Disability Rights UK - News In Brief

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Disability Rights UK - News in Brief
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Deaf Woman Wins Discrimination Case Against Government

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

The Government denied breaching the Equality Act to make broadcasts accessible to D/deaf people. Mr Justice Fordham ruled that the lack of provision amounted to discrimination. Ms Rowley argued that being unable to access the official information had caused her stress and affected her wellbeing.

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

Ms Rowley will be awarded damages.

Disability Employment Gap ‘Worse’ Since Covid

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

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

DWP Concedes Legal Challenge By Couple Who Lost Almost £10,000 By Claiming Universal Credit

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

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

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

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

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

Ex-Health Minister Denies Responsibility For Contaminated Blood Scandal

Lord Clarke has told an Inquiry he was "not responsible" for blood products which were found to be contaminated during his time as Health Minister.

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

Lord Clarke was the Health Minister between 1982 and 1985. He said information about the scandal "hardly ever came across my desk". He went on: "As the tragedy with the haemophiliacs developed, I was aware it was there… From time to time, usually on my own instigation, I got on the edge of it… I did not call meetings on it… I was never the Minister directly responsible for blood products… I was never asked to take a decision on blood products… I never intervened to take a decision on blood products… I did intervene or get involved in discussions a bit when I wanted to be reassured… "When I arrived, the idea that blood products was a very big part of the department's activity is simply not true."

He said it was not the job of ministers to intervene or impose a personal decision on what treatments patients were given.

The Inquiry continues.

Four In Ten Banks Fail Disabled Customers, Says Which?

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

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

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

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

Disabled Graduates’ Job Prospects Dented By COVID

New research from Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and the University of Southampton has identified significant differences in the experiences of recent graduates, based on whether they have a disability.

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

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

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

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

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

Motorway Services Access Guide Launched

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

Inaccessible Rolling Stock Still On The Rails

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

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

Blue Badge Offence Notices Top 175,000

Research published this week reveals that councils issued 175,000 Blue Badge penalty notices to motorists last year, with Milton Keynes named the worst offending location outside London. The research collected and analysed Freedom of Information requests to councils around the UK, revealing the areas with the highest number of Blue Badge offences. A Blue Badge offence includes the use of an invalid badge, the use of a badge by an unauthorised person, the use of a lost or stolen badge and parking in a Disabled space without clearly displaying a Blue Badge.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Motorists need to understand that the Blue Badge scheme is not a luxury for Disabled people: for many it is an essential tool to living a full live by travelling to work, visiting shops  or socialising with friends and family. Some councils are clearly giving a high priority to enforcing the rules around the scheme and we would urge all other councils to follow their lead.”

You can view the full research https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=60935&qid=9780335

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

Councils Invited To Bid For ‘Changing Places Toilets’ Funding

Councils in England can apply for a share of £30m funding to install Changing Places Toilets in places such as parks, transport networks, shopping centres and tourist attractions.

There are currently around 1,200 registered Changing Places Toilets in England. They are larger accessible toilets for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets, with equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches, and space for carers. 

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

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

DR UK Get Yourself Active Team Announces Practical Pack For Social Care Staff

The Disability Rights UK Get Yourself Active (GYA) team has launched its new Social Care Activity Pack. The team has previously co-produced guidance with social workers to support asset-based approaches to discussing the opportunities and outcomes that physical activity can deliver.

GYA spokesperson Mikey Erhardt said: “Carers and support workers can enable and support Disabled people to take part in physical activity and the pack will develop their knowledge of how best to do this. It will assist conversations with Disabled people and suggest ways of building exercise into everyday activities.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy Price Rise Set To Hit Disabled People Hard

DR UK has joined dozens of disability groups and anti-poverty campaigners in condemning an unprecedented rise in energy costs.

Regulator Ofgem announced that the energy price cap will increase from 1 October for the 15 million customers it protects. People on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase of £139 from £1,138 to £1,277. Prepayment customers will see an increase of £153 from £1,156 to £1,309. The End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates that the 12% increase will see an additional 488,000 households plunged into fuel poverty, a month after the £20 Universal Credit uplift ends.

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

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

DBC And DPAC Urge Six-Week Extension To Green Paper Consultation Response Time

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have written an open letter to the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP, expressing their concerns about the consultation period for the recently published Health and Disability Green Paper.

The Green Paper was published on the 20 July 2021, following a two year wait, but the Government are only providing the standard 12 week consultation timeframe for feedback, leaving many disabled people without time to respond fully or even at all.

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

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