Here’s this week’s Disability Rights UK newsletter (week commencing 6 July 2020).
Reintroduction of work conditionality and sanctions
Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey has announced conditionality and benefit sanctions will be reintroduced this week as jobcentres in England start to reopen after lockdown, saying it was ‘essential’ claimant rules are reinstated.
Face-to-face meetings in jobcentres were suspended in March, in addition to suspending ‘claimant conditionality’ – a set of rules that require people to agree to carry out job search activities as a condition of claiming benefits.
DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said “The decision to reintroduce conditionality and sanctions is appalling and one that DR UK strongly condemns. Quite simply, it must be reversed. It is a decision that has not been made without warning and with no consultation with any DWP stakeholder groups, let alone DPOs and other disability organisations.
There has been no research that finds that the conditionality and sanctions regime helps disabled people. Instead there is evidence that the DWP’s sanctions system has discriminated against disabled people for a decade. The Work and Pensions Committee of MPs concluded two years ago that not only is there no evidence that the DWP’s benefit conditionality sanctions system works but that ‘worse, it is harmful and counterproductive’.”
People who are currently shielding can no longer get SSP on that basis from 1 August 2020
The Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has announced that people who are currently ‘shielding’ due to being clinically extremely vulnerable as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will not be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) on that basis from 1 August 2020.
Mr. Tomlinson said that for those shielding, they will continue to remain eligible for SSP if they are unable to work and:
- are required to self-isolate because they, or someone in their household, has symptoms of COVID-19; or
- because they have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus.
Work and Pensions Secretary told to urgently increase the financial support paid to unpaid carers
Carers UK and ninety two other charities, including DR UK, have today written a joint letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey calling for the urgent extra financial support to unpaid carers to ensure “they are supported during the coronavirus crisis and beyond”.
A copy of the letter has been sent to the Chancellor.
More than 6.5 million people in the UK provide unpaid care to disabled, and older people in our society. The support they provide is worth £132 billion a year is – equivalent to the annual cost of the NHS.
Video hearings to be made available for Social Security and Child Support Tribunals
The Justice Minister Chris Philip MP has announced that arrangements are being made to make video hearings available across all Social Security and Child Support Tribunal regions.
In response DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said:
“It’s understandable that face-to-face appeal hearings are not currently possible due to the coronavirus pandemic. The news that video hearings are now to be possible for those appealing against social security decisions is very welcome.
But the informed choice as to whether an appeal is heard on paper, by telephone or by video must be that of the disabled person and not overridden by the tribunals service. Some people who experience severe social anxiety may prefer a telephone hearing. For many others, who say have a learning disability or a mental health issue or need the advice and support of a representative, telephone hearings can never be just or fair.
It is wrong for the tribunals service to dictate that in practice PIP video hearings are unavailable. Most PIP appeals are upheld due to the claimant’s own verbal evidence. It is discriminatory to deny someone the ability to effectively answer questions and present their case.”
50% of people in poverty live in a family where someone is disabled
The Social Metrics Commission has published its annual report on poverty in the UK. Among other things it shows that half of all people in poverty live in a family that includes a disabled person. Of these, 4 million are themselves disabled and another 3.2 million live in a family that includes someone else who is disabled.
Mind’s five tests for the Government to ensure better mental health
The mental health charity Mind has researched some of the knock-on effects of the pandemic and has produced a report proposing five tests which it says the government must meet. These are designed to protect and improve the country’s mental health after coronavirus.
Many people are experiencing problems for the first time and those who were already struggling are finding things even harder. Mind argues that those in power can make the right choices to rebuild services and support to help make sure the society that comes after the pandemic is kinder, fairer and safer.
Mind’s five tests for putting mental health at the heart of the ‘new normal’ are:
- Invest in community services
- Protect those most at risk
- Reform the Mental Health Act
- Provide a financial safety net
- Support children and young people
Changes to the law on EHCP needs assessments and plans due to COVID-19
On 1 May some aspects of the law on education, health and care (EHC) assessments and plans changed temporarily to give local authorities, health commissioning bodies and education bodies more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by COVID-19.
The government has now issued non-statutory guidance with a summary of these legislative changes. It also sets out the key implications for all those who play a part in the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans. The target audience for this guidance is:
- families and parent carer forums
- SEND Information, Advice and Support Services (SENDIASS)
- local authorities and social care services
- health commissioning bodies
- early years providers, schools, colleges and other education settings
- others who contribute advice and information to EHC needs assessments, such as educational psychologists and other health care professionals
- mediation advisers
Download the guidance here, which also confirms which key elements of the processes over EHC needs assessments and plans are unchanged.
