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Archived News 2020 - COVID Specials
Adult Social Care Bulletins
Disability Rights UK - News in Brief
Comments on Planning Application by SCAN's Chairman

Roadmap sees shielding continue until end of March
Care home residents will be able to be visited indoors by, and hold hands with, a single named individual from 8 March, but shielders will be asked to continue shielding until 31 March despite schools reopening, according to the ‘roadmap’ set out by Boris Johnson this week.

 The plan sets out key dates for reopening the country: 8 March, when schools reopen and care homes can open up to singular named visitors; 12 April, when leisure facilities and outdoor hospitality may reopen; 17 May when indoor contact and venues may reopen with limits; and 21 June when larger groups and events may be allowed. All dates are dependent on the outcomes of monitoring for vaccine take up, vaccine efficiency resulting in less hospitalisations and deaths, surges in the NHS, and new variants emerging.

The Cabinet Office confirmed that all shielders will receive letters by the middle of March.  Read the roadmap here.

Special Needs Jungle has produced a grab and go version of the back to school guidance for families with children in SEND settings.

People with learning disabilities to be prioritised for vaccinations  The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations has confirmed that everyone with a learning disability will now be prioritised for vaccination under group 6.

Vaccination priority group six had only included people with ‘severe’ or ‘profound’ learning disabilities. The announcement on 24 February now means that everyone with learning disabilities is covered.

Jackie O'Sullivan, Executive Director of Communication, Advocacy & Activism at learning disability charity Mencap, said:

“This is a hugely welcome announcement, and fantastic news for people with a learning disability. Now everyone on the GP Learning Disability Register can get access to the COVID vaccine.

“It's now crucially important that everyone with a learning disability checks that they are on the register and asks to go on it if they are not. Being on the register has many benefits and entitles people to annual health checks and prioritisation for future vaccinations, as well as allowing them to get the COVID vaccine and be confident they are protected.”

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “People with learning disabilities are six times more likely to die from coronavirus than people without learning disabilities. It is hugely welcome news that everyone with learning disabilities can now be urgently protected by vaccination. We are relieved and glad that the JCVI and government has listened to Disabled people’s groups about the importance of valuing the lives of people with learning disabilities, and has taken action to prioritise vaccinations.”

Mencap has easy read guides to the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, including how to join your GP's learning disability register to make sure you are offered it in group 6 available from mencap.org.uk. 

Covid ‘putting a rocket under’ children’s poor mental health outcomes   New data reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows that 7% of children have attempted suicide by the age of 17 and almost one in four say they have self-harmed in the past year. There are fears that these figures have risen even higher during the pandemic.

The figures are taken from analysis of the lives of around 19,000 British children born at the start of the millennium as part of the millennium cohort study.

Scaled up to the whole population, that means that 52,427 17-year-olds could have  attempted suicide at some point in their lives and 170,744 could have self-harmed in the 12 months before Covid hit.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ child and adolescent mental health faculty, said the findings are part of a long and “really concerning trend”.

Study author Dr Praveetha Patalay said: “Our study highlights large inequality in these adverse mental health outcomes at age 17, with women and sexual minorities being particularly vulnerable, potentially reflecting the greater disparity in the pressures they face, and highlighting the need for support that is sensitive to the challenges experienced by them during adolescence… There is definitely a need to provide more, better and earlier support for young people to prevent their mental health difficulties from getting so severe, but equally we really need to think about why young people today are struggling so much.”

41% of all admissions to hospital for self-harm were teenagers.

The report said: “Age 17 marks an important age before many key life transitions, including the ending of compulsory education and moving away from home. With the ending of support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) around this critical age, many young people fall through the gaps between CAMHS and adult mental health services, potentially further worsening outcomes at the precise time when support is most required. These findings underline the urgent mental health support need in this generation.”

In 2018, 759 young people took their own lives in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It is highly likely the pandemic will have put a rocket under these terrifying figures. Children’s mental health is the elephant in the classroom for so many schools and local authorities. Mental health is as much a disability as physical, sensory and learning disabilities. Yet too often, it is framed as a nice to have, or something that can be resolved with a bit of talking and a bit of yoga. The lifelong impacts of poor mental health in childhood are huge. The government needs to invest heavily to reverse this crisis and set up frameworks to protect children on an ongoing basis now.”

