Disability Rights UK - News In Brief

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Disability Rights UK - News in Brief
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Tory Peer Calls For UC Uplift To Be Maintained
A Tory peer, regarded as one of the architects of Universal Credit, has said that government should keep the uplifts introduced to the benefit during the pandemic.

Former Minister David Freud told The Observer that it had taken a global health crisis for the welfare system to be provided with adequate funding, saying that in his time as Minister, he battled against “massive cuts” demanded by the Treasury and had considered resigning.

He is calling on the government to keep the increase in housing allowance and said that ministers should rethink plans to cut the £20 a week uplift to basic payments from September.

“When you’ve got lots of people who are not normally in the welfare system needing to subsist, the rates aren’t good enough,” he said.

He said that on top of demanding cuts, the Treasury wanted to use universal credit to get back accidental overpayments, leaving thousands of claimants with unexpected low monthly payments.

“It was a part of the deal,” he told The Observer. “The Treasury said, ‘you can have universal credit, but we want to use it as an efficient debt collection device’. And, of course, it is very efficient. I think it’s counterproductive: it undermines universal credit. I wish we hadn’t had to agree to it.

“By the time we’d gone through the coalition period [with the Liberal Democrats], all the cuts that were reasonable, and extra ones, had been done,” he said. “I think it was a mistake, particularly from 2015, to go on with this massive cuts programme.”

A government spokesperson told the paper: “Universal credit enables claimants to support themselves and their families, helping them to move back into work, allowing them to increase their hours and supporting them towards financial independence. When the chancellor announced the six-month extension to the uplift, it was clear it was a temporary measure to support households affected by the economic shock of Covid-19.”

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “David Freud’s support is welcome. However, to say that ‘people not normally in the system’ need the extra support, but not those who have to live on benefits permanently due to disability is somewhat galling. It is evident that benefits are meagre and hard to live on. It is not a case of them not being enough for ‘us’, ignoring the Disabled ‘them’. Benefits need to be uplifted so that all people living on them, beyond the pandemic, can do so without debilitating fear and anxiety about making ends meet.”

Government Delays Critical Social Care Meeting
A meeting to hash out social care policy between Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock scheduled for Tuesday of this week was cancelled this week.

The meeting had been scheduled to set out broadbrush policy objectives on social care.

DR UK’s Head of Policy said: “Social care has been on its knees for years, and the increased pressures of the pandemic brought it home that we are out of time when it comes to procrastination.

“The news that this crucial meeting was cancelled, with no future date yet set for when it will be held, is disappointing. Huge injections of money are needed for social care, now.”

Writing in the Daily Mail, former Health Secretary and current Chair of the Commons Health Committee Jeremy Hunt urged the prime minister to ignore the “national bean counters” and deliver enough resources to social care. He said that the meeting is “a do or die moment for social care” and that limiting spending is a false economy, highlighting five million people waiting for support.

Social Care Changes Must Improve Disabled People’s Lives:
The Government’s commitment to publishing proposals for social care reform by the  end of this year is welcome, but disability groups believe that there is a danger that the reforms won’t improve the lives of Disabled people.

Organisations led by Disabled people feel that they are being excluded from current discussions being held by the Department of Health and Social Care. To address this, a Statement has been produced that sets out the principles which should underpin reform and the actions which need to be taken to ensure that reform improves the lives of Disabled people. Organisations and individuals are being asked to sign the Statement by 4 July, prior to it being shared with Government.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK said: “The only test for social care reform is whether it improves the lives of Disabled people of all ages. Does support enable us to live with dignity? Does support enable us to lead full lives, connecting with family and friends, being part of the community, to learn and work, to follow our passions and have fun?

“Social care must enable us to have equality with others and to contribute to the world around us. It must not starve us of support, burden us with unfair charges and treat us as second class citizens.”

Government must urgently talk to Disabled people, old and young, so that reforms aren’t about moving the deck chairs or financial caps but are focused on transforming the quality of our lives.”

