proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald.

Bill Scott, acting manager of Inclusion Scotland – a national consortium of disabled people’s organisations and disabled people – said that offering the bill’s assistance to anyone with a care need was “very, very dangerous”.

He said a “huge number” of people would technically qualify for assistance under the bill, which was “not about assisting people at the end of their lives but about offering assistance at any stage once they have acquired an impairment that requires some level of care”.

Catherine Garrod, a member of Inclusion Scotland, said there were many people within the disability rights movement who were “very strongly opposed” to the bill.

She said it could be argued that the bill covered any disabled person who receives disability benefits, and added: “That’s why the disabled people’s movement is so strongly opposed to it. It is going to cover such large numbers of disabled people.”

Written evidence already submitted to the committee considering the bill by Independent Living in Scotland (ILiS) – a disabled people’s organisation set up to develop the independent living movement in Scotland – said the bill took a “disempowering” approach to independent living.

ILiS said the bill “contradicts and undoes the years of work” by the independent living movement, the Scottish government and other organisations.

ILiS also criticises MacDonald’s bill for making no mention of the barriers disabled people face that may contribute to them finding life “intolerable”.

The protest will take place from 9.30am on Tuesday 28 September, the day Inclusion Scotland is due to give evidence to the committee, along with other disability and pro- and anti-euthanasia organisations.

For more information about the protest, contact Inclusion Scotland, emailinfo@inclusionscotland.org or tel: 0141 8877058
Agreement with EU publishers could help sharing of accessible books

European publishers and disability organisations have signed an agreement that could help convert more books into accessible formats.

The agreement aims to help ease the “book famine” faced by those who are “print-disabled” – blind, partially-sighted and dyslexic people – in which only about five per cent of books are ever converted into accessible formats such as large print, audio or Braille.

The “memorandum of understanding” was signed this week by the Federation of European Publishers, the European Blind Union (EBU) and the European Dyslexia Association, who were brought together by the European Commission (EC).

Although it will not be legally binding, the document describes the circumstances in which publishers will allow disability organisations to share their stocks of accessible books across the EU.

Most of the few books that are currently made accessible are produced by RNIB in the UK and other charities such as ONCE in Spain.

Lord [Colin] Low, president of the EBU, said the signing of the memorandum of understanding was the start of an “important project”, and added: “We need and welcome publisher help to tackle the ‘book famine’.”

Dan Pescod, international campaigns manager for RNIB, said the ideal solution would be for publishers to publish more books in accessible formats, but that “isn’t likely to happen in the near future”.

Although the agreement sets a helpful precedent, he said it was unlikely to have a huge impact on print-disabled people in Britain as there were no other EU countries mass-producing English-language books.

He also said it would be important to monitor the impact of the agreement, but stressed there was also a need for a “proper legal framework” through the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a UN agency.

RNIB, EBU and other campaigning groups want a worldwide WIPO treaty on sharing accessible books.

Michel Barnier, the EC’s commissioner for the internal market and services, presided over the signing in Brussels.

The commission described the signing of the memorandum as an “important and concrete step” in increasing the number of accessible books, and said “noticeable increases in cross-border distribution” should be possible within a year.

Barnier said: “Today’s agreement shows what Europe truly stands for: an internal market that not only promotes culture but also caters for the needs of people with special needs or disabilities.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

DDA less well known, Work Pilot Test concerns, Rowen Jade tributes, Debenhams

Hello once again! A pretty quite week all things considered. We prepared for my son George’s thirty second birthday which of course made me feel positively ancient! It does seem strange that I have a child of thirty-two! What I find truly remarkable is that my wife can recall exactly what took place minute by minute all those years ago right down to the clothes she was wearing, and what I should have done but didn’t! Where I should have been and wasn’t and what she had for breakfast! She has the same recall ability with our two grand children a truly wonderful gift!
Fewer employers aware of DDA, says government report

Awareness of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) among employers has fallen since 2006, according to a new government report.

The report, Organisations’ Responses to the Disability Discrimination Act, says the number of employers who were aware of the recruitment and employment measures in the DDA fell from 80 to 76 per cent. And only a fifth of employers were able to “spontaneously name the DDA”.

