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Archived News 2020 - COVID Specials
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Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Guidance - Updated
Government guidance for people who have been identified as 'clinically extremely vulnerable' has been updated today (Thursday 7th January 2021). Please click here to access it.

Letters will be sent by post over the next week to everyone in this group.

Women and Equalities Select Committee: pandemic has had “profoundly adverse effects” on disabled people’s access to services
Disabled people have suffered a range of profoundly adverse effects from the pandemic, including starkly disproportionate deaths, says a report published today by the Women and Equalities Committee.

Committee Chair, Caroline Nokes MP, said “Disabled people who already faced substantial barriers to equal participation in society have suffered a range of profoundly adverse effects. Our inquiry heard extensive evidence from disabled people of the profoundly unequal adverse effects: our report makes the case for an independent inquiry into the causes.”

You can read more by clicking here.

Shaping Our Lives Publish Report Highlighting Disability Issues raised by COVID-19 
Lived Experience Alliance members Shaping Our Lives have published a series of key reports highlighting the disability issues that COVID-19 raises. "The voices of disabled people were getting lost, even while their “vulnerabilities” were mentioned almost daily in the news" This article highlights the need for action, and for a louder collective voice, which the Alliance are actively developing, along with our partners and allies.

You can read more here

COVID-19 Vaccination: What do people with sensory and physical disabilities most need to know?
Lucy Wills, our new Lived Experience Alliance Manager, has written a blog on the vaccination roll out and key information for disabled people.   

https://disabilityrightsuk.blogspot.com/

Rail Replacement Vehicles: extension of non-accessible period to 30 September 2021
The government has agreed to allow coach and bus operators who provide rail replacement services, to apply for time limited special authorisations for a period of up to 9 months from 1st January 2021 to 30th September 2021.

Disability Rights UK's new Rail Policy Adviser, Stephen Brookes, said "I think everyone saw this coming. We seem to be busy saying 'I told you so' over so much going on particularly with Covid creating a reoccurring theme where accessibility is a growing victim of policy change and cost cutting. This is just not acceptable."

You can read more by clicking here.

Blue Badge Permit 'Shocking Disparity' Revealed
A BBC investigation has revealed that people with hidden disabilities and conditions such as Autism and Parkinson's Disease are much less likely to be approved for a Blue Badge. Of 109 councils who responded to a BBC Shared Data Unit Freedom of Information Request, 80% had higher approval rates for physical conditions. In ten councils the disparity between physical and hidden conditions was more than 50%.

Disability Rights UK's Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi, said “The unequal treatment of disabled people with non-visible impairments in the blue badge application process is truly shocking. Councils need to urgently review their processes.”

The current failure to provide blue badges to people with non-visible impairments is discriminatory and causing real hardship”.

You can read more by clicking here.

Government recruiting Disability and Access Ambassadors
The Cabinet Office has announced it is recruiting Disability and Access Ambassadors to "help ensure businesses are doing all they can to support their disabled customers". The fourteen posts will support government with their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and also feed into the National Disability Strategy. You can read more and access information on the application process by clicking here.

SCAN EDITOR’S Note - Ambassadors undertake this voluntary role alongside their day job and are not paid to undertake it.

Disabled People Still Facing Mask Discrimination – DR UK writes to Chair of Police Chiefs' Council
Police officers are still wrongly claiming that people with disabilities must carry paperwork proving they are exempt from wearing face coverings.

Disability Rights UK has joined with Big Brother Watch, Mencap, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and the Survivors Trust to write to the Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council Martin Hewitt outlining concerns about the treatment of people who are legally exempt from the requirement to wear face coverings, citing "widespread confusion" among police officers.

Government guidance has been contradicted by senior police figures including Ken Marsh, Chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation who told press: “If you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask, you now have to print off a clarification that proves you have an exemption." No such requirement exists in law.

West Midlands Police Force has twice had to apologise for its officers, after an asthmatic man was handcuffed and issued with a fine for failing to supply evidence of his condition, and another man was escorted out of a supermarket for having no proof of his exemption.

