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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Euthanasia protest will mark opposition to ‘very dangerous’ bill

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

The end of life assistance (Scotland) bill would allow those “whose life has become intolerable”, and who met a series of conditions, to “legally access assistance to end their life”.

Those who were terminally ill – or “permanently physically incapacitated” as a result of a progressive condition or “trauma” and “unable to live independently” – would qualify for assistance to end their lives under the bill, which has been proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News provided by John Pring atwww.disabilitynewsservice.com

Disabled Volunteers, Equality Threat, Treasury Website under attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information on 2012 volunteering and tickets, visit:www.london2012.com
Government plans ‘make mockery’ of equality goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The consultation ends on 10 November. To take part, visit:www.equalities.gov.uk/news/specific_duties_consultation.aspx
EHRC asks government again for equality proof on cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.co

Independent Living, Sex Workers

Hello and apologies for missing last week’s news. Very sadly my father in law died unexpectedly and as you can imagine we’ve been very preoccupied getting everything sorted out. He was 88 and had become severely disabled during the last four years of his life eventually needing residential care, as his wife was unable to cope physically. Thankfully they were able fund the package of care that he needed but even so we often felt very guilty about not being able to provide him with more. As the government contemplates severe financial cuts I can’t help wondering how others with less financial support will cope. The most frail and vulnerable in our society should expect the rest of us to do everything we can to care for them in their final years. We need to ensure that they and their families receive all the support they so richly deserve.
New centre for independent living leads to loss of two DPOs

Two disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in Northamptonshire have been forced to close after a total of nearly 50 years fighting for disabled people in the county, following the loss of key council funding.

The loss of the two DPOs has highlighted issues created by the Labour government’s demand for there to be a user-led centre for independent living (CIL) in every area by 2010.

Disabled People’s Alliance Northamptonshire (DPAN) and Ability Northants were both part of a consortium of local charities that bid for the contract to run a new CIL in the county.

But the £500,000-a-year contract was won instead by a DPO from neighbouring Bedfordshire, Disability Resource Centre (DRC).

DPAN also lost out in a joint bid with other local organisations for another £500,000-a-year contract to provide advocacy services for disabled people.

This contract was awarded to the national organisation Advocacy Partners Speaking Up – which is not a user-led organisation – supported by Advocacy Alliance, which works across Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.

As part of this reorganisation, DPAN lost out on its core funding from Northamptonshire County Council and will have to close, while Ability Northants closed at the end of March.

John Smith, DPAN’s coordinator, said losing traditional DPOs like DPAN would mean the loss of their independent “campaigning, checking role” that ensured councils were held accountable to disabled people.

Smith will probably join DPAN’s disability rights service in transferring to the new CIL, which he said had been “very good in recognising that it is a difficult situation”.

But he said many other user-led organisations that were winning contracts to run CILs were not DPOs, with many controlled by carers and other people “with an interest in disability”.

He said: “The old CILs came from the grassroots. Disabled people developed them and now local authorities are saying they want carers in their CILs. It’s a different animal.

“I think it is really important to retain that distinction, that little word ‘of’ [as in an organisation ‘of’ disabled people, rather than ‘for’ disabled people].

“We didn’t apologise that we were all disabled people. We should be assertive and say that that is the right way.”

Mick Dillon, DRC’s chief executive, said he was a wheelchair-user himself and DRC was “user-led at every level of the organisation”.

He said the new CIL had established a board of service-users to “act as our watchdog”, while 19 of its 20 staff came from Northamptonshire, and none from Bedfordshire.

But he accepted that DRC tried to “work in partnership rather than direct action”.

Dillon said DRC was hugely experienced in running direct payments and personalisation services, and said services in Northamptonshire would be “further improved”, building on DPAN’s work and its “wealth of experience”.

He added: “I am happy to be judged on my results.”

A council spokeswoman said the new CIL would “bring both improved services and a wider range of services than ever before for disabled people in the county”, while “local disabled people, carers and those who support disabled people” would have “a direct involvement” in how the service was run.
Government gives personal budget approval for sex workers

The government has confirmed that it has no objection to disabled people using part of their council-funded personal budgets to pay sex workers.

The confirmation followed the media storm created by the release of a new survey of councils by the Outsiders and the TLC Trust, which both provide advice and support around sex and disability.

The survey found only three per cent of local authorities had a policy on the use of sex workers by disabled service-users, with the same number happy for sex workers to be paid using money from a disabled person’s personal budget or other council funding.

Despite these results, nearly three-quarters of the councils said they had explicitly supported the human rights of disabled people to develop social, personal and sexual relationships.

The Outsiders and the TLC Trust said the survey showed councils were guilty of a “scandalous neglect” of disabled people’s sexual and emotional needs.

The survey was carried out using Freedom of Information Act requests of 206 local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales, of which 121 responded.

Following the survey’s publication, at least three tabloid newspapers published stories critical of the small number of councils that said they did allow disabled people to use self-directed support to access sex workers.

The Department of Health (DH) said in a statement: “Money allocated through Putting People First [the government’s personalisation programme for adult social care] should be used by councils to help people to live independently.”

But a DH spokeswoman added: “The policy is that the decision is taken locally [by the disabled person and the council] on what is best for that person and the personal budget is used in the way that is best for that person.”

Asked whether there was a DH policy that said personal budgets should not be used to pay sex workers, she said: “There would not be. It is not for us to dictate what is best for that person.”

Disability consultant Alex Cowan said: “I believe it is a legitimate goal to want sexual contact and experiences.

“It is unfair not to enable a disabled person to overcome the barriers that a non-disabled person would not face in getting sexual contact.

“Sex can be a very important part of their life, and they are entitled to make choices about what kind of support and assistance they need to have it.”

She said the goal of personalisation was for a disabled person to choose how they spend their limited personal budget to meet their needs.

Cowan added: “Disabled people have to go through a very rigorous assessment process with strong criteria about the goals of their personal budget.

“The story is about what are legitimate quality of life goals, and in my opinion, sex is a legitimate quality of life goal.”

Dr Tuppy Owens, who founded both Outsiders and TLC Trust, said she hoped the survey would encourage local authorities to develop policies on the use of sex workers.

She said managers “like to pay lip service to the idea that their service-users enjoy real choice, empowerment and freedom, so long as that does not actually include sex”.

For more information, visit: www.outsiders.org.uk and www.tlc-trust.org.uk

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Work capability, Autism jobs, Deaths in Hertfordshire, Chancellor warned re Equality Duty

Another week gone by and for a change no particular mechanical failures! A nice weekend celebrating my daughter’s thirtieth birthday. BBQ and sunshine a great combination!

