A post election collection

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 At least I can now reveal that Jonathan Shaw the former Minister for Disabled People has departed the scene and been replaced by ???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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Landmark ruling, Dave Morris obituary; RADAR challenges political parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boyle had worked for SCA Packaging for 32 years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

No mention of manifestos!!

An election campaign and Icelandic ash what an amazing combination! I’ve taken a deliberate decision not cover either in this week’s news pieces. Wall to wall manifestos, pictures of Nick Clegg and rows of grounded aircraft are all too much!
Dementia report draws positive conclusions on life quality

People with severe dementia can be enabled to express views about what is important in their lives, according to new research.

The research by the Mental Health Foundation for Alzheimer’s Society also concluded that maintaining a good quality of life was “perfectly possible” following a diagnosis of dementia.

And it found a “discrepancy” between the views of people with dementia and those caring for them on what was most important to their quality of life.

Separate research for Alzheimer’s Society found only 13 per cent of the general public believe that someone with dementia could have a good quality of life at all stages of their condition.

New figures suggest there are 750,000 people living with dementia in the UK.

Those researching the My Name Is Not Dementia report talked to 44 people with dementia, including those from black and minority ethnic communities and people with more severe dementia living in care homes.

The project aimed to improve the measurement of quality of life for people with dementia, drawing directly on their own views and experiences.

It found that the top five indicators of a good quality of life were: relationships, or someone to talk to; the environment; physical health; a sense of humour; and independence.

The report concludes that people with dementia have “a clear need for regular, everyday, one to one social interaction and this will have significant benefit to their quality of life and social inclusion”.

And it found that people with more severe dementia can express their views about quality of life issues using picture cards.

The report says a way should be found to monitor the quality of life for people with dementia, measuring whether it is improving or declining and providing information on the factors that might explain any changes.

Such monitoring would “provide vital information” on the success of public policies, such as the implementation of the national dementia strategy for England.

Ruth Sutherland, acting chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “By listening to people living with the condition, as this report does, we can better understand what is important to them and how they would like to live their lives. We need to learn to see the person not just the dementia.”

Heather Roberts, 54, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four years ago, said: “Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease certainly changed my life but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a good quality of life.

“Yes I have dementia but there is much more to my life than that.”
Disabled people face barriers in enforcing access rights

A new report has called for major changes to make it easier for disabled people to enforce their rights to access goods and services.

The Rights and Reality report by Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) says improving access is a “vital step” towards achieving equality for disabled people, while poor access is a “key contributing factor” to disability poverty.

The report says the “major block” to change is the difficulty disabled people face in enforcing their rights under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and challenging discrimination.

Two in five of those questioned in a survey of nearly 1,100 disabled people had experienced problems accessing goods and services in the last year.

But one in five had never heard of the DDA, while another 51 per cent knew little or nothing about it

The survey also found that more than a quarter of disabled people who had experienced difficulty accessing goods and services had taken action to challenge it, such as a formal complaint or not returning to a shop. But only one per cent had taken legal action.

And less than a tenth of those who took action said the organisation had made any improvements.

Among the report’s recommendations, it calls for a review of the effectiveness of the law and work to raise awareness of disabled people’s legal rights.

It says the government, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other bodies should examine how to improve support for disabled people to take legal cases.

It also calls for a pilot scheme to test out a new system – possibly a form of arbitration hearings – that would be midway between making a complaint to a service provider and taking them to court.

And the report says that the development of the rules and regulations to accompany the new Equality Act – which will replace the DDA – provides an opportunity to tackle some of the problems.

But it also calls on the government to consider setting up equality tribunals to hear legal cases on accessibility.

Guy Parckar, public policy manager for LCD, said that inaccessible goods and services “can contribute directly to the chances of a disabled person living in poverty through barriers to employment, education and other opportunities”.

He added: “Our report demonstrates that only a tiny minority are tackling the issue through legal action.

“The new Equality Act is a golden opportunity to make sure that the law works better for disabled people.”
FA to expand opportunities for disabled footballers

The governing body of English football has published plans to create hundreds of new disability football teams over the next two years.

The proposals are part of the FA’s new disability football strategy for 2010-2012, which it published this week.

The strategy says the FA will set up 140 new male and 150 new female disability teams by 2012, to add to the existing 400 male and 26 female teams.

And there should be 34 new disability county leagues by 2012, on top of the existing 14.

The FA will also develop a network of full-time county disability football officers to develop disability football, increase participation, raise coaching and playing standards, and develop local clubs and competitions.

And it will train 50 new disabled referees over two years, and ensure that 10 per cent of young people selected for an FA young coaches programme are disabled, while all “skill tests” for five to 11-year-olds will be “inclusive”.

The strategy also pledges that the FA will continue to support six elite national disability football squads: for players who are amputees, Deaf, blind, partially-sighted, have cerebral palsy and have learning difficulties.

The FA’s goal is for each team to be ranked in the top four in Europe.

Lord Triesman, the FA’s chairman, said: “Disabled sport needs to be in a position to reap the maximum benefits from the exposure that it will receive from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“This strategy aims to put disability football into such a position.”

The strategy was launched at the draw for the IBSA Blind World Football Championships, which will take place at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford from 14-22 August.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Equality Bill and Social Care legislation passed

Another week has flown by and it’s now week two of electioneering! Are you bored yet! Anyone saying anything we’ve not heard before? I suspect the answer is influenced by how old you are! I’ve been through more election campaigns than I care to remember and it’s amazing to see how old messages are given new treatments. Anyone remember the Citizen’s Charter? Reminds me a bit of the suggestion that communities need to be more involved in running things as suggested by Mr Cameron. Anyway the really good news is that the tulips are out in my garden and the Wisteria is showing definite signs of life!! Enjoy the blog!
Personal care bill becomes law

A bill to provide free personal care to disabled and older people with the highest needs has become law, after government concessions were approved by peers.

Health secretary Andy Burnham last week described the personal care at home bill as the first of three stages of reforms that would lead to a national care service based on the principle of free personal care for everyone who needs it.

The government made two key concessions on the bill – delaying its implementation until April 2011, and agreeing that MPs and peers would have to approve its implementation after it became law.

Peers approved the new version of the bill today (8 April), and it later received royal assent.

The Personal Care at Home Act is now set to provide free personal care at home to an estimated 280,000 disabled and older people with the highest needs (although this figure includes about 170,000 people who already receive free personal care).

It will also provide intensive “re-ablement” support for around 130,000 people who need home care for the first time.