A West Midlands Police officer was recorded telling an individual that supplying evidence of a disability would not prevent officers from issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice and that people would have to prove their exemption in court. The force has still not apologised for this,and issued a statement of support for the actions.

A DR UK survey last year found that 60% of disabled people 'feared being challenged if they did not wear a mask'.

A recent Department of Health campaign stated: "you should never challenge anyone for not wearing a face covering. Not all disabilities are visible."

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at DR UK said: "At this time of rising panic about the virus, resulting in calls for increased enforcement, it is even more vital that all police officers understand that some disabled people are exempt from wearing face coverings, due to physical or mental conditions.

Disabled people who can't wear face coverings already experience high levels of anxiety and have faced hostility from members of the public. It is important that police officers demonstrate understanding and uphold the exemptions set out in the regulations.

We are urging police chiefs to clarify the legal exemptions on face covering requirements to officers, amid fears that disabled people will be disproportionately impacted by the latest crackdown on Coronavirus laws.”

Read the letter to Martin Hewitt by clicking here. The letter can be accessed via a link at the bottom of the news article.

New UK Poverty Report Recommends £20 Per Week Increase to Universal Credit Be Made Permanent - With The Lifeline Extended to Employment & Support Allowance
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is insisting that the benefits system must be strengthened and that at a minimum, the temporary £20 per week increase to Universal Credit must be made permanent and extended to ESA and all other legacy benefits.

In its annual UK Poverty Report, it highlights early indications of changes to poverty levels since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, as well as the situation before the outbreak.

JRF found that half of all people in poverty either have a disability themselves or live with someone who does, compared with a third of people in households not in poverty.

Over half (57%) of people in receipt of income-related benefits live in families where one or more members is disabled, so that families containing a disabled person are disproportionately affected by poverty.

Social security plays a key role in helping cover the additional costs of disability.

The report says that the temporary £20 per week increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit have been enough to reverse the fall in the value of that part of these benefits seen since 2012/13, with the basic rate now 7% higher than in 2012/13 in real terms for couples and 16% higher for singles.

However people still in receipt of the benefits that Universal Credit replaced, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), have been left behind. The report says: “Recipients of those benefits have not seen the temporary uplift. Their  benefits have lost around 9% of their value in eight years and at the same time people are facing increased difficulty in getting a job in a very depressed labour market and facing potential extra costs of coronavirus such as home schooling.

If the lifeline of the temporary increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit is not continued, these benefits will be 9% lower in real terms in 2021/22 than they were in 2012/13.”

Read more here. 

Complete the Survey to Help Keep Universal Credit £20 per week Increase & Extend it to ESA
Related to this, the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), of which DR UK is a member, has launched a survey to get up to date figures on how the current rates of benefit impact on disabled people, especially given the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and restrictions (and now with the new national lockdown in place).

The DBC says: “In April 2020, the Government increased the rate of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £20 per week (a £1,000 a year). However,it did not increased ‘legacy benefits’ including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) in the same way.

The Government has not yet said if it will keep the £20 per week uplift beyond March 2021.

The DBC is calling for urgent action to make sure the two million disabled people not receiving the £20 increase and others on legacy benefits are not left behind.

The Government should extend the Universal Credit £20 per week uplift beyond March 2021 and to extend it to legacy benefits.

To keep this campaign in the spotlight, we’d like to hear about your experiences during COVID-19 so we can show the Government what an extension of this £20 per week lifeline would mean to you.

Anything you’re able to share with us will help with this campaign to #IncreaseDisabilityBenefits.”

Mental Health Act – Major Reforms in the Pipeline
Major mental health reforms are being planned to empower individuals to have more control over their treatments. The reforms aim to deliver parity between mental and physical health services and put patients’ views at the heart of their care.

The current mental health system is notorious for inequalities affecting black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and people with learning disabilities and autism, including disproportionate levels of detention.

The Reforming the Mental Health Act white paper builds on the recommendations made by Sir Simon Wessely’s Independent Review of the Mental Health Act in 2018.