I’ve come across an interesting piece of software called TextExpander. This might be useful for those of you who need to type the standard responses in emails or letters. You save the “snippets” using simple abbreviations and when you type the abbreviation the expanded text is pasted into the document. The main purpose is to save time and I’ve found it really useful. Have a look see what you think. http://www.smileonmymac.com/TextExpander/ Now for the news.
Benefits advisers call in new work test rules for consultation

The government’s benefits advice body is to investigate changes to the controversial work capability test which campaigners believe will make it even harder for disabled people to claim access to the support they need.

The social security advisory committee (SSAC) decided yesterday (4 August) to hold a public consultation as part of a formal “referral” of proposed changes to the work capability assessment (WCA) regulations.

The changes to the WCA, which determines eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA), the new out-of-work disability benefit, were made earlier this year following an internal government review, and are due to come into force next spring.

Disability organisations have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of the WCA since its introduction in October 2008, and say the changes are aimed at making it even harder for disabled people to claim ESA.

Rebecca Rennison, co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium’s (DBC) policy group, welcomed the referral.

She said: “We have consistently stressed our opposition to this review taking place so early in the life of ESA and with the express purpose of tightening access to ESA.

“Overall, the DBC cannot support the internal review’s conclusions or the proposed changes to the WCA which will result in making the test even tougher, denying vital support to many more disabled people, and running the risk of pushing even more disabled people into poverty.”

The SSAC will now hold a public consultation and prepare a report for work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, although he can legally ignore its advice.

A spokeswoman for the committee’s secretariat said the SSAC had “broad discretion” to choose which proposed regulations it reports on, but added: “I am aware – as is the committee – of the concerns expressed by stakeholder organisations.”

The SSAC is also set to consult on the housing benefit changes announced by the chancellor in his emergency budget.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “Whenever we make changes to regulations we know that the SSAC often choose to consult when appropriate. We always build that [possibility] into our planning, so it is not a setback.”

She said the DWP “absolutely” stands by the proposed changes to the WCA.

A separate, independent review of how the WCA is operating – headed by Professor Malcolm Harrington – will report by the end of 2010.

Consultation details will be published next week on the committee’s website, www.ssac.org.uk
New firm hopes to create 50 jobs for people with autism

A new social enterprise is aiming to create 50 jobs for people with autism in Scotland, by providing skilled software-testing services to businesses.

Specialisterne Scotland, which was launched by Scottish government minister John Swinney this week, is modelled on a Danish company which was set up to offer mainstream jobs at market rates of pay to people with autism.

About three-quarters of the 60 staff at Specialisterne in Denmark have autism and they work in areas such as programming and software testing.

The company uses the skills and characteristics shared by some people with autism, such as precision and consistency, to provide IT services to businesses around the world.

Now Specialisterne Scotland, which is based in Glasgow, is set to use this successful blueprint to provide jobs for people with autism in Scotland.

Over the next six months, Specialisterne Scotland will recruit and train 12 people with autism, with commercial testing due to begin early next year. It aims to create a workplace with “a high degree of planning, predictability, systemisation and minimal stress”.

By 2015, it expects to be employing 61 people, 50 of whom will have autism.

The new business has been developed by the social enterprise support agency Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEiS), with support from the National Autistic Society Scotland (NASS) and the Autism Resource Centre.

Gerry Higgins, chief executive of CEiS, said: “We know from the experience in Denmark that Specialisterne Scotland has the potential to change lives for the better by providing mainstream employment at the market rate for people with autism, while transforming recruitment attitudes and business practices.

“In the longer term, we anticipate that the majority of the workforce will be working at customer premises, assisting the competitiveness of Scottish businesses.”

SS has secured £700,000 in grant and loan funding from the Scottish government’s Scottish Investment Fund, a Big Lottery award of more than £400,000 as well as £30,000 from Glasgow City Council.

NASS said its research had found only 13 per cent of adults with autism in Scotland had jobs.

Carol Evans, national director for NASS, said Specialisterne Scotland was “a real breakthrough in employers recognising the strengths of people with autism as key staff in their workforce”.

Kieran Pentland, who has Asperger’s syndrome and works for NASS as an employment consultant, said: “Being in an occupation that I love and enjoy doing has given me a sense of purpose, financial independence, boosted my confidence, lifted my depression, and restored my pride and dignity.”
Police probe deaths of disabled woman and mother

Police are investigating the deaths of a disabled woman and her mother, whose bodies appear to have been lying undiscovered in their home for several weeks.

The bodies of Sam Wolf, 29, and her mother Stephania, 67, were finally discovered this week at their home in Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire.

Hertfordshire social services claim that both Sam – who was a wheelchair-user – and Stephania Wolf refused a series of offers of support over the last 12 years.

A council spokesman said social services carried out an assessment of Sam Wolf’s needs in August 1998, which resulted in “the provision of equipment and major adaptations to the property to provide disability access”, such as ramps and rails.

He said: “Following on from this, various offers of support offered by adult care services were declined.”

There was a further assessment of her needs in March 2006, after which the council offered to provide day services and “various other support”. The offer was again declined, he said.

Hertfordshire police said early post mortem results showed neither woman had received any external injuries or were victims of violence before they died.

They said the results of forensic tests to establish the causes of death were not expected for “a number of weeks” and it would be “impossible to speculate further on causes until these results have come through”.
Minister warned chancellor of spending cuts equality duty

Home secretary Theresa May has warned the chancellor that the government’s planned spending cuts could cause it to breach its legal duty to promote disability equality.

May wrote to George Osborne on 9 June in her role as women and equalities minister, two weeks before his emergency budget, warning him of “real risks that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and older people will be disproportionately affected” by spending cuts.

Her letter was written on the same day that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wrote to the civil servants who head every government department – including the Treasury – to ask for “reassurance” that they would comply with their legal duties to consider the impact of spending cuts on disabled people, ethnic minorities and women.

A number of disabled people’s organisations have raised serious concerns about the impact of cuts on disabled people, particularly around disability benefits, with one calling plans to cut spending on disability living allowance by 20 per cent a “wholesale, brutal attack on disabled people”.

In her letter, leaked to the Guardian newspaper, May said there was a “real risk” of successful legal challenges – for example by those receiving public services or the EHRC – if government departments could not show they had taken equality issues into account in reaching their spending decisions.

This week, the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality for women, announced it was seeking a judicial review of the emergency budget on the grounds that it would increase inequality between men and women.

The EHRC told Disability News Service that it was closely monitoring the potential impact on disabled people as government departments prepared their plans for spending cuts.

The EHRC is in “initial discussions” with all government departments – including the Treasury – about the equality impact of their spending decisions, and is “watching with interest” the progress of the Fawcett Society judicial review.

If the government fails to comply with its equality duties, the EHRC has a range of powers, which include holding a formal inquiry.

Asked whether a formal inquiry was a possibility, an EHRC spokeswoman said: “I really wouldn’t want to speculate on that. So far our discussions with the departments have been fairly positive. What happens next remains to be seen.”

