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Hand Cycling Has Given Me My Freedom Back Edited from
When Neil Russell discovered hand bikes, he felt like he had found a way of getting his "freedom and independence back". The 36-year-old was born with spina bifida and walked with a bad limp until he had his right leg removed below the knee at the age of eighteen.

Spina bifida is when a baby's spine and spinal cord does not develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine. Most people with spina bifida are able to have surgery to close the opening in the spine. But the nervous system will usually already have been damaged, which can lead to problems such as:

  • weakness or total paralysis of the legs
  • bowel incontinence and urinary incontinence
  • loss of skin sensation in the legs and around the bottom - the child is unable to feel hot or cold, which can lead to accidental injury

Neil, who was born in Fife but now lives in Stirling, had to undergo surgery on many occasions while he was growing up. One of his legs was shorter than the other, and the sores and infections from the operations caused him a lot of pain. "Most people don't have their leg amputated, but I wanted to so I spoke to my family to get their opinion. The Edinburgh University graduate had a kidney removed when he was twenty-one, and had a heart attack five years ago.

Neil first encountered handcycling when a friend asked him to take part in a paratriathlon. "You can't buy them here, you have to get them from America. I tried one and loved it, and thought where can it take me, what can I do with this? I felt emotional."

He bought a bike and started riding around Edinburgh, but found it was "scary" because he was so low to the ground in heavy traffic and lorries could not see him. Neil then discovered off-road handcycles and started practising on the trails near his house. He holds on to levers and powers them using his arms to turn the chain, which propels the bike forward.

He believes that his journey around Scotland will be the first of its kind. After handcycling across to the west of the country, he will visit Arran before cycling up the west coast to the Outer Hebrides. He will then travel along the top of Scotland and on to Orkney and Shetland, then back down the east coast to Edinburgh.

Neil will be supported by his girlfriend, Jess Paul, 34, who will follow him in a van - although in some sections he will be on his own.

Neil, who uses a wheelchair when he is not riding his bike, said mobility would be his biggest challenge. During the journey he will be pulling a trailer and will sometimes have to carry his wheelchair. He will also be carrying a prothesis so he can travel very short distances when he is not on his bike, although this causes him pain.

He said: "I want to show that with a bit of time and planning and 'go for it' attitude you can do it. I want to inspire others to get out and do whatever adventure they dream of, even if it's not the same type of one as me. I was never that person who sat there feeling sorry for myself or depressed. I've always had the mindset where I think that looks fun how do I find a way to make it happen, I've problem-solved and adapted." And he added: "I've always wanted to go around Scotland but driving you miss a lot.

Ballet Dancer Joe Powell-Main Seen As 'Wrong Type' – Edited from
Despite being Wales' first professional ballet dancer with a disability, Joe Powell-Main has faced some judgements. The 23-year-old has returned to dance from injury and uses his wheelchair and crutches to perform. He said it should be easier for others like him to enter the profession in future.

Joe, who is from Newtown in Powys, has danced since he was a child. But while he was training at the Royal Ballet as a teenager he suffered a series of injuries, leaving him with long-term damage to his left leg. The injuries left him depressed as dancing had been his world since he was a child. After three years he wanted to start dancing again, but found it difficult to be accepted in the ballet world.

"I've had people making snap judgements and be like: 'You're in a wheelchair, you use crutches, so how are you going to be able to do dance?'," he said. "It can be quite difficult to navigate." He said his movements don't necessarily conform to the strict rules of what people should expect, but that does not mean it is not ballet. "Sometimes it doesn't look like conventional ballet - people in point shoes, legs up by their ears... but there needs to be a willingness to look beyond that and see that its different," he said.

"What I'm still doing is ballet, I'm just sitting down or I'm using my chair or I'm using my crutches to assist me to be able to do things, just in a different way. I think if people can look beyond that and see that there's something there that you know, that can be taken forward and hopefully there will be more dancers like me."

The 23-year-old refers to himself as "differently abled" rather than disabled because he said it "adds a stigma that people think: 'Oh, well you can only do this'". Joe believes he is the first such dancer to have a professional contract with a ballet company. But he said it has been a difficult journey and he wants opportunities widened for others. "For me to be able to get the balletic movement again, even though it was in my wheelchair, spurred me on - I was like right there's no one else like me so I need to crack this for other people as well. Even now it can be quite difficult to navigate, but I think unfortunately that comes with the territory and if change is to happen, that is something I need to go through, for me and everyone coming after me as well."

