Hate Crime against disabled people must stop!

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

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

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

Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of RADAR, said:

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

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

The Future of EHRC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Friend

Chair, RADAR

One Door Closes and Another One Opens!

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

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

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

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

So you soon


Holiday Cruise

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

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

Anyone out there got any thoughts on this issue.

Well it’s time to start packing!

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

Best wishes

New Website

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

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

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