Decades of failure leaves half of disabled benefit claimants in poverty
New analysis published by Scope shows that:

almost half of all people in poverty are either disabled or live with someone who is disabled;

  • there are 1.8 million more people in poverty living in a family that includes a disabled person compared with 15 years ago;
  • the disability employment gap remains above 40 percentage points for many disabled people; and
  • over a million disabled people who are out of work say that they want to be in employment, the analysis shows.

James Taylor of Scope said:

“It doesn’t have to be this way. A welfare system should be there to provide support to disabled people in and out of work, to help offset the financial penalty of being disabled, and ultimately to improve lives.

In the short term, we need urgent changes to make sure disabled people are getting the support they need.”  Read the full story on our website.

PIP assessment recordings to be allowed 
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has agreed that Disabled people will be allowed to record their assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Responding in a letter to the Right to Record action group of Disabled campaigners in Barking and Dagenham, the DWP said that audio recording should be available when face-to-face PIP assessments resume after the pandemic. People being assessed will have to request that the assessment is recorded. Recording will not be automatic.

In the letter, the DWP said: “We have recently started working with both assessment providers [Capita and Atos]… to find a suitable method of audio recording which we hope to have in place with the reintroduction of face-to-face assessments.

“This will remove the need for claimants to source a device which meets the required specifications to bring to their assessment, as the assessment provider will record the assessment on the claimant’s behalf.”

It adds that audio recording of telephone PIP assessments has been available for some people through Atos since 21 September 2020 and through Capita since 30 November 2020.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “This move will help claimants ensure that what they have said has been accurately recorded and taken into account. Over half of claimants who need to go to Tribunal win their cases. This move will help those who have to go to Tribunal to be able to present solid evidence to support their claims, and hopefully reduce the numbers of Tribunals that claimants have to go through.”  Read more at Disability News Service.

People deprived of liberty due to misapplication of Mental Health and Capacity Acts 
A new report from the King’s Fund shows that people are being unlawfully deprived of their liberty because professionals are incorrectly using the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) or the Mental Health Act (MHA) according to their role or training, without considering the individual case.

Respondents said the codes of practice for the two Acts and their respective case law were difficult to understand and keep up to date with. The MCA was seen as having fewer safeguards, but was seen as being better for protecting people’s autonomy, whereas the MHA was seen as more restrictive.  Read on the Community Care website.

Lack of tactile paving ‘a factor’ in death of visually impaired man 
A lack of tactile paving was a contributing factor to the death of a partially sighted man who died after falling from the platform on to the track at Eden Park station, London, in February last year.

A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found that around half of mainline railway stations do not have tactile paving, which can alert visually impaired people that they are close to a platform edge or kerb, and up to 15% of accidents where people fall on to the track involve blind or partially sighted people.

Stephen Brookes, DR UK Rail Policy Adviser said: “DR UK has been pressing upon the rail companies and train operators that safety is of paramount importance when they apply arrangements and facilities needed to provide accessibility for all Disabled passengers.

“This incident demonstrates that there appears to be no consistent policy on the provision of tactile strips, despite their clear importance to visually impaired people who value the opportunity to travel independently, without reliance on staff. Lives cannot be put at risk by having to wait until such stations are fully refurbished to install tactile strips. The fact that 40% of stations have no tactile markings is putting people’s lives at risk and there needs to be an emergency plan to put this right.”  Further information on railway stations can be found on the RNIB website.

View and sign the RNIB petition.

Autistic graduates more likely to be unemployed -  ACGAS report  Graduates disclosing autism are least likely to be in full time employment and most likely to be unemployed according to new research by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS). Autistic graduates are the least likely of all Disabled graduates to be employed on a permanent contract and are most likely to be employed on a fixed term, temporary or voluntary basis. 

The AGCAS report, What Happens Next? examines the outcomes of Disabled graduates and provides real evidence of the effect of a Disability on a graduate’s employment prospects. 

The report found that there remains a gap in employment levels between Disabled and non-disabled graduates at all levels. At all qualification levels, there are more Disabled graduates employed on a short-term contract, a temporary contract or zero hours contract than non-disabled graduates.   Read the report on the ACGAS website.