A Government Equalities Office spokeswoman said: “The letter was simply a formality. In her capacity as minister for women and equalities, Theresa May wrote to all government departments – not just the Treasury – reminding them of their legal responsibilities under the 2006 Equality Act.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Direct Enquirers, DLA, Work Choice, Hate Crime, ILF Cuts

Welcome! These postings are getting wider apart! I blame it all on the nice weather and a desire to take advantage of it.

A couple of things to share before dealing with the news this week. I’ve just spent a few very relaxing days in the Ribble Valley in our motor home. All was well until my powered wheelchair decided not to be powered anymore. Stuck on a pavement in the middle of Clitheroe with no way of moving is an experience not be missed. Sue, my wife, valiantly suggested pushing the 180 kilo chair with me in it the mile and half back to the camp ground. Enter Transit Van man!! He drove Sue to the site to pick up our ramps and promptly mobilised a few people to push the chair into the van. I sat in the back in total darkness but remembered the chair has lights! We arrived safe and sound and I was decanted onto the grass. The only downside is that I emerged resembling a ghost completely covered in plaster dust! Who cares!! I love Transit Van man!

Another exciting project is now underway in collaboration with Grant Kennedy CEO at Direct Enquiries. After Grant helped my local football team with sponsorship the players have agreed to undertake 350 assessments of the local facilities in Hertfordshire and elsewhere so that anyone using the Direct Enquiries website will be able to get information on accessible venues in the area. The players are really keen to help, standby for good information on nightclubs, bars, restaurants and pubs!! Enjoy the rest.
Employers ‘missing out on young disabled talent’

Talented and highly-educated young disabled people are continuing to miss out on opportunities for training, employment and career progression, according to a new report.

The Right to Work report is the latest investigation by the Trailblazers group of young disabled campaigners – run by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign – and surveyed more than 100 young disabled people.

Two-thirds of them said they may have had job applications rejected by employers because of discrimination. A similar number believed the job application process puts them at a disadvantage, while about 70 per cent said physical access to the workplace was one of the biggest obstacles they faced in obtaining paid work.

One in seven disabled graduates – with an average age of 26 – had never had a paid job, while one in five survey respondents felt they had been forced out of a job due to poor disability awareness.

Some campaigners said interviews or work experience had been called off when the employer realised they were disabled.

Members of Trailblazers also carried out undercover investigations of access at Jobcentre Plus offices and recruitment agencies across the UK.

Now they want the government and employers to set up a national disabled graduates training scheme, promote the business case for employing “talented, qualified and dedicated” disabled candidates, and encourage disability equality training for line managers

They also want to see more accessible facilities at Jobcentre Plus offices and recruitment agencies, and more disabled people employed as disability employment advisers by Jobcentre Plus.

And they called for greater promotion of the Access to Work scheme and for it to be extended to disabled volunteers, interns, and those on work placements.

Jagdeep Sehmbi, a wheelchair-user and multimedia communications graduate from Birmingham, said: “When I was applying for jobs, I noticed that as soon as I mentioned I needed wheelchair access the attitude would change – whereas I had initially felt a conversation was leading to an invite for interview, it suddenly ended with being told they would get back to me, which never happened.”

Bobby Ancil, Trailblazers project manager, said: “More than anything in this report, we were struck by the amount of talented and bright individuals employers are missing out on because they can’t see past disability.

“It is shocking that so many well-qualified people who want to work are unable to find jobs.”

To read the report, visit: www.mdctrailblazers.org
Minister hints that ILF could be scrapped

The minister for disabled people has hinted that the government could be set to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) as part of its spending review.

In a ministerial statement this week, Maria Miller MP attacked the previous government for failing to “take a principled and strategic decision” on the fund’s future.

Miller said an independent review of the fund in 2007 suggested the government should make a decision on its future in 2009-10, “based on the presumption” that ILF support would be merged with local authority funding for personal budgets.

Miller also criticised the Labour government for taking a last-minute decision to cut the ILF budget for 2010-11 by £11 million to £348 million in March this year.

Miller said this move – as well as the “uncertainty and sensitivity” of methods of forecasting spending on the fund – led to the ILF’s decision to restrict new applicants to those in paid work of 16 hours or more, and then later to close the fund to all new applicants for the rest of 2010-2011.

Miller added: “The confusion and uncertainty caused by this chain of events is unacceptable.”

She said the ILF had now put in place a “more robust methodology” for forecasting its spending and had “safeguarded the support allocated to the 21,000 existing recipients of the fund”.

She said: “I have asked the [Department for Work and Pensions] and the ILF to ensure that all the lessons are learned from this situation and that appropriate procedures are put in place to ensure that the fund’s budget remains on track.”

She added: “The coalition government are committed to ensuring severely disabled people receive the support they need and, working closely with the trustees, we will consider and settle the long-term future of the ILF as part of the forthcoming spending review.”

But confusion still surrounds the timing of the Labour government’s decision to cut the ILF budget and how that affected the decision to restrict eligibility.

Disability News Service was told by ILF on 24 March – after it had announced the decision to restrict eligibility – that the budget for 2010-11 would be £359 million.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman was this week unable to clarify exactly when the decision to cut the budget was taken.

And when asked whether Miller’s statement implied that the government was planning to scrap the ILF, he said: “The future of the ILF is going to be reviewed in the autumn. Watch this space. I cannot speculate.”
Work Choice given government go-ahead

The coalition government is to go ahead with plans to launch a new work programme for disabled people with higher support needs.

The Labour government had announced plans to replace specialist programmes such as WORKSTEP with a new scheme called Work Choice this autumn.

But the future of the new programme had been cast into doubt because of the new government’s plans for a single work programme for all people on out-of-work benefits.

Maria Miller, the disabled people’s minister, announced this week that Work Choice would be launched on 25 October and would “sit alongside” the single work programme.

Miller said Work Choice would “help into work disabled people who face the most complex and long-term barriers to employment and who may require high intensity support in the workplace”.

She said it would replace the “existing confusing array” of specialist disability employment programmes – WORKSTEP, Work Preparation and the Job Introduction Scheme.

And she said it would “greatly improve upon the effectiveness of current provision by tailoring support to the needs of each severely disabled individual to help move them into and stay in long-term sustainable jobs”.

There will also be a cut in the number of contracts with employment support providers from more than 200 to just 28.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman denied that the move signalled a rethink on plans for a single, overarching work programme.

He said: “They want provision for the hardest to help groups. It is very important to have that.”

Meanwhile, new DWP figures show that the number of disabled people who received support through the Access to Work (ATW) programme rose from more than 32,000 in 2008-09 to more than 37,000 in 2009-10.

Of those receiving funding to provide adaptations, equipment and other work support in 2009-10, only 390 had mental health conditions, while 1,720 had learning difficulties, 5,450 had hearing impairments and 5,280 were visually-impaired.

