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Archived News 2020 - COVID Specials
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Disability Rights UK - News in Brief
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Government’s National Disability Strategy ‘Disappointingly Thin'
Reacting to the publication of the Government’s National Strategy for Disabled People, Disability Rights UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “Disabled people have been waiting a long time for a Strategy that has meat on its bones. “Despite being 121 pages long, the Strategy is disappointingly thin on immediate actions, medium-term plans and the details of longer term investment.

The Strategy has insufficient concrete measures to address the current inequalities that Disabled people experience in living standards and life chances. “There are scant plans and timescales on how to bring about vastly needed improvements to benefits, housing, social care, jobs, education, transport, and equitable access to wider society. “While we welcome the Government’s recognition that Disabled people are much less likely than non-disabled people to have a job, qualifications, to own a home, or to live in an accessible home, we haven’t been given the bold plans that will fix these huge issues. “A vision is not enough. Admitting change won’t happen ‘overnight’ isn’t enough. We need radical plans, timescales, and deep financial investment to make change a reality.

Government speaks of building back better, but Disabled people’s lives have yet to be given the first set of strong foundations on which to build anything at all. Government talks about levelling up, and a week after we saw some of the world’s richest men blast into space, we are waiting to see the Government put a rocket up its disability policy. “We hope that now Government has laid out the stark inequalities facing Disabled people in its Strategy, it will deliver the money and engage with Disabled people’s expertise to make things happen soon.

Dr Lisa Cameron, Chair of the APPG on Disability, for which DR UK is the Secretariat, said that the strategy “falls short and has a long way to go to ensure it lives up to this promise."

The Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said that he hopes the strategy will be seen as a “first step” and will be reviewed annually going forward. Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the vast amount of difficulties Disabled people face.

Read Kamran Mallick’s blog about the Strategy https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60879&qid=9759273

Deaf Woman Wins Discrimination Case Against Government
Katie Rowley has won a legal case against the Government after a judge found that a lack of sign language interpreters at two televised Covid briefings "served to disempower, to frustrate and to marginalise".

The Government denied breaching the Equality Act to make broadcasts accessible to D/deaf people. Mr Justice Fordham ruled that the lack of provision amounted to discrimination.

Ms Rowley argued that being unable to access the official information had caused her stress and affected her wellbeing.

The judge said: "The lack of provision - the provision of subtitles only - was a failure of inclusion, suggestive of not being thought about, which served to disempower, to frustrate and to marginalise."

Ms Rowley will be awarded damages.

Disability Employment Gap ‘Worse’ Since Covid
The Labour Anneliese Dodds MP has described how Disabled people are more likely to be furloughed or be given reduced work hours. Speaking at Nuneaton Signs in Warwickshire, she said: "We’re saying to the Government: ‘You’ve got to take action here. People want to be able to work." The Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson said the government has "delivered record disability employment… even during the unprecedented challenge [of Covid”]… and that “the disability employment gap has closed further".

DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “Even when we are in employment, Disabled people face much more discrimination. There are around 30% less Disabled people in work than non-disabled people. The Government needs to stop tinkering around the edges of statistics and make meaningful changes for Disabled people to have true equity when it comes to employment.”

DWP Concedes Legal Challenge By Couple Who Lost Almost £10,000 By Claiming Universal Credit
A couple who lost £10,000 on transferring to Universal Credit (UC) are to receive full compensation for their past and future loss, following a successful judicial review.

Mary Deadman and John Ryan claimed UC in 2019, after a relative mistakenly told them they had to. They proved to be much worse off under UC.

They should have been protected against being transferred to UC, on account of being entitled to a severe disability premium (SDP). But DWP excluded them from that protection, because they were not receiving the SDP at the date they made their UC claim, even though it was later reinstated to cover that date.

The sudden loss of income caused Mary and John significant hardship, which was particularly difficult for them to cope with because John is terminally ill.

Garden Court Chambers said: “This case may be important for anyone who lost money on transferring to UC between January 2019 and January 2021 and who was entitled to an SDP at the date of transfer, even if that entitlement was only decided afterwards.

A person in that position should seek legal advice on whether they too would have grounds for judicial review.” https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60881&qid=9759273

Ex-Health Minister Denies Responsibility For Contaminated Blood Scandal
Lord Clarke has told an Inquiry he was "not responsible" for blood products which were found to be contaminated during his time as Health Minister.

Around 3,000 people, many Disabled, died after being given blood products infected with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s.

Lord Clarke was the Health Minister between 1982 and 1985. He said information about the scandal "hardly ever came across my desk".