There was also a fall in the number of employers who had made a workplace adjustment for a disabled employee or planned to do so, from 70 to 61 per cent.

Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, said that legislation “sends an important message to employers, but legislation alone is not enough”.

She said: “Most employers recognise that employing disabled people is the ‘right thing to do’. We need even more employers understanding that employing disabled people makes real business sense too.”

The report also found there was a fall in the proportion of providers of goods and services that had made an adjustment to their service – such as providing a ramp or accessible toilet for disabled customers – from 87 per cent to 80 per cent since the previous survey in 2006.

The survey was carried out for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by the Institute for Employment Studies and Ipsos Mori in the autumn of 2009, and coincided with the economic downturn.

Employers said the recession had not yet had an impact on their ability to make adjustments for disabled employees, but some feared it might do so in the future.

Although 16 per cent of employers said last autumn that the recession had affected their ability to employ disabled people, nearly three-quarters of this group said this was because they had stopped recruitment altogether, while just 14 per cent of them said it was because they could not afford to make workplace adjustments.

The report – based on 2,000 telephone interviews and 97 in-depth interviews – says some providers of goods and service had been badly affected by the recession, “but many thought that this would not affect their services to disabled customers”.

Only two of the service providers interviewed in-depth said the recession might alter what they saw as “reasonable” in making adjustments, while “in a few cases” the recession was “already thought to have had an impact on the adjustments being made”, particularly with more costly physical adaptations to buildings.

To view the report, visit:http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2009-2010/rrep685.pdf
Begg raises new concerns over work test pilot schemes

A disabled MP has raised doubts over whether the government has ensured the right support is in place for people set to take part in a controversial incapacity benefit (IB) pilot scheme.

Disabled people in Anne Begg’s Aberdeen South constituency will be taking part in one of two pilot projects testing the use of the work capability assessment (WCA) to reassess people claiming “old-style” IB.

Letters will be sent out in October to most people claiming IB in Aberdeen and Burnley, with reassessments likely to begin in November, before a national reassessment programme of all remaining claimants of IB that is set to start next spring and last three years.

The WCA was introduced in October 2008 for claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA), the new out-of-work disability benefit, but the test has proved hugely controversial.

Only last week, a coalition of charities said the assessment must do far more to recognise the barriers faced by people with mental health and other fluctuating conditions, and those with learning difficulties.

This week, Begg used a parliamentary question to ask the Liberal Democrat care services minister Paul Burstow whether the government had warned mental health professionals in Aberdeen of the problems the pilot project was likely to cause.

Begg, who was elected chair of the Commons work and pensions committee in June, said people with mental health conditions who receive IB had come to her constituency surgery because they were “worried sick” about the reassessment pilot scheme.

She said: “They are really quite worried about the WCA, about how sensitive it is to mental health conditions and other variable conditions.”

She said they had seen reports describing how many claimants are found fit for work after taking the WCA, although she said the numbers found fit for work in the pilots should be lower because those being assessed will already be claiming IB.

Government figures published in July showed that of those new claimants who completed the WCA, two thirds (66 per cent) were found fit for work and ineligible for ESA.

Begg said: “Knowing they are going through the whole process is a huge anxiety and if the professionals are not made aware of the implications of this they are not going to be in a position to help or give advice.

“That is what worries me – It has been dropped on Aberdeen without any of that preparation being done.”

It was unclear from Burstow’s Commons answer what measures had been taken to support IB claimants with mental health conditions in Aberdeen and Burnley. A Department for Work and Pensions comment had not arrived by Disability News Service’s deadline.
Death of ‘gentle warrior’ leaves gaping hole in movement

Friends and fellow activists were this week coming to terms with the loss of Rowen Jade, a “gentle warrior” and “force for change”, whose death has drawn tributes from across the disability movement.

Jade’s career spanned direct action protests, youth work, lesbian and gay rights activism, disability equality training and research, and work at the very heart of government as chair of Equality 2025.

She was also a close friend and trusted confidant of many veterans of the movement, and fellow disabled activists were this week united in praising her personal qualities, her radical disability politics, her diplomacy and her remarkable intellect.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, had been planning to spend the weekend with Jade, one of her closest friends, and attend the Liberty disability arts festival in London together, when she heard of her sudden death on holiday on 2 September.