More than 11,500 ATW awards were made for aids and equipment, nearly 10,000 for support workers, and 12,700 for travel to work, while 250 were made for adaptations to workplaces, and 270 for adaptations to vehicles.
UKDPC uncovers widespread reports of hate crime deaths

New research by a leading disabled activist has uncovered reports of more than 20 violent deaths of disabled people – many of them likely to be disability hate crimes – over just three months.

The report, by hate crime campaigner Anne Novis for the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), found reports of 141 offences that appeared to involve targeted hostility towards disabled people.

Of these crimes – which include physical assaults, rape, robbery, torture and arson – at least 21 involved the violent deaths of disabled people.

Some of the reports come from trials of people accused of murder and other serious offences, while others were media reports of how disabled people had died violent deaths and where the perpetrators had yet to be arrested.

Novis said she hoped her report would deliver a “wake-up call” on the extent of disability hate crime, but would also help disabled people’s organisations secure funding for their own hate crime projects.

The report has already been submitted as evidence to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into disability-related harassment. A second, wider report by Novis for UKDPC into the extent of disability hate crime over the last three years will also be submitted to the inquiry.

Jaspal Dhani, UKDPC’s chief executive, said the crimes collated by Novis were “only the tip of the iceberg” and showed how much work needed to be done by the government to comply with its duties under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

He said: “I think that if the public became aware of the extent of the problem they would be horrified.”

Novis said she believed disability hate crime was increasing “significantly”, and was even more widespread than described in her report, partly because of under-reporting by disabled people.

Her report is based on “informal research” that draws evidence from online articles, disabled people’s blogs and disability discussion forums, and provides a “snapshot” of reports of disability hate crime over a three-month period from March to May 2010.

Novis called for disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to be given funding to carry out formal, detailed research into the extent of disability hate crime.

She said the targeted hostility experienced by disabled people was being aggravated by the debate around welfare reform, the government’s call for cuts to the disability benefits budget and the media focus on disability benefit fraud.
DLA survey results come at perfect time

A disabled people’s organisation has told two government ministers that their cost-cutting disability living allowance (DLA) reforms could be “counter-productive” and make it harder for disabled people to work.

Both the disabled people’s minister, Maria Miller, and the care services minister, Paul Burstow, visited Essex Coalition of Disabled People (ECDP) last week, just as it was about to publish its survey on the government’s planned changes to DLA.

In June, the government announced a major reform of DLA, with tighter eligibility, a new medical test and reassessments for all claimants of working age over the three years from 2013.

The ECDP survey found 93 per cent of disabled people were very or quite concerned about the planned changes to DLA, while more than three-quarters said the changes were likely to have a big or fairly big impact on their everyday lives.

More than half of the 141 respondents feared their DLA could be taken away, while a third thought they might not be able to work if this happened.

Rich Watts, ECDP’s director of policy and development, said: “What we were very keen to impress on [the two ministers] was that our survey said that one in three people said they were unlikely to work as a result of the changes in DLA.

“These changes could be counter-productive to their goal of getting people back in work.

“To both of them we said: ‘Rather than swinging the axe we would like you to talk to disabled people and their organisations on how to approach this and how to minimise the impact on disabled people.’”

Watts said there had been a strong sense of “injustice” among the disabled people who took part in the survey, who believed the government was “picking on disabled people” and “trying to lump us into the same category as benefits scroungers”.

Many were worried about the prospect of another hugely stressful assessment.

He added: “Some people just seemed tired that they worked so hard to get the right care and support but will have to go through this all over again.”

One respondent accused the government of “putting disability back under the medical microscope”.

Another said: “Having endured the form and the medical, I dread having to go through the whole process again along with millions of others.”

And a third disabled person said: “Without my DLA I would lose my adapted car, my independence and my job. DLA supports me to contribute because it enables me to work full time.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Open employment, Football Cat, Euthanasia

Hello once again after a bit of a lull! The garden now looks like a desert and even the rabbits have moved next door. A great pity according to my son who is keen to use the new air rifle purchased to protect the strawberries!! He makes an interesting sight sitting in his bedroom wearing camouflage and a mud covered face. (I should mention he’s 20 not 6!)

Last week I attended a lovely evening hosted by Kay Allen from Royal Mail at the House of Lords. This was to celebrate Lord Morris’s Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which became law 40 years ago. The guests ranged from those who were activists at the time through to people dealing with disability issues in today’s world. Moving tributes were paid to Alf Morris and the evening served as reminder of how far we have come over the last four decades. The clips that follow make the point very eloquently that there is still much to do!
Campaigners face new euthanasia battle

Disabled activists campaigning against the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia are facing yet another attempt to force the government to weaken the law.

Lawyers for Tony Nicklinson, a stroke survivor with high support needs, announced this week that they want the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to issue guidelines stating when it would be in the public interest to prosecute cases of euthanasia.

They said that Nicklinson, who can only move his head and eyes, has made a “clear and settled” decision that he wants to die when ready to do so, but is unable to carry out that wish himself.

He wants his wife to be able to end his life without facing prosecution for murder.

The case is similar to that of Debbie Purdy, who used the courts to force the DPP to list the factors to be considered by prosecutors when deciding whether to charge someone with assisted suicide.

But Nicklinson wants the DPP to issue guidance for cases of euthanasia, in which someone actively takes a disabled person’s life, rather than assisting them to take their own life.

The DPP, Keir Starmer, has refused to issue new guidance because he believes existing guidelines and advice for prosecutors are “sufficient”.

Nicklinson’s lawyers this week issued legal proceedings in the high court seeking a judicial review of the DPP’s refusal to issue new guidance.

But the Care Not Killing alliance – whose members include RADAR – said the current law “acts as a powerful deterrent” and changing the law was opposed by “the vast majority of disabled people and disability rights organisations in our country” and would “contribute to a mindset that the lives of sick or disabled people are somehow less worth living”.

In a witness statement, Nicklinson said he had “no privacy or dignity left” and added: “I am fed up with my life and don’t want to spend the next 20 years or so like this.”

Saimo Chahal, Nicklinson’s solicitor, said: “The law of murder is inflexible and the Law Commission was right when, in 2006, it recommended that the law should be reviewed, particularly in the context of mercy killing.”

A spokeswoman for the DPP said there were “a number of important distinctions between assisted suicide, euthanasia and so-called mercy killing”.

She said: “Suicide, whether assisted or not, and murder are very different acts in that the former requires a person to take their own life, whereas the latter involves a person doing an act that ends the life of another.”
Open employment with support ‘is the ideal’, says RADAR

Disabled people should be supported to find mainstream employment rather than “special” jobs in separate, sheltered workplaces, according to a new report.

The Supporting Sustainable Careers report by RADAR suggests ten “propositions” that would make it easier for disabled people to gain decent pay, career development opportunities, status and inclusion in society, and freedom from discrimination.

It concludes that in general – although not for every disabled person – open employment with the necessary support meets more of these “key factors” than other options, such as sheltered workplaces.