80% Of Disabled College Children Infected With Contaminated Blood Died, Inquiry Hears
A public Inquiry has heard how nearly 100 pupils at a specialist school for Disabled children were infected with contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s.

Former pupil Gary Webster is one of 89 pupils affected who attended Treloar College in Hampshire, of whom only 17 are still alive. He told the Inquiry that neither he nor his parents were aware that he was being used as part of a medical trial.

Around 3,000 people in total are believed to have died after contracting hepatitis C and HIV from blood products imported from the USA.

He said: “I honestly don’t remember having any information about going on trials research or anything like that. My parents never were informed of any of it … We always saw we were in some sort of weird experiment because we just couldn’t understand why they were pushing us so much to have all these injections.

“At the time we were just unaware, we just did as we were told.”

An undated consent form allegedly signed by his mother was shown to the Inquiry. Webster said his mother had no memory of it.

The Inquiry was also shown a document which said that haemophilia doctor, Antony Aronstam, “emphasised the necessity for research as the concentration of haemophiliacs found at Treloar’s is unique within Britain”.

Webster was told he was HIV positive in 1983, when he was 18. He said he went on “a mission to destroy myself” for a decade, including driving a car into a brick wall to try to kill himself. He is one of only 17 pupils alive from the original 89 infected.

DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “That children were effectively used as lab rats at a school where they were supposed to have specialised, protective support is utterly abhorrent. That so many people have lived shortened lives with the constant fear and expectation of needless early death as a result of these experiments is horrific. We know that today, more than thirty years on, there are still an unacceptable number of facilities for Disabled children where abuse is still perpetuated. Disabled lives matter. Disabled children matter. The mindsets which lead to Disabled children being used and abused like this have to change.”

Demand For Children’s Mental Health Support Three Times Beyond Capacity
Projections from the Centre for Mental Health, involving NHS economists, suggest demand for child mental health support post pandemic will be up to three times greater than the capacity of mental health services.

With children’s mental health services already under strain before the pandemic, families in some areas are being confronted with waiting times of up to four years for support.

An extra 1.5 million children will need mental health support “as a direct impact of the pandemic” in the next three to five years.

In May it was reported that children's mental health needs had shot up by a third since the start of the pandemic

The Daily Telegraph reports that private therapists are saying they are also receiving double the amount of calls they usually have and are having to turn patients away.

Lockdowns and social distancing have left a legacy of behavioural problems for children and families, with many children fearing contracting the virus.

Children as young as five are reporting fear of meeting friends, or leaving their homes.

The Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel De Souza said a survey of over half a million children shows that mental health is their biggest concern.

She said: “Coming out of lockdown and not knowing how to make friends anymore, not knowing how to talk to anyone else. Everyone is on edge."

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “As hidden disabilities, mental health conditions are often swept under the carpet. Families with children with poor mental health are often left to just get on with it, with little or no resources or tick box solutions which are not individually child-centred.

“The impacts of poor mental health in childhood are often felt for a lifetime. We know that the one in seven children who are neurodiverse are at even greater risk of poor mental health.

“We have heard from countless families about how ineffective the current support systems such as CAMHS are even before the pandemic.

“The government needs to commit to significant spending and reform of children’s mental health services before it is too late for this generation.”

Industry ‘Out Of Touch’ On Working From Home
The President of the CBI, Britain’s biggest employers lobbying group, has told a conference that: “the worst thing possible would [be to] have any legislation that entitles people to the right to work from home… They should have the right to request it. But every employer should make that decision about the mix of working from home [and the office].”

Lord Bilimoria, who is also Chairman of the Cobra Beer Partnership, was responding to news that Downing Street has confirmed the Government is considering changes to legislation about working from home.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “The pandemic has had few silver linings, but one of them has been flexible working. Disabled people, who often struggle with the pressures commuting puts upon energy, pain and coping levels, coupled with a lack of accessibility on transport and in workplaces, have often benefited from the shift to home working. It has been safer, but also allowed us to show employers just how productive we can be with the right adaptations.