She described Jade as “unassuming”, “generous” and a “gentle warrior”, with “the most remarkable intellect, insight and commitment”.

She said Jade could “say the most radical things in the most gentle way” and by chairing the government’s disability equality advice body she entered the “heart of the body of the beast”, where she communicated “radical disability politics in a way that people could not only hear it but do something about it – even the most hardened politicians”.

Baroness Campbell said she did not know anyone else in the movement who would be able to fill the gap she had left.

She said Jade “never moved from her fundamental principles” and had been influencing the government’s 21st Century Welfare benefits reforms through meetings with work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and disabled people’s minister Maria Miller.

Jade told them of the importance of a disability impact assessment of their plans and warned of the risk that some reforms could “end up with disabled people losing their lives”, said Baroness Campbell, but also congratulated them when they got things right.

Fellow activist Julie Newman said Jade was “a very good friend to a lot of people”.

“She lived her life by human rights and civil liberties,” she said. “That was her, every aspect of her life.

“She was one of the most diplomatic of people: gentle, but also extraordinarily strong. She could pull diverse groups of people together and was a firm believer that we should work together for the greater good. She was extraordinarily skilful in that respect.”

Singer-songwriter Johnny Crescendo, who founded the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN), said Jade was a committed campaigner, a highly effective organiser of protests, and “a very, very strong woman, a feminist, a very good trainer, very skilled, very intelligent”.

He remembers Jade’s concerns about being arrested at a DAN public transport protest in the early 1990s, when she was lying on the trolley she used in front of a bus. She was one of a number of protesters subsequently arrested by police.

He said: “She didn’t like the idea of going to jail, but she overcame her fear and she never looked back.”

Another leading activist, Rachel Hurst, had known Jade since she was a teenager, and said she had been “a very great force for change all her life”.

“She’s just a great loss. I think also that her presence sent a tremendous message to people because lying down on a trolley all the time was a very good way, without saying anything, of showing people that you can do anything, however impaired.”

Jade was part of the advisory group that helped set up Equality 2025 in 2006 and had been a member since it was established, becoming its chair in 2008.

Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, said her death was “a huge loss not just to Equality 2025 but for the disability movement as a whole. For many years Rowen has been a great advocate for disabled people and she will be sorely missed.”

Tim Cooper, director of the Office for Disability Issues, said Jade was an “inspirational leader” with a “tremendous personal style”, and that her death “leaves a great void which it will be impossible to fill in the same way”.

As well as co-editing Bigger than the Sky, an anthology of writing by disabled women on parenting, Jade was a freelance disability equality consultant for many years and had worked for the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), where she co-authored Whose Voice is it Anyway?, a hugely influential report on the experiences of young disabled people in special and mainstream schools.

Tara Flood, ALLFIE’s current chief executive, said the report had been a “guiding principle” for the organisation from the moment it was published, in 1999. “It’s what our commitment to young people’s participation is based on,” she said.

Flood, who also knew Jade through her membership of Equality 2025, said: “I can’t begin to imagine the loss. She was an incredible woman. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say a bad word about her.

“Her diplomacy skills knew no bounds when it came to working with civil servants. When James Purnell got the job [as work and pensions secretary], I remember him meeting Rowen and being pretty blown away by her and hearing the message about disabled people’s lives. I think it hadn’t hit him until he had spoken to Rowen.

“I think she had the most incredible skills in being the link between the absolute frontline activism, right through to the mainstream influence with civil servants and ministers.

“She was able to manage those of us who were wanting the frontline radical stuff and getting us to understand how you build that into stuff that a civil servant will understand and listen to.”

Jade had very close links with Bristol, where she lived with her partner Jaz and daughter Olivia, and was a member of the West of England Centre for Inclusive Living (WECIL).

Jayne Carr, WECIL’s chair, chaired the interview panel that gave Jade a job as an independent living advisor on a groundbreaking project for young disabled people in 2001.

Carr said she had “enormous spirit and determination and knowledge and skills” and was “a great thinker and strategist”, and said her death was an “enormous loss” to Bristol’s disabled community, who knew her well.

She added: “Her actual physical presence was small but she had an enormous emotional impact and was an inspirational force to any disabled person who met her, and she will be greatly missed.”