The government will consult on a number of proposed changes, including:

  • introducing statutory ‘advance choice documents’ to enable people to express their wishes and preferences on their care when they are well, before the need arises for them to go into hospital
  • implementing the right for an individual to choose a nominated person who is best placed to look after their interests under the act if they aren’t able to do so themselves
  • expanding the role of independent mental health advocates to offer a greater level of support and representation to every patient detained under the act
  • piloting culturally appropriate advocates so patients from all ethnic backgrounds can be better supported to voice their individual needs
  • ensuring mental illness is the reason for detention under the act, and that neither autism nor a learning disability are grounds for detention for treatment in themselves
  • improving access to community-based mental health support, including crisis care, to prevent avoidable detentions under the act – this is already underway backed by £2.3 billion a year as part of the NHS Long Term Plan

Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “The publication of the white paper to reform the Mental Health Act is a hugely significant milestone in a long struggle for change. Many people will take for granted their right to have choice and control over the medical treatment they receive. But thousands of people every year who are severely affected by mental illness and who are detained under the act lose those rights and temporarily their liberty.

Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, said: “We are pleased the government has accepted the majority of the recommendations made in the Independent Review in their long-awaited Mental Health Act white paper. At the moment, thousands of people are still subjected to poor, sometimes appalling, treatment, and many will live with the consequences far into the future. Change on the ground cannot come soon enough.”

Whilst there has been much support for the proposals, some mental health campaigners feel that there has not been a sufficient move away from enforced treatment and institutionalisation and that the proposals don’t fully implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

To read the White Paper please click here.

Minister Outlines Recent Changes to Statutory Sick Pay Entitlement Rules
In answer to a written parliamentary question, the Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has outlined recent changes made to statutory sick pay (SSP) entitlement rules.

Mr Tomlinson said: “Individuals are eligible for SSP, from day one - rather than day four where they are unable to work because they are:

  • Sick, displaying symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus;
  • Self-isolating because they, or someone in their household (including an extended or linked household), is displaying symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus;
  • Self-isolating because they have been notified by the NHS or public health authority that they have come into contact with someone who has Coronavirus;
  • Self-isolating because they have been advised to do so by their doctor or health clinician before being admitted to hospital for planned or elective surgery; <
  • shielding because they live or work in an area where shielding is reintroduced and they have been
  • Advised to do so by their doctor or health authority ...”

The Minister did not answer a question regarding whether the Government  intends to raise the level of SSP.

Read more here

MESSAGE FROM DRUK’s CEO
We Belong
Over the past year it has often felt like disabled people’s lives haven’t been valued equally. We have had Care Act rights removed, our access to health care de-prioritised, inadequate support for education, challenges in buying food and barriers to accessing information.

At times in the past, we have come together to assert our place in society and this is one of those times. With the Government’s Disability Strategy to be published in the spring, we need to take the opportunity to say loud and clear that We Belong in every area and aspect of society. That we must have a society that is designed to enable us to be full and equal citizens. A society that recognises our need for support and adaptation and our talent and contribution.

In autumn 2020 Disability Rights UK ran an engagement campaign to gain the views of disabled people on what societal change was required. We have now produced a report based on the feedback we received. I’m sure the list of recommendations we make isn’t exhaustive but implementing them would be an amazing start to creating a society that truly includes us. We ask the government to ground the Disability Strategy in the recommendations the report makes. It is not enough to tinker with current policies and services, we need radical and ambitious change.

We need renewal of equalities legislation, funding of Disabled People’s Led Organisations, genuine co-production and engagement, full political participation and fundamental changes to social security, social care and employment services.

I hope this report acts as a call to action to disabled people to demand widespread and lasting change. I hope that the government takes strong action to embed the Social Model of Disability across all aspect of society, and in its actions, reflects the extent of our ambition. I hope that within the next ten years, we can hand on heart say: We Belong.

Read the We Belong report by clicking here. 

Kamran Mallick, CEO 

DPOs dismayed at One Month Window to respond to National Strategy
Disabled people have been given just one month to influence the government’s National Strategy for Disabled People. On 15 January, the government launched a survey to find out what disabled people want to see in the Strategy. The government has said that for views to be considered to shape the Strategy, they must be received by 13 February. On the gov.uk website, it says:

If you share your views by 13 February, your views will inform the development of the National Strategy for Disabled People, but thereafter we will continue to listen. The survey will remain open until 23 April, and your views will be used to inform the delivery of the plans we set out.”