He went on: "As the tragedy with the haemophiliacs developed, I was aware it was there… From time to time, usually on my own instigation, I got on the edge of it… I did not call meetings on it… I was never the Minister directly responsible for blood products… I was never asked to take a decision on blood products… I never intervened to take a decision on blood products… I did intervene or get involved in discussions a bit when I wanted to be reassured… "When I arrived, the idea that blood products was a very big part of the department's activity is simply not true."  He said it was not the job of ministers to intervene or impose a personal decision on what treatments patients were given.  The Inquiry continues.

Four In Ten Banks Fail Disabled Customers, Says Which?
Banks are failing to support their Disabled customers as widespread branch closures and the shift to online banking make it increasingly difficult for them to access cash and vital everyday financial services, Which? research has found.

The consumer champion surveyed nearly 1,500 Disabled banking customers about their experiences. Despite some banks being highly rated by customers, Which? identified issues with accessibility of branches and ATMs, poor communication from banks and a lack of tailored assistance.

Branches can be a lifeline for many Disabled customers, but the widespread closure of bank branches across the UK appears to be significantly impacting Disabled consumers. By the end of 2021, almost 4,300 UK branches will have closed since 2015, a 44% cut in the network.

The regulator has said that it will now be reviewing its guidance for banks on branch closures and how it can be strengthened to protect reasonable access to cash and banking services. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60885&qid=9759273

Disabled Graduates’ Job Prospects Dented By COVID – AGCAS Report
New research from Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and the University of Southampton has identified significant differences in the experiences of recent graduates, based on whether they have a disability.

Graduates without disabilities are more likely to be in full time or part time employment (73%) than graduates with disabilities (40%). Graduates with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed (20.5%) than graduates without disabilities (15%) or be volunteering or undertaking unpaid work (6% compared to 2% for graduates without disabilities).

Graduates with disabilities have found it more difficult to find graduate jobs they want to apply for since the start of the pandemic, are significantly more likely to have their long-term employment outlook affected by Covid-19 and to feel that their job prospects have been damaged by the pandemic compared to graduates without disabilities.

When asked about their professional contacts, networking abilities and relationships with friends and family, Disabled graduates were significantly less confident in all aspects of their social capital in comparison to graduates without disabilities.

There is more that employers can do to support Disabled graduates. Graduates with disabilities are more likely to find the recruitment process challenging (66%) in comparison to graduates without disabilities (63%) and are statistically less likely to report that they have felt supported by employers since March 2020 than graduates without disabilities.

The report recommends that employers ask candidates whether they require reasonable adjustments, adjust recruitment processes accordingly and provide structured support and mentoring for Disabled graduates who may find the transition into employment more challenging. Read the report https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60887&qid=9759273

Motorway Services Access Guide Launched
Highways England has launched a series of motorway services access guides with AccessAble. The guides are designed to take the guesswork out of planning a journey, giving Disabled people the information they need about facilities along their route. Covering parking, toilets, petrol stations, shops and restaurants, the guides cover all aspects of accessibility to help plan where to take a break with confidence, and include ‘virtual guides’ so you can view the accessibility features for yourself from the comfort of your own home. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60888&qid=9759273

Inaccessible Rolling Stock Still On The Rails
The Government is still issuing dispensation letters to train operating companies allowing them to use non-accessible rolling stock. On 6 June 2013 the Department for Transport issued a statement that by January 1 2020 all rail vehicles must be accessible. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60889&qid=9759273

DR UK Transport Ambassador Stephen Brookes said: “It is crystal clear to see that over the past eight years the industry has failed to comply, and despite the clear cut off date, Disabled people have been forced to have to accept a raft of extensions and dispensation requests. This is of great concern and we will be writing to the Minister for clarification that there should be no more of these dispensations granted. It is particularly galling that these dispensations are still being granted despite the launch of the Government’s National Disability Strategy.”

Blue Badge Offence Notices Top 175,000
Research published this week reveals that councils issued 175,000 Blue Badge penalty notices to motorists last year, with Milton Keynes named the worst offending location outside London. The research collected and analysed Freedom of Information requests to councils around the UK, revealing the areas with the highest number of Blue Badge offences. A Blue Badge offence includes the use of an invalid badge, the use of a badge by an unauthorised person, the use of a lost or stolen badge and parking in a Disabled space without clearly displaying a Blue Badge.
DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Motorists need to understand that the Blue Badge scheme is not a luxury for Disabled people: for many it is an essential tool to living a full live by travelling to work, visiting shops  or socialising with friends and family. Some councils are clearly giving a high priority to enforcing the rules around the scheme and we would urge all other councils to follow their lead.”
You can view the full research https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60935&qid=9780335

Joel Kempson, car insurance expert at Uswitch.com which carried out the research,said: "The Blue Badge scheme was introduced by the Government to help those with mobility issues park close to where they need to go. "Drivers who abuse the Blue Badge policy could face a fine of up to £1,000. Yet despite the risk of hefty penalties, it's clear the law is disregarded by many motorists risking large fines to park for free or closer to their destination.”