Open Statement from Disabled People’s Organisations and Allies - February 2021 
Coronavirus has hit disabled people hard. 60% of deaths from coronavirus have been those of Disabled People.

Disabled People have struggled to access healthcare, social care and food and many have been left without the £20 weekly uplift given to those on Universal Credit.

We ask Government and the NHS to recognise the enormous impact of coronavirus on the lives of Disabled People. 

We urge Government and NHS to respond more urgently to protect disabled people from coronavirus.

We ask that the needs of Disabled People are met in more personalised and accessible ways.

In particular, we urge that action be taken to ensure that:

  • The letter to 1.7 million new shielders and 2.2 million existing shielders is sent in plain English and accessible formats and that sources of information and support are provided both digitally and non-digitally.
  • Everyone who has a learning disability or who is autistic or has a cognitive impairment is included in priority group 6, to ensure early vaccination.
  • Disabled People of working age living in residential accommodation or hospitals are included in priority group 6, to ensure early vaccination.
  • Disabled People know that they can contact their doctor for advice on whether they should be included in priority vaccination group 6.
  • Everyone with a learning disability or who is autistic or has a cognitive impairment has their health records checked, to ensure that any wrongful Do Not Attempt Resuscitation notices are removed.

This statement already has the support of over 20 Disabled People’s Organisations and allies. Please feel free to promote on your own website and share through social media channels.

1.7 million new Shielders
Following a research study identifying factors, which increase risk of serious illness from COVID-19, the following factors have been identified, age, sex registered at birth, pre-existing conditions, ethnicity and BMI.

Patient medical records in England have been analysed on the basis of these factors and as a result 1.7 million people have now been added to the shielding list. A risk tool has also been developed that can be used by clinicians to identify others who should be included.

The new cohort of Shielders will be sent a letter advising them to stay at home as much as possible until 31 March. The over 2 million people already shielding will also be given this advice.

800,000 new Shielders will be prioritised for vaccination under priority group 6. The remaining 900,000 have already been offered vaccination during the first wave.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at DR UK said “People identified to be at serious risk of illness from coronavirus should be supported and protected and it is fantastic that our understanding of risk factors has improved. However, receiving a shielding letter at this late stage, could cause people serious anxiety and concern.

We would urge the NHS to ensure that the letter is simple to understand and provided in accessible formats. The letter should offer practical and emotional support that can be reached offline, as well as digitally. People should be able to seek advice on employment issues and be supported to receive food and medicines.”

Click here to read the Government press release on this story and the technology being used to identify those at high risk.

Abuse by carers should be included in Domestic Abuse Bill
Baroness Jane Campbell, supported by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Stay Safe East, is making a strong argument for new clauses to be inserted within the Domestic Abuse Bill, to cover abuse of disabled people by paid and unpaid carers.

Baroness Campbell will tell the House of Lords committee discussing the Bill that relationships between disabled people and paid and unpaid carers should be added to the list of personal connections set out in the Bill. This would enable controlling or coercive behaviours on the part of carers, to be covered by domestic abuse legislation. In addition, such behaviours should be treated as an offence under the Serious Crimes Act 2015.

Baroness Campbell has worked with a number of senior social care and disability discrimination lawyers to draft an official legal opinion.

Baroness Campbell will make the case that there is no other legislation which effectively deals with domestic abuse towards disabled people by carers and that not amending the Bill would constitute discrimination against disabled people.

Disabled People experience high levels of food poverty
Last week, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee heard evidence on problems relating to accessing food. Not surprisingly, those giving evidence highlighted that inadequate benefit levels was the underlying cause of much food insecurity.

Emma Revie from the Trussell Trust said that their data showed that 62% of working age adults using food banks were disabled people.

Anna Taylor from the Food Foundation said that levels of food insecurity were 12% higher for households with a disabled person, whereas pre-pandemic the difference had been 6%.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK Head of Policy underlined the fact that disabled people on legacy benefits had not received the £20 per week uplift. She said that benefit levels no longer provided a safety net, as they didn’t cover basics such as housing, heating, food and digital inclusion.