The report was funded by Remploy, which still employs about 3,000 disabled people in 54 sheltered factories, despite closing 29 factories as part of a controversial modernisation programme.

Tim Matthews, chief executive of Remploy, told Disability News Service at the report’s launch that he doubted whether there would be a long-term role for employment settings where there were “100 per cent disabled people congregating together”.

He said that “there may well be a place for sheltered factories in the future” but they would “increasingly” have to fulfil the criteria outlined in the report, such as providing career progression, offering “real jobs” that were not subsidised and being part of an inclusive workforce.

RADAR’s report also says that the continued existence of separate workplaces just for disabled people makes it harder to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination in mainstream workplaces.

And it says disabled people should be offered extra support to keep their jobs – particularly in the light of current public spending cuts – because they face greater risks of long-term unemployment.

The highest priority, says the report, is to enable disabled people to achieve “career security” – building up the skills and experience to move from one job to another.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, said: “In past recessions, disabled people have ended up living on benefits for decades.

“As public sector jobs are cut we need to stop that happening again – by using scarce resources efficiently on the type of employment support we know works.

“That means offering all disabled people the chance of a regular job as jobs come back on stream, help to get the skills the economy needs and pay that is at least the minimum wage. Everyone needs to raise their expectations of what disabled people can do.”

Researchers for the report talked to more than 50 disabled RADAR members, disability organisations, trade unionists and supported employment providers.

Among its other “propositions”, the report says disabled people should have the opportunity to manage and control their own job support, while more social firms should be led and managed by disabled people.

It also says that there is “no place” for sheltered work that contributes to the economy but offers less than the minimum wage, while businesses should only let contracts to social firms or supportive businesses that offer at least the minimum wage to their disabled employees.

And it calls for disabled volunteers to be offered career development support so they can move on to paid employment.
Football cat cruelty advert cleared by watchdog

The advertising watchdog has ruled that a TV advert that features a blind footballer accidentally kicking a cat is not offensive and does not need to be taken off air.

More than 1,000 viewers complained to the advertising watchdog about the advert for the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power – so far seen by an estimated ten million adults – which features two blind football teams using a ball with a bell inside it.

When the ball is kicked out of play, a cat with a bell around its neck runs onto the pitch, and is kicked into a tree by a player who mistakes it for the ball.

Of those who complained, 220 viewers said it was offensive to blind people while more than 1,000 complained on the grounds of animal cruelty.

Paddy Power told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ad “enabled them to promote and create awareness of a lesser-known sport”, “would enhance appreciation of the skill required by those who participated in the sport” and was “humorous and slapstick in nature”.

The company claimed it had received “extremely positive feedback from the blind and partially sighted community”.

The ASA claimed the ad “featured, and was supported by members of the England Blind Football Team” and that it was “unlikely to be seen by most viewers as malicious or to imply that blind people were likely to cause harm to animals”.

It concluded that the ad was “unlikely to be seen as humiliating, stigmatising or undermining to blind people and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence”.

It ruled that Paddy Power had not breached the advertising standards code, either in its depiction of blind people or in its treatment of cruelty to animals.

A spokesman for the Football Association (FA), football’s governing body, which supports the national blind football squad, said only former international players had taken part in the advert, and so the part of the ASA ruling that said the advert was supported by members of the England team was “not strictly accurate”.

But no-one from the FA was available to comment further on the ASA ruling.

The world blind football championship is due to take place in England from 14 to 22 August.
UK ‘could learn from developing world’ on disability equality

Disability organisations in the UK could learn from developing countries about how to cope with the impact of public sector funding cuts, according to a leading disabled human rights expert.

Diane Mulligan, who leads the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s work on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said many developing countries had been forced to be “creative” in how they promote disability equality.

She told Disability News Service: “With the austerity measures being taken by the new coalition government, we can learn a lot from the global south on how to do things well within a limited budget and resources.”

In using role models to change attitudes to disabled people, some developing countries have focused on everyday disabled people doing everyday things, rather than “over-performers” such as Paralympians or the Labour MP David Blunkett, she said. Other developing countries have developed low-cost accessible latrines.

Mulligan, a long-standing member of the EHRC’s disability committee and a new member of the government’s Equality 2025 advisory network, said the impact of funding cuts on disabled people would become clearer in the autumn when the government starts “spelling out some detail on welfare reform, independent living and social care”.

But she said the “age of austerity” and the lack of resources might prove to be “beneficial”, as it could force disability organisations to come together and cooperate in campaigning for the government to fully implement the UN convention in the UK.

She believes the UN convention will have an impact on disabled people’s rights in the UK, in areas such as independent living, particularly as disabled people will be able to hold the government to account for its decisions, as it has signed up to the convention’s optional protocol.

But she said the disability movement and other disability organisations would have to work together “with a united voice” and “forget our differences” if they want to “make much headway” in ensuring disability rights are fully implemented.

She added: “It is easy to fight your own corner but there is strength in coalitions.”

Earlier this month, Mulligan was nominated as the UK’s candidate for election in 2012 for one of 18 seats on the UN’s expert committee whichmonitors implementation of the convention in those countries where it has been ratified.

She has government funding for her campaign to run for election over the next two years and wants the majority of that money to be spent working with DPOs, so she will know their key concerns.

One area she will focus on in the lead-up to the election is examining why the Labour government ratified the convention with reservations and an “interpretive declaration” – the government’s convention opt-outs – on inclusive education, immigration, employment in the armed services and benefits.

As a member of the EHRC disability committee, Mulligan said she will ask the new coalition government to say when it will re-examine these opt-outs. “I am very interested to know why other countries didn’t feel the need to put reservations or interpretive declarations in place – there needs to be a conversation with the new government about that approach.”

One of the opt-outs concerns the convention’s demand for an inclusive education system.

Mulligan said Cuba was the only country in the world with a truly inclusive education system. “Cuba is not a particularly rich country but they decided that they were going to have an inclusive education system even if it meant there was one-to-one support for three children in a classroom. And it works, and it works really well.”

But she warned: “It is going to cost quite a lot of money. Unless you are prepared to invest, it is not going to happen.”

Mulligan was speaking as the EHRC published a new guide to the UN convention, describing disabled people’s rights and how to use them.

The guide sets out how disability organisations can use the convention in negotiations, in advocacy and in legal cases, and how they can send their own reports to the UN on how the government is implementing the convention.

Mike Smith, chair of the EHRC’s disability committee, said the EHRC would “continue to work with the government to make sure that it is implemented fully”.

He said: “The convention is not just a paper ‘declaration’ without any teeth. It requires government to take action to remove barriers and give disabled people real freedom, dignity and equality.

“Our role is to ensure Britain makes rapid progress towards making the convention rights a reality for disabled people.”

The guide is available at: www.equalityhumanrights.com/UNCRPDguide

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Equality Act, DLA, UN, House Building

Welcome! Amazing weather I’ve never eaten so many salads or barbecued food all very healthy of course. I should just warn you that the weather is about to change as we’ve purchased a small paddling pool for the grandchildren!!