“The shift to homeworking has also benefited families, especially women, who often bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities. Anna Whitehouse’s work on the Flex Appeal project has made it clear that the ‘right to request’ flexible working is not a patch on workers in certain jobs being able to work flexibly as a right.

“The nine to five in a set location is a hangover from the 1920s car industry. The men in charge of industry insisting on the ‘right to request’ are out of touch and need to wake up and realise that many workers thrive with a combination of autonomy and flexibility, and as they thrive, so do the businesses they work for.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said a flexible working taskforce was examining how best to proceed. “What we’re consulting on is making flexible working a default option unless there are good reasons not to.”

Sacked Mother Of Disabled Children Wins Tribunal
A community nurse who was fired from her job as a nurse for not agreeing to work weekends has won a “landmark” ruling for working mothers after a judge said employment tribunals must consider childcare disparities.

Gemma Dobson worked fixed shifts so that she could care for her three children, two of whom are Disabled. She was fired by North Cumbria integrated NHS foundation trust in 2016 after she was unable to meet a new requirement for community nurses to work flexibly, including at weekends.

Dobson was unsuccessful at an employment tribunal citing unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination. She has won an appeal before the President of the employment appeal tribunal, Mr Justice Choudhury.

In his written judgment Choudhury said “childcare disparity” was a matter employment tribunals “must take into account if relevant”.

“Whilst things might have progressed somewhat in that men do now bear a greater proportion of childcaring responsibilities than they did decades ago, the position is still far from equal.

“The assumptions made and relied upon [by the appellant] … are still very much supported by the evidence presented to us of current disparities between men and women in relation to the burden of childcare.”

Dobson said: “It means everything knowing that others also believed in me and my strength in staying dedicated to my journey for justice… I truly hope that in the future other working mothers won’t be discriminated against for having caring responsibilities; especially those that care for Disabled children.”

Employment lawyer Doreen Reeves who acted for Dobson said: “Working mothers should not be tasked to prove this assumption time and time again when they bring employment tribunal claims. This important landmark decision gives a clear warning, working mothers with caring responsibilities should not be penalised if they are not able to work flexibly to meet business needs or demands of a service.”

Disabled People’s Lives ‘Devastated’ By Covid – BBC Survey
Thousands of D/deaf and Disabled people became more disabled during the pandemic with most losing access to vital medical appointments and necessary routines.

A BBC survey of over 3,000 people found that many Disabled people experienced a ‘huge physical and mental decline’ during the pandemic.

Young people with autism reported attempting suicide because they could not cope with drastic changes to their lives. Isolation, loneliness and support networks and cuts to care were also frequently mentioned.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “The BBC’s survey chimes with what Disabled people have been telling us for the past 15 months. We have been loud and clear in our communications with Government that Disabled people were bearing the brunt of Coronavirus, with six in ten deaths being those of Disabled people, with people with learning disabilities needing to be much higher up the vaccine priority agenda because of increased risk, with the added dangers to those living in residential care homes, with people struggling to get hold of food and medicine for several months, with conditions missed off the shielding list, with the deterioration of physical and mental health as medical, exercise and social facilities and support were closed down – every area of our lives took a nosedive, and Ministers failed or delayed speaking with us at every step. The BBC data paints a clear picture of the systemic failure of Government to prioritise the lives of Disabled people despite clear evidence that prioritisation was absolutely necessary.

”The pandemic amplified the systemic discrimination and inequality that is the everyday experience of millions of Disabled people.

It is vital that the Government’s soon to be published National Disability Strategy is more than a set of incremental departmental objectives. It needs to respond to the deep inequalities that COVID has laid bare, setting out bold radical steps towards building a disability inclusive society.”