Fazilet also referred to the unaffordability of online delivery charges and minimum basket spends and the hostile environment being faced by disabled people in regard to face mask exemptions.  Click here to read the transcripts of the meeting

Click here to watch a video recording of the meeting

Locked Down and Abandoned: Disabled People’s Experiences of Covid-19: new Inclusion London research report 
Inclusion London has published its second report on disabled people’s experiences of the pandemic. The report describes how disabled people continue to experience hardship across all areas of life: increasing mental distress, social isolation and loneliness, food poverty, financial difficulties, workplace discrimination, problems accessing healthcare, and unequal access to medicine, vaccines, and social care.

The report makes 12 recommendations including:

  • Urgently restoring disabled people's rights currently open to easements under the Coronavirus Act.
  • Ensure the active participation and representation of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) across all Covid-19 planning and recovery work.
  • Maintaining the £20 Universal Credit increase, extending this increase to other disability and legacy benefits and increasing rates of Statutory Sick Pay to match living wage equivalents.
  • An independent inquiry into the disproportionately high numbers of disabled people's deaths from Covid-19, including the impact on communities that experience multiple and intersectional discrimination.

Other recommendations cover the need to close the digital divide, action to address the increased level of mental distress, urgent funding to local authorities to ensure disabled people get appropriate social care support, support for disabled people to get and keep good jobs and more health information in accessible formats.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at DR UK said:

“This important report by Inclusion London documents the devastating impact that coronavirus has had on all aspects of disabled people’s lives. DR UK fully backs the report’s recommendations. We would urge Government to carefully consider the report, when developing its Disability Strategy.”

Read the full report: Locked Down and Abandoned: Disabled People’s Experiences of Covid-19.

Guidance on Covid-19 testing for personal assistants 
The government has published guidance on how personal assistants working in adult social care in England can access weekly Covid-19 testing.

Personal assistants will be eligible for testing if they provide care that requires them to come within 2 metres of an adult over the age of 18 who they support. Personal assistants will be responsible for ordering test kits every 28 days – or an employer can order test kits for their personal assistant.  Click here for more information on eligibility and the process

Get Yourself Active at Home 
Are you looking for new ways to get active at home? Get Yourself Active has created a new section on their website to help you to find the resources you need to stay active during this time. On this new section you can find the accessible and inclusive exercise videos created in partnership with Sense and Durham University, which are also available on the Get Yourself Active YouTube channel. There are also a number of other useful resources from partner organisations that have been collated, from videos to downloadable toolkits and worksheets. To view the new Active @ Home section, please click here.

Northern Rail Accessibility Fund 
Northern Rail has launched a £250,000 Accessibility Fund where applications for specific projects that will make a positive difference to communities across the north of England.

For the first time, the fund will be led and overseen by the Northern Accessibility User Group (NAUG), an independently chaired pan disability user group, whose membership represents a range of disability groups and charities reflecting the communities served by Northern.

They are currently looking for nominations for projects or schemes that will enable disabled and older people to travel with Northern, by improving the accessibility of Northern trains and stations for the communities it serves across the north.

The Accessibility Fund will consider a wide range of proposals which involve their trains and stations. For more information including details of how to apply, please visit www.northernrailway.co.uk/accessibility-fund

If you would like guidance on how suitable your project might be - please contact accessibility@northernrailway.co.uk. 

Developing a National Disability Strategy: Views and evidence from the EHRC 
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published a briefing to inform the National Strategy for Disabled People being developed by the Disability Unit in the Cabinet Office. The briefing considers the ways that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the deep-seated inequalities experienced by many disabled people which permeate every area of life.  Read more about the EHRC briefing here.

Disability Unit’s response to DR UK’s call for accessible survey ‘immensely frustrating’  
The government’s Disability Unit is currently running an online survey which will help to shape the forthcoming National Strategy for Disabled People. Comments must be received by 13 February in order for them to be taken on board before the publication of the Strategy.

Following calls from DR UK that the survey needed a longer response time and more accessible formats, including offline formats, the Disability Unit has written back to us to clarify which formats are available.

It says that a Word document and Easy Read documents are available and that “you can print the documents off, fill in your responses and post them to the Disability Unit, Cabinet Office,10 Victoria Street, Westminster SW1H 0NB.”

It says that it has “made it easy for you to tell us that a parent, carer or any other person is supporting you. There is a box to let us know that someone is supporting you with filling in the form.

“If you are unable or would prefer not to complete this survey but would like to contribute your views on the National Strategy, please post your thoughts to the Disability Unit Cabinet Office,10 Victoria Street, Westminster SW1H 0NB.