Her funeral will take place at noon on Wednesday 15 September at Westerleigh Crematorium, Westerleigh Road, Bristol BS37 8QP. Those attending are asked to wear bright colours.
Debenhams showcases new wheelchair for mannequins

The designer of the world’s first wheelchair for mannequins hopes her ground-breaking new product will be a step forward for disability equality in the high street.

The Mannequal made its first appearance on 3 September in the store window of the Oxford Street branch of Debenhams in London.

Debenhams used the Mannequal for the first time as it rolled out its first national fashion advertising campaign to feature a wheelchair-using model in the windows of all its 160 UK and Republic of Ireland stores.

The campaign followed a “really good reaction” to shots of the same model – Shannon Murray – in window displays in three stores earlier this year, which came after Debenhams was approached by the Channel 4 show How to Look Good Naked.

Murray praised Debenhams for its “dedication to represent real women on the high street.”

She added: “I’m hoping that eventually other brands will follow Debenhams’ lead and recognise the diversity of their customers.”

The Mannequal was designed by disabled artist, campaigner and model Sophie Morgan – who appeared in the BBC reality show Britain’s Missing Top Model – and allows retailers to show their mannequins using a wheelchair while modelling their latest fashions.

Morgan was inspired to design the Mannequal while browsing in a branch of Top Shop and seeing mannequins of different ethnicity, but wondering why there were no disabled mannequins.

She said: “It is quite difficult to represent every different disability, so I was thinking about the most generic way to represent disabled people.

“Although I use a wheelchair, I don’t want people to think I designed it to represent just wheelchair-users. The Mannequal is a symbol that represents all disabilities.

“The idea is to make it as easy and straightforward as possible to bring disability onto the high street. The idea is to be as subtle as possible, so the focus is still on the clothing.”

A Debenhams spokeswoman said they were trialling the Mannequal at its Oxford Street store to gauge public reaction.

She added: “We had never seen anything like it before until Sophie came to us.”

As well as its Debenhams appearance, the Mannequal is also appearing in the Katie & Jo boutique at 253 New King’s Road, London.

To see pictures of the Mannequal, visit www.mannequal.com

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

DPTAC membership Cut, Work Test, Spending Cuts Fear, Access Benefits to Small Businesses, Accessible Cities

Just back from Northumberland where the sun shone! In all the years I’ve travelled to this beautiful part of the world I’ve become used to cold winds and plenty of precipitation!! (What does that mean?) Sue and I visited all sorts of places from gardens to castles and very few problems were encountered from an access point of view. No Friend holiday is ever complete, however without something going awry! On this occasion while turning right in our motor home from a road onto a drive way I managed to clout the step slung underneath the vehicle. Sue has now taken up high jumping in order to access the vehicle. I of course use a ramp so all is fine from my point of view!! I hope the following news items are of interest.
Government to slash DPTAC membership

The Department for Transport (DfT) is to slash the membership of its advisory body on accessible transport by nearly half as a result of the coalition government’s freeze on civil service recruitment.

The DfT admitted this week that membership of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) – most of whom are disabled people – would be cut from 19 to just 10 people at the end of this year.

The three-year terms of nine members are due to end on 31 December, and none of them will now be replaced or have their membership renewed.

Those being forced to leave include many of DPTAC’s most experienced members.

The DfT also admitted that the cuts could mean the government breaches its legal duty to ensure that DPTAC – which provides a pan-disability view on the impact of transport laws, regulations, guidance and policy to government and the transport industry – has a chair and at least 10 other members.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “It hasn’t happened yet. We need to take stock and see what we can do about it.”

Helen Smith, director of policy and campaigns for Mobilise and one of the DPTAC members who will be forced to leave, described the situation as “pretty dire”.

She said the cuts would mean DPTAC would have to scrap its structure of four working groups, each specializing in different areas of transport, while many of the 10 remaining members were much less experienced than those who were leaving.

She said: “I think there is a great deal of disappointment. We feel that the work of DPTAC is not being particularly taken seriously.”

She fears the government might be considering scrapping DPTAC altogether in a bid to cut spending even further.