Read more here.

Senior Minister Responds To DR UK Covid Concerns 11 Months Later
The Minister for Social Care, Helen Whately, has taken eleven months to respond on behalf of the Prime Minister, to the concerns raised about the treatment of Disabled people during the coronavirus crisis, made by Disability Rights UK’s Our Voices group.

Our Voices – a consortium of Disabled People’s Organisations from across England, wrote to the Prime Minister last July, to ask for action on a vast array of issues arising from the pandemic which were deeply affecting, and risking, the lives of Disabled people.

Apologising for the delay, the Minister said in her letter: “I recognise how challenging a time this is for disabled people, especially because of the serious risks that COVID-19 poses to people with some specific health conditions and because of social distancing and disruption to routines. I completely agree that Government departments must work together so that disabled adults, children and their families can get the right support to stay safe and healthy…

“Despite the unprecedented challenge we face as a nation, this Government is committed to delivering an ambitious National Strategy for Disabled People, with expert advice and the lived experience of disabled people at its heart. We intend to publish the Strategy soon.

“I hope this reply is helpful.”

DR UK’s CEO, Kamran Mallick, said: “On the one hand Government says it is committed to an ambitious Strategy, but on the other hand, its track record of prioritising Disabled people’s lives during the pandemic has been incredibly poor. There is a huge dissonance between what the Government says at the moment and what it does when it comes to deeply understanding the needs of Disabled people and taking strong action to make sure they are addressed. The pandemic shone a spotlight on decades of neglect of Disabled people. It heightened the poverty we live in, financially, medically and socially. A response eleven months after we raised vital concerns is abysmal .”

100 Disabled Families Given Three Months To Find Specialist Residential Placements
Around 100 families in Sussex have been told they have to rehouse Disabled loved ones within just three months after care home provider Sussex Healthcare announced it is closing six residential homes.

Sussex Healthcare, the largest provider of residential care for people with severe learning disabilities in the county, is closing all of its homes for people with learning disabilities.

Families told BBC South East News that their loved ones would struggle to cope with such rapid change, even if they could find suitable accommodation in such a short space of time. They are petitioning Sussex Healthcare to try to sell that part of its business to another company rather than closing it down.

Sussex Healthcare told the BBC it has taken the “difficult” decision because it cannot keep up with CQC requirements.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “This move shows a callous lack of understanding of the needs of people with learning disabilities. Familiarity and routine are essential for many people with learning disabilities. Providers closing residential care should work with local authorities to ensure that alternative provisions are made, with adequate timescales and in the local area to avoid families having to move loved ones to completely different areas of the country. The implications of rapid change for residents in situations like this are life shattering.”

Long Covid ‘A Disability’ Says TUC
Long Covid should be classed as a disability to protect thousands who need protection from workplace discrimination, says the TUC.

A survey of 3,500 people with Long Covid commissioned by the TUC shows that over half of those with Long Covid symptoms, including energy impairment, brain fog and breathlessness have been discriminated against or disadvantaged at work, with managers questioning the legitimacy of a fifth’s claims that their condition impacted their health, and almost a sixth being completely disbelieved.

Employees in need of time off for Long Covid risked sanction, with around one in six workers subjected to HR processes. A tenth of people were threatened with negative consequences for time off, and one in 20 were forced out of their jobs.

Almost 80% of those affected are keyworkers in frontline jobs where their exposure to the virus would have been higher. A third of those surveyed had symptoms over a year after contracting the virus.

Frances O’Grady, Head of the TUC, said that people with Long Covid must be protected by the Equality Act, and have a right to reasonable adjustments at work, such as flexible working, longer rest breaks, and specialist software or equipment to do their jobs. She also called for it to be designated as an occupational disease so that workers could get the necessary compensation.

ONS statistics show that 376,000 people in the UK have reported symptoms lasting for over a year, with women in mid-life, health and social care workers, and people with other activity limiting conditions being most affected.