“The survey is available in BSL videos with additional subtitling and voiceover. You can also request a braille format of the survey at ducitizenspace@cabinetoffice.gov.uk. If you are blind or partially sighted and are having difficulty filling in the online survey you can email the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) for advice or support at campaigns@rnib.org.uk.”

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “It is immensely frustrating that a survey designed for Disabled people is inaccessible to millions. Being able to respond by email or phone must be options. Providing solely online communication is not acceptable.

“The survey’s purpose appears to be more about gathering insight into our lives rather than asking us as Disabled people what should be in the Disability Strategy. Six weeks from the Strategy being published, this seems very strange and doesn’t constitute true engagement with Disabled people.

DR UK’s Our Voices group is calling on the government to delay the Disability Strategy pending a full and open engagement with disabled people.”  Read Our Voices’ letter to the Government about its concerns.

Grenfell measures slammed by Disability groups 
Housing Minister Robert Jenrick has announced another £3.5 billion of funding to remove and replace unsafe cladding from tower blocks.

The announcement comes three and a half years after the Grenfell Tower disaster in which 72 people died, including Disabled people.

Leaseholder Disability action group CladDAG has accused the government of failing to do enough for Disabled residents in the wake of the disaster. It says that £15 billion is needed for the removal of cladding, which will result in the £3.5 billion becoming a lottery, and that the funding doesn’t cover flammable balconies, and missing firestopping in buildings.

It has also been critical of the government’s lack of impetus to put in place evacuation plans for Disabled people, and highlighted how the funding will only be given to buildings which are six storeys and taller, leaving Disabled residents living in the upper storeys of lower rise blocks at the same risk they ever were, and living in ongoing fear and anxiety about their safety in case of fire.

Robert Jenrick said: “We continue to take a safety-led approach and this funding will focus on the higher-rise buildings where the independent expert advisory panel tells us – time and again – the overwhelming majority of the safety risk lies, in line with the existing building safety fund and the anticipated scope of the new building safety regulator that we’re establishing and will shortly be legislating for.

“This will ensure that we end the cladding scandal in a way that is fair and generous to leaseholders.”

With regards to buildings with less than six storeys, he said: “The Government will develop a long-term scheme to protect leaseholders in this situation, with financial support for cladding remediation on buildings between four and six storeys.

“Under a long-term low-interest scheme, no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 a month towards the removal of unsafe cladding, many far less. Taken together this means the Government is providing more than £5 billion including a further £3.5 billion announced today plus the significant cost of the very generous financing scheme which will run for many years to come to ensure all leaseholders in medium and high-rise blocks face no costs or very low costs if cladding remediation is needed."

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “The government funding proposals aren’t enough to protect leaseholders. They don’t cover the full costs of removing cladding for those covered by the scheme and leave many leaseholders out completely. Disabled people are often on very low incomes and will not be able to shoulder the financial burden.

“The safety considerations affecting Disabled leaseholders, who wouldn’t be able to evacuate from buildings in the case of  fire aren’t addressed at all. This puts the lives of disabled people at risk. It is seriously affecting the mental health of Disabled leaseholders, forcing people to live in fear of fire and feeling unsafe in their own homes.”  

Disabled people between 3 and 4 times more likely to die of Coronavirus - ONS 
New data from the Office for National Statistics shows that Disabled people were at more than three times the risk of dying from Coronavirus than non-disabled people between January and November 2020.

The risk was 3.1 times greater for more-disabled men and 1.9 times greater for less-disabled men, compared to non-disabled men. Among women, the risk of death was 3.5 times greater for more-disabled women and 2.0 times greater for less-disabled women, compared to non-disabled women.

Disability status was self-reported as collected in the 2011 Census. Those who said in the census that their day-to-day activities were ‘limited a little’ or ‘limited a lot’ are referred to here as ‘less-disabled’ and ‘more-disabled’ respectively, whereas people reporting no limitation on their activities are referred to as ‘non-disabled’.

The ONS says that: “no single factor explains the considerably raised risk of death involving COVID-19 among disabled people. Place of residence, socio-economic and geographical circumstances, and pre-existing health all play a part. An important part of the raised risk is because disabled people are disproportionately exposed to a range of generally disadvantageous circumstances compared to non-disabled people.” Patterns in excess Coronavirus mortality risk experienced by disabled people remained largely unchanged between the first and second waves of the pandemic.”