Alan Norton, chief executive of Assist UK and another member due to leave in December, said DPTAC’s work had led to a “massive improvement in services for disabled people, without wasting money”.

He said: “It is one of the areas where disabled people have really made a difference in advising ministers on policy. Recommendations that we have put forward have been implemented.”

He added: “DPTAC’s remit is very wide. It covers all forms of transport. Obviously if it has reduced numbers its scope would have to be reduced and its priorities would have to change.”

A DfT spokeswoman confirmed that the number of members would be cut from 19 to 10 at the end of 2010. She said there were no further cuts planned to DPTAC’s budget.

She said the DfT could not say whether DPTAC would still be equipped to perform its advisory duties “until we have looked at the implications of the recruitment freeze”.

In a statement, Dai Powell, chair of DPTAC, said it was “vital” that it continued its work so “the dedication, expertise and commitment” of its members could keep the “needs of the disabled traveller” at the “forefront of government transport policy development”.
Government ‘must provide more work test support’

The government’s work capability test needs to do far more to recognise the barriers faced by people with mental health conditions, learning difficulties and fluctuating conditions, according to a coalition of charities.

The charities have called for better support for disabled people undertaking the work capability assessment (WCA), both before and after they have been assessed.

Their call came in a letter to Professor Malcolm Harrington, who is leading an independent review of the assessment for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The WCA determines eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA), the new out-of-work disability benefit. Disability organisations have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of the WCA since its introduction in October 2008.

The letter was coordinated by the Papworth Trust, but has also been signed by the Disability Benefits Consortium, and charities such as Mind, RNID, Deafblind UK and the Learning Disability Coalition.

They believe the WCA is “too focused on physical capability” so people with serious mental health conditions, learning difficulties and fluctuating health conditions are often unfairly marked as “fit to work”.

The Papworth Trust pointed to the case of a nurse manager who tried to commit suicide, but was then assessed as fit to work because she could wash, dress, walk and talk coherently.

She said: “I desperately want to go back to work but am still unwell. I need time and support to recover before I can hold down a full-time job again.”

The letter also says coalition members are becoming “increasingly puzzled” by the significant proportion (37 per cent) of people who withdraw their ESA claim before the end of the WCA process.

The coalition suggests that some of these people may have “become frustrated by the system and simply given up”, and urges Harrington to recommend that the DWP starts tracking what happens to them when they drop out.

The letter also calls on the DWP to record what happens to people with different impairments who have been passed fit for work, in order to “demonstrate whether the system is capable of supporting them”.

Matthew Lester, the Papworth Trust’s work and learning director, said: “The current process causes massive uncertainty and stress for those already struggling with their health. We believe that people should be supported before, during and after the assessment, with advice available at every step.”
Vital grants scheme could be next victim of spending cuts

Plans to scrap a London-wide grants programme could have “devastating” consequences for Deaf and disabled people’s organisations (DDPOs), say campaigners.

London Councils (LC) – the organisation representing the capital’s 33 local authorities – is considering scrapping its grants programme, set up more than 20 years ago to address “social issues of London-wide significance”.

Instead, the £28.4 million-a-year budget would be returned to individual councils, all of which are likely to be facing major cuts in government funding this autumn.

The scheme funds vital services – such as expert advice, information and advocacy – provided by some of the capital’s leading DDPOs, including Inclusion London, Disability Law Service and Transport for All.

Funding is provided over four years, but LC is now warning charities it can only guarantee funding until March 2011.

Minutes from LC’s grants committee make it clear that the huge government spending cuts expected from the Treasury’s spending review in October are a major factor behind the proposals.

But a report to the committee warns that stopping all funding for the scheme could have “significant reputational and potentially legal consequences” for LC.

Another option is for funding to be gradually cut back as the four-year grants “come to their natural end of life” over the next three years. LC could also continue to fund London-wide services, with councils funding local services.

Inclusion London warned that scrapping the programme could force the closure of some DDPOs, while any cuts “would be devastating for Deaf and disabled Londoners – coming just at a time when disabled people face cuts in services, jobs and benefits and when they need DDPOs”.

Disability Law Service (DLS) said the scheme was a “valued and vital funder and supporter of user-led disabled people’s organisations working pan-London”.

