More Concerns Regarding Disability Hate Crime

Union boss calls for action on disability hate crime

A leading union boss has called for more to be done to recognise and stamp out disability hate crime.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union UNISON, told his national disabled members conference that he wanted discussion of hate crime to be included in the national curriculum.

UNISON also wants criminal justice agencies and local authorities to do more to address disability hate crime, he said.

And he called for more “third party reporting centres”, which allow disabled people to ask someone else to report a hate crime on their behalf, in order to “stop disabled people living their lives in fear”.

Prentis said: “Disablism is rife within our society and attacks against disabled people are common, yet there is very little being done to record or prevent this type of hate crime.

“If crimes are perpetrated against a gay person, or someone from a minority ethnic or religious group, there can be little doubt that these would be investigated as possible hate crimes – the same attitude needs to be taken towards disability hate crimes.”

Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, told the conference that there was “no place in our society for disability hate crime” and that the government was addressing the issue through its new hate crime action plan.

Paul Hardisty, a disabled communications officer with Kent police, who has himself been the victim of a hate crime, said: “We need to continue recording and monitoring these disability hate crimes, so we can see it for the huge problem it is.”

And fellow disabled delegate Margie Hill, who has also been the victim of a hate crime, said: “Disability hate crime needs to be acknowledged and stamped out.”

Prentis also told the conference that a new union survey had revealed that more than a third of disabled members who responded said they had been bullied at work in the previous six months.

His speech came as the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) revealed that nine per cent of disabled people who responded to a national survey said they had been the victims of a disability hate crime.

John Knight, LCD’s director of policy and campaigns, said the figure was “deeply worrying”.

He said: “There is a clear need for more robust identification and recording of disability hate crimes, better support for disabled people who are victims of crime and improved access to justice.
Sharp rise in calls to disability hate helpline

Reporting of disability hate crimes to a hotline more than trebled last year and is set to rise sharply again this year, a conference has heard.

Calls about disability hate crime made to the helpline rose from 26 in 2007-08 to 93 last year, with 80 calls already received in the first half of this year.

The figures were revealed by the anti-hate crime charity Stop Hate UK, which runs the helpline and attributed the increase to rising awareness among disabled people.

Crime reduction minister Alan Campbell told the national hate crime conference, organised by the London Borough of Havering, that the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca had focused attention on the “torment” that can come from “systematic” abuse.

An inquest in September found that Pilkington committed suicide and unlawfully killed her daughter, Francecca, after a ten-year hate campaign led by a local gang, much of it directed at Francecca, who had learning difficulties.

Campbell said: “We need to work together to make sure that offenders are dealt with, but also crucially that victims are protected and supported.”

He said new guidance for Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, to be issued as part of the government’s hate crime action plan, would help deal with “campaigns of prejudice and hate” such as that experienced by the Pilkington family.

But he said it was crucial to “build confidence” so victims of hate crime “feel able to come forward”.

Mark Brookes, a senior policy worker at the learning difficulties charity Values Into Action, said: “People with learning difficulties should act together to break the silence and learn about hate crime.”

He said more must be done to ensure people with learning difficulties know what a hate crime is and are confident enough to report such crimes.

But he called for “action and not strategies” and said he was tired of “just repeating and repeating” the hate crime message.

He said he himself has had eggs and tomatoes thrown at him and is afraid to leave his house after 8pm, as are many other people with learning difficulties.

Abigail Lock, Scope’s head of advocacy and campaigns, called for joined-up inter-agency working, for tackling disability hate crime to become a mainstream issue, and for investment in third-party reporting centres.

And Bennett Obong, project manager of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s hate crime forum, said: “It is actions that make a difference…communities need to see that there is a response from the agencies that have a responsibility.”

News provided by John Pring at jpringnews@googlemail.com

Shadow Minister tries to reassure on Incapacity Benefit

The Conservative shadow minister for disabled people has laid out some of the key differences between his party and the government on the heated and controversial issue of incapacity benefit (IB) reform.

Mark Harper MP has expanded on the radical welfare reform programme outlined during the party’s annual conference in Manchester earlier this month.

His comments come as many campaigners have expressed alarm at the prospect of a contest between the Conservatives and Labour over which party can sound toughest on IB reform.

Harper says he is “well aware” of the “anecdotal evidence” of problems with the operation of the work capability assessment (WCA) – the test for all new claimants of out-of-work disability benefits, which has just passed its first anniversary – particularly for those with mental health and other fluctuating and long-term conditions.

There has been a series of warnings from campaigning organisations that the new system is inflexible, riddled with errors and fails to reflect disabled people’s daily lives.

Harper says: “The principle of having a test is sound, but it needs to deal with those more complex and fluctuating conditions.”