The risk for Learning Disabled people was 3.7 times greater for both men and women.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It’s good that the ONS is recognising out loud that Disabled people face disadvantage across all aspects of life, and that they recognise the disproportionate loss of life of Disabled people during this pandemic. This information must feed into the National Strategy for Disabled People to level up life expectancy and day to day experience for Disabled people. Our lives matter. It is shocking and heartbreaking that so many of us have died during this pandemic.”

MPs back calls for Universal Credit uplift extension until April 2022 
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee has said that the increase in Universal Credit, slated to end at the end of March this year, must be kept until April 2022 as the "bare minimum" and has warned against plans for a one-off payment to take its place.

The top-up, introduced at the start of the pandemic, is worth more than £1,000 a year.

The support from the cross-party group of MPs who make up the Committee comes after calls to keep the uplift from major welfare and Disability charities including Disability Rights UK, unions, the Labour Party, Citizens Advice, and Marcus Rashford, who has spearheaded the campaign to feed underprivileged school children throughout the pandemic.

Work and Pensions Minister Will Quince told the House of Commons that discussions "remained ongoing" with the Treasury. He went on to say that the Chancellor had a "proven record of stepping up to protect the poorest, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our country throughout this pandemic and I have no doubt he will continue to do so".

DR UK’s Ken Butler said: “The Work and Pensions Committee has now joined other cross-party bodies including the APPG for Poverty and the Women and Equalities Select Committee in forcefully calling for the keeping and extending of the £20 per week uplift.

“Within the past week a group of leading health and care bodies and the Trussell Trust have added their voices.

“The evidence is clear - removing the uplift will sweep hundreds of thousands of families into poverty or even destitution.

“Those on legacy benefits, which includes over two million Disabled people, were not even included in the uplift.

“The cost of extending the uplift is less than 3% of the £280 billion figure for total spending on Coronavirus support measures this year. It is a price that must be paid.”  Read more on our website.

Blueprint for post-pandemic NHS and social care reform launched
The Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has set out new proposals to bring health and care services closer together.

The measures, set out in a government White Paper, intend to modernise the legal framework, and make it less bureaucratic, more accountable and more joined up to address the needs of communities as a whole.

The tendering process introduced over a decade ago will be reduced, to allow staff to focus more on patient care than procurement processes. The Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch will be put permanently into law as a Statutory Body so it can continue to reduce risk and improve safety. A package of measures to deliver on specific needs in the social care sector will be introduced to improve oversight and accountability in the delivery of services through new assurance and data sharing measures in social care, update the legal framework to enable person-centred models of hospital discharge, and introduce improved powers for the Secretary of State to directly make payments to adult social care providers where required.

The Department for Health and Social Care says that the pandemic has shown the impact of inequalities on public health outcomes and the need for Government to act to help level up health across the country.

However, Disability groups are concerned the Paper will not go far enough on social care. Edel Harris, Chief Executive of the learning disability charity Mencap said: “There are huge benefits to further integration between the NHS and the provision of social care. However, this reform will backfire unless the crisis in social care is addressed now. Social care has been treated as the poor relation to the healthcare system for too long, and it needs to be placed on an equal footing before we embark on any reform.”

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “Bringing health bodies and Local Authorities together to plan services across local areas and tackle inequalities is a laudable aim, however without genuine co-production with Disabled people at the heart of the reform, and without increased investment in social care, there is a danger that this will just be a shuffling round of the deckchairs.”

People with mental health conditions £8.4k poorer than those without 
The incomes of people with common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are just two-thirds (68%) of those of people without such conditions according to a new Mental Health and Income Commission (MHIC) report.

The gap is equivalent to £8,400 per year.

The Commission has found that one in five people with mental health problems – equivalent to 3.7m people across the UK – say they have suffered workplace discrimination due to their condition, including being passed over for promotion or being made redundant.

The Commission says that the Government should adopt several emergency measures to help people with mental health problems stay in work during the pandemic, as well as long term changes to tackle the systemic employment issues which have driven the “mental health income gap”.   Read more on our website.