Relaxation of planning rules could lead to a shortage of accessible homes
Proposals from housing developers to relax planning rules would exacerbate the UK’s existing shortage of homes that are safe and suitable for older and disabled people, leading housing, ageing and disability charities warn.
By 2030, there will be just one new accessible home built for every 15 people over the age of 65, despite the fact that the UK is undergoing a massive demographic age shift. Looser planning rules would make this shortage more acute, the organisations say. The Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition is calling on housing developers to build more homes suitable for all ages, with research showing that most people want to remain in their homes as they get older.
Disability Rights UK is part of the HoME coalition which sent an open letter to Housing Minister Christopher Pincher. The HoME coalition says that the coronavirus crisis has shone a light on the importance of people having homes that are suitable for their needs, with many having spent lock down stuck in houses that are inaccessible and therefore hazardous to their health and wellbeing.
Access to Work video guide
If the help you need at work is not covered by your employer making reasonable adjustments, you may be able to get help from the Access to Work scheme.
DR UK has collaborated with Diversity and Ability and Evenbreak to create a video guide to the Access to Work application process.
Introduction to Welfare Benefits new online course
DR UK is pleased to announce a new online course being delivered in partnership with the Benefits Training Company on 30th and 31st July 2020.
Introduction to Welfare Benefits is aimed at professionals who work in advice or advocacy who need to know more about – or need a refresher on – changes to welfare benefits and social security.
The course will be run in four live parts with an experienced benefits trainer. After booking you will receive a Zoom link and the pack attachments by email.
Please click here for more information and to book your place on the course.
The total cost of the four modules is £112.50 + VAT per person for DR UK organisational members.
As well as discounts on training courses, DR UK organisational members have access to a range of additional services including our Welfare Rights helpline.
Find out more about DR UK membership here.
Keep talking to us about Coronavirus
We still want to hear about the experiences of disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, their carers and family members, both good and bad, of getting support during the Coronavirus crisis so that we can help out where we can, and learn for the future. We will not record your name or personal details unless you want us to.
In Control and Disability Rights UK have set up a register to record people’s experiences of getting health, social care and treatment for Covid-19 during the time of the pandemic.
Staying active during the Coronavirus outbreak
Disability Rights UK and Sense would like to find out if and how you are staying active during the coronavirus outbreak, what is helping you to stay active, and if there is anything more that could support you to keep active during this time. Completing a short survey will help us understand more about the experiences of disabled people, and people with long term health conditions, staying active during the coronavirus outbreak. This will enable us to create and share resources that reflect your needs, views and experiences. As a thank you for taking part, we will be giving away two Amazon vouchers of £100 and £60 each, to two lucky participants, who will be randomly selected. The survey will close on the 17th July 2020.
Do you have a story to tell about an experience on public transport?
To help develop a training package for the Department for Transport, Claremont are looking for disabled people who use public transport to take part in an interview and be featured in the training content.
Your story could be about a specific incident on any form of transport, or be more general about the barriers you face on a day-to-day basis. They’d like to hear from people who’ve had positive as well as negative experiences. Perhaps there was a time when a particular arrangement, process or attitude helped to make the journey a better or more equal experience.
Claremont will be selecting up to 20 participants in total based on a range of criteria, in order to form as representative a sample as possible. Interviewees will be paid for their time.
If you’re interested in taking part, please fill out this short survey and a member of the Claremont team will get back to you.
APPG for Disability on education
The next All Party Parliamentary Group for Disability webinar meeting will take place from 2pm-3pm 9 July 2020 as a joint webinar with the APPG for Education on higher education.
To register your place, email Roberta Kirosingh at KIROSINGHR@parliament.uk.
Co-production webinars for the physical activity sector and disability organisations
DR UK’s Get Yourself Active programme is hosting a number of short 15-20 minute co-production webinars over the next two months aimed at the sport sector as well as other organisations that work with disabled people. The aim of these sessions is to support organisations to understand the basics of co-production as well as increasing understanding of effectively embedding co-production in practice.
We’ve already covered a range of topics, from the history of co-production to the benefits and challenges of using co-production approaches in practice. Please visit our webinars page on the Get Yourself Active website to register for upcoming sessions and to watch back on previous ones.
Our webinar next week will be hosted by Dance Syndrome, who will be taking you through their work and how co-production is of key importance. As part of this webinar they will also be demonstrating co-production through the art of dance.