Disability Rights UK’s latest newsletter

This is Disability Rights UK‘s latest newsletter –  as ever it covers a range of issues and news items.

Disabled people’s led organisations challenge government record

Disabled people’s led organisations from across England, including DR UK, have written to the Prime Minister highlighting the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on the lives of disabled people. Two thirds of all deaths so far have been disabled people. Disabled people have experienced challenges in accessing health and social care, problems in buying food, digital exclusion and deterioration of mental health. The letter calls on government to put disabled people at the heart of recovery planning and to fully engage disable people in the shaping of the government’s Disability Strategy.

Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK said:

“Throughout the crisis, DR UK and other disabled people led organisations have been drawing the serious issues facing disabled people to the attention of government. In this letter to the Prime Minister, the group sets out the devastating impact of the crisis on disabled people and call for disabled people to be at the heart of recovery planning.”

Read the letter on our website.

Misleading communications on face coverings

DR UK has been challenging the poor communication of some civic leaders and media outlets on face coverings. The regulations relating to public transport and shops clearly state that if people find putting on, wearing or removing face coverings due to mental or physical impairment, illness or disability, or where wearing a face covering would cause distress, the person is exempt. The regulations also say that where someone is with a person who needs to lip read, they are not required to wear a face covering.

Despite these clear exemptions, a number of high-profile opinion leaders have made pronouncements that face coverings are mandatory. This misrepresentation of the regulations is wholly misleading and could cause problems for disabled people who cannot wear face coverings. DR UK has challenged these mis-communications and we urge disabled people who are not able to wear face coverings, not to fear going out. The regulations are absolutely clear – where you can’t wear a face covering due to disability or distress, you don’t have to.

Funding for councils to discharge people with learning disabilities into the community

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced £62 million to help discharge people with learning disabilities or autism into the community. The funding can cover establishing community teams, funding accommodation and staff training. Alongside this, a new independent oversight panel has been set up to improve care and support for people with learning disabilities or autism.

Click here for more information on the Community Discharge Fund

DR UK welcomes this announcement of funding to help get learning disabled people who are in long-stay institutions back into their communities.  Ever since the treatment of people with learning disabilities was exposed by the Winterbourne View scandal in 2011, in spite of government commitments, the number of people in such institutions has remained between two and three thousand.  We hope this funding will finally put an end to what has been a disgraceful practice, in breach of the human rights of learning disabled people, and contrary to international conventions to which the UK is a signatory.

Victory for Changing Places campaign

Disabled campaigners have welcomed the government announcement that from 2021, all new public buildings will include Changing Places toilets with changing tables and hoists. Buildings will include shopping centres, supermarkets and sports and arts venues. It was recently announced that there would be new changing places facilities at a number of motorway service stations.

These welcome improvements come following a significant campaigning effort drawing attention to the unacceptable restrictions that some disabled people face when out and about.

Read more about this story on the BBC News website.

Judicial review challenge of DWP safeguarding policies

Following the death of Errol Graham the DWP has been required to answer questions in court about the legality of its safeguarding policies and why it has not reviewed and revised those policies as it promised to do at his inquest.

Errol Graham was known to suffer from serious mental health issues but in line with DWP safeguarding policies his benefits were terminated after he missed an appointment and the DWP were unable to contact him. He weighed just four-and-a-half stone when his body was found by bailiffs. His ESA and Housing Benefit had been stopped eight months previously after he had failed to attend a work capability assessment.

Visit our website to read more on the story.

DWP Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield was pressed on sending a copy of the DWP’s new safeguarding policy, Mr Schofield responded that he would “write to the Committee”. Since the court decision it has emerged that officials have already changed some of the rules. Similar cases will now go through an extra step before payments end. However, this policy has not yet been put in the public domain. DR UK is pressing the government to give more details about what will be done to safeguard claimants in the future.

New DR UK updated benefit sanctions factsheet free to download

Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey recently announced conditionality and benefit sanctions, suspended from March, had been reintroduced as jobcentres in England start to reopen after lockdown. In the light of this, DR UK has updated its free benefits sanctions factsheet to describes the sanctions that apply to universal credit, ‘new style’ employment and support allowance and ‘new style’ jobseeker’s allowance. Issues covered include:

  • what a benefit sanction is and the different levels
  • how long sanctions may last
  • avoiding or reducing the risk of a sanction
  • how to challenge a sanction decision
  • how to claim a hardship payment
  • where to get more help or information

DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler says “The decision to reintroduce conditionality and sanctions is appalling and one that DR UK strongly condemns. 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.

DR UK will continue to argue for replacing benefits sanctions with effective support for both disabled people and employers. Until then, it’s vital that disabled claimants know how the sanctions system works, how to avoid them and how to challenge them if imposed. Our updated factsheet gives useful information on all of these.”

Read more about our views on the announcement about conditionality and benefit sanctions being reintroduced.

Thousands of places created in new special free schools

The government has announced 3,000 school places for pupils with complex needs. The places, at 35 new special schools, will have trained staff and appropriate equipment. Views amongst families with disabled children and the organisations that represent them will be mixed, with some opposing any form of segregated provision and others feeling that their children will receive education in a more enabling environment.