The second stage of Burnham’s care and support reforms, from 2014, will see those staying in residential care for longer than two years receiving free personal care.
Equality bill set to become law, but work remains

Disabled peers and other campaigners have welcomed the major improvements to the equality bill they helped to secure before it cleared its final parliamentary hurdle.

The bill is now set to become law after MPs approved amendments made in the Lords, many of them around disability rights. It is now just awaiting royal assent.

Three disabled peers – Baroness [Jane] Campbell, Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins and Lord [Colin] Low – played a key role in persuading the government to accept the disability amendments.

Baroness Campbell said the bill – which streamlines existing equality laws – was “not in good shape” when it entered the Lords, when compared with the rights contained in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

She praised the efforts of her fellow disabled peers, as well as the support given by the Disability Charities Consortium (DCC), former legal experts from the Disability Rights Commission and the disability charity RADAR.

She added: “It was a truly collective effort – something that the disability movement is renowned for and good at.”

Baroness Campbell said the number of amendments relating to disability that were passed by the Lords was “out of all proportion to the rest of the bill”, with 12 amendments either preventing “regression” from rights gained through the DDA – such as those around reasonable adjustments, accessible information and education – or securing new rights for disabled people.

The new rights include a ban on employers using health questionnaires to discriminate against disabled job applicants, stronger protection on reasonable adjustments, new laws on accessible taxis and new rights toauxiliary aids and services for disabled pupils.

Baroness Campbell said the “area of biggest disappointment” was that the bill’s new public sector equality duty does not provide strong enough protection for disabled people, despite some improvements secured by peers.

A government policy statement has indicated that the new duty will be “much weaker” than the current disability equality duty (DED), she said, while there is no way of ensuring that public bodies comply with the new duties.

She and other campaigners now face “an uphill struggle” with lobbying the next government on the regulations that will set out public bodies’ specific duties.

Marije Davidson, RADAR’s senior policy officer, said the act now “provides an opportunity to generate new energy and momentum behind disability equality”.

She said: “The new government needs to take forward implementation of the equality bill as a matter of urgency, including drafting and consulting on regulations related to the public sector equality duty and taxi accessibility.

“We will press for a robust enforcement of the rights of disabled people as well as raising awareness amongst disabled people of their rights.”

Scope said it was “delighted” that many of the changes it campaigned for as a member of the DCC found their way into the bill.

It described the bill as a “positive step forward” for disabled people, but warned that “much will depend on the guidance that accompanies the bill and how it is enforced”.

John Knight, director of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD), another DCC member, said it too was “delighted” with many of the key improvements.

He said it would now be vital “to make sure that the act works for disabled people up and down the country, and that disabled people are aware of their rights, and are able to challenge discrimination when they face it”.

LCD will release a report next week on how to ensure disabled people can use the Equality Act to challenge discrimination.

Most of the measures in the new act will come into force on 1 October, although the DED will not be replaced by the single public sector duty until April 2011.
Tories back out of agreement on disabled candidates

The Conservative party appears to have backed out of a cross-party agreement to publish reports on how many parliamentary candidates are disabled people.

The proposal was a key recommendation of a cross-party “conference” headed by the speaker of the House of Commons, which aimed to increase the number of disabled, female and ethnic minority MPs.

All three main parties backed proposals to produce regular reports on how many of their parliamentary candidates – including those who are not selected to stand for parliament and those who do not become MPs – are disabled, female and from an ethnic minority.

The proposal to publish reports on the diversity of candidates was also backed by an amendment to the government’s equality bill.

But in the final Commons discussion on the bill, the Conservative shadow minister for disabled people, Mark Harper, said that both the Liberal Democrats and Labour agreed that – because of difficulties in identifying disabled candidates – “it probably makes sense to start off with reporting on gender and ethnicity”.

He added: “We can see how that works and whether it drives the necessary change before we consider reporting in other areas.”

But a Liberal Democrat spokeswoman said: “I am not sure where he has got his information from, but categorically it is not true for the Liberal Democrats. We will definitely be monitoring disability.”

And Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP who was vice-chair of the speaker’s conference, said both Labour and the Liberal Democrats were already collecting such data and neither had raised any objections to reporting on disability.

She said: “I think the Tories are backtracking now. It does concern me. It is concerning simply because we have a long way to go.”

Begg pledged that, if re-elected, she would focus on helping to correct the “enormous” historical imbalance in the number of disabled MPs.

She added: “In terms of gender and ethnicity we seem to have made big strides, but I think we have got a long way to go with disability. Where gay people were in 1992 is probably where disabled people are now.

“If I get back in then those are the kind of issues I am going to pursue from the perspective of the disabled person in a way I have never done before.

“When the political parties select the next cohort of candidates [after the election], we have to make sure they are from more diverse backgrounds.”

No-one from Mark Harper’s office was available to comment.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Work Capability Assessment, Senior Disabled People research findings, National Care Service announcement

So that’s Easter over then! Very nice too, plenty of good company and lots of nice food! Unfortunately the Easter eggs appear to have had a very strange effect on my waist line! My granddaughter had her first Easter egg! A momentous occasion followed by a massive cleanup operation! Chocolate is an interesting substance to remove from things!!

So we now have an election date. It will be very interesting to see how much attention those seeking our votes will pay to the needs of disabled people. I have a feeling I know the answer but being an optimist I’ll hope for the best. Here are the last stories untainted by election fever before we get inundated with election spin!
Work test plans ‘could blight lives of hundreds of thousands’

Government plans to start using its controversial work capability assessment (WCA) to test all those still receiving incapacity benefit (IB) could “blight” the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled people, say critics.

Work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper confirmed that the government would start testing the 1.5 million people still receiving IB from October, building up to more than 10,000 tests a week, with IB phased out by April 2014.

Since October 2008, new applicants for out-of-work disability benefits have had to undergo the new test – repeatedly criticised as too strict and inflexible by campaigners – in order to qualify for employment and support allowance (ESA), the replacement for IB.

This week’s announcement came as the government revealed minor changes to the WCA, following the long-awaited publication of an internal review.

The assessment should now be easier to understand and more sensitive to fluctuating conditions such as ms and mental illness, while some people, such as those awaiting chemotherapy or with severe mental health conditions, will be exempt from the test.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) welcomed the exemptions but said the review does not reflect the problems the WCA is causing many disabled people, and the test remained “inflexible”, failed to recognise the impact of some impairments and “prevents people accessing tailored support to get work”.