But he says he cannot pledge to change the test until he has a greater depth of information about how it is working. His party has tabled parliamentary questions to try to secure this data.

He says: “First of all we just need to look at what the data says about the test.

“If the testing that is going on is not properly dealing with certain groups of people then clearly we need to address that.”

Both his party and the government are now proposing to test everyone on IB through the WCA over three years from 2010.

There are concerns that so many assessments – possibly as many as three million when taking into account new claimants over those three years – could expose disabled people to even more mistakes and hardship.

Harper says he is “very well aware of the concerns that groups have got” with how the WCA is already working.

But he says: “This is doable. We are not inventing a new process. We want to do it fast because we want to make sure those people get the help.

“It clearly is a challenge. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. But not doing it means saying to those people we are not going to provide you with the help and support you need to get into work.”

Although he does not accept that it could easily take longer than three years to test everyone on IB, he does not rule out this possibility either.

He says: “We will need to see how fast we can do it. At this point, we don’t know.

“We want to be able to reassess the existing IB claimants as soon as practically possible.

“Clearly if we find that is not practical we may have to go back to it.”

Harper also defends his party’s plan to scrap all the government’s individual back-to-work programmes, such as the New Deal for Disabled People and Pathways to Work, and replace them with one single welfare-to-work scheme.

He says one of the key differences with government policy is that a Conservative government would refer everyone on out-of-work benefits to a welfare-to-work provider for targeted, personalised help.

Everyone on IB or the new employment and support allowance (ESA) would be referred to a welfare-to-work provider “immediately”, he says.

This is possible, he says, because the Conservative treasury team has agreed that expected benefits savings secured by finding people jobs can be used to pay for an expanded back-to-work programme.

He says this would mean that disabled people who should have been on ESA but end up on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) instead could still secure support to find work, although he accepts that they will be receiving a lower rate of benefit.

He says: “For most of the people on IB at the moment, [the government] do not have anything to offer them almost for the whole [of the next] parliament. That’s the single biggest difference [between the parties].”

He says the government’s Invest to Save pilots, which will also use benefits savings to fund work programmes, would help only a small proportion of those on IB.

Another key difference between the two parties, he says, is that a Conservative government would ensure bigger rewards for welfare-to-work providers who find jobs for those people who are the hardest to help into work.

There would also be a “more robust” emphasis on ensuring that those jobs are sustainable, which would be of “particular help” for people with fluctuating conditions.

Harper also claims that a Conservative government would address the workplace barriers that disabled people face, for instance through mental health anti-stigma campaigns and ensuring that the NHS provides better support for employers taking on new staff with health conditions.

And he tries to quell fears that disabled people who fail the WCA and are forced onto JSA might have their benefits cut, for instance if they refuse inappropriate jobs.

He says: “If you assume people on JSA are capable of work, they should not have the option of not working and continuing to claim benefit.”

But he says welfare-to-work providers would be “expected to provide” the support those people needed.

Rights and Wrongs

What’s grabbed my attention this week? Well a couple of things. Many of you will have heard the rumours about DLA and whether its to be cut. Well Andy Burnham the Health Secretary has made a statement which I’ve copied below. We’re not out of the woods but perhaps the news is a little less gloomy. I’ve also included a story about some younger disabled people who are about to expose access and I guess other barriers which prevent them from enjoying themselves in the ways that non-disabled young people do their thing! Pubs clubs and museums will form the basis of their enquiries. Good luck I say! Have a great weekend.
Minister promises DLA is safe – but only until you are 65

Health secretary Andy Burnham has promised that the government will not scrap disability living allowance (DLA), but only for disabled people under the age of 65.

Speaking at the national children and adult services conference in Harrogate, Burnham said he wanted to “close down” the debate and controversy over the future of DLA.

But he suggested that the government had previously been considering scrapping DLA, and that scrapping DLA for those aged over 65 was still an option.

Disabled people over 65 can currently receive DLA, as long as they claimed the benefit for the first time before they reached 65.

Burnham said: “We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.”

He said this was because “the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people”.

Questioned afterwards about the future of DLA, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “No decision on that has been made yet for those over 65.

“It is still open to consultation. Depending on what they say we will make a decision.”

Concerns over the future of DLA, a key disability benefit, which is not means-tested and is intended to cover the extra costs of an impairment, were raised after the government published its care and support green paper in July.

The green paper said the government was considering “integrating” some disability benefits, including attendance allowance (AA), to help social services fund means-tested personal budgets.

Thousands of disabled people have protested about the threat to DLA and AA.

More than 13,000 people signed up within five days to a campaign launched by the Benefits and Work website, while many disabled people expressed their concerns on the government’s Big Care Debate website.