He's twice been UK para-dance champion performing with his sister, and also performed with the Royal Ballet at the homecoming event for the Paralympics in September. Joe has also just completed a UK tour of Giselle with Ballet Cymru, a Newport based company which wants to change perceptions of ballet.

Its artistic director, Darius James, said the ballet world needs to change and see it as a "beautiful diverse ballet" as the dance was 80 years ago. "I would ask [people] to come and see Joe on stage and our entire company on stage and look at the diversity and see that it actually is ballet that if you take it back to the roots of ballet," he said.

Ballet Cymru also has a programme to encourage young people from more diverse backgrounds into ballet. Amy Doughty, who organises the project, said it is so those with different levels of physical ability, less affluent backgrounds and different body shapes all feel ballet is for them. "It's about talent and we know that talent is everywhere and we only see such a small proportion of that talent because historically it’s only been accessed by a small group of people," she said.

Strictly Come Dancing Inspires Deaf Signing Course For Teens – Edited from
A charity that supports deaf people is to run a sign language course for teenagers after this year's Strictly Come Dancing series sparked lots of interest.

EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis is the first deaf contestant in the BBC programme's history. Deafconnect in Northampton said interest in how the actor communicates had led to lots of inquiries. It said it had given them the impetus to put on a course for young people.

Chief executive officer, Jenny Dawkins, said the casting of deaf actor Lauren Ridloff as superhero Makkari in Marvel Studios' Eternals film had also raised awareness. "We have wanted to do [this course] for a long time but this has kind of pushed us," she said. "Now is the time because it's what everyone is talking about."

Ayling-Ellis and her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice have been praised throughout the series but last week, they paid particular tribute to the deaf community, while dancing to music by Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson. Halfway through, the music cut out as the pair danced on, in order to show people what a deaf person's world was like.

The charity said Ayling-Ellis had given people an "amazing insight into life as a deaf person". Ms Dawkins said it was "fantastic proof that a deaf person can do anything they want to do. Not all deaf people can now dance, but our aim is to give all deaf people a chance to be fully included if they want to do something," she said.

She said they had wanted to run a course for teenagers for a while, as affiliated British Sign Language (BSL) courses are not really aimed at young people. Plus, deaf children were now encouraged to go to mainstream schools and the pupils want to communicate with each other.

The charity's six-week after school course for 11 to 18-year-olds covers a lot of the basics and, while it was not a qualification, it acted as a taster for the affiliated sessions. Ms Dawkins said there was a lot of interest in the class, which starts in January, and there they would have to start a waiting list or put on another class.


18:18, 26 Dec 2021 by Lesley Windle

Message for DRUK CEO
2021 has been an extremely difficult year for many Disabled people.

Our lives have continued to be dominated by COVID and its devastating consequences. We are acutely conscious of the high number of deaths of Disabled people, the risk that COVID poses to those of us who are clinically vulnerable, and that many of us still have to live on insufficient income, live in inaccessible housing and receive little or inadequate support to live independent lives.

We continue to speak out strongly on these issues to Government, Parliament, businesses and the media. We have worked closely with Disabled People’s Organisations and allies to build strong alliances and to connect Disabled people to information, advice and support.

Despite the challenges we face at every turn, we are building a movement for change which is strengthening and growing. Disabled People’s Organisations are coming together to create a louder, unified campaigning voice. Disabled individuals are challenging breaches of the Equality Act across the country and in the courts. Disabled people are supporting each other. Disabled people in sport, business, the arts and media are becoming increasingly more visible and influential. Every day, millions of Disabled people find the courage, ingenuity and determination to overcome barriers and to contribute to society. What we do is impressive.

We still face many obstacles before society truly recognises, values and includes us. But we are relentless. We are dynamic. We are innovative. We are building a movement for change – the changes we all want to see in society, where we have full equity of access to all areas of life. Disability Rights UK is determined to play a full and front-facing role in this movement. As we come to the end of this year, we want you to know that we will be entering the new one with determination and our ongoing commitment to upholding the rights of all Disabled people. We wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Christmas and a more hopeful New Year.

Kamran Mallick CEO DRUK

DR UK/CII Vaccine Survey
DR UK and Chronic Illness Inclusion would like to know about your experience of COVID vaccines. Are you unable to receive a vaccine for medical reasons? Has an adverse reaction to a COVID vaccine meant that you cannot receive your full allocation of COVID vaccines? Take our survey here. It should take around one minute to complete.

RNIB E-Scooter Petition
Next year the UK government will decide whether to legalise e-scooters, following the results of the trials that are taking place in England. 