A DBC spokesman added: “The Disability Benefits Consortium was asked to contribute to the review but is frustrated that concerns over the stringency of the assessment have largely gone unaddressed and opportunities for improvement have been missed.”

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, a consortium member, said the review’s findings were “unacceptable” and failed to recognise the high levels of workplace discrimination that make it even harder for many disabled people to find jobs.

He added: “What is most worrying is that this pretence that [the WCA] is effective is going to blight potentially hundreds of thousands of people’s lives when you see migration from IB.”

Cooper also announced a series of other measures around welfare reform and disabled people.

There will be extra support for those who have been on IB for many years and are pronounced fit for work after taking the WCA, with compulsory jobs or work placements for those who don’t find work after two years on jobseeker’s allowance.

There will also be a guaranteed place on Work Choice – the specialist disability employment programme that will replace Workstep from October – for those on ESA who do not find a job after two years.

Those receiving ESA and considered able to take part in work-related activity will receive personalised support alongside a strict regime of requirements they will have to meet to continue receiving the benefit, with most expected to move off ESA within two years.

From April 2011, a new employment support programme for disabled people will replace Pathways to Work – which the government said was “not flexible or cost effective enough”.

And changes to the access to work programme will see larger employers pay a higher contribution towards workplace adjustments, subsidising the costs of smaller employers.

Cooper said: “This is a ‘something for something’ approach which gives people more help alongside a responsibility to take it up so that no one who is fit for work is left to a life on benefits.”

The DWP said it expected that its reforms to IB and ESA would produce over £1.5 billion savings over the next five years.
RADAR finds disabled people achieving high-flying success

A groundbreaking report has concluded that disabled people working in both the private and public sectors can and do reach the highest levels of seniority.

The disability charity RADAR heard from more than 900 disabled people in a survey of high-achievers, of whom more than 100 earned at least £80,000 a year. More than half of these high-earners had been disabled for over 20 years.

Despite the evidence of success, the survey – which also heard from more than 500 non-disabled people – found that non-disabled people were more than three times as likely as disabled people to earn over £80,000 a year.

The survey found that high-earning disabled people were likely to have benefited from mentoring and support from senior colleagues throughout their careers, but disabled people were less than half as likely as non-disabled people to receive such support.

The Doing Seniority Differently report also says that people with mental health conditions are less likely than other disabled people to earn more than £80,000 a year, less likely to be board-level executive directors, and less likely to believe they had had the same career opportunities as other employees.

And of those disabled people who could hide their impairments, only one in eight is open about it to the board or senior management team.

RADAR also carried out in-depth interviews with some of the disabled high-achievers, who said they believed disabled people could bring skills such as empathy, creativity, resilience and flexibility to their leadership roles.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, who wrote the report, said these high-fliers had tried to improve their organisations and educate colleagues, “not waiting passively for access or cultural improvements”.

Sayce said: “When employers believe in talented disabled people, throw off risk-averse approaches, create cultures of openness, and offer mentoring – then many disabled people do indeed ‘fly high’.

“However, there is still a chasm of inequality between disabled and non-disabled people and it’s alarming that so many people feared that [if they were] open about their health condition or disability their careers would be jeopardized.”

Baroness [Jane] Campbell said the report “breaks new ground” by showing disabled people “what is possible” and offering “real learning on how to enable more disabled people to succeed”.

RADAR also launched Radiate, a network set up to allow disabled people working at senior levels to share skills, develop their talents and provide role models. The network is sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, which supported the research.

For more information, visit www.radar.org.uk/doingsenioritydifferently
National Care Service white paper: government unveils plans

The government has laid out plans for a “National Care Service” (NCS), based on the principle of free personal care for everyone who needs it.

Although many of the proposals in its Building the National Care Service white paper drew praise, the government was fiercely criticised for postponing a decision on how its reforms would be funded.

Health secretary Andy Burnham described the proposals as “bold and ambitious”, an “historic announcement” and “the biggest change to the welfare state since 1948”.

He pledged “nationally consistent” criteria that will state at which point a person becomes eligible for support, and “portable” assessments, so disabled people could move to a different part of England and not face a reassessment of their needs.

Burnham said care would be free at the point of use for everyone who needed it, giving disabled and older people “choice and control over their own care and their own lives”.

He also promised to “push forward” with the personalisation of services. By April 2012, everyone approaching a council for support will receive a personal budget.

And he said the government would not help fund its reforms by scrapping attendance allowance (AA) and disability living allowance for those over 65 – at least for the lifetime of the next parliament.

Burnham said this was because of the strong opposition to such proposals from disabled people and other campaigners during the government’s “Big Care Debate”. The white paper’s equality impact assessment goes even further and says the NCS will be built around AA and DLA, “maintaining these benefits as a flexible form of support”.

Other pledges include “accurate, relevant and accessible” information about entitlements and assessments, and easier access to both social care and disability benefits.

The first stage of reform will be introducing free personal care at home for those with the highest needs, through the personal care at home bill.

The government hopes that two key concessions on the bill – delaying its implementation until April 2011 and agreeing that MPs and peers would have to approve its implementation after it became law – will be enough to secure its passage through the Lords.

The second stage of the reforms, from 2014, will see those staying in residential care for longer than two years receiving free personal care.

The government will also set up a commission to recommend the “fairest and most sustainable” way to fund the NCS and a “leadership group” of “expert stakeholders” to advise on implementing its reforms, and introduce an NCS bill early in the next parliament.

The final stage of reform will be the full introduction of the NCS with a new funding system, soon after the next but one general election.

The white paper is at www.dh.gov.uk

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Equality 2025, Access to Work, Work Test concerns and Equality Bill amendments. Happy holiday!!

Sorry I’m a little late this week! Easter is upon us and therefore just like you I’m trying to tie everything up before the break! Somebody once told me that if we were as efficient as we are just before going on holiday we’d be the most productive nation on the planet!! Some truth in that I think! Anyway I hope you enjoy the bank holiday and we get some hint of the spring! Enjoy!
Minister announces new line-up for smaller Equality 2025

The government has announced the 10 disabled members of its new, smaller network of disability equality advisers.

Equality 2025 was set up in 2006 to advise the government on achieving equality for disabled people by 2025.

But the government decided last year to cut its membership of more than 20 disabled people and turn it instead into a “high-level advisory group”.

The plans caused some concern among disabled activists, who also called for the body to be given a higher profile and “more clout”.

Equality 2025 members have defended their work and say they cannot publicise the vital advice they give to government departments on disability equality because of the need for confidentiality.