Councils Invited To Bid For ‘Changing Places Toilets’ Funding
Councils in England can apply for a share of £30m funding to install Changing Places Toilets in places such as parks, transport networks, shopping centres and tourist attractions.
There are currently around 1,200 registered Changing Places Toilets in England. They are larger accessible toilets for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets, with equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches, and space for carers. 

Ministers say that the scheme will allow many more people – particularly some Disabled people and people with long term health conditions – to take part in more recreational activities with dignity, confidence, and freedom. Ministerial Disability Champion Eddie Hughes MP said: "Where people shop, go out, or travel should not be determined by their disability. That's why the provision of Changing Places Toilets is so important for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets.”

Muscular Dystrophy UK, co-chairs of the Changing Places Consortium, will be providing specialist expertise to support local councils who secure funding.

Standards Body Promises New Safety Rules on Disability Evacuation Plans In Wake Of Grenfell Fire
The organisation that sets building standards has withdrawn the document that allowed building owners to ignore Disabled people’s pleas for personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs).
The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire heard that 15 of the Tower’s 37 Disabled residents died in the fire – despite many having repeatedly warned that they were at particular risk.

In its phase one report, published in October 2019, the inquiry chair said housing providers should be subject to a “legal requirement” to develop PEEPs for all disabled residents of high-rise buildings unable to self-evacuate. The Home Office consulted on proposals to require PEEPs earlier this summer. The consultation proposed that owners or agents responsible for buildings over 18 metres, discuss fire safety and evacuation with residents unable to self-evacuate and produce personalised evacuation plans.

Now, the British Standards Institution (BSI) has confirmed it is dropping its current guidance, PAS 79-2 The guidance document described the preparation of individual PEEPs as “usually unrealistic”.

The BSI suspended the document in March and removed it from sale but It is still available on the institution’s website with the sections on PEEPs blacked out.

In a statement, the BSI this week pledged to work with stakeholders to build a “consensus” around a new standard.

DR UK’s Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi, said: “This announcement is welcome and the BSI now needs to work with Disabled people to coproduce guidance that promotes our equality and rights. Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans need to be developed for every Disabled resident who needs and wants one, whatever the hight of the building. We urge building owners and managing agents in the public and private housing sectors to move quickly to integrate PEEPs into their business as usual activities

Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan in his response to the Home Office consultation has urged the government to clarify how PEEPs should be funded, to extend the requirement to all buildings and to impose a duty on the ‘Responsible Person’ to inform vulnerable people of their right to a PEEP.

DR UK Get Yourself Active Team Announces Practical Pack For Social Care Staff
The Disability Rights UK Get Yourself Active (GYA) team has launched its new Social Care Activity Pack. The team has previously co-produced guidance with social workers to support asset-based approaches to discussing the opportunities and outcomes that physical activity can deliver.
GYA spokesperson Mikey Erhardt said: “Carers and support workers can enable and support Disabled people to take part in physical activity and the pack will develop their knowledge of how best to do this. It will assist conversations with Disabled people and suggest ways of building exercise into everyday activities.”

You can get the pack by visiting the GYA site. It covers topics such as defining physical activity, starting conversations about physical activity and how to boost levels of physical activity. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60977&qid=9800045

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “We know that physical activity is hugely important to people’s health and mental wellbeing. We also have extensive evidence of the barriers to physical activity for Disabled people and how these increase the health inequalities between Disabled and non-disabled people.”

In our interviews with Disabled people the message was clear, those who are inactive want to become active and those who are active want to be more active – and all mentioned the multiple barriers getting in the way of their plans to be active.”

DR UK’s Social Care Activity Pack offers a series of practical solutions to this problem. It tackles the barriers head-on and provides social workers, care staff and family members with the knowledge and tools to become agents of change, supporting Disabled people to realise their physical activity aspirations.”

Cecilia Kumar, Head of Disability at Sport England, said: “Research shows that people who provide support to disabled people or people living with long-term health conditions - such as family members, personal assistants or support workers - can be key to unlocking the benefits of sport and physical activity.

This online resource, developed by Disability Rights UK in partnership with social care and physical activity experts, will empower people to increase their knowledge and confidence around supporting disabled people to be active.”