We know that illegal e-scooter use can have a dramatic and serious impact on people with disabilities, especially those with sight loss and we need decision makers to know that getting the law right is important for all of us.  The RNIB has launched a new petition asking the Prime Minister to make sure that safety is at the heart of any new law that is decided. We also want clear information for the public on the illegal use of e-scooters, given that recent research shows that nearly two thirds of people don’t understand the law. You can sign the petition here.

Power, Water And Scope Utilities Partnership
Gas distribution company SGN, UK Power Networks and Anglian Water have come together in a cross-utility partnership with Scope to help Disabled customers manage their utility bills. Over this autumn and winter, Disabled customers of each of the companies will be provided with details of disability equality charity Scope’s free advice helpline offering support to those living with disabilities who need help managing their energy and water requirements.

The partnership is focusing on helping those who are worried about energy or water bills and need advice. It’s also aimed at Disabled customers who are struggling to top up their pre-payment meter or are experiencing barriers in accessing grants or other support already available to them. The helpline, which is known as ‘Disability Energy Support (DES) with Water Advice’ is open to any Disabled person or household in England and Wales where one or more Disabled people live.  Find out more about the DES here.

Disability Blue Plaques
English Heritage is exploring the stories of historical figures with both visible and hidden impairments, and considering the impacts disability had on their lives.

Find out more about Disabled people with blue plaques here.

DR UK: Government Must Re-Introduce Covid Protections For Disabled People
Disability Rights UK is calling on the Health Secretary Sajid Javid to reintroduce protection for clinically vulnerable people, and those who are medically exempt from vaccinations, as the country moves from Covid alert level 3 to level 4.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “We cannot stress enough how abandoned clinically vulnerable people feel and the urgent need to put effective protection and support measures in place. When all support was removed from 3.8 million Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people earlier this year, it was done within the context of the virus being in retreat, due to the successful roll out of the vaccination programme. CEV people were asked to manage their own risk. The evidence shows that this approach is no longer tenable, due to the greatly increased chance of being infected by the Omicron strain of the virus. In addition, there is a significant minority of people with chronic illness unable to minimise the impact of the virus by taking up vaccinations, due to the devastating consequences the jab has on their health.

“We are asking the Secretary of State to urgently review his decision not to introduce new measures to protect and support people who are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19.”

DR UK is asking Government to rapidly implement the following measures:

  • For the NHS to identify all clinically vulnerable people and provide them with personalised medical advice and support.
  • For Local Authorities to provide personalised support to clinically vulnerable people.
  • For arrangements to facilitate the delivery of food and medicines to be put in place for clinically vulnerable people.
  • For employment protection and sick pay to ensure that clinically vulnerable workers are able to shield and not attend the workplace.
  • For a telephone helpline to be set up for people who are clinically vulnerable, that signposts and links people to health and community support.

DR UK/CII Energy Limiting Conditions Survey Shows Huge Impacts On Daily Living
Four in five people with Energy Limiting Conditions face barriers to education, healthcare, work, income security, getting out and socialising with friends and family and over 90% have been accused of ‘not looking Disabled’ according to new research from Chronic Illness Inclusion (CII) and Disability Rights UK (DR UK).

A survey of 1,710 people with Energy Limiting Conditions clearly shows that many of the barriers are unique to this group. One in three of the 14 million Disabled people in the UK lives with an Energy Limiting Condition, along with a further 1.1 million people dealing with Long Covid (a condition defined by symptoms lingering for longer than four weeks).

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “Until we pay more attention to Disabled people’s lived experience of impairment, rather than their diagnostic label, those with Energy Limiting Conditions will remain invisible, marginalised and neglected as a group.  “The tragic emergence of Long Covid as an enduring legacy of the pandemic makes the case for action even more urgent. We must now act together, with stakeholders from various Energy Limiting Condition communities alongside disability rights experts, to strengthen and deliver rights and support for people with energy limiting conditions so they are not left behind.” Read the full Energy Limiting Conditions report here.

Councils Waste Millions Fighting Parents At SEND Tribunals
Research by Special Needs Jungle(SNJ) shows that Local Authorities have spent nearly a quarter of a billion pounds fighting parents at SEND tribunals since 2014.

The research has been undertaken as Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service releases its set of annual figures about the work of the Special Educational Needs and Disability First Tier Tribunal (SENDIST) – a tribunal where individual families can appeal against a range of local authority SEND decisions concerning Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Families can also go to SENDIST to appeal against particular types of disability discrimination.