DR UK’s Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi, said ”This TUC report is hugely welcomed. Those with long COVID and other chronic health conditions need to know that they have rights and protections under the Equality Act, particularly the right to reasonable adjustments from their employer.

“So often people with chronic health conditions don’t receive the reasonable adjustments they need. Over this past year, remote working has proved effective for millions of workers and this added flexibility could make the difference in enabling many with energy limiting impairments to maintain employment.”

BBC Appoints New Disability Team
The BBC has set up a new disability team, to include Cbeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell in the role of Disability Ambassador, Kay  Ashton MBE as Creative Diversity Disability Lead, and Nichola Garde as Project Manager of Elevate, a recruitment programme for Disabled people.

Cerrie Burnell will work closely with commissioning and production teams over the next year to champion authentic on-screen portrayal of disability. She said: “I’m beyond excited to be working with the BBC to elevate disability narratives, so they become integral to all storytelling and ground-breaking content in a deeply authentic and enlightening way.”

The new team will be part of the BBC’s Creative Diversity Unit, led by June Sarpong. The BBC’s 50:20:12 workforce targets are looking to employ 50% women (the same as the UK population percentage); at least 20% black, Asian or minority ethnic staff (seven percent higher than the UK population percentage); and at least 12% Disabled people (nine percent less than the UK population percentage) from now until 2023 as part of its current Diversity and Inclusion plan.

The team will report to the BBC’s Head of Creative Diversity to develop and deliver the BBC’s disability agenda as part of its diversity strategy.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “Disabled people make up over a fifth of the population and yet continue to be underrepresented in our society. Our media outlets have a moral obligation to reflect and represent the diversity of our communities. For the BBC to set itself an unaspirational target of 12% of its workforce to be Disabled people is an indication of how it sees us. There is a rich diversity of talent and human potential that the BBC should bring to its operations at all levels of the business. Until our institutions are ambitious about change Disabled people will continue to be the forgotten members of our society.”

Lockdown Easing Plans Put CEV People Back In Jeopardy
Psychology experts, health professionals and Disabled People’s Organisations are expressing grave concerns about the Prime Minister’s announcement that the majority of remaining COVID-19 regulations are set to end in England on 19 July.

The wearing of face coverings will no longer be legally required, distancing rules will be removed, and the rule of six inside private homes will also go. Work from home guidance will be revoked and limits on the number of people allowed at sporting events and in entertainment venues will be abolished.

Boris Johnson said his aim is to: “move from a universal government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility”, with the only remaining regulation being the requirement to isolate after testing positive for Covid-19, plus restrictions on international travel and mandatory social distancing at airports and other ports.

DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “On 5 July last year, in full lockdown, there were 517 new cases of Covid and 19 deaths. On 5 July this year, there were 27,334 cases of Covid and nine deaths.

“Only two-thirds of over 18s have been fully vaccinated. Nearly 18 million adults in this country have yet to be vaccinated. 14 million under 18s cannot yet be vaccinated. That’s 32 million people, just under half the population, not yet fully vaccinated.

“The Prime Minister seems to have forgotten that many people do not recover as well as he did from Covid, with many going on to develop Long Covid, with ongoing fit-to-drop exhaustion, chronic pain, and brain fog.

“Plans to remove the compulsory behaviours which keep the public safe effectively reframes the disease as a post-vaccine slight sniffle. This is unequivocally not the case. Disabled people, and people with compromised immune systems, those formerly known as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) people, will be faced with the choice of shielding under their own determination with no support, or facing increased risk of infection by going out in wider society.

“The CEV list had around four million people on it. Add in people in vaccination group six and the number of people vulnerable to the virus, even with vaccines, is swollen by millions more.

“The Government has once again dismissed the lives and voices of millions of Disabled people with plans for the reckless removing of safety measures. We have learnt that for the vast majority of people, it is no hardship to distance in public spaces, and to wear a mask, a practice which in many Asian countries is standard during non-pandemic times.