And a petition calling on the prime minister to save AA and DLA, launched on the Number 10 website by members of the Disability Charities Consortium, has secured more than 18,000 signatures.

Burnham also repeated the threat to AA, saying that the government was still considering “bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as attendance allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people”.

He said anyone receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an “equivalent level of support and protection” under the new system.
Trailblazers set their sights on discrimination in pubs, clubs and museums

Young campaigners are to investigate whether cinemas, football grounds and museums are breaching the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), in their latest probe into the access barriers facing young disabled people.

Volunteers will conduct undercover investigations into leisure facilities in villages, towns and cities across the UK and will give star ratings to access at local facilities in their area, such as pubs, clubs, theatres and leisure centres.

Up to 150 young people will be involved in the investigation.

The latest study is the third part of the Inclusion Now! campaign run by theTrailblazers network of young volunteers, which is part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (MDC).

Already this year the Trailblazers have investigated the barriers in securing a university education and using public transport.

Now they hope to highlight barriers, present solutions and highlight good practice in the leisure industry, and name and shame the worst offenders.

And they have not ruled out taking legal action against leisure providers that refuse to improve poor access.

Leisure, transport and higher education were selected for investigation after being highlighted by Trailblazers as areas where they were facing access barriers.

Some wheelchair-users had been branded a “fire risk” at cinemas, and were refused entry to sports and music venues.

Trailblazer David Gale, from Carlisle, said he encounters “vast differences” in access at the football grounds he visits.

He said: “The DDA says that ‘reasonable adjustments’ need to be made to make sure venues and leisure attractions are fully accessible.

“This investigation will ask whether this law is being broken.

“I hope this investigation will expose what some places are doing right and how others can improve to make sure everyone can enjoy them.”

Philip Butcher, MDC’s chief executive, said: “Many people take for granted the ability to watch a film, to visit a museum or to support their local football team.

“This simply is not an option to some disabled people if leisure facilities fail to conform to the DDA.

“The Trailblazers are determined, motivated and passionate about making society more accessible and I’m sure this report will have impact.”

To take part in the investigation, including the chance to fill in an online survey, visit: http://www.mdctrailblazers.org/campaigns/185#

Musings of the Week

Concerns over first government work test figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News provided by John Pring at jpringnews@googlemail.com

Hate Crime against disabled people must stop!

After multiple campaigns by Police Forces and the Crown Prosecution Service to spread the message that crime targeted at disabled people will be taken seriously, the fact that for a decade the pleas for help of Ms. Pilkington and her disabled daughter were ignored, until a group of thugs was able to drive the Pilkingtons to their deaths, and that those thugs have suffered no consequences of their actions, will strike many disabled people as a staggering betrayal of trust.

The evidence that disabled people, and people with learning disabilities in particular, are disproportionately affected by bullying and harassment has been produced thick and fast over the years. In its own policy document on disability hate crime, the Crown Prosecution Service quotes research by Mencap (Living in Fear, 2000) which found that one third of people with learning disabilities were facing bullying on a daily or weekly basis. These facts are well known to Police Forces, Prosecutors and Local Authorities alike.

There is, therefore, no excuse for the abject failure by Leicestershire Police to take any action to protect Ms Pilkington and Francecca from the systematic abuse and harassment which led to their deaths. All the outreach work in the world will not persuade people with disabilities to trust their police force to take their complaints seriously when they see cases like this. If anyone from the police or local authorities had taken Ms. Pilkington seriously, she and her daughter might still be alive today.

Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of RADAR, said:

“It is extraordinary that in 21st Century Britain people still taunt and torment people just because they are different. In April of this year I myself took part in the launch of a report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into targeted violence against disabled people, the findings of which were stark.”

“We need strong police response to hate crime, as this tragic case demonstrates. But we also need schools, local authorities, housing organisations and others to take positive action to tackle bullying and harassment before it ever gets to major hate crime. Disabled people tell us that they suffer bullying day in day out – people with learning disabilities in particular – and this is unacceptable.”

The Future of EHRC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Friend

Chair, RADAR

One Door Closes and Another One Opens!

It now seems quite a while since Sue and I were sailing round the Norwegian fjords living in the lap of luxury. I have to say it was an extraordinary trip. I’m usually very sceptical about how accessible things are when people tell me that they are very accessible! I could not find fault with the ship (Ventura) and everywhere that non-disabled people went I was able to go to. (Sounds a bit like the nursery rhyme involving Mary!) During our voyage we spent four days in various ports along the coast of Norway notably Bergen and Stavanger and two ports inside the fjords themselves. All except one of these was fully accessible. On this occasion the ship had to anchor in the middle of the fjord and passengers were taken by tender boat from ship to shore. It was not possible for wheelchair users who cannot transfer from their wheelchair to the boats to go ashore at this destination. We knew this was going to happen as it was clearly stated in the accessibility instructions which were sent to us before we sailed. We were therefore able to enjoy a day on board doing a variety of other things while at shipmates went on seven-hour coach trips which by all accounts were very beautiful but very tiring. The accessibility of the vehicles that were used to take people on excursions did present some difficulties a number of them could accommodate wheelchair users but given the number of disabled passengers the great British queue was much in evidence! I’m sure that over time this will improve.