SNJ estimates that Local Authorities collectively allocated around £60m of their resources towards defending SENDIST appeals in 2020-21.  SENDIST panels upheld local authority decisions in 168 of 4,825 hearings in 2020-21 – an LA success rate of 3.6%  – the worst on record. Across the seven full academic years since the SEND reforms became law, SENDIST panel hearings have upheld just 7% of local authority decisions.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “We totally agree with SNJ when it says that families are not ‘winning’ at tribunal. Families are having to endure a brutal, drawn out, labour intensive process to fight for what they are legally entitled to – the same right to an appropriate education that families of children without SEND are given as standard. The figures speak for themselves. The SEND process is not fit for purpose and needs an urgent overhaul, where the needs of children and families are put front and centre, and the fight that so many parents have to put up is consigned to history.”

Care Home Residents Allowed Three Visitors Over Christmas
The Department of Health has introduced new safety measures for care home residents which only allow three visitors and a designated carer "to balance the current Covid-19 risk and the need to keep people safe".

Staff will have to take three lateral flow tests a week as well as a weekly PCR test under the new guidance.

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid said more booster jabs and fewer care home visitors "will help keep the most vulnerable people in our society safe from the virus this winter". It is unclear whether visitors will have to visit separately or be allowed to visit together. Care homes will be expected to close to visitors if a case of the Omicron COVID variant is detected. Fully vaccinated residents visiting family and friends outside of care homes will need to take a lateral flow test on alternate days for two weeks after each visit. Unvaccinated residents will have to isolate following an outside visit.

Dr Lisa Cameron MP Leads Debate On United Nations Day Of Persons With Disabilities In The House Of Commons
Change is needed “right at the top” to help increase representation of people with disabilities in politics, Ministers have been told by Dr Lisa Cameron MP for East Kilbride Strathaven and Lesmahagow.

The MP, who chairs the "All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability, led a debate last week marking United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities in the House of Commons, an annual day that seeks to promote the rights and wellbeing of persons with disabilities at every level of society.

Bus User "Ridiculed And Belittled" By Drivers Who Refuse Help Boarding
A woman says she was left feeling "ridiculed and belittled" by a bus driver who refused to let her young Disabled daughter board. Tameika Pieternella often travels by bus in Abbey Wood, London, with her two year-old daughter D'Naiyah, who has brain damage.

Disability Rights UK transport champion Stephen Brookes says: “It is unacceptable that any driver makes a judgement on who should or should not be given assistance to board a bus. In this case, the child who has a severe disability is not being viewed with the same level of concern that Disabled passengers should receive.

Arriva needs to think about its access training and ensure that all disabilities including those with hidden disabilities get fair and equitable treatment on all of its services.”

Disabled Rail Passenger Left “Scared And Vulnerable”
A Disabled rail passenger from Leicester has been left feeling "scared and vulnerable" after recent journeys for which she had booked passenger assisted travel fell apart.

DR UK’s Rail Policy Advisor Stephen Brookes said: “It is essential that rail companies and Passenger Assist staff get their respective communication acts together and work more closely. All too often we hear of journeys which fail Disabled people because while we book the heavily promoted passenger assistance system and try to do our best to travel safely, the differing parts of the rail industry seem unable to work together when trains are busy and disruption occurs.

With the various consultations and aims of the new public body, Great British Railways, to provide better passenger experiences, we call on all parts of the rail sector to work with us in creating a decent service and implementing a Plan B when things go wrong. Disabled people are too frequently left high and dry at such times.”

Care Home Gives Residents Less Than Ten Hours’ Notice Of Closure
A short-staffed care home for people with learning disabilities in Kent gave families less than ten hours’ notice to rehome loved ones, reports

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “It is an almost inevitable outcome that when social care is viewed as a for-profit enterprise rather than a well-funded, basic human right for people too often denied dignity and high quality care, that corners will be cut, staff will refuse to work within a toxic culture for minimum wage, and companies will see people as assets and commodities as things to be ditched quickly like poor performing FTSE stock. What has happened at Berkley House is appalling. The Government must ensure that frameworks are in place to put people, not profit, at the heart of social care solutions.”

Coroners Call For Lessons To Be Learned Over Avoidable Pandemic Deaths
Coroners in England have taken the unusual step of calling for lessons to be learned from failings made by overstretched services during the pandemic.