“These planned moves feel very much as though they have been made with no thought for those who stand to lose the most if they contract a virus which is still very much present in our midst.”

Professor Stephen Reicher, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) which advises government, warned that the announcement risks causing “huge damage primarily to young people because they're the ones that aren't vaccinated”.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association council chair said the proposals were “incredibly concerning”, and Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said that the lifting of all restrictions at once is “reckless”.

School Bubbles To Be Popped, Raising Fears For Disabled Children
Covid rules that require whole classes in England to isolate are to be dropped, raising questions about the safety of clinically vulnerable pupils, especially in mainstream schools.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the ‘bubble’ system which saw whole groups of children needing to isolate if a positive case was found in a class will finish at the end of this school term. 

Teaching unions are calling for a continuation of safety measures in the face of rising cases, and the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid warned that once lockdown measures end, the country could see cases in the 100,000s per day.

Face coverings, social distancing and staggered start and finish times will also be dropped from the start of the autumn term.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “There is a balancing act right now between ensuring that pupils are not disadvantaged with too much time off school, and recognising that there is still a substantial population of Disabled children who are clinically vulnerable, who go to school, and need protecting.

“Schools are well known for being petri dishes when it comes to this disease. There are 299,000 children with a learning disability in the UK, and well over a million with special educational needs and disability. People with learning disabilities have been at greatly increased risk of Covid throughout the pandemic. A one size fits all ruling on bubbles does not mitigate this significant risk.

“We are seeking urgent clarification from the Education Minister about how schools with pupils known to be clinically extremely vulnerable will be able to protect these children, while ensuring they are not academically disadvantaged.”

Top Ten Accessible Beaches Revealed
Nearly all of the top ten most accessible beaches are in just three counties, according to new research.

Keep Moving Care analysed 30 top-rated UK beaches against 10 criteria points – whether the beaches had received a Blue Flag award; existence of ramps, slopes, or slipways; step-free access to beach; step-free access to water; disabled toilet facilities; number of disabled toilets; disabled parking; beach accessible wheelchair hire; availability of beach accessible wheelchairs for hire; and Mobi-mat hire – to determine the best accessible beaches in the UK. Dorset, Cornwall and West Sussex beaches all appeared in the top ten, with Norfolk, Essex and North Yorkshire beaches  appearing in the top twenty.

Kent, which has one of the longest coastlines in the country, didn’t make the list at all.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “Everyone deserves access to sun, sea and sand. While we can’t guarantee the sun in this country, there is no reason why councils should not be making more efforts to make beaches truly accessible for Disabled people under their Equality Act obligations.”

Channel 4 Unveils Tokyo Paralympics Line Up
Almost three quarters of the 2021 Paralympic presenting team identify as Disabled, Channel 4 has announced – the largest number of Disabled presenters ever seen on UK TV.

Presenters lined up include wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan, who will host the highlights show Today in Tokyo from Japan, as well as TV presenter Sophie Morgan, former Royal Marines commando and Strictly Come Dancing star JJ Chalmers, and former rugby union player Ed Jackson. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Steve Brown, Liam Malone, Danny Crates and Liz Johnson will join in with commentary.

Adam Hills, Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe will present The Last Leg every day from London and comedian Rosie Jones will join them from Tokyo.

The Channel has scheduled over 300 hours of TV coverage from Tokyo, Leeds and London; More 4 will become a dedicated channel for team sports throughout the Paralympics, and16 live streams will be available on its Paralympics microsite.

Channel 4 and More 4 will run live subtitles, and the opening ceremony will have live signing and an enhanced open audio-description/commentary simulcast on 4Seven. Most of the content on the Paralympics microsite will also have subtitles.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games runs from 24 August to 5 September.