Jonathan Shaw, the minister for disabled people, announced the reappointment of five Equality 2025 members, as well as the chair, Rowen Jade, a respected disability equality consultant, campaigner and writer.

The other members reappointed are: Haji Saghir Alam, a human rights and diversity expert and member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) disability committee; Nick Danagher, a consultant, trustee of the Independent Living Fund and director of Surrey Coalition of Disabled People; Miro Griffiths, a student at Liverpool University and former chair of Whizz-Kidz’s children’s board; Andy Rickell, chief executive of The Vassall Centre Trust and former chief executive of the British Council of Disabled People; and Fiona Wallace, chair of People First Mid Lothian, who has been involved in the Scottish self-advocacy movement since the late 1980s.

The four new members of the body are: Diane Mulligan, another member of the EHRC’s disability committee and social inclusion and disability advisor at Sightsavers International; Dr Rachel Perkins, a clinical psychologist and author of a well-received review for the government on helping people with mental health conditions into work; Tracey Proudlock, a human resources and recruitment expert who runs her own disability and access consultancy; and Colin Young, a former researcher with Capability Scotland with experience of advocating for young people.

All 10 will begin their three-year terms on 1 April.

Jade said: “I am looking forward to working with all of the Equality 2025 members at a time when so many government proposals and decisions are having such a significant impact on disabled people.”

Shaw said the 10 members would “bring a mix of experience, skills and enthusiasm to the job”.
Change to equality bill is access warning to service-providers

Disabled peers have again ensured that parts of the equality bill that protect disabled people from discrimination are as strong as similar measures in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

Changes agreed by the government will mean that the bill – which will replace the DDA and other equality legislation – does not weaken the existing legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments in the DDA.

The amendment clarifies the steps a service-provider or employer should take to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments if a physical feature is causing a disabled person a “substantial disadvantage”.

Concerns had been raised at an earlier stage of the bill by the disabled peers Lord [Colin] Low and Baroness [Jane] Campbell.

Baroness Thornton, for the government, said the amendment sets out “key considerations that should be taken into account when the duty to avoid the disadvantage caused by a physical feature is being addressed – whether by an employer, someone providing services or someone delivering public functions.”

Baroness Campbell said: “The duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people lies at the heart of the DDA, and it is particularly important in relation to physical barriers that prevent disabled people accessing services, receiving public benefits or enjoying club facilities.

“It is a matter of exclusion or inclusion. While there have been huge improvements in accessibility in the past few years, all too many providers still do not understand their duties, or blatantly choose to disregard them.”

She said that using some of the “language” from the DDA in the equality bill – as the government had done – was “very important” and would confirm that the intention was to mirror the protection offered by the DDA “and not, as some providers think, to dilute the law” or make it easier for them to “disregard their duties”.

Baroness Thornton later paid tribute to the contributions of Baroness Campbell, Lord Low and their fellow disabled peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins in promoting the rights of disabled people through pushing for amendments to the bill as it passed through the Lords.

The bill has now been passed back to the Commons to approve the amendments agreed in the Lords – the final obstacle before it becomes law.

The personal care at home bill has also returned to the Commons, for MPs to consider amendments passed in the Lords.

A number of amendments approved during the bill’s report stage in the Lords would delay the implementation of free personal care at home for disabled and older people with the highest needs.
Access to work breakthrough for councillors

Disabled local councillors who need access adjustments to allow them to do their jobs have achieved a breakthrough in their fight for financial support from the access to work (ATW) scheme.

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas questioned the government last autumn after activists at the Liberal Democrat party conference told her that disabled councillors could not claim ATW support.

One county councillor told how he had been refused an ATW grant after he was elected because he was told he was not in a paid job, forcing the council to pay for the adjustments he needed.

He warned that disabled councillors from minority parties could be prevented from doing their jobs if their councils’ ruling groups refused to approve the necessary adjustments.

Baroness Thomas then asked the government to clarify the rules on whether councillors could apply for ATW support to help them carry out their council duties.

Her intervention followed earlier questions asked by her fellow Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Scott.

The government initially said that councillors could only apply for ATW funding if they received at least the national minimum wage for their council work.

But last week, Lord McKenzie, the work and pensions minister, told Baroness Thomas in a written answer that the government had reviewed its ATW guidance and agreed it was “unclear”.

He said the guidance had been revised and now states that any councillor receiving anything more than just meal and travel expenses will be treated as if they are in a job and can therefore apply for an ATW grant, even if they receive less than the minimum wage for their council work.

Baroness Thomas said: “We now have an absolute assurance from the government that disabled councillors who receive allowances as well as expenses are entitled to apply for the ATW scheme.

“This means no disabled person should be put off standing for office because of uncertainty over what support they can apply for. This is great news for disabled councillors all over the country.”
Report raises ‘grave concerns’ on work test

A new report has raised “grave concerns” about the impact of the government’s new work capability test on disabled people.

The Citizens Advice report says seriously ill people are being subjected to the work capability assessment (WCA), while the test fails to measure fitness for work effectively, and many of those assessed are subjected to poor quality medical assessments.

The WCA was introduced in October 2008 to test those claiming employment and support allowance, which replaced incapacity benefit for new claimants.

But there have been mounting concerns about the test, particularly over its inability to deal properly with people with fluctuating conditions.

The report, Not Working, is backed by 18 other voluntary organisations, most of which represent disabled people.

It calls for a full, independent review of the WCA, an assessment of its impact on health, and research into its reliability “as a matter of urgency”, and suggests that WCA reports should be sent to claimants so they can correct mistakes.

The report includes a string of cases in which medical examiners carried out hurried medicals, missed vital details, made “unjustifiable assumptions” or failed to place enough emphasis on the impact of mental health conditions on people’s ability to work.

It says Citizens Advice staff across England and Wales have reported “high numbers” of “seriously ill and disabled people” found “fit for work” after taking the assessment.

Many people who might have been able to work with the right support are effectively “written off” by being found ineligible for ESA. Many of them are also ineligible for jobseeker’s allowance or cannot cope with its strict conditions and so “end up with no work and very little income”.

So far, 69 per cent of those who complete assessments have been found “fit for work” and ineligible for ESA, far higher than the government’s prediction of 49 per cent.

David Harker, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We are seeing cases where the government’s aim of moving people into work is being totally undermined.”

He said disabled people were being “severely let down” by the WCA’s “crude approach”, and called for a “much more sophisticated approach” that also considers supporting medical evidence, fluctuating conditions and the external barriers disabled people face in finding work.

Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales have seen a rise of more than 40 per cent in people needing help with out-of-work disability benefits since ESA was introduced – in the last quarter of last year, more than 22,500 people sought advice about ESA.

Jonathan Shaw, the minister for disabled people, insisted that the WCA was working and that “for the first time disabled people are receiving the support they need to get back into work”.

He added: “We are already adapting the test and will continue to work with organisations like [Citizens Advice] to make sure their concerns are addressed.

“We want to be sure that the assessment fully takes into account all conditions, including autism and learning disabilities.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Personal Care Bill – More Disabled MP’s – Single People to nominate “next of kin”

So here we are with another week underway!! Some of you will have been amazed to see a large orange thing in the sky last week! Known as the “sun” it might reappear this week!! My garden could certainly do with a little warmth. As always I hope these stories are of interest and contact me if you have any comments.
Personal care bill receives damaging setback

Peers have delivered a damaging blow to government plans to introduce free personal care at home for disabled and older people with the highest needs.

An amendment added to the personal care at home bill during its report stage in the Lords means implementation would be delayed until after April 2011, rather than the planned date of 1 October 2010.

The disabled peers Baroness Wilkins, Baroness Masham, Lord [Colin] Low and Baroness [Jane] Campbell all backed the amendment, which received support from all parties and was easily passed.

Three other successful amendments – including one to force an independent review of the costs of the bill – would also delay its implementation.

The bill would provide free personal care at home to an estimated 280,000 disabled and older people with the highest needs (although this figure includes 170,000 people who already receive free personal care).

There have been widespread criticisms from opponents who say the bill will be far more costly than the government has estimated, will have “unintended consequences” and will cause “administrative chaos” in councils.

But the bill has received widespread backing from disability, older people’s and carers’ organisations, many of which see it as a first step towards the goal of free universal social care.

The government said the amendments could “jeopardise the timetable of the legislation” and delay the promised support.

Commentators were doubtful that there would be enough time for the government to overturn the amendments in the Commons and force the bill through under its original timetable, because of the imminent election.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government was “determined to make this a reality for those people in most need and secure this bill as a first step in the transformation of the care and support system”.

When asked whether the government was hoping to overturn the amendments and complete the bill’s progress before the election, she said: “We will consider next steps in due course.”

If the bill is lost, it would also mean the loss of a breakthrough in the battle for “portability” – allowing disabled people to bring their support packages with them when they move to a different part of the country.

Regulations agreed by the government would ensure that those receiving free personal care would be “guaranteed seamless support in the event of moving from one local authority to another”.

Baroness Campbell told fellow peers that the bill would provide an “opportunity to test how we can deliver portability in practice”, and detailed negotiations between herself, the disability charity RADAR and the government had led to “clear and robust enforceable regulations and directives”.
Parties back key measure on disabled MPs

The three main political parties have all backed a proposal to set up a fund to make it easier for disabled people to become MPs.

The proposal was a key recommendation of the speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation, which reported in January on how to increase the number of disabled, female and minority ethnic MPs.

In its final report, the conference said there was “overwhelming evidence that shortage of money and the necessity of additional expenditure to support disabled people through candidacy, make finance a particularly significant barrier to elected office for disabled people”.

In their official responses to the report, all three parties backed the idea of a ring-fenced fund to support disabled parliamentary candidates, an idea first proposed by the disability charity Scope.

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) said it would consult widely on the proposal and other measures to support the development of “talented individuals from under-represented groups”.

There was slightly weaker support for proposals for each party to publish regular reports on how many of their potential parliamentary candidates identified as disabled people, as well as information on their gender and ethnicity, and possibly their impairment and sexual orientation.

Although all three parties backed the idea, the Liberal Democrats and Labour raised some concerns about right to privacy and data protection, while the Conservatives said they did not believe information on sexual orientation should be published.

The GEO said an amendment it had added to the equality bill committed it to discussing how this proposal would work with political parties, the Electoral Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

There was also cross-party backing for proposals to publish a statement after this year’s general election on how many of each party’s MPs were disabled, female or from an ethnic minority.

But the Conservatives suggested they might not favour going further and publishing targets for how many of their MPs they would like to see in each category by 2015 and 2020, as it was “impossible to predict accurately the future make up of any parliamentary party”.

The Liberal Democrats said it was far more difficult for them to make “commitments” on future representation because they had no “safe” seats.

But the Labour Party said it believed targets were “important benchmarks against which to measure progress and provide an incentive to faster, more effective action”, although it suggested it would only publish them if other parties also agreed to do so.

Abigail Lock, head of advocacy and campaigns at Scope, said: “It is very encouraging that all the main political parties recognise the need for extra financial support for disabled people wishing to enter public life.

“Scope first recommended an access to public life fund three years ago – to help cover the additional costs faced by disabled candidates. We hope all parties will work towards introducing this much needed support as soon as possible.”
Campaigners demand next of kin rights for singles

Disability rights campaigners are calling for new laws to make it easier for single people to choose a person to speak up for them if they become too ill to make their own decisions.

The campaign by Regard – which represents disabled lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered (LGBT) people – follows the death last month of a woman with ms, whose friends spent two years trying unsuccessfully to enforce her wishes and her right to independent living.

Regard says the Mental Capacity Act treats a person’s nearest relative as their next of kin if they are not married or in a civil partnership. This can mean their wishes are not respected if there is a dispute over their care or treatment.

Regard says this is a particular issue for LGBT people, as they are more likely to experience physical or mental health problems because of homophobia and HIV, are less likely to live in traditional family units and are more likely to live far from their relatives.

Using a lasting power of attorney is too complex and expensive, says Regard, particularly for disabled and older people, and is designed for situations where people have advance warning of poor health.

The Sue’s Law campaign has been named after Sue W, who died this February.

She was estranged from her family and had no long-term partner. After being treated in hospital for an infection at the age of 50, she was moved to a care home for older people, against clear instructions she had made in a living will.

Despite having appointed a friend to make decisions on her behalf, the authorities refused to contact her friends – who had no legal status – and passed responsibility instead to her estranged father.

Her friends then failed with an application to the court of protection, because they could not afford legal representation.

Regard and Sue’s friends campaigned for two years to move her to the hospice of her choice, but this only happened last September when her father finally dropped his opposition.

Regard said the case shows the law should be changed to allow single people to name their next of kin via a simple legal declaration.

Julie Newman, acting chair of the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council and a Regard member, said Sue’s friends were “totally distraught” at what happened because “not only was Sue rendered powerless but they were as well”, even though she had “taken meticulous care to ensure that she could determine her life choices as her impairment progressed”.