Details from inquests about avoidable deaths during the pandemic are now starting to emerge. Examples of failures include a woman who missed out on essential mental health care because of Covid cancellations and an older woman in isolation in a care home who fell and died. Such notices are known as reports to prevent future deaths, and are only issued in very rare cases when it is decided that if changes are not made another person could die. At least 16 deaths have alarmed coroners enough for them to issue warnings.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “These reports to prevent future deaths must be considered by the public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. That physically Disabled people and people with mental health conditions failed to receive the support they needed and subsequently died is inexcusable.”

A Quarter Of Autistic Children Wait Over Three Years For School Support
One in four autistic children are left waiting for over three years to receive the support they need at school, leaving families “exhausted and on the edge of crisis”, according to a new report by the National Autistic Society. Three quarters of parents polled by the charity said their child’s school did not fully meet their needs – double the dissatisfaction levels reported four years ago. Parents also said they faced long battles trying to secure the right support for their children, with 57% waiting for more than a year and 26% waiting more than three years.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “There is a national crisis in education support for Disabled children. Time and time again we hear about exhausted families needing to fight tooth and nail to secure the most basic support. It shouldn’t be this hard. The Government must listen, and provide support systems that work and funding that meets need. The Government Green Paper on Special Education Needs and Disability is due to be published next year. Education can either set a child up for life, or, if it is not delivered in a way that meets a child’s specific needs, can ruin a child’s prospects for a lifetime.”

Law Commission Recommends Adding Disability To List Of Hate Crimes
The Law Commission has announced recommendations to reform hate crime legislation to ensure that Disabled victims receive the same protections as those experiencing hate crime due to race or religion. Recommendations  are also made to strengthen the law in relation to hate crimes against women and LGBTQ+ people. 

Hate crime refers to existing criminal offences (such as assault, harassment or criminal damage) where the victim is targeted on the basis of hostility towards one or more protected characteristics.">

Prof Penney Lewis, Criminal Law Commissioner at the Law Commission said:Hate crime has a terrible impact on victims and it's unacceptable that the current levels of protection are so inconsistent. Our recommendations would improve protections for victims while also ensuring that the right of freedom of expression is safeguarded.

DWP Refuses To Publish Report That Found Disabled Claimants Had “Unmet Needs”
The DWP ensured an independent report was watered down after it concluded that claimants of disability benefits had “unmet needs”, according to the Disability News Service (DNS). DNS has been told that DWP made it clear that it did not like the analysis and reporting of Disabled people’s unmet needs and the implications for future spending on benefits.

The DWP has refused to publish the watered-down report, despite promises made to more than 100 Disabled benefit claimants who had agreed to be interviewed that it would be published. The report, “The Uses of Health and Disability Benefits”, was commissioned to feed into DWP’s Green Paper on disability benefits, Shaping Future Support, which was published in July. But the Green Paper made no mention of the report.

Government White Paper Fails To Re-Build The Care System
On Wednesday 1st December, the Minister for Care and Mental Health, Gillian Keegan, made a statement introducing the White Paper on Social Care. The Government ambitions were lofty: Choice and control; personalised care; and fairness. However the White Paper failed to address the fundamental crisis in social care, with 400,000 people waiting for assessment, 11 million unpaid carers and their loved ones being inadequately supported, over 100,000 care staff vacancies and a rapidly shrinking Care Home sector.

To begin to put social care back on track, it is estimated that an additional minimum of £8 billion per year needs to be spent on the system. Currently, Local Authorities are struggling to put sufficient funds into the system and are even trying to close the gap by requiring Disabled people using care services, to pay a higher proportion of their state benefits towards the cost.

The White paper talks about new money for community housing, more funding  for the Disabled Facilities Grant, starting a housing repair service, better use of digital and technology, creating a website, improving qualifications and development for care staff  and piloting new ways of delivering care. In relative terms, the money spent on these initiatives is small.

Fazilet Hadi, Disability Rights UK head of Policy said: “Whilst  some of these measures are welcome, they are definitely icing on the cake, whilst attention to the actual cake itself is missing. The White Paper does almost nothing to support Disabled people in 2021-2022 to receive acceptable and appropriate levels of care. “The disparity between how social care and the NHS are treated, remains markedly unfair. Where money to stem backlogs in elective surgery is found immediately, significant additional funding for social care isn’t even on the radar.”

BBC And Sky Find Over 100 Disabled People Held In Specialist Hospitals For At Least 20 Years
The BBC and Sky News have discovered that more than 100 people with learning disabilities and autism have been held in specialist hospitals and assessment and treatment units for over 20 years.