I hope you enjoy, if that’s the right expression, this weeks news. I think it’s a little depressing personally.
Campaigners fear government will water down Equality Act

Campaigners fear that delays in bringing forward key elements of the Equality Act could mean the coalition government is planning to water down parts of the legislation.

The government announced this week that much of Labour’s act – which streamlines existing equality laws and provides new protection in some areas – would come into force this October, as planned.

This will include laws banning employers from using health questionnaires to discriminate against disabled job applicants; providing protection from indirect disability discrimination; and making it easier to prove that someone seeking protection under the act is a disabled person.

But the coalition government has yet to consult on the draft regulations that will describe the specific duties that public bodies such as councils and NHS trusts will have to meet as part of a new single equality duty.

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) told Disability News Service this week that the public sector duty and the draft regulations were being considered as part of a review of laws passed by the previous government but not yet implemented.

A GEO spokeswoman said the government was “looking at how the rest of the act can be implemented in the best way for business”.

Earlier this week, Theresa May, the home secretary and minister for women and equalities, said: “A successful economy needs the full participation of all its citizens and we are committed to implementing the act in the best way for business.”

The duties have been a key area of concern for many campaigners. Only when the government publishes the draft regulations will disabled people know how far the government wants public bodies to go in promoting disability equality.

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said she was concerned about the government’s delay in publishing the draft regulations, and feared that this might signal a weakening of the specific duties.

She highlighted concerns that the government’s comments about business might mean it is planning to water down Labour’s plans for specific duties on procurement.

The procurement duties could force public bodies to consider disability and other equality factors in the £125 billion a year they spend on buying goods and services from the private sector.
Government research finds DLA plays vital role

Disability living allowance (DLA) allows disabled people to maintain control and independence in their lives, and helps them avoid having to move into residential care, according to new government-funded research.

The Impact of Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance report, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), says there is “a wide range of ways” in which DLA and AA enable disabled and older people to pay for the services and goods they need.

The report’s authors – who carried out face-to-face interviews with 45 recipients of DLA and attendance allowance (AA) – say that working-age recipients were “unanimous in expressing views that DLA made a big difference to them”.

Their report concludes that “while DLA or AA often does not go directly towards paying for personal care, the benefits have a key role in reducing potential demand for formal services”, and help people avoid residential care and in “maintaining or avoiding deterioration in health”.

The findings are likely to be seized upon by disabled campaigners fighting government plans to slash the disability benefits bill, with both the chancellor, George Osborne, and Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, highlighting the cost of the DLA budget in recent weeks.

The report says disabled people use DLA and AA to manage their lives “by being able to afford market prices for housework, laundry, garden maintenance, odd jobs and taxi rides; by buying frozen meals or buying hot meals outside the home; by relying on frequent use of telephones, and by running private vehicles”.

The disabled people who were interviewed said DLA and AA provided a safety net, helped them manage their debts, and allowed them to work, to live at home and to be part of society.

A second piece of research for the DWP reports on the possible reasons for the low number of DLA claimants in work.

The Disability Living Allowance and Work report concludes that DLA recipients are, on average, “more severely disabled than other disabled people, and that they suffer higher levels of disadvantage and lower employment rates as a result”.

But it also says that DLA claimants are “significantly less likely to have a job” than other disabled people facing similar employment barriers.

The report says this could be because receiving DLA “will reduce the financial incentive to take up employment”, that taking a job could put their benefits at risk, and because there is a “widespread perception” that DLA provides compensation for those unable to work because of their impairment.

But the report also says that DLA can help people remain in work, and it calls for more support to help those recently disabled to keep their jobs.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said there was a “perverse incentive” for people claiming DLA not to work because of the risk of a DWP spot check on their eligibility if they take a job.

He added: “Actually, if you are going to go into work you are more likely to need support with travel, work clothes and more personal assistance.”

DA is about to begin new research into how DLA is spent, whether it meets people’s needs, how well it supports them to work and whether it “does the job it was intended to do”.

He said: “We are not saying DLA is perfect. We acknowledge there are issues within DLA that we would like to see addressed.”

But he said the government’s plans were about cutting the number of people receiving DLA by 20 per cent, rather than addressing the problems with how DLA works.
Leap in ESA appeals ‘exposes flaws in system’

The number of disabled people appealing against a decision to refuse their claim for the new out-of-work disability benefit has rocketed over the last year.

New figures released by the Tribunals Service show that in the first quarter of 2009-10 there were about 10,000 employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals.

By the second quarter of the year, this had leaped to 29,000, with a further steep increase to 41,000 in the third quarter, and up again to more than 46,000 in the first three months of 2010.

The figures also show that nearly two-fifths of ESA appeals that were completed at a hearing last year were successful.

ESA replaced incapacity benefit for new claimants in October 2008, with those claiming the benefit being subjected to the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA).

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

In March, a report by Citizens Advice said “high numbers” of “seriously ill and disabled people” had been found “fit for work” after taking the assessment.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said the number of appeals had increased because ESA was a new benefit and there were long “time lapses” in the application process, including a 13-week assessment phase and the length of time Jobcentre Plus has to submit an appeal to the Tribunals Service.

She said that, although ESA started in October 2008, there were not significant numbers of appeals until March 2010, while appeals were “now in a relatively steady state”.

But Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said the change to ESA “has not been communicated well”, so many people were appealing because they did not understand why their claim had been turned down.

This has added to the problems with the WCA, which was “not doing the job it was intended to do” and was “undermining the changes to the welfare reform system”.

He added: “There really is an imperative to get the assessment right first time and ensure communication is done well, so we avoid unnecessary expenditure [on appeals] at a time when all government departments are being squeezed so significantly.”
Campaigners fear government could bow to building lobby

Campaigners fear the government could bow to pressure from the house-building lobby and delay the implementation of compulsory accessibility and adaptability standards for all new homes.

The Foundation for Lifetime Homes and Neighbourhoods – the accessible housing provider Habinteg, RADAR, Age UK and the Town and Country Planning Association – spoke out as it launched a new version of its Lifetime Homes Standard following a consultation.

The standard is a set of 16 design criteria – key features that should be included in the design of accessible and adaptable housing.

The foundation said it was vital that all new homes were designed according to the Lifetime Homes Standard, with 300,000 disabled and older people living in unsuitable housing.

The Labour government had agreed that all public sector housing in England would be built to the Lifetime Homes Standard from 2011 (it is already a requirement in Wales and Northern Ireland), with a target of 2013 for all private sector homes.

But it backed away from this commitment in last December’s pre-budget report, saying it wanted “a proportionate approach” and that any move to make the standard mandatory for all new homes would not be until 2013 “at the earliest”.

Labour’s review of Lifetime Homes policy is continuing under the new coalition government.