She said: “The UK needs to make good the rhetoric about a fair and equitable society.

“It is neither fair nor equitable to place people against their will into situations which ultimately amount to incarceration.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said that every adult should consider making a lasting power of attorney, to choose someone to act for them if they ever become unable to make decisions for themselves. She said new, simpler forms were launched last October.

And she said that decisions regarding the appointment of a deputy to make decisions about a person’s property and affairs were “entirely a matter for the courts, based on the individual circumstances”.

But Newman said the new forms were still “quite complex” and “very costly” and applying to the court of protection was impossible for those who were seriously ill or did not have much money.

She added: “The errors that occurred in managing Sue’s case are not unique. Surely it is in everyone’s best interest to have a standard, affordable way of designating who is empowered to make critical decisions during life threatening events.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Bullying and Harassment of Disabled People plus Election Fever and Reserved Posts!

In the light of yet another disabled person’s death being attributed to continual bullying and harassment the anti-social behaviour figures recently released by police make disturbing reading. It does seem that vulnerable learning disabled people are being targetted by certain groups in our communities and often feel ignored or unsupported by statutory bodies or local people. The EHRC which has figured in the headlines for the wrong reasons this week is carrying out an enquiry into hate crime and their report can’t come enough soon.
Police figures reveal new concerns

More than one in five victims of repeated anti-social behaviour are disabled people, new official figures have revealed.

The statistics are contained in a report published by the chief inspector of constabulary, Denis O’Connor.

He also said that more than half of police forces across England and Wales did not have IT systems capable of automatically identifying people who were victims of repeated anti-social behaviour when they called police for help.

A survey by the inspectorate of 765 people who had reported suffering repeated anti-social behaviour found that 22 per cent described themselves as disabled people. The inspectorate said it would investigate this issue further.

But the survey also found that the police failed to attend nearly a quarter of these incidents.

Repeated anti-social behaviour targeted on disabled people has been a high profile issue since an inquest last September into the death of Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter Francecca.

Pilkington killed herself and her daughter after a ten-year hate campaign led by a local gang, much of it directed at Francecca, who had learning difficulties.

Last November, crime reduction minister Alan Campbell told a hate crime conference that their deaths had focused attention on the “torment” that can come from “systematic” abuse.

Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the National Disability Hate Crime Network, said the inspectorate’s survey backed up reports that were being sent to the network’s new Facebook group.

He said: “People do not get abused once – it goes on and on and on.”

And he called for all police forces to introduce software used by Lancashire police, which allows it to recognise repeat victims.

Brookes said it was “not acceptable” that other forces were failing to ensure their IT systems could recognise such people, and added: “People’s lives are being put at risk because of a software issue.”

An Association of Chief Police Officers spokeswoman said there was “ongoing work in relation to this particular area” but it was “complex” and “not a quick fix”. She said Lancashire police was “trialling” the software.

She added: “Fiona Pilkington is a really horrible tragic case but that is not happening every day. It’s an extreme case. A lot of anti-social behaviour is being dealt with effectively.”
ELECTION 2010: Speaker pledges to ‘champion disabled people’

The Speaker of the House of Commons has pledged to be the “disabled person’s champion” in the battle to improve access to democracy.

John Bercow MP, who has a track record of campaigning on disability issues, was speaking to a joint meeting on accessible democracy, held by several all party parliamentary groups, including those on disability, autism and learning disability.

He was speaking two months after the historic speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation – which he chaired – reported on ways to increase the number of disabled, female and minority ethnic MPs.

He told the meeting, which was packed with campaigners with learning difficulties, that he wanted the next parliament to “hit the ground running from day one” in improving access, through the induction packs given to new MPs, in the development of accessible facilities in the Houses of Parliament and in the way the House of Commons operates.

He added: “For as long as I am Speaker, I will try to be the disabled person’s champion.

“I hope you will take me at face value and judge me on my record.”

Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP who was vice-chair of the speaker’s conference, said political parties had started to “get their house in order” but not all of them yet recorded whether their parliamentary candidates were disabled.

Jenny Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission, told the meeting that providing equal access to polling stations for disabled voters was “fundamental to democracy”, but added: “I know we are not there yet.”

She said the commission’s research had found dissatisfaction with the voting process was higher among disabled people.

And she said the commission would use its guidance on the accessibility of voting materials to push for change, and would produce a report on access to polling stations at this year’s general election.

She said: “For large parts of our community, voting is anything but accessible. Things are getting better but I want to reassure you that we will keep this under review.”

Eve Rank, a consultant and campaigner with a learning difficulty and a former commissioner with the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), said the DRC had found four years ago that people with learning difficulties living in residential homes were having their voting cards thrown away by staff. She said she couldn’t understand why this was still happening.

Watson said the EC wanted to know if and where this was happening, and if local authorities were not putting people with learning difficulties in residential care on the voting register.
Eagle quells fears over reserved posts

A government minister has finally quelled fears that reserving jobs solely for disabled people might be illegal, following evidence she gave to a committee of MPs in January.

Maria Eagle MP, an equalities minister and former minister for disabled people, told the communities and local government committee that it was illegal to reserve posts for disabled people under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and would remain so under the new equality bill.

Her comments caused consternation among disabled campaigners, as reserving posts is a widespread practice both in disabled people’s organisations and across the wider disability sector.

Following concerns raised about her comments, the committee wrote to the minister asking her to clarify her evidence.

The committee has now published Eagle’s response, in which she says she is “happy to clarify the position in detail which a short verbal exchange could not really cover”.

In her letter, she says that the equality bill, as the DDA does, makes it clear that it is not direct discrimination to treat a disabled person more favourably than a non-disabled person.

She adds: “What this means is that the [equality bill] would not prevent posts being advertised as open only to disabled applicants.”

Eagle also says that the equality bill’s “positive action” measures would allow employers to encourage job applications from people with a particular impairment, for example those with mental health conditions, if they believed that group experienced “particular disadvantage” and their numbers in the workplace were “disproportionately low”.

The bill would also allow an employer to recruit someone with a particular impairment if that was necessary because of the nature of the job, for instance an organisation providing counselling services for young Deaf people that was seeking to recruit a Deaf counsellor because of their “shared life experiences” and use of British Sign Language.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Capability, Equality and Big Brother

Hello to one and all

I hope the week is going well. Some interesting bits and pieces this week particularly concerning the new work capability test. The Equality Bill continues its passage through the Lords but some issues remain. Channel 4 in a bit of bother with Big Brother and the use of language!! At least the words used were more than four letters which for most Big Brother house residents makes a pleasant change!! Enjoy!
Campaigners say government must release work test figures

Frustrated campaigners have called on the government to release crucial statistics about its controversial new work capability test.