Read the government press release.

Ensuring government youth employment initiatives benefit disabled young people

As part of it’s role on the Youth Employment Group (YEG), DR UK is working to try and ensure that disabled young people can access the recent education, training and job opportunities announced by the Chancellor. In a meeting convened by the National Deaf Children’s Society it was agreed to ask government to remove barriers to getting on the new schemes, to employ specialist disability careers advisors and job coaches and to speed up job support. NDCS is drafting a letter and briefing to send to Ministers, which will ask for an urgent meeting with government.

YEG is a major coalition founded by Impetus, Youth Futures Foundation, Youth Employment UK, The Institute of Employment Studies and The Prince’s Trust in response to the Covid-19 outbreak and its immediate and longer-term impacts on the employment prospects of young people. In particular the group will be focusing on those young people facing the greatest challenges.

University of Bristol publishes Learning Disability Mortality Review report

A report by the University of Bristol has found that people with profound and multiple learning disabilities disproportionately died at younger ages. There were a number of issues most frequently identified relating to the care of people with learning disabilities, including: delays in the diagnosis and treatment of illness; poor care coordination and communication between agencies; omissions in care or the provision of substandard care and poor application of the Mental Capacity Act.

Read the full report on the University of Bristol website.

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

DR UK is a member of the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) reference group, supporting the vital work of the Helpline in advising and assisting individuals on issues relating to equality and human rights, across England, Scotland and Wales.

View the July edition of the EASS newsletter.

Trends in relation to Covid 19 include employers demanding staff to return, causing anxiety for those still needing to shield; the impact of prolonged social distancing and isolation on people’s mental health, again making the return to work more difficult for some people; and as DR UK has also found, facemask policies sometimes being enforced without taking into account individual health and impairment circumstances.

Introduction to Welfare Benefits new online course

DR UK is pleased to offer a new online course in partnership with the Benefits Training Company on 1st and 2nd September 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 parts, using Zoom and facilitated by an experienced benefits trainer.

  • Part 1: The structure of the system – Tuesday 1 September 10.00 – 11.00
  • Part 2: The importance of health & disability benefits – Tuesday 1 September 11.30 – 12.30
  • Part 3: Universal Credit & the wider benefits system – Wednesday 2 September 10.00 – 11.00
  • Part 4: Maximising income from benefits – Wednesday 2 September 11.30 – 12.30

Please click here for more information and to book your place.

The course costs £112.50 + VAT per person for DR UK organisational members. After booking you will receive the Zoom link and pack attachments by email.

Content testing opportunity for Scope

Scope is seeking participants to help test a piece of content about complaining about a residential care home. They are interested in hearing from you if you’re either a disabled person living in a care home, or a close relative of someone living in a care home and you:

  • Have made a complaint in the past, or
  • Are thinking of doing so

The testing will be done remotely by Skype and will take up to an hour. Scope offer test participants a £30 eGift card. This can be spent online or in store at Amazon, Argos, Tesco, Asda, M&S and many more places.

If you’re interested in taking part, please email Andy Lancaster andrew.lancaster@scope.org.uk.

Z2K Life Lockdown project – share your ideas on what social security and private sector housing should look like

The campaigning anti-poverty charity Z2K has today launched a new project called #LifeAfterLockdown. Z2K says:

“Z2K has teamed up with Sound Delivery to run online workshops with the people we support. These have brought isolated people together to talk about their experiences of the housing and social security systems, and about what they want life after lockdown to look like. Participants have turned their thoughts into audio and video recordings and over the course of this week we will be sharing these on our website, Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #LifeAfterLockdown.

We would really it appreciate it if you could support us by sharing your thoughts on what the housing and social security systems should look after lockdown using the hashtag #LifeAfterLockdown.”

For a video about the project and how to share your experiences and ideas see Life After Lockdown available from Z2K.org.

Apply to be a Specialist Advisor to the Women and Equalities Committee’s Coronavirus sub-inquiries

The House of Commons, Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) is looking for specialist advisers for its sub-inquiries into coronavirus.

One of these roles is specifically to provide input on the unequal impact of coronavirus in relation to disability and access to services.

These are part-time, flexible roles, which will be to supplement existing internal expertise, providing advice to staff and MPs; for example, making input to briefing documents, the strategic direction of the inquiry and advising on aspects of final reports.

Read more about the roles available.

Public engagement for the Evidence-based Interventions programme

A public engagement exercise has been launched for the Evidence-based Interventions (EBI) programme. The programme aims to ensure that interventions which are routinely available on the NHS are evidence-based and appropriate to prevent avoidable harm to patients and to free up clinical time. The engagement is being led by an independent Expert Advisory Committee whose membership includes clinicians, guideline producers, commissioners, patients and academics.

You can access the information online at:

https://www.aomrc.org.uk/ebi/.

You can also submit your views in an online questionnaire or register to attend webinars on a range of medical subjects www.aomrc.org.uk/ebi/ebi-engagement.