Andy Shipley, the foundation’s Lifetime Homes coordinator, said: “The government has committed to continuing the review but it is still unclear which way they are going to go with it and how committed they are to seeing Lifetime Homes as the way forward.”

And he warned that even the target for Lifetime Homes to be mandatory for all public sector homes by 2011 was now not guaranteed.

He said there was “considerable concern” that the government would bow to demands from housing developers for a “lighter regulatory touch” because of the state of the economy.

No-one from the Communities and Local Government department was available to comment.

The disabled peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins, a patron of the foundation, has called on the government to consider “the range of social, health, welfare and economic savings” made by adopting the Lifetime Homes Standard.

During a Lords debate on affordable housing, she added: “In developing their social care policy, will the government include the benefits of the universal adoption of the Lifetime Homes Standard as an efficient way to support care delivery in the home?”

Baroness Hanham, the junior communities and local government minister, said that the Lifetime Homes Standard “remains an aspiration that should be met, even if not for every single home”.
Disabled campaigner nominated for UN role

A leading disabled campaigner has been nominated by the UK government to join the worldwide body that monitors how countries are implementing the UN disability convention.

Diane Mulligan was put forward by Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, as the UK candidate to join the UN expert committee on the rights of disabled people.

If she is elected in 2012, she will become one of the 12 human rights experts who monitor how the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is being implemented around the world.

Mulligan is a long-standing member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) disability committee, and leads its work on the UN convention, representing it in Europe and at the UN.

She was also appointed this year to the government’s network of disability equality advisers, Equality 2025, and in January was recognised with an OBE for nearly 20 years’ work with disabled people in developing countries and in the UK.

Mulligan is a former director of the charity VSO in Indonesia, set up the Sussex Amputee Support Group, and is an advisor on disability and social inclusion for the development charity Sightsavers.

Mike Smith, chair of the EHRC’s disability committee, said: “It’s a huge credit to the work that Diane has done on disabled people’s rights that she is being put forward by the minister as a candidate for the UN committee for 2012.

“She’ll be up against candidates from around the world who are also leaders in this field.”

He said the EHRC, Foreign Office, Office for Disability Issues, disabled people’s organisations and others would support her through the selection process.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Benefit cuts, Glastonbury Stevie Wonder, Hate Crime

I have now returned safe and sound for my narrow boat holiday which passed off without too many alarms and excursions! Aside from the platform lift breaking down while I was on it and the remote-controlled steering device failing, everything was bliss! It is a real sign of progress, despite these minor irritants, that people in wheelchairs can now seriously contemplate holidays afloat something that simply wasn’t possible when I was younger. What made the experience even more enjoyable was the fact that the towpaths themselves were very accessible and many of the pubs and shops en route were likewise. One downside of this newfound accessibility was the fact that I was able to get into a pub to watch the dismal England football team draw against the USA, which was a sign of things to come! Enough of this and I hope what follows is of interest. As always drop me a line if you think I can help.
Government to review impact of welfare reforms

The government has ordered a review of how its package of welfare reforms will affect disabled people.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith announced the “strategic review” following growing anger among disabled people at repeated government references to the need to cut spending on disability benefits, as well as concerns about other welfare reforms and threatened cuts to public spending.

Duncan Smith claimed he had ordered the review because he was “committed to ensuring that disabled people and carers receive the support that they deserve”.

The review will look at the impact of scrapping Labour’s employment support programmes and replacing them with a single work programme, as well as reforms around incapacity benefits and disability living allowance, among other measures.

The review was announced during the final day of the budget debate – although it was not publicised by the government – and will be carried out by the Conservative minister for disabled people, Maria Miller.

Duncan Smith said Miller would take a “principled look” at the support provided for disabled people, “to ensure that the effect of all the measures is appropriate and that they work”.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said afterwards: “The secretary of state has asked the minister for disabled people to conduct a strategic review of how proposed welfare reforms will impact on disabled people and carers as a key part of her role.

“She will maintain an ongoing dialogue with the secretary of state on this moving forward to ensure that the interests of disabled people are looked after as we make fundamental reforms to the welfare system.”

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance (DA), welcomed the announcement. He said DA had called for such a review in its response to last week’s emergency budget.

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said she hoped the review would be “serious” and that disabled people’s organisations would be able “to make it clear how damaging the impact of these changes threaten to be”.
Conservatives attack DLA spending – again

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has launched another government attack on disability living allowance (DLA), claiming that spending on the key disability benefit had “spiralled out of control”.

Duncan Smith told MPs during the final day of the budget debate that the DLA system had been “vulnerable to error, abuse and, in some cases, outright fraud”.

His comments followed last week’s comments about spending on DLA – using similar language – in George Osborne’s budget statement.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show spending on DLA has risen in real terms from £6.7 billion in 1997/98 to an estimated £11.7 billion in 2009/10.

DWP figures also show that estimated DLA fraud for 2009/10 was £60 million, just 0.5 per cent of the money spent on DLA.

Estimated incapacity benefit (IB) fraud was also just 0.5 per cent, or £30 million.

These figures compare with far higher levels of fraud among claimants of income support (2.8 per cent, £240 million), jobseeker’s allowance (2.5 per cent, £120 million) and carer’s allowance (3.9 per cent, £60 million).

Duncan Smith also confirmed that the government would implement new rules agreed by MPs last year, which will allow severely visually-impaired people to claim the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA, instead of the lower rate.

The new rules will come into effect in April 2011 and should mean an extra £30.90 a week for about 22,000 people.

Later in the debate, Conservative MP Stewart Jackson complained that 6,000 of his constituents “languish” on DLA, and “most shockingly, more than 1,000 of them languished on that particular benefit for more than 12 years”.

Maria Eagle, Labour’s former disabled people’s minister, said: “People who work receive DLA. It is not a benefit that one languishes upon. It is a recognition from society that disabled people need a little extra support to enable them to participate in life.”

She said the introduction of a new medical test for those on DLA “looks like harassment”, and appeared to be a way of cutting the number of people on DLA by a fifth in order to save money.

Following the debate, Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said the government had clearly been trying to condition people, including MPs, to accept that cuts to the IB and DLA budgets were “unavoidable” and “necessary”, when they were not.
Briefing throws incapacity benefit plans into confusion

The coalition’s welfare plans have been thrown into confusion after two government departments appeared to be delivering contrasting messages about the speed of its reforms.

The chancellor, George Osborne, told reporters that he wanted to reduce spending on benefits such as housing benefit and incapacity benefit (IB), and its replacement, employment and support allowance, in order to avoid cuts in other government departments.

But several national newspapers also reported that the chancellor wanted to speed up the process of reassessing all those still claiming old-style IB.

The coalition government announced last month that it would reassess a small number of people claiming IB through a “small trial”, starting this October. The trial will take place in Burnley and Aberdeen.

A “national reassessment programme” will run from spring 2011 to March 2014, with the first letters likely to be sent out to disabled people next February.