Health and Disability Green Paper Published: Shaping Future Support
The DWP has published its long-promised Health and Disability Green Paper titled Shaping Future Support. The DWP says that: “This green paper considers the options for addressing some of the short to medium-term issues in health and disability benefits. It will also start a discussion about the opportunities for wider change to deliver on the objectives of the health and disability benefit system. We are consulting on the following aspects of our support for people with disabilities and health conditions: 

  • Ways to provide more support to help meet the needs of Disabled people and people with health conditions and allow them to more easily access and use benefits and services.
  • Improve employment support for Disabled people and people with health conditions, and how to encourage people to take up that support, where possible
  • Short-term improvements to our current services such as improvements to assessments and decision making, to improve the experience of Disabled people.
  • Changes to future assessments and alternative approaches.
  • Changes that could be made to the structure of the main benefits claimed by working-age Disabled people and people with health conditions.”

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said that the Green Paper:

“… represents an important step for improving the benefits system, increasing opportunities for employment and helping more people to lead independent lives.

It is part of a wider package of support for Disabled people that includes the National Disability Strategy which, for the first time, represents focus and collaboration across Government to set out a wide-ranging portfolio of practical changes we can take to help people in every aspect of daily life. Our Health Is Everyone’s Business consultation response also looks at how employers can support people at work.”

The Our Health is Everyone’s Business consultation response and the National Disability Strategy and the are expected to be published within the next few days.

The consultation started by the launch of the Green Paper will last for 12 weeks.

Following the consultation, detailed proposals will then be brought forward in a White Paper in 2022, setting out how the DWP “can better enable people to take up work and live more independently”, and outline the changes it wants “to make to the benefits system to better address structural and delivery challenges”.

Equality Body Announces Inquiry Into Decisions About Social Care
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to investigate the experiences of people seeking to challenge council decisions on social care.

The EHRC said that a range of organisations working on issues facing Disabled and older people have raised concerns around barriers to complaining about or challenging decisions related to their social care. Announcing the inquiry, the commission said that people should be able to  challenge a decision if they feel that it leaves them without the right support.

The inquiry covers England and Wales and includes social care and support for older and Disabled people and unpaid carers. It will explore:

  • if people are made aware of their rights to social care and support, and how they can challenge a decision they feel is wrong
  • whether local councils and other relevant bodies learn from challenges to improve decision-making in future
  • access to advocacy
  • whether effective systems are in place to check the quality and consistency of decision-making about people’s access to social care or support.

EHRC Chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner, said: “Decisions about social care and support carry crucial equality and human rights implications for people’s lives. They can affect the choice, control and dignity of older people, Disabled people and unpaid carers, and their ability to maintain relationships, live independently and participate in their communities.

“We know that the social care system has been under significant pressure and many problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic. With vital decisions about people’s care being made under such pressure, it is essential that there are effective ways to challenge them if people feel they have been left without the support they need.

The inquiry team will gather evidence from adults affected by the issues in its terms of reference, organisations that provide advice, support and/or advocacy services to people trying to navigate the social care system, as well as councils and national governments.

The inquiry team has published a short survey seeking views from social care users and their loved ones, as well as unpaid carers.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “This investigation is very welcome. The Care Act sets out eligibility criteria and processes for assessment and planning, but the extent to which it is being implemented is in serious question.

The investigation on complaints and challenges will shine a light on the rigor and   transparency of social care decision making processes. 

We urge Disabled people to make sure our voices are heard by completing the survey and sharing experiences with the inquiry team.”

You can email the inquiry team at SCI@equalityhumanrights.com or call them on 0161 8298180 and leave a message. The full inquiry report will be published next year.

Severely Disabled Man Challenges Removal Of PIP After 28 Days In Hospital
Cameron Mitchell, a severely Disabled man is challenging a rule which halted his PIP payment after he had been in hospital for more than four weeks. Cameron, aged 19, cannot walk or speak. He suffers frequent seizures and muscle spasms and is fed through a tube. He has spent several periods of his life in hospital and recently had hospital care from December 2020 to June 2021.