Energy Price Rise Set To Hit Disabled People Hard
DR UK has joined dozens of disability groups and anti-poverty campaigners in condemning an unprecedented rise in energy costs.
Regulator Ofgem announced that the energy price cap will increase from 1 October for the 15 million customers it protects. People on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase of £139 from £1,138 to £1,277. Prepayment customers will see an increase of £153 from £1,156 to £1,309. The End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates that the 12% increase will see an additional 488,000 households plunged into fuel poverty, a month after the £20 Universal Credit uplift ends.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said: “This unprecedented hike in energy bills comes at the worst possible time for millions of households across the country. It is difficult to put into words just how devastating this news will be for people. Especially hard hit will be vulnerable customers and those on pre-pay meters who are unable to switch suppliers and will be facing a winter in abject fuel poverty.” Fuel poverty can make respiratory illnesses worse – meaning conditions such as Covid may be exacerbated by living in cold damp homes.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy, said: “this price increase is a shocking blow to millions of people on low incomes and will disproportionately hit many Disabled people and those living with long term health conditions. “We know that many Disabled people already have to choose between eating and heating and the increase in energy prices will make this situation far worse. 

DBC And DPAC Urge Six-Week Extension To Green Paper Consultation Response Time
The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have written an open letter to the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP, expressing their concerns about the consultation period for the recently published Health and Disability Green Paper.
The Green Paper was published on the 20 July 2021, following a two year wait, but the Government are only providing the standard 12 week consultation timeframe for feedback, leaving many disabled people without time to respond fully or even at all.

This is why we are calling on the Government to extend the consultation period of the Green Paper by six weeks, to ensure that this crucial feedback to its proposals can be properly heard.

NICE Withdraws Landmark ME/CFS Guidance
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has withdrawn long-awaited landmark guidance on ME at the last minute after it came under pressure from medical groups.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a hidden disability thought to affect over a quarter of a million people in the UK. The condition results in pain, brain fog, sensory overwhelm, and a persistent loss of energy, frequently resulting in patients needing to take to bed to rest for long periods. It is poorly understood, with no recognised cure, and with very little offered to patients in the way of treatment.

The guidance had been welcomed by patient groups and charities representing people with the condition, as it set out that the condition is a medical illness, and not a psychological problem, as some people believe. The guidance also withdrew support for Graded Exercise Therapy (GET) – one of the few interventions offered as a form of treatment. GET is in essence incrementally increased exercise, which many patients feel makes their impairments and energy levels worse, not better; and  withdrew support for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the psychological talking therapy which has also been offered as a treatment.

Some doctors and medical groups have argued that these two treatments are the only evidence-based ones for the condition, but patients and support groups fiercely criticise their use, citing lived experience, and opposing evidence that says that there is a poor quality clinical evidence base underlying results for GET for ME.

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said it was “very pleased” about the pause. They said: “we look forward to working with NICE to ensure that future guidance is of benefit to children, young people and those who manage their care”.

Dr Alastair Miller, a consultant physician in infectious disease and internal medicine and a former principal medical adviser for Action for ME, said: “Importantly, without CBT and GET, there is nothing. No new therapies or approaches have emerged since 2007, so in practice one needs to question whether there was ever a requirement to have a new guideline… It is difficult to say where we go from here. There are some amongst the charities and patient groups that are utterly opposed to CBT and GET, and so compromise and consensus may be difficult to achieve.”

DR UK’s Media and Communications Manager Anna Morell said: “This is a significant, and much overlooked condition. As with other hidden disabilities, people with ME struggle to be heard and effectively diagnosed, and are too often disbelieved. The publication of this guidance has been delayed before due to the huge amount of comments received in response to the consultation. Dr Miller is right – there is nothing beyond CBT and GET. But to rely on them as curative, when the groundswell of evidence from patients points to the contrary, is as effective as the old medieval catch-all of prescribing a course of leeches.

“As long as there is a reluctance to fund and undertake proper, robust research into this debilitating condition, there will be no hope of finding effective treatments. The establishment also needs to listen to those who endure the symptoms of this condition day in, day out. They know what works for them and what doesn’t. “The further delaying of this guidance is a sucker punch to people who are already, quite literally, flat on our backs.” A new date for the release of the guidance has yet to be set.

We The 15 Launches At Paralympics
We the 15 is a global campaign aiming to start a global movement to transform the lives of the 1.2 billion people globally who have a disability – 15% of the population.

#WeThe15 has the support of 20 leading global organisations such as the International Paralympic Committee, World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, Invictus Games and Special Olympics. They have joined forces for the first time to call for change. Launching at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, WeThe15 is a campaign focussed on empowering and advancing the lives of people with disabilities. DR UK supports the campaign, which has much in common with our We Belong campaign aims.

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