Disability Rights UK Newsletter

Here’s the latest e-newsletter from Disability Rights UK and, as ever, it contains lots of great stories.


Disabled people’s unemployment rate double that of non-disabled people

In addition to an unacceptably high unemployment rate, there are 67,000 more economically inactive disabled people than at this time last year, according to the latest government data.

The economic inactivity rate measures the number of people not looking for work due to circumstances, including studying or disability and illness. Between April and June, 3.3 million disabled people of working age were economically inactive – an increase of 67,000 from the previous year.

The data doesn’t specify whether this is because of shielding, although this is one likely reason, along with the difficulty of disabled people finding and retaining jobs during lockdown.

DR UK’s Kamran Mallick said: “We would call upon the government to investigate the increase in the economic inactivity of disabled people and to work to halt any further decline.

“With the employment market shrinking now we are in recession, we call upon employers to think outside of the box and look to employ a diverse, can-do, loyal workforce that includes disabled people.

“There have been myriad studies showing that disabled people are more productive, have higher rates of retention and take less sick leave than non-disabled people. Yet society still too often recruits non-disabled people at the expense of disabled people with comparative experience and qualifications.”

Ground-breaking public consultation on proposals for a better benefits system

A new consultation on proposals for a better UK social security system has been launched with all solutions being developed by those with direct experience of the system.

Following a call for solutions for a better benefits system which received over 1,000 responses, the public is being asked what it thinks about the ideas.

The public consultation is being led by the Commission on Social Security – all Commissioners are Experts by Experience who have lived experience of the benefits system.

Ellen Clifford Co-Chair of the Commission on Social Security and disability activist said: “Too often the people who design welfare policies do not have first-hand experience of the lives of those their policy aims to serve. This project is different; placing the experiences and understandings of those in direct contact with the system at its centre.”

Input is invited from anyone interested in improving the benefits system: Experts by Experience, user-led groups and claimants, think tanks and charities, policy-makers and the general public. Following the public consultation, a ‘White Paper’ with policy recommendations will be drawn.

The consultation closes on 30 September 2020.

For more information visit our website.

‘Horrifying’ numbers of learning disabled people abused in inpatient units during pandemic

The number of disabled people locked up in inpatient units has increased again in July, with ‘horrifying’ amounts of physical restraint being used against them.

Over 2,100 people with learning disabilities and/or autism, including 225 children, are currently incarcerated according to the latest figures from Mencap, with 5,520 recorded cases of restrictive interventions in May 2020.

The government has pledged £62 million of funding to halve the number of people in inpatient units over three years, but to date, there is no evidence to show that people are being removed from inpatient units and supported properly in the community.

Mencap also reports that almost two-thirds of people with learning disabilities had their social care cut during the Coronavirus pandemic.

DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “Inpatient units are in essence modern day asylums. Time and again, we have heard evidence that shows that punitive Victorian values are still being used against people with learning disabilities and autism. This is abuse. It is horrifying. It needs to stop now, this year.”

Data from NHS Digital (gathered from under half of independent providers) shows shocking punitive interventions including physical, prone, and chemical restraint and solitary confinement being used against people during lockdown. In April, the figure was 3,330. In May, it had shot up to 5,520.

Read the full report by NHS digital.

New payment for people on low incomes self-isolating in highest risk areas

People on low incomes who need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home in areas with high incidence of COVID-19 are to benefit from a new payment scheme.

From 1 September, payments of up to £182 will to made to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their contacts.

The new scheme will start first in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, and Oldham.

For more information visit our website.

Masks in schools could lead to ‘year of isolation’ for deaf pupils

The government has reversed its policy of all schools remaining mask-free for pupils from September. Secondary school pupils will now be required to wear masks while moving around buildings and corridors, causing difficulties for D/deaf children and children with hearing impairments.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “There are 50,000 D/deaf children in the UK. If they can’t lip read or read facial expressions used as part of BSL because of compulsory mask wearing, they are effectively being consigned to a year of loneliness and social isolation which also risks serious effects on their mental health. We support the National Deaf Children’s Society’s call for schools to invest in clear masks and a strong commitment to making the reasonable adjustments these pupils need to learn and thrive at school during the pandemic. Schools should be consulting with their D/deaf and hearing impaired pupils about their reasonable adjustments. Education is a right for all pupils, not just those who are able to hear.”

DWP enters legal agreement with EHRC to improve services for deaf claimants

The DWP has entered a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to improve support for deaf claimants accessing its services by telephone.

In the agreement, the DWP has committed to an action plan to address the problems these complaints identified.

For more details on the action plan, visit our website.

Access to Work ‘should use pandemic to cut red tape’

Disabled workers can now claim Access to Work support when working from home because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

An Access to Work grant can be used for equipment and support services and has been extended during the pandemic for those needing taxis if they cannot use public transport to get into work because of a health condition.

Read the government factsheet.