A DLS spokeswoman said: “It would be very sad if any cuts in London Councils funding resulted in reduction or closure of such services, as it is unlikely that it would be possible to fund individual services of this kind in each borough, and at this time disabled people need advice, information, advocacy and support more than ever.”

The London Voluntary Service Council said the “repatriation” of funding to local authorities would essentially be a “cut” in grants because councils were under such “severe financial pressure”.

A London Councils spokeswoman said: “We are still at the very early stages of the review but should boroughs end up retaining any of the money they give to the pan-London scheme, it would be up to them how they should spend the money at a local level.”

She said a consultation on the proposals would be launched “in the next few days”.
‘Evidence needed’ to prove businesses benefit from better access

The government should produce new evidence that demonstrates the benefits to smaller businesses of becoming more accessible to disabled customers, according to a new report.

The report by consultants Atkins was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Office for Disability Issues, as part of efforts to produce a “legacy” for disabled people from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.

One of the key pledges in the Labour government’s “legacy promise” was to secure a “radical shift in society’s perceptions of disability”, and remove barriers to inclusion in areas such as business and sport.

But Atkins said its research found a low level of interest and awareness of disabled people as customers by small and medium-sized enterprises.

The report says businesses with a “better focus” on disabled customers have seen a “rapidly expanding customer base, increases in sales and profitability”, and have gained a “distinct advantage” over their competitors.

But the report, 2012 Legacy for Disabled People: Inclusive and Accessible Business, says few SMEs are aware of these opportunities, while often sharing a “discomfort with disability”, a fear of “getting it wrong”, and confusion about “reasonable adjustments”.

The report calls for more to be done to build relationships between disabled people’s organisations – which are most knowledgeable about disability and access – and business organisations.

And it points to a lack of material – such as “best practice” case studies – for government departments and agencies to use to promote the case for focusing on disabled customers in the lead-up to 2012. The report calls on the government to commission new “compelling material” to help achieve a “radical shift in the attitude of businesses”.

Andrew Little, chief executive of Inclusion London, welcomed the report and said it was “very important” to build the “maximum possible positive legacy for disabled people” from London 2012, with “every opportunity” taken to remove the barriers facing disabled people.

But he criticised some of the report’s “quite basic” recommendations with so little time left before 2012.

He said: “We are all for more research, but both the equality and the business case for access and inclusion have been made. Now is the time to implement.”

He said more progress might have been made had both the Greater London Authority and the London Development Agency not cut spending on supporting and promoting equality to the private sector.

A BIS spokeswoman said commissioning new material was “something we are looking at doing [but] at the moment it has not been approved by ministers as we have only just received the report”.
Hunt is on for Europe’s most accessible city

The European Commission has launched a competition to find the most accessible city in Europe.

The idea for an Access City Award was first proposed by the European Disability Forum (EDF), which described the new competition as a “real step forward”.

Seven British towns and cities – Cardiff, Cheltenham, Leeds, Leicester, Luton, Middlesbrough and Barnsley – have already expressed an interest in entering the competition, which is open to cities and towns with more than 50,000 inhabitants.

The winning town or city will have shown it has improved accessibility in its buildings, public spaces, transport, information services and public facilities, as well as having “ongoing and ambitious” plans for further improvements.

The winner will have to act as a role model for other towns and cities, and must have involved disabled people and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in planning, implementing and maintaining its access policies.

The commission said that “limiting a city’s access to just a part of the population, and ignoring another significant part” was “economically, socially and politically unsustainable” and “simply not fair”.

An EDF spokeswoman added: “By taking into consideration the way persons with disabilities move in the city, society encourages equal access to everyone and avoids additional discrimination.”

Applications from each country will be reviewed by both a national and European jury made up of representatives of DPOs and other access experts.

Four cities will be selected as finalists, with the winner to be announced at a ceremony in Brussels on 3 December, the International Day of Disabled People.

Applications must be submitted by 23 September, although this deadline is likely to be extended until 1 October. For more details, visit www.accesscityaward.eu

News provided by John Pring atwww.disabilitynewsservice.com

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, visit:www.london2012.com
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, visit:www.equalities.gov.uk/news/specific_duties_consultation.aspx
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 www.disabilitynewsservice.co