Disabled People’s Organisations call for the Disability Strategy to be delayed 
Disability Rights UK Our Voices group has written to the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, setting out a number of problems with the engagement process for the National Disability Strategy and asking that the launch of the Strategy be postponed, pending the full involvement of disabled people.

The Group is made up of a number of Disabled People’s Organisations from across England, that are members of Disability Rights UK. The group came together at the start of the pandemic to represent the interests of disabled people and to enable learning and mutual support.  

The letter urges the Government to put disabled people and Disabled People’s Organisations at the heart of engagement and offers to work with government to support the development of the National Disability Strategy.

The letter criticises the disjointed and fragmented engagement process, pointing to a mixture of thematic meetings, regional stakeholder forums and a limited number of ministerial meetings with a DPO Forum.

The letter is very critical of the current online consultation survey, launched on 15 January for a four-week period. It questions its relevance to developing the Strategy and highlights issues which make it unusable and inaccessible to many disabled people.

The letter ends by calling for the launch of the Disability Strategy to be delayed pending full engagement with disabled people.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK said “25 years after the Disability Discrimination Act, a cross government strategy to tackle the systemic discrimination faced by disabled people is long overdue. However, for the Strategy to be truly effective in creating an inclusive society, the lived experience of disabled people has to be at its heart.”

“Basing the National Disability Strategy, primarily on what government departments want to do, won’t result in an ambitious strategy, which challenges deep attitudinal and systemic barriers and creates a society where disabled people are equal.”   

You can read the letter, which has been signed by the Chief Executives of several member organisations, by clicking here.

Government reluctance to support the reasonable adjustments of disabled election candidates 
With shockingly low representation of disabled people in elected office, both across local authorities and in parliament, the government’s silence on establishing a fund to support the reasonable adjustments of disabled candidates is deeply troubling.

The Elected Office Fund and then the Enable Fund, which have both existed in the past, were designed to support the reasonable adjustments of disabled election candidates. These funds allowed disabled people, who required additional support to enable them to campaign, to feel that they could stand for election.

Government argues that political parties should meet the costs of reasonable adjustments, however, there is no evidence that they are doing so. Disability Rights UK has suggested to government that in the same way as Access to Work, the government could meet the costs of reasonable adjustments and then seek re-imbursement from political parties. This would remove the burden from disabled candidates of having to secure additional support from their local party organisations.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at DR UK said “At a time when the Government is poised to launch a National Disability Strategy, the failure to establish a permanent fund to support disabled people to stand for elected office is difficult to comprehend.”

“Some disabled people need support to run an election campaign and there is a real danger that if that support is not easily available, either they or their local party, might feel it’s not possible for them to stand.

“We would ask Government to urgently establish a fund to support disabled people to gain elected office, so it is in place for the May 2021 elections.”

Pandemic Poverty: new DBC research report shows why the £20 per week UC uplift must be kept and extended  
A new report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations, including DR UK, provides new evidence and lived experience from a survey of 1384 people claiming UC or legacy benefits:

  • on what these difficulties and increased financial costs look like; and
  • the importance of extending the £20 per week uplift to both UC and legacy benefits.

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Officer said: “By restricting the £20 per week increase only to Universal Credit the Government has discriminated against the millions of disabled people on other benefits. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, benefit cuts and austerity hit disabled people the hardest.

The question a responsible Government should consider is: are those on UC, ESA, JSA and income support still facing significant extra costs due to the pandemic?

The DBC research shows that the answer is a resounding yes – it finds two thirds (67%) of disabled claimants have had to go without essential items at some point during the pandemic

So the £20 UC uplift must not just be kept and but extended to those on ESA and other legacy benefits”.   Read more on our website

Pave The Way travel report launched 
Transport For All has launched a new report on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and the barriers to Active Travel.

DR UK's Rail Policy Advisor Stephen Brookes said: "Transport For All Pave The Way report highlights the fear Disabled people and representative organisations feel over the fact that our voices are being excluded from short and long term planning over Covid-19 and potential recovery policies.

"We must not let new 'street scene' design and access to public services and transport policies set back the access rights for Disabled people so hard fought for over the last few years. There are real indications that rapid and short-term consultations are just not picking up or including all the needs of Disabled people and the results could have a seriously negative impact on our future lives."

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