Disabled People’s Organisations including Disability Rights UK have expressed dismay that the window of opportunity to respond to the survey and fully influence the Strategy is so small, especially during the pandemic.

Whilst the government has been engaging with regional disability forums and with disability experts and professionals over the past few months, this is the first time it has asked the wider disabled public, 14 million people, for its views.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy said: “The starting point for the Disability Strategy should be the views of people with lived experience of disability, not government departments or professionals.

It is understandable that engagement has been made more difficult due to the Coronavirus crisis, but giving disabled people one month to respond is not remotely acceptable. For many of us, information on the survey will take time to reach us, some of us will want to discuss our responses with others, and some of us will require assistance to respond. A month just isn’t sufficient to enable disabled people to genuinely influence groundbreaking changes in the way society treats us.”

The survey can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/citizen-space-survey-national-strategy-for-disabled-people

End Unfair Charges for Shielders, Supermarkets Told
Supermarkets must end unfair delivery charges and minimum spend thresholds for shielders – that is the message delivered to the CEOs of the UK’s leading grocery retailers by Disability Rights UK and twenty other charities.

Shielders are unable to shop in supermarkets in the third lockdown without high risk to health. Many disabled people who are shielding live on benefits. Basic state benefits amount to around £74-90 (excluding rent). The average minimum spend requested by supermarkets for free delivery is £40 (£75 for Ocado), with delivery when charged costing up to an additional £7.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “The thresholds required by supermarkets might be achievable for a double middle income working household, but for shielders who have no option other than to use delivery services right now, it is often a choice between heating or eating.

;We are at the worst point in the pandemic, at the coldest point in the year. We read economic headlines about profit margins tumbling because supermarkets are investing in more online solutions. They are still making a profit, at the expense of those in society who are currently living in extreme isolation and penury.

We are asking supermarkets to practically help shielders until the group four vaccine rollout has been completed. Tesco says ‘every little helps’. Sainsburys says ‘live well for less’. Asda says ‘save money, live better’. We would ask them to make their slogans a reality for shielders right now by suspending delivery charges and lowering minimum spends.”

Read the letter here: https://www.independentage.org/news-media/press-releases/joint-open-letter-to-supermarkets

Woman challenged by police to produce mask exemption document
A woman was removed from a supermarket by police in Kent after refusing to show evidence of her medical exemption from needing to wear a face covering.

National and local press picked up on video recorded by the woman and first published on social media. The Daily Mail branded her an ‘anti masker’.

The woman is seen to correctly and calmly tell police that the evidence is not necessary and shows them a print off from the government website which they refuse to read before escorting her off the premises.

DR UK sought urgent clarification from the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott that officers are clear that there is no legal basis for individuals to be challenged to produce evidence to prove exemptions from wearing face coverings.

A spokesman for Kent Police replied: “At 10.55am on Saturday 16 January 2021 Kent Police was called to Sainsbury’s in Dartford following a report of a dispute between staff and two customers.

;It was said that staff had requested a man and woman to leave the premises due to them not wearing a face mask.

Officers attended to prevent any possible breach of the peace and sought to engage with the couple before escorting them from the shop. No further action will be taken.

All officers are familiar with the government’s health-care legislation and, in line with national standards, they have always sought to engage with individuals, and encourage them to comply with the restrictions. Enforcement is only used if it is considered proportionate.

As a force that has been graded as ‘outstanding’ by the independent policing inspectorate for its legitimacy for the past four years, the public can be assured that officers treat people from all groups in an open, fair and consistent manner.

No formal complaints have been received from anyone involved in the incident.”

The Kent Messenger originally alluded to ‘confusion’ around the situation of needing evidence of exemption but have now amended their story with better clarification around exemptions:

https://www.kentonline.co.uk/dartford/news/woman-ejected-from-supermarket-for-refusing-to-wear-face-mask-240931/

Government guidance is explicit – exemption documentation is legally unnecessary:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We understand the challenges that the police face when dealing with mask refusers. But such people are distinct from people with disability-related exemptions. This woman is calm, clear and correct on the law in the video footage. Disabled people who cannot wear masks are not ‘entitled’ or ‘anti mask’, they are simply trying to go about their daily business.