After Cameron’s condition stabilised but before it was possible to discharge him from hospital, Cameron’s family took him on daily trips outdoors, and as his sole carers, provided essential care such as suctioning his chest, looking after his stoma bag, monitoring his condition and the machines that support him.

However, Cameron’s weekly PIP payments of £152.15 and as a result his mother’s weekly Carer’s allowance of £67.70 were halted suddenly in May 2021 when the DWP became aware that Cameron had been in hospital care for more than 28 days.

After 28 days, PIP rules provide that since the NHS is meeting the costs of care, the DWP no longer needs to pay. Cameron and his mother will have to pay back benefits “overpaid” from 25 January, when the rule states the PIP and Carer’s Allowance payments should have been stopped. 

The support that will be lost due to application of the rule already amounts to almost £3,500 in PIP and over £1,500 in Carer’s Allowance. As Cameron is now in a hospice and it is still assumed that his care needs there are being met by others, the payments will not be resuming until he is able to return home.

Represented by law firm Leigh Day, the family are challenging the rule (Regulations 29 and 30 of the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013) that enforces the halting of PIP payments after someone in Cameron’s situation has been in hospital care for more than 28 days.

For further information see Severely Disabled man challenges halt to Personal Independence Benefit payments after 28 days in hospital available from leighday.co.uk.

DR UK Urges Proper Consultation With Disabled People On Al Fresco Dining
The relaxation of licensing rules around al fresco dining and drinking outside pubs and restaurants is set to continue for at least another year, the Government has announced.

Introduced as an emergency measure last year  to help the hospitality industry respond to the financial costs of the pandemic, the extension of the new pavement dining and drinking arrangements are included in the Government’s recovery strategy for the industry.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said “Councils have a legal responsibility to consult with residents including disabled citizens to ensure that the impact of pavement dining on Disabled people is fully considered. Disabled citizens have an equal right to enjoy access to local streets and facilities.

Outdoor eating shouldn’t be at the cost of wheelchair users and people with sight and mobility impairments being unable to navigate furniture or being forced into the road.”

“Too often the consultation period on applications for such licences is too short and is not advertised widely enough for Disabled people to give their perspective.”

Disabled Councillors Banned From Speaking About Blue Badge Ban

A senior officer at City of York Council attempted to exclude two councillors from a debate about disabled people accessing the town centre – because they are disabled.

According to local paper reports from The Press online, the council’s monitoring officer advised Councillor Katie Lomas not to take part in the discussion about blue badge access to the pedestrianised parts of the city centre because she is a blue badge holder. This represented a prejudicial interest, the officer said. She also advised Councillor Ashley Mason to excuse himself from the debate.

The paper quoted Councillor Lomas saying: “To prevent me from participating in the debate is to treat me differently directly because of a disability and this is discrimination. Would a woman be advised that she cannot take part in a debate on women’s rights? Would a person of colour be advised they could not take part in a debate on racism?”

The Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Chris Cullwick, reversed the decision during the meeting after immediate outrage on social media.

He said he would grant a dispensation to both councillors “on the basis that it is in the interests of the inhabitants of the council’s area to allow the members to take part in that item”.

The York Disability Rights Forum said they had been “inundated” with messages from people who will be unable to reach vital offices, services and entertainment venues if the plans are approved.

They have won backing from the York Human Rights City Network, which called on the council to halt plans to permanently ban blue badge holders from the city centre - and urged them to rebuild trust with the disabled community.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy, said: “Proposing to ban Disabled councillors from speaking in a debate is an extraordinary act of discrimination. It is horrifying that York Council seeks to exclude some of its own Disabled citizens from using the city centre. We recognise that towns and cities want to reduce the use of cars but this must not be at the expense of the equality and human rights of Disabled residents.”

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