The figures came to light as the media organisations successfully overcame a court gagging order to highlight the case of Tony Hickmott, who was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2001. He was deemed fit to leave in 2013, but statutory services have been unable to develop a package of care suitable for his needs. According to the BBC, the anonymity order was lifted by a judge, who described the delays in supporting Mr Hickmott to live in the community ‘egregious’ and ‘glacial’. He was found ‘fit to discharge’ in 2013.

The government launched its Transforming Care programme in 2015 in the wake of the abuse and neglect scandal uncovered by the BBC at Winterbourne View specialist hospital near Bristol. But data suggests the initiative has had minimal impact.

Ministers pledged to reduce the number of patients in such hospital settings by 35% by March 2020, with the aim of people being back in their communities with tailored support packages. But, by March last year, there were only 300 fewer patients detained - a reduction of just 13%.

Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK said: “It’s time for the government, local authorities and NHS organisations to stop making excuses about the difficulties of supporting people with complex needs. Instead, they need to act now to divert the hundreds of millions of pounds wasted on incarcerating and torturing disabled people in unsuitable facilities and spend it on targeted, personalised housing, care and health services. Tony Hickmott’s case is the modern scandal of our times and shames us all. There are over 2000 people in similar circumstances. It’s time they all had a place they can call home.” 

ADASS Warns Of Growing Social Care Problems
A new survey from The Association of Directors of Social Services (ADASS) is warning that almost 400,000 disabled and older people are waiting to be assessed, or are due to be reassessed, for social care support. The survey also showed that over 1.5 million hours of home care had not been delivered between August and October because of staff shortages.

The president of ADASS Stephen Chandler said: This survey confirms our worst fears. Red lights are flashing right across our dashboard”. He added that social care services are failing to meet everyone’s needs and called on the government to address staffing issues by funding a £1,000 bonus for social care workers.

Down Syndrome Bill Concerns
The government looks set to pass legislation to support people with Down syndrome after the former cabinet minister, Dr Liam Fox, introduced proposals in the House of Commons.

The new bill says it will place a duty on local authorities to assess the needs of people with Down syndrome. The new proposals have received widespread political endorsement, with health minister Gillian Keegan arguing it would lead to better support for people with Down syndrome.

The legislation is supported by the National Down Syndrome Policy Group and other learning disability organisations, but some campaigners are concerned that the focus on one impairment group (it is estimated that there are around 47,000 people with Down syndrome), may be at the expense of others with learning disabilities, of which there are over a million.

Andrew Lee from People First (Self Advocacy) told the Disability News Service (DNS)that the bill “just singles out a small group of people with learning difficulties…and forgets the rest of us”.

Others point out that the provisions in the bill are already in place for disabled people but need to be better enforced. Disability rights barrister Steve Broach said that the proposed legislation would make little difference, pointing out the government has similar powers under a raft of other legislation, including the Care Act and the Children’s and Families Act. 

Civil Servant Says DWP Wants To Merge PIP And Universal Credit
A DWP civil servant has told a disability charity that the Government plans to merge PIP with Universal Credit, although not for at least six years, Disability News Service has reported. The admission from a DWP civil servant – albeit not a senior executive – is the first time that anyone from the Department has explicitly stated that it has plans to scrap PIP and combine it with Universal Credit.

The comments were made during a presentation about Universal Credit given to the disability organisation DASH in Hillingdon, north-west London, earlier this month.

In advance of the meeting, the DWP partnership adviser had been shown the link to a Disability News Service (DNS) article which reported suggestions that ministers were considering creating a new single benefit through merging PIP and Universal Credit.

He appeared to confirm that when he told the meeting that the Department’s vision was for all benefits to be included in the means tested Universal Credit system, including PIP, which is intended to contribute to the impairment-related costs faced by working-age disabled people. He said DWP was looking at rolling PIP into Universal Credit from 2028 at the earliest, and that the ultimate plan was for there to be just one benefit, Universal Credit.

DR UK Blogger And Reviewer Aurelia Lloyd-Morell Has Won A National Book Review Competition.
Aurelia, who is 11 and autistic, reviewed the Kathryn Erskine book Mockingbird for the summertime book competition.

The book is told from the perspective of an autistic girl whose brother has been killed in an American school shooting. The judges praised Aurelia for her “detailed, insightful and honest” review. Aurelia wins some books for herself, some books for her school, and a class video call with the author MG Leonard.

19:48, 17 Dec 2021 by Lesley Windle

Get boosted now
In light of the Omicron emergency, the Prime Minister has launched the 'Omicron Emergency Boost', a national drive to have everyone aged 18 and over in England given a COVID booster, before the end of the year.