They spoke out after new research for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed that both benefits staff and disabled people who have undergone the test had major concerns about the work capability assessment (WCA).

The WCA was introduced in October 2008 to test applicants for employment and support allowance (ESA), the government’s new out-of-work disability benefit.

But disability organisations and other campaigners have repeatedly raised concerns about the number of disabled people being found fit for work after taking the tough and “inflexible” WCA.

The researchers talked to staff working on the ESA, and ESA applicants, between May and July last year.

Staff expressed concerns at the “stringency” and “lack of flexibility” of the WCA and that many people who were told they were fit for “work-related activity” had “unexpectedly severe health problems”.

The research also reported concerns about a “large backlog” of appeals against WCA results.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said the research backed up what campaigners had been telling the government.

He said the government was refusing to provide statistics showing how disabled people with different impairments were being treated under the new system.

He and other campaigners say the WCA is too inflexible to cope with fluctuating conditions such as mental ill-health, ME or MS.

Coyle said: “Disability organisations cannot assist the government in improving the WCA or ESA without more information about what the barriers are within the system. It is going to cost a fortune in appeals unless the WCA is improved.”

Coyle said some disabled people were being assessed as fit for work and not eligible for ESA – and told to apply instead for jobseeker’s allowance – but after winning appeals were placed in the ESA “support group” for those who are too disabled to undertake any work-related activity.

Jonathan Shaw, the minister for disabled people, said: “This research was carried out some time ago soon after the benefit was introduced and we have made considerable improvements since then.

“We continue to see where improvements and changes are needed to ensure that ESA is working as it should be.”

A DWP spokesman said they were “currently unable to provide the data” that Disability Alliance has called for as it was “not held centrally and we are not confident at this stage that it is robust enough to consider publication”.

He added: “We are working on collating and quality assuring the data and will consider publication in due course.”

Meanwhile, Shaw has announced new targets that aim to help more people with mental health conditions and learning difficulties to stay in work through the access to work (ATW) scheme.

From next month, 2,000 people with learning difficulties and up to 1,500 people with mental health conditions will be guaranteed ATW funding.

Shaw said a “disappointingly low number of people with severe mental health conditions or learning disabilities” were receiving ATW funding, and the government recognised it needed to do more to help them find and stay in work.

Last year, more than 32,000 disabled people received ATW funding to provide support in the workplace, but the latest figures show that fewer than one per cent gave mental health as their main impairment.

The government has promised to double the ATW budget to £138 million by 2013/14.

Shaw announced the targets at a House of Commons exhibition to mark the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.
New improvements to equality bill, but concerns remain

New legal duties to provide accessible information should be a “major step forward” for blind and partially-sighted people and others with “print disabilities”, according to a disabled peer.

Lord [Colin] Low was speaking after the government introduced a new amendment to its equality bill, as the bill completed its report stage in the House of Lords.

The new duty makes it clear that businesses and public bodies would have to take “reasonable steps” to provide information in an accessible format so as to avoid disabled people being placed at a “substantial disadvantage”.

Baroness Thornton, for the government, said: “It is important that all kinds of organisations consider the information they provide to their audiences and what steps they may need to take to bring themselves into line with the duty.”

She said the amendment “could be a turning point for people with information disabilities”.

Lord Low said the move was “potentially a major step forward for anyone with a print disability of any kind” and provides “a much more solid basis for robust enforcement action by regulators, advocacy organisations and disabled people themselves”.

He said that businesses and public sector bodies would now “need to think carefully about what they need to do to comply with this duty and promptly take action, as I expect this duty to be vigorously enforced”.

The government also accepted two other amendments that should strengthen disabled people’s protection from discrimination.

One set of amendments, introduced by Baroness Wilkins, would strengthen the duty to provide reasonable adjustments in education – making it clear that the duty is “anticipatory”, so schools would have to predict the adjustments that future disabled pupils might need, rather than just reacting to a request from an individual pupil.

The other amendment defines the term “substantial disadvantage” – when dealing with the duty to make reasonable adjustments – as “more than minor or trivial”.

Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, welcomed the three changes and said there had been “major progress” on the bill in recent weeks.

But she said there were still major concerns around the bill’s public sector duties to promote equality, which were currently “vague and unenforceable” and would lead to legal challenges if not tightened by the government.

She said there was a “very real risk” that the duties would be weaker than the current disability equality duty.

Meanwhile, the government’s personal care at home bill completed its committee stage in the Lords. Its report stage is due on 17 March.
Disabled protesters march on Ofcom over ‘offensive hate language’

People with learning difficulties have marched on the offices of the communications watchdog Ofcom in protest at its failure to condemn the use of offensive, disablist language on a Channel 4 show.

Footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones caused outrage when he “joked” on Big Brother’s Big Mouth that presenter Davina McCall walked “like a retard”, with McCall laughing and replying: “I do not walk like a retard.”

Channel 4 eventually apologised after receiving complaints about the incident in late January.

But campaigners were shocked when Ofcom failed to uphold their subsequent complaint.

In its decision, Ofcom said the use of the word was part of “light hearted banter” and “not directed at someone with a mental or physical disability” and so was “not used with the intention to describe or offend members of society with learning difficulties”.

It also said the use of the word was not “entirely at odds with the established nature of this programme, which is known for its lively and outspoken content”.

Ofcom merely advised Channel 4 that the repetition of the word by McCall was “unfortunate” and it would have been “more appropriate to move on rapidly instead of discussing it further”.

Furious at the decision, disabled protesters – backed by the charities Respond and The Elfrida Society – this week delivered letters to the chair and chief executive of Ofcom.

The letters were signed by nine people with learning difficulties, eight of whom are involved in running London’s successful Wild Bunch club nights. Most of them took part in the protest.

Their letter says: “We feel let down by Ofcom, which is perpetuating a negative image of disabled people, by not condemning guests and presenters who use hate speech on TV – thereby signaling to viewers that this is acceptable.”

The letter says Jones’s “walk” mirrored the actions of the young thugs who persecuted Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca. Pilkington killed herself and Francecca, who had learning difficulties, after they were the victims of a sustained hate campaign.

Jackie Ryan, one of the protesters, said they were “really annoyed” with Ofcom’s decision not to uphold the complaint.