Just last week we wrote to Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs Council about this very issue.

The language the media uses around disabled people who cannot wear masks is fuelling public fury towards disabled people. The law is clear.”

Read the letter to Martin Hewitt by clicking here. Read the guidance sent by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to supermarkets about face coverings here

Emergency Evacuation Plans needed for Disabled People in High Rise Blocks
The Grenfell Tower fire saw disabled people and their loved ones who stayed with them tragically die as they were unable to leave the building. Shocking and heart breaking evidence was presented to the Grenfell Tower inquiry, which led to it recommending that disabled people in high rise flats should have personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs).

There was considerable concern that the government wasn’t going to act on this recommendation and legal action was taken. Now, the government is planning a consultation on the implementation of personal emergency evacuation plans for disabled people.

Disability Rights UK is in contact with the Grenfell Next of Kin Group which is keen to ensure that disability groups are fully involved in the consultation.

We have contacted the relevant civil servants and it has been confirmed that a consultation will take place in the near future. We will share details when these become available.  

The concerns regarding how disabled people can safely evacuate from flats is now also being taken up by the Leaseholder Disability Action Group (LDAG). In addition to safety concerns, disabled leaseholders are worried about the falling value of their flats, the cost of replacing flammable materials and the difficulty of moving out of specifically adapted accommodation. You can follow the Leaseholder Disability Action Group here: https://twitter.com/claddag

SSAC: DWP should recruit large scale panel of disabled people with experience of social security which it can consult and draw from to work on detailed projects
The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has published a new wide-ranging and detailed report that focuses on how the DWP involves disabled people when developing, delivering and evaluating social security programmes that affect them.

The report highlights that that it is clear that the level of trust between the disabled people and the DWP has deteriorated over a period of successive administrations, during which time a number of significant benefit changes have been introduced.

In meetings with the DWP, officials acknowledged this to the Committee: “They told us that lack of trust was a major issue; and a barrier not only to joint working but to the effective delivery of their services. They said they wanted our study to give them feedback on how far they had come, and to provide advice on how to improve further. This report is written in that spirit.”

The SSAC Occasional Paper 25: How DWP involves disabled people when developing or evaluating programmes that affect them is available from gov.uk. Read a precis of the recommendations here:

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2021/january/dwp-should-recruit-large-scale-panel-disabled-people-experience-social-security

Network Rail North West Commits to Better Accessibility
Network Rail North West has signed a legally binding commitment to improve services and make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers during refurbishment works.

Disabled passengers were forced to drag themselves up steps last year at Manchester Victoria station when there was no working lift during a refurbishment project. Network Rail had failed to complete a Disability Impact Assessment or to consult with disabled passengers or groups to determine whether arrangements to replace lift access were appropriate.

DR UK's Rail Policy Adviser, Stephen Brookes, said: “We are working with the Network Rail Area Station Manager to set up a pan disability access user group for Manchester, which now has a membership of 12 disabled people.

We have jointly planned a fully accessible Travel Reception Lounge incorporating a Changing Places facility and we are currently working on mitigations for further lift maintenance at Piccadilly Station. This simple outcome will ensure that future decisions on stations and trains automatically includes disabled people as part of access and inclusion groups and panels. It will also ensure that  following Covid, confidence in rail needs will be rebuilt and our various access needs and experience will ensure that by getting it right for disabled people, we will get it right for everyone.”

An open letter from DRUK’s CEO
100,000 deaths from Coronavirus.
Two thirds of deaths are Disabled people’s.
This week marks the sobering milestone that the UK has lost 100,000 lives to Coronavirus.

40% of deaths were care home residents. 30% of these people died in care homes, and a further 10% were taken to hospital where they died.

We hear that care home residents are older people, as if that somehow mitigates their deaths. Older people in care homes are Disabled, whether that is through age, Dementia, sensory impairment, or physical or learning disabilities. These people were Disabled people, and they need not have died.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics, 59% of all deaths have been those of Disabled people.