It was great to see so many visibly disabled people on the trip. I stopped counting when I got to 30 wheelchair users and I saw at least nine sight impaired people with white canes. In my experience it is extremely rare to have to queue behind numbers of wheelchair users in order to get a table in a restaurant! The only other times when I’ve come across this has been when I’ve been living in an institution or waiting for an accessible vehicle! Clearly P&O have got something right. It was also good to see so many younger families on board; given the variety of entertainment available this was clearly no accident. There were a large number of older people on board but it does seem to be something of a myth that cruises are the preserve of older people. As you have probably gathered this trip was a huge success for both of us so when the brochure came out announcing P&O’s world cruises Sue and I did not resist and promptly booked a trip from January to March 2011. All we’ve got to do now is save the money to pay for it.

Well the 31st July 2009 will be a momentous day for Simon and me. This is the day that the Minty & Friend Ltd closes its doors for the last time. As many people know this has largely come about because of our mutual desire to develop our interests in different directions. It has been a tremendous 10 years and we have done some pretty amazing things together. I’d like to think that we have contributed a number of innovative ideas to help drive the agenda of disability equality forward. I guess most notably concepts like Dining with a Difference, Acting on Disability, Abnormally Funny People, the Reasonable Adjustments Assessment Service they are all projects which Simon and I have both thoroughly enjoyed and are very proud to have been involved with.

It will also be very sad not have quite the same level of contact with those of you who have been on the journey with us. We both intend to stay in touch and any work that comes our way which would be more appropriately done by one of you we will of course pass in your direction. If you have projects which you think Simon or I might be able to help you with we’d be delighted to explore this with you.

So you soon

Phil

Holiday Cruise

Well by this time next week Sue and I will be well on our way to Norwegian fjords aboard the cruise ship Venturer. I’m really looking forward to this trip I’ve heard so much about cruising from friends like Kate Nash and Jane Campbell. Both of them describes their cruises as absolutely fantastic. Accessibility on board the ships is reputedly extremely good and I’m looking forward to testing this out for myself!

On the subject of wheelchairs which we vaguely were I’ve been trying out a number of all-terrain powered chairs this week with a view to buying one of them. There is no doubt that the chairs I’ve tested will go across all sorts of rough ground, the only real problem is that they are not very manoeuvrable in confined spaces which makes it quite difficult to load them into my Chrysler or my motorhome this does present a serious problem as the only reason for buying such chair is to enable Sue and me to take them on holiday in order to go across rough terrain. The second major issue is the cost of these chairs one of them I tested would cost £14,000 which is almost twice the amount of money my son paid for his Renault Clio! I am continually amazed at how much equipment costs for disabled people. I find it very difficult to believe that we can make cars cheaper than we can make powered wheelchairs or for that matter lightweight wheelchairs! Some fairly standard lightweight sports chairs cost more than some racing bikes and yet the engineering is not that different. Manufacturers generally complain that it’s about the small volumes nonetheless I’d be really interested to find out what the actual cost of making a powered chair is compared to the amount of money they’re sold for.

Anyone out there got any thoughts on this issue.

Well it’s time to start packing!

I’ll update on my trip when I return. In the meantime I hope the sun is shining where you are.

Best wishes
Phil

New Website

Welcome to my new website! I hope this is is the beginning of an exciting new relationship with colleagues and friends both old and new. Tell me what you think, all suggestions, particularly the polite ones will be gratefully received.

I intend to uppdate this section on a regular basis with items of interest to me and I hope to you too! So keep dipping in and post anything that my be of interest to me and other colleagues.

Some of you will have heard the very sad news that Bob Sang a very long standing associate and colleague died very suddenly last week this came as huge shock to many of us. He had such energy and drive and seemed pretty invincible. We await news of his funeral or other events to mark his passing. In addition I’ve also learned of the death of Peter Townsend. For those of us who studied social policy in the 70’s and 80’s Peter will be remembered as an extraordinary individual whose understanding of the needs of disabled people and other disadvantaged groups was legendary and vitally important in helping us to develop our rights agenda. We are the poorer for his passing. Perhaps these two sad losses will serve to remind us that our time is short and we must make the very best use of it. More soon

Regards 

Phil