This is likely to mean about 10,000 people on IB every week being reassessed through the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA), usually at the time their benefit review is due.

A Treasury spokesman said he could not confirm or deny who briefed journalists about the chancellor’s wish to speed up this process.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman denied any plans to speed up reassessment, and said: “There have not been any changes from our end. We are not moving from 10,000 a week.”

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said the continuing uncertainty following a string of welfare reform announcements was “extremely unhealthy and unhelpful”, while the government could still speed up the process at a future date.

But he said the key problem was not with the speed of the scheme, but with the need to ensure the system “gets things right”. He said: “The problem is the assessment. The assessment is not effective.”

Employment minister Chris Grayling this week announced changes to the WCA, which will mean fewer people with severe mental health conditions and all those waiting for or between courses of chemotherapy no longer being asked to attend a WCA.

Coyle welcomed the changes and said they could ease the problems in the system, and cut costs.

Grayling also said that an independent review of the WCA – headed by occupational health expert Professor Malcolm Harrington – would be completed by the end of 2010.
New Scottish law is step on road to better access to pubs

A new law which could improve access to pubs and clubs in Scotland has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The law will force bars to provide details of their access when applying for new licences or major changes to their licensing conditions.

Local councils will publish the statements on their websites, so disabled people can check out access at a pub or club before they visit.

The new law was included as an amendment to the criminal justice and licensing (Scotland) bill, which was passed by the Scottish parliament this week.

The amendment was lodged by MSP George Foulkes, who took up the issue after being approached by wheelchair-user Mark Cooper, from Edinburgh.

Cooper launched a successful Facebook campaign for better access – Barred! – after being told by an Edinburgh pub that it had no accessible toilet, even though it had level access.

Cooper’s campaign was taken up and expanded by the disability charity Capability Scotland, which now employs him as a parliamentary and policy officer.

Cooper said he was “delighted” that campaigners’ hard work had paid off, and said the new law would ensure that “disabled people can make informed choices about where they go to socialise”.

He added: “I think it will make a tremendous difference because it will allow disabled people to plan and enjoy a night out and not have to figure out the barriers that could occur.”

Jim Elder-Woodward, convenor of Independent Living in Scotland, a disabled people’s organisation set up to develop the independent living movement in Scotland, praised the Barred! campaign but said the new law was “only a start” towards making it easier for disabled and non-disabled people to meet and relate to one another.

He said pubs and bars had been “central to the British way of socialising for generations” but “for many disabled people, they have been no-man’s land”.

He said: “The inaccessibility of most bars and pubs has cut off vital resources in disabled people’s attempts to integrate and participate in their local communities.

“Irrespective of the amount of time spent in sharing work or educational experiences, it is only by sharing social time with non-disabled people, that the real barriers between them and disabled people can come tumbling down.”
Stevie Wonder’s Glastonbury access plea

Soul legend Stevie Wonder has delivered a plea to “make the world more accessible”, at the end of his headlining appearance at the Glastonbury music festival.

The singer-songwriter, who is blind, had performed some of his classic hits, including Higher Ground, Superstition and Happy Birthday, in front of an estimated crowd of 100,000 people on the final day of the festival.

But as he finished his set, he appealed to the crowd to “encourage the world to make the world more accessible for those who are physically challenged”.

To a roar of approval from the crowd, he added: “Make it more accessible. Let there be nowhere that I cannot go being blind, or one cannot go being deaf, or someone cannot go being paraplegic or quadriplegic.

“Make it accessible so that we can celebrate the world as well as you can.”

The musician has a long track record of campaigning on civil and human rights issues, and raising funds for disability and other causes.

Elsewhere at the festival, Attitude is Everything (AIE), which campaigns for better access to live music for disabled people, showcased several Deaf and disabled musicians and DJs on one of the open air stages.

Performers included Bug Prentice and La Rebla Fam, both of which have disabled band members, and Deaf Rave DJs MC Geezer, DJ Inigo and DJ Ceri.

Other disabled musicians who appeared at the festival included the Congolese band Staff Benda Bilili and Mystery Jets, whose frontman Blaine Harrison is disabled.

AIE also provided 10 Deaf and disabled stewards to assist disabled festival-goers on the accessible campsite and on the viewing platforms.

Suzanne Bull, chief executive of AIE, said it was too early to evaluate access at this year’s festival, but she added: “Glastonbury work very hard to do the best that they can. They are open to the suggestions and feedback and evaluation that we give them.”

She pointed to notices written by festival founder Michael Eavis on the doors of the accessible toilets, asking non-disabled people not to use them.

She said: “What is changing is that they are asking the question now instead of us bringing it up.”

She added: “They are not just talking about [disabled] audiences anymore, they are talking about artists, too.”
Government’s benefits bashing ‘could lead to hate crime’

Activists have warned that repeated government references to the need to slash the disability benefits bill could lead to a rise in disability hate crime.

The government is making it increasingly clear that the more money it can save from its benefits bill, the less it will have to cut from other areas of spending.

Speaking to journalists at the G20 summit in Canada, the chancellor, George Osborne, highlighted incapacity benefit and housing benefit as two large budgets that the government wanted to cut.

The comments followed his emergency budget, in which he stressed the cost of spending on disability living allowance (DLA).

Anne Novis, a leading national campaigner on disability hate crime, said she was “appalled and dismayed” at the government’s “targeted hostility” towards disabled people.

She said: “The ignorance around what DLA is and how it supports disabled people with the recognised extra cost of being a disabled person is perpetuating a myth that disabled people have it easy, get everything free and have an easy life.

“It reinforces the attitude that some have towards us that we are a burden on the state and should be got rid of or marginalised into more poverty by such extreme measures.”

Novis said the government appeared to have no understanding of the importance of DLA to disabled people and how crucial it was in promoting independent living.

She said disabled people were experiencing increasing physical and verbal assaults “due to everyone believing the myth perpetuated by many MPs and ministers that disability and sickness fraud is extremely high, when this is not the case”.

DWP figures show that estimated DLA fraud for 2009/10 was £60 million, just 0.5 per cent of the money spent on DLA. Estimated incapacity benefit (IB) fraud was also just 0.5 per cent, or £30 million.

These figures compare with far higher levels of fraud among claimants of income support (2.8 per cent, £240 million), jobseeker’s allowance (2.5 per cent, £120 million) and carer’s allowance (3.9 per cent, £60 million).

Stephen Brookes, joint chair of the disabled members’ council of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and another leading anti-hate crime campaigner, emailed NUJ colleagues this week to say he was becoming “deeply concerned” at the growing numbers of “sensational headlines and stories about disability ‘scroungers’ and ‘benefit cheats’”.

He said the government was spreading the message that “if only they can stop ‘disabled benefits cheats’ then other cuts won’t have to be so bad”.

Brookes warned that such stories could create a “serious discriminatory attitude which will clearly lead to abuse of disabled people”.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com