This statistic is largely hidden from public view. It needs extracting from the data. You won’t find it in newspaper headlines or TV broadcasts. Because to print it out loud, to show the devastating effect of this virus on a singular demographic, is something nobody dares to say out loud. We will say it out loud: almost two-thirds of those who have died from Coronavirus were Disabled people.

Some people talk about this pandemic as if it is a war. We are not at war. This is a pandemic, run riot, in peacetime. The lives lost are not those of people knowingly going into combat. They are the lives lost of civilians, peaceably going about their day to day business. It is worth noting that even in wartime, in World War II, 70,000 civilian lives were lost. In this pandemic peacetime, the figure is already a third higher than that.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation. He said: “I think on this day I should just really repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and of course as I was Prime Minister I take full responsibility for everything that the Government has done.

What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could, and continue to do everything that we can, to minimise loss of life and to minimise suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage…”

We do not share the view that the government did everything it could to protect the lives of Disabled people. It knew that thousands of us lived in care homes, supported living settings, and received care and support in our own homes, yet  not enough was done to protect and support us.

That is why we are calling for a full Inquiry into the pandemic. An Inquiry which will look forensically at every decision made. An Inquiry that will hear from every family who experienced a loss. An Inquiry that will hear from every Disabled person who bore the extremes of this virus, and from every Disabled person still bearing the weight of Long Covid.

We know that the death toll has still not reached its peak. Action is what matters now. Our country needs to heal. Both medically from the virus, and socially, from the decisions that have been taken to lead us to this point. An Inquiry is as vital for our minds as vaccines are for our bodies.

Kamran Mallick, CEO 

Thousands of Disabled people risk losing PAs and carers in Brexit rule change
Thousands of Disabled people face losing their carers and personal assistants according to new research which shows that nearly 15% of EU employees are unaware that they must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for a new post-Brexit immigration status before June 2021 or be stripped of their rights to work and live in the UK.

The report by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) highlights that a third of those surveyed were unaware of the risks and half were unaware of the deadline for applications.  

There are around a quarter of a million non-UK nationals working in the care industry in the UK – around 16% of the sector’s workforce. Just under half of these are EU citizens.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “This is a consequence of Brexit which has been known about for a long time. More needs to be done to ensure that all those affected are aware that they need to take action. Losing this level of care staff would be catastrophic for Disabled people.”

DR UK warns Severe Disability Premium claimants to ‘seek robust advice’, as UC changes take effect
From Wednesday 27 January a two-year moratorium on moving people who claim Severe Disability Premiums (SDPs) to Universal Credit (UC) has come to an end.  

This means that people on the old-style benefits can now choose to move to the new UC if they so choose, but some will be moved over due to a “change of circumstances”, such as moving house or changing relationship status. The changes affect half a million people.

Despite Ministers repeatedly saying most people will end up better off under the changes, charities are aware of a number of people who will end up worse off as a result of shifting over to UC.

SDP claimants who move to UC get monthly transition payments of £120, £285 or £405 - but these will now change if a claimant is awarded a new or larger element of another part of UC (such as housing benefit).

It is impossible for claimants to work out what the shifts in their income will be in real terms without going through the process of actually declaring changes and being awarded the potentially different sums, for better or worse.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “SDPs are essential for covering the costs that Disabled people face to enable us to live independent lives. Adaptations and disability aids come at a premium, and these benefits help to cover those additional costs.

It is unacceptable that they were allowed to fluctuate under the Universal Credit system instead of being ringfenced.

Not knowing how much money people will have causes increased stress and anxiety. Disabled people are already under the most stress and risk during the pandemic. We could do without this major change right now.

Therese Coffey, Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions is urging people to switch to UC. We would strongly urge people to seek robust advice before switching. If people choose to switch to UC, there is no going back.”

Disability Unit fails to provide adequate offline consultation help
Disability Rights UK is seeking urgent clarification from the government’s Disability Unit about how Disabled people who are offline can respond to its consultation survey on the National Strategy for Disabled People.