For updates on the eligibility around vaccines or for more information on
COVID-19 Vaccination Centres in Surrey, visit the Surrey Heartlands CCG website.

To book or manage a COVID-19 vaccination or booster, visit the NHS website.

Plan B - measures and guidance
The Prime Minister has confirmed that England has moved to Plan B following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK. These new measures include:

Face masks: it is now a legal requirement to wear a face covering in most indoor settings such as in shops, on public transport, theatres, cinemas, banks, post offices and hairdressers, unless exempt.

Work from home: office workers who can work from home should do so.

NHS COVID Pass: Those aged 18 or over will need to show their NHS COVID Pass at nightclubs, some venues and large events to show they are fully vaccinated, have had a negative test result in the last 48 hours, or have an exemption.

Additional guidance about Plan B is available from GOV.UK.

Rapid lateral flow coronavirus (COVID-19) tests
You can get rapid lateral flow tests if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Picking up tests from a pharmacy is the quickest way to get a rapid test for most people.

If you give the pharmacy a 'collect code' when you pick up the tests, it helps the NHS match your details to the tests. Find out about collect codes and how to get a collect code on GOV.UK.

Only order online if you cannot get a test through other methods. This frees up home delivery for those who need it most.

Surrey Carers’ Flu Jab Voucher
Flu and COVID-19 viruses can be life threatening and have the potential to increase pressures faced by the NHS this winter, particularly if infection waves from both viruses coincide.

Therefore all unpaid carers in Surrey are being encouraged to take up the offer of a free flu vaccination as a priority, not only to protect themselves and the people they care for, but to help reduce hospitalisations during a time that is especially busy for the NHS and social care.

Surrey Carers’ Flu Jab Vouchers are available through:

  • Surrey County Council Adult Social Care
  • Action for Carers Surrey
  • Crossroads Care Surrey
  • Surrey Independent Living Council

Any unpaid carer looking after someone who is elderly or disabled, can ask for a flu jab at their GP practice or they can take a Surrey Carers’ Flu Jab Voucher to their nearest participating community pharmacy.

The Action for Carers Surrey website contains further information about the
Surrey Carers’ Flu Jab Voucher.

GP practices and pharmacies are here to help
GP practices are doing their best to cope with the highest demand on record for Primary Care services, so please encourage residents to be patient.

Additionally, pharmacies can give treatment advice about a range of common conditions and minor illnesses. Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. Find out who is open, and their opening hours over the festive period by visiting the Community Pharmacy website.

A complete guide to conditions, symptoms and treatments, including what to do and when to get help is available on the NHS website.

Pioneering Home Sensors Help People Live Independently For Longer
Hi-tech sensors fitted in everyday objects around the home are enabling older people to live independently for longer as part of a pioneering scheme in Surrey.

The county council teamed up with Mole Valley District Council to trial the use of a revolutionary home monitoring system which can help identify early warning signs of declining health or mobility and help prevent falls.

The trial scheme involving 53 residents in Mole Valley proved so successful at enabling greater independence and providing reassurance to families that the pilot has been extended to two further Surrey areas, Tandridge and Reigate and Banstead.

The findings from the expanded pilot will then help to roll out the technology to other parts of the county and also enable people who fund their own social care to gain access to the system. Self-funders would be able to purchase the devices and a subscription to monitoring services.

To find out more, watch a video about the pilot partnership.

Help Shape The Future Of Dementia Care And Support
The joint health and social care dementia strategy sets out how services will work together to improve the lives of people with dementia, their families and carers. At the heart of the plan is an ambition to create dementia-friendly communities across the county.

Surrey County Council worked with NHS partners to draw up the draft plan, alongside Healthwatch Surrey which surveyed people with dementia and carers about their experiences.

Now a consultation has opened so people living with dementia, their families and staff who work with them, and anyone else who wishes to contribute, can have their say on the priorities outlined in the plan.

Please visit the Surrey Says website to complete the consultation on the draft strategy which closes on 21 January 2022.

Accessible versions of the survey including Easy Read are also available on Surrey Says.

Thriving With Nature Fund Supports Six Projects
Between September and October 2021, Adult Social Care ran the Thriving with Nature Fund, which offered one-off grants to help local community groups start or grow innovative projects which use the great outdoors to support residents in Horley and Stanwell.

Following the close of the fund, Adult Social Care has agreed to fund six excellent projects, all of which will develop accessible nature-based interventions to reduce isolation and loneliness, and improve health and wellbeing. Projects include opening accessible allotment plots, creating sensory walks for a school’s forest walks programme, and a gardening group for 16-30 year olds with disabilities and complex needs.