She said: “I think it’s out of order. Ofcom should do something about it.

“We were extremely cross. They need to look at themselves in the mirror and see how they feel.”

And she said Vinnie Jones and Davina McCall should be forced to apologise on television.

Ofcom said it was now reviewing its decision.

Channel 4 said it regretted that McCall had not “admonished” Jones for his comment and apologised to viewers at the time.

And she said the comments had been removed from the video-on-demand version of the programme.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Judges need training; Pathways to Work; Work Assessments

Just spent 5 days in snowy Birmingham and returned to find the garden flooded! I’m now building a wheelchair accessible Ark!! Enjoy your week.
Judges must change attitudes on disability

A leading disabled barrister has called for a “sea change” in the attitudes of judges towards disabled people.

John Horan said judges should be forced to undergo diversity training that includes a section on disability discrimination, because of their lack of knowledge and awareness.

He was speaking as a new report – commissioned by the government – called for a “coherent and comprehensive strategy” to increase the number of disabled judges and those from other minorities.

The report by the Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity says the legal profession must do more to promote diversity at all levels and support applications from talented candidates from all backgrounds.

The panel, set up last April by the Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, points to the “virtual invisibility” of disabled judges and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for reasonable adjustments for disabled judges, the promotion of flexible working and “open and transparent selection processes that promote diversity and recognise potential”.

And it says members of the Judicial Appointments Commission’s (JAC) interview panels should receive regular equality and diversity training.

Horan, an expert in disability discrimination law, said he “absolutely” agreed with the need for training.

He said: “I really welcome the report of the advisory panel but I wonder whether judges can take it seriously because it involves a sea change in their attitudes towards disabled people.”

He said he would not consider applying to become a judge until “attitudes have changed”.

Baroness Neuberger, who chaired the panel, said there could be “no quick fix” but implementing their recommendations would deliver “real change”.

Her panel also called for a new judicial diversity taskforce to oversee an action plan and publish an annual report on progress.

Although the report rules out diversity targets or quotas for judicial appointments, it says the JAC should make use of the positive action measures in the government’s equality bill that will allow it to appoint a minority candidate if two or more applicants are “essentially indistinguishable”.

And the report says the Bar Council, the Law Society and the Institute of Legal Executives should set out timetables for improving the diversity of their own members who are suitable for appointments “at all levels”.

Straw, who welcomed the report and accepted all of its 53 recommendations, said: “I am determined that race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability should be no barrier to those with ability joining the judiciary and progressing within it.”
Pathways contracts mean many get ‘bare minimum’ help

New research shows that paying providers of employment support according to how many disabled people they place in jobs leads to a “bare minimum” service for those less ready for work.

The research into the effectiveness of paying private and voluntary sector providers of Pathways to Work based on how many clients find work comes as the government is reviewing its work support programmes, including Pathways.

The report by the Policy Studies Institute for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says its research “reinforces concern” that providers given “outcome-based contracts” do not work with the “harder to help”.

It suggests that more funding should be available for organisations working with “clients with more complex needs”.

And it calls for more to be done to allow disabled clients to provide feedback on their Pathways experiences.

The Pathways providers covered in the research – three private sector and one charity – complained that the recession and a decline in job vacancies had “exacerbated the financial risks” in trying to reach their job targets, which were “not considered to be feasible”.

Internal targets set for advisers working with disabled clients had been lowered because of the recession, while advisers were frustrated that managers’ focus on clients who were “job ready” caused them to spend less time with those “further away from work”.

This meant that “creaming” (working intensively with clients closer to the job market) and “parking” (giving other clients a “bare minimum” service) were seen as “appropriate practice”.

The report did find some measures that helped advisers work with “clients not labelled as job ready”, but it also found that any innovations by providers were largely based on cutting costs.

The report came as Rebecca Sudworth, deputy director of the DWP’s disability and work division, told the all party parliamentary disability group that the number of clients found jobs had “been much lower than providers themselves felt might be possible”.

She also admitted that in some employment programmes there was “insufficient enthusiasm” to work with disabled people furthest from the labour market.

A briefing prepared for the meeting by the Disability Benefits Consortium concluded: “The funding system of payment by in-work results only has encouraged a concentration of effort on to those people regarded as easier to support into work.”

But Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, said in a statement that Pathways had helped “nearly 190,000 people who face complex barriers into work” since it was first piloted in 2003.

He added: “We pay our private providers by results – if they don’t get people into sustainable employment, they don’t get the full payment.

“But we know we need to do more to help disabled people into work, which is why we have committed through our employment white paper to review our support programmes, including Pathways to Work. Our findings will be published in the spring.”
Work assessment test under fresh fire

The government’s strict new work test for disabled people has come under fresh attack at a meeting of MPs and peers.

The criticisms of the work capability assessment (WCA) came after the all party parliamentary disability group had heard a presentation by three senior civil servants from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

David Evans, vice-chair of the charity Deafblind UK, said some of the things he had read about the WCA – which tests those applying for the new employment and support allowance – “beggars belief”.

He criticised the “stupidity” and “insensitivity of the people making decisions about people’s lives” and said he was “very concerned” that the aim was to get “as many people into work as possible”.

He also raised fears that disabled people were giving up on the welfare system after failing the WCA and were having to survive solely on DLA instead.

He added: “A huge number of people are not getting the right benefits, creating more work for people trying to work with them, like Citizens Advice Bureaux.”

His comments came a week after new job statistics provided evidence for his fear that disabled people failing the WCA were dropping out of the welfare system.

The figures showed the number of people giving “long-term sickness” or “temporary sickness” as the reason for being neither in work nor available for work had risen by 33,000 in a year.

But Rebecca Sudworth, deputy director of the DWP’s disability and work division, said the government kept the WCA “under review” and it was “very much not the case” that it was about “shoving people into work regardless” of their circumstances.

She said the test was “designed to think where people are on that ability to work spectrum”, and added: “We may not always get it right but we put an awful lot of time and effort into developing the assessment and checking how it is working.”

Cath Hamp, the DWP’s head of employment and support allowance policy, said current reviews of the WCA and the government’s disability employment programmes – such as Pathways to Work – were “very timely”, with the government due to start rolling out the WCA to the 2.5 million people on incapacity benefit this October.

She said: “We want some of the things at either end of that process to be as good as they possibly can be when that process starts.”

She added: “The object of the change is to avoid that group of people being written off as they have been over the last ten years because there has been very little contact with them.”

News supplied by John Pring