The consultation was only formally launched in the middle of this month. Disabled people only have until 13 February to use the consultation survey to influence the Strategy.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Due to Covid, plans for in-person events around the country to capture Disabled people’s views on the forthcoming Strategy have had to be cancelled, and online events by the Government have been limited and poorly advertised. While Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have been feeding into this consultation, Disabled individuals have not had the same level of awareness of the Strategy to respond.

There are 14 million Disabled people in this country. Not everyone engages with DPOs. Not everyone is aware of this consultation survey, and not everyone is online to find out about it on the gov.uk website.

We are aware of people who are deeply frustrated that they cannot respond because they are not online and cannot get online to view any alternative formats. There is no clear offline route to contact the Disability Unit to request them.

The Disability Unit should not rely on the internet for communicating with Disabled people. It should publish a phone number that Disabled people who are not online can ring to find out more about this consultation, to request alternative formats, and to verbally submit their views.”

You can find the consultation survey online here.

Women and Equalities Committee report published
The Women and Equalities Committee has published its second special report - Unequal impact? Coronavirus, disability and access to services: interim Report on temporary provisions in the Coronavirus Act: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report. You can read the report here.

Kickstart employment scheme changes to benefit young Disabled people
On 25 January, the Government made changes to the Kickstart scheme.

The Kickstart scheme provides funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24 year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. Employers of all sizes can apply for funding which covers:

By removing the limit requiring that employers create a minimum of 30 vacancies in order to be able to apply directly, they have now made it easier for employers of all sizes to join the scheme.

This is good news for Disabled young people who prefer to work with small and medium sized enterprises, as the 30 vacancies threshold was considered a barrier to making an application for many employers.

View the changes to the Kickstart scheme here.

Find out about the Kickstart Scheme here.

Sport England’s new strategy focuses on reducing inequalities in sport and physical activity

Sport England has launched its new strategy - Uniting the Movement - a ten year vision to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity.

The new strategy sets out how the sport and physical activity sector needs to change so that people can be given the opportunities they need now and in the future. More than anything, it seeks to tackle the inequalities we have long seen in sport and physical activity. The strategy identifies that for certain people – like Disabled people, people from lower socio-economic groups and people from Black and Asian backgrounds, there is a clear pattern of low levels of activity and so there will be a sharp focus on providing more opportunities for those who are being left behind.

For too long, people with the most to gain from being active have been the least able to take part. As a result of the huge disruption 2020 has caused, and the inequalities it has reinforced or even exacerbated. DR UK welcomes Sport England’s drive to do things differently and confront these inequalities head on, providing opportunities to people and communities that have traditionally been left behind, and helping to remove the barriers to activity.

DR UK pushes for Covid transport resolutions
Changes to transport during the pandemic have had a serious impact on Disabled people. Disability Rights UK has studied the transport focus report on Covid and transport and has noted some serious issues which we will be pushing for resolution on:

  • Train and bus companies need to ensure that passengers better understand and follow rules on face covering exemptions
  • Disabled passengers often feel ‘trapped’ and unsupported in an enclosed space with limited ventilation or realistic opportunity to leave if they feel unsafe. Travel assistance must be more clearly available.
  • Cleaning standards must become a norm once transport recovers – historic standards have not been high enough.
  • Operators must improve the quality and availability of information about how busy services are expected to be and where disability seating or spaces are located.
  • There is a need for new, cheaper, simpler and easier-to-buy tickets that will suit the way passengers expect to travel in future and, when the time is right, help to rebuild passenger numbers and revenue.

Disability Rights UK’s Rail Policy Advisor, Stephen Brookes said: “these will be part of the rebuilding of confidence to travel. Otherwise we will see an increase in isolation in some areas for Disabled people.”

Overcoming vaccine hesitancy in diverse communities – DR UK Ambassador blog
Clenton Farquharson’s family have had many heated debates about the new COVID-19 vaccines and whether or not to take them. Clenton believes this is a common worry among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, fuelled by misinformation and a shortfall in efforts to assuage concerns about safety.

He has written for the government’s Social Care blog to counter these issues, encourage honest conversations and present a short video demonstrating how getting a COVID-19 vaccination is no big deal at all. Read the blog here.

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