If you would like to find out more about the projects receiving funding, please contact:

‘Because We All Care’ Campaign Launches In January
January will see the return of the Quality Care Commission’s ‘Because we all care’ campaign.
The campaign aims to support and encourage more people to feedback on health or social care services that they or a loved one have experienced.

Feedback is essential to the NHS and social care but it's even more important than ever now, as services and systems deal with the impacts of the pandemic. People’s experiences of care are fundamental to understanding and improving services.

More information about the Because we all care campaign is available on the CQC website. If you would like to get involved, please email:

Catalyst Mental Health And Wellbeing Drop-In Sessions Open
Catalyst is now offering face to face mental health and wellbeing drop-in sessions in both Staines and Woking. The sessions are taking place as follows:

St Peter’s Church Hall, Staines – every Tuesday, 1.30pm-3pm
Moorcroft Community Centre, Woking – every Thursday, 1.30pm-3pm.
For more information, please contact Catalyst: Telephone: 01276 409415 

Healthwatch Surrey’s Latest Insight Bulletin Published
One of the statutory duties of Healthwatch Surrey is to share the experiences of local people with organisations who make decisions about health and social care services. Healthwatch Surrey’s Insight Bulletins shines a light on some of the themes they have heard about over the past few months.

Healthwatch Surrey’s November 2021 Insight Bulletin focuses on:

  • Praise and thanks across the system
  • Key findings and recommendations from the ‘How people find support in the early years after dementia diagnosis’ report
  • Wound Care – patients left to find their own solutions
  • Telephone consultations – maximising the potential.

Updates From Age UK Surrey Social Impact Report Published
Despite the pandemic, Age UK Surrey’s staff with the assistance of 14 volunteers helped clients to claim £1,654,700 of additional benefits in 2020-2021. Also 1,796 clients were supported by 519 self-employed home helps in the same period.

These and other facts can be found in Age UK Surrey’s Social Impact Report 2020-21. It is now available to download and reflects the work Age UK Surrey has done during this period. 

Age UK Surrey And The Clockhouse Merge
Two local independent charities Age UK Surrey and The Clockhouse merged on 30 November 2021. The merger comes following talks with both charities’ Boards of Trustees on how The Clockhouse can sustainably provide community-based services to Milford and neighbouring villages.

Both charities are dedicated to improving the lives of older people through person-centred services and activities. The merger provides the opportunity to expand community-based services at The Clockhouse.

The Clockhouse will retain its name and operate under Age UK Surrey. Waverley Borough Council will continue to support The Clockhouse through its existing funding contract.

For further information about the merger of Age UK Surrey and The Clockhouse, please visit Age UK Surrey.

Grants Of Up To £10,000 Available For Projects In Need Of Emergency And Crisis Funding This Winter
The Community Foundation is working together with Surrey County Council to award grants to projects across Surrey in need of emergency and crisis funding this winter.

The purpose of the funding is to support an increased number of people facing poverty by strengthening community initiatives, including a focus on activity that helps address the root causes of food poverty.

Applications will be prioritised for projects dealing with urgent issues arising from what is anticipated to be a tough winter, in particular:

Support for organisations tackling the impact of rising costs and falling benefits including crisis provision e.g. measures which improve the sustainability of food banks or increase the ability of debt advisors to provide support.

Support for organisations that tackle the root causes of poverty.

Priority will also be given to initiatives that support those parts of the community that may have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Applicants can apply for a grant using the Expression of Interest Form. Further information about the available grants is available on Community Foundation for Surrey.

If you have any queries, please email:

Surrey Downs Better Care Funding (BCF) Grant Programme Launched
The Mid-Surrey Local Joint Commissioning Group (LJCG) recently gave approval for a Better Care Fund Grant Programme to support the LJCG in their desire to develop a transparent process for using small grants to address community solutions.

The fund is for Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector organisations who support people resident or registered with a GP in Epsom and Ewell, Mole Valley, Banstead and East Elmbridge. It will fund existing schemes which wish to increase or add to the service already funded, or new schemes or pilot projects related to the outcomes framework detailed within the application documents.

Applications can be made for a maximum of up to £50,000 and the deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday 3 January 2022.

For further information and application details for Surrey Downs Better Care Fund Grant, please visit Healthy Surrey.

Winter advice
For information about keeping safe and well this winter, please visit the Surrey County Council website.

19:45, 17 Dec 2021 by Lesley Windle


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