However, at a time when disabled people need even greater support from Access to Work, the service continues to create extra work and stress for claimants, their employers and Access to Work advisers.

Access to Work awards are given for a set period of time, and claimants must apply for a renewal, even if there have been no changes to their work situation, their impairment or health condition.

DR UK’s Rabia Lemahieu said: “We welcome the changes made during the pandemic, but we are also aware that the processing of these claims is still very slow – this guidance finally comes five months after lockdown started.

“In this recession, it is harder for disabled people to find and retain employment. Access to Work needs to be more agile in providing speedy support.

“Access to Work, provides vital at-work support for thousands of disabled people, but it is needlessly complex and imposes a significant administrative burden on both claimants and employers. The DWP has a golden opportunity created by the pandemic to streamline Access to Work to make it easier to access and renew its support.”

ONS releases new Coronavirus and disability data

The ONS has released its third set of data showing the impacts of Coronavirus on disabled people during July.

The ONS’ David Ainslie said: “At a time in which lockdown restrictions began to ease in parts of the UK, disabled adults’ experience was different from that of the wider population. Their concerns about well-being and accessing healthcare were higher than among non-disabled people. We saw differences too, in behaviours. Disabled people were more likely to go out to attend medical appointments or take care of others than non-disabled people, and less likely to be socialising and eating out.”

Read more on our website.

New funds for post-hospital care

The government is releasing £588 million to cover adult social care or the immediate costs of at-home care for people being discharged from hospital, including disabled and older people from 1 September.

The funding can be used to provide up to six weeks of care and support including additional support such as domiciliary care, community nursing services or care home costs.

NHS Continuing Healthcare assessments for those needing funded long-term care or support will resume from September.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We know for the majority of people the road to recovery can be quicker when they receive care and support in the comfort of their own home.

“This funding will help ensure people can be safely discharged from hospital knowing they will get the vital follow-on care they need to recover fully from treatment.

“We’re also making sure those with complex health needs continue to receive the best support possible in the community.

“Most people will be discharged back to their homes. However, it is anticipated that a very small proportion will need, and benefit from, short or long-term residential, nursing home or hospice care.

“It remains the case that no one should be discharged from hospital directly to a care home without the involvement of the local authority, and that all patients are required to be tested prior to discharge to a care home. No care home should be forced to admit an existing or new resident who has tested positive for coronavirus if the home would be unable to cope with the impact of their illness.”

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We welcome this funding and the commitment to working to ensure care homes remain safe places this autumn and winter. We call on government to ensure that Local Authorities have the funding and support they need should they need to place people with Coronavirus in alternative accommodation while they isolate.”

Petition calls for school refusals due to mental health not to be punishable

change.org petition has been launched to ask the government not to classify a refusal to attend school because of mental health impairments as unauthorised absence.

Currently, prolonged absences by children with high anxiety exacerbated by attendance at school are classed as unauthorised absences, which can result in fines for parents, and in some cases, a prison sentence.

The petition calls for the needs of children with emotional wellbeing challenges and SEND needs to be given proper non-punitive recognition of their needs, with the introduction of a ‘holding code’ to measure the scale of what is anecdotally perceived to be a growing problem.

None of the current 23 attendance codes allows for a holding stage while the cause of school refusal is explored and appropriate support provided. Without medical proof that a child is unfit for school, absence is classed as truancy, a prosecutable offence.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We know that years of cuts has led to many children falling through the diagnosis net. There are thousands of children with undiagnosed SEND in schools failing to get the support they need. This, coupled with a culture of greater testing and more ‘hothousing’ approaches to teaching in the past few years have led to children experiencing exponential stress levels in school.

“One of the lessons we are learning as a result of lockdown is that the mental and emotional wellbeing of many children has improved under non-traditional systems of teaching. This is clear evidence that a one-size-fits-all approach to education does not work. SEND children deserve to be taught in the ways that help them to thrive.”

There is currently no official data on school refusals, but the continuing rise of de-registered home educated children, prosecutions and permanent exclusions are all indicators of a national problem. A Facebook group, Not Fine in School (NFIS) which launched in November 2017 has over 12,000 members and is growing at a rate of 600-800 new members a month.

Read more and sign the petition.

The government is launching an £8 million Wellbeing for Education Return mental health training in September  to help English schools and colleges respond to the emotional and mental health impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on pupils and staff.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“It is a national priority to ensure all children are back in their classrooms in September, because that is the best place for them to be for their education, development and wellbeing. Young people are looking forward to getting back to school or college and being reunited with their friends and teachers, and there is a growing confidence among parents about their children returning.

“But this pandemic has impacted people in different ways, particularly young people dealing with the disruption of the last few months but also on our dedicated teachers and education staff, who have responded heroically to the challenges.

“By investing in this tailored training programme, we can help schools and colleges to support their pupils effectively, enabling them to have sensitive and open conversations with pupils.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We welcome this funding, but also recognise that £8 million divided between the country’s 25,000 schools works out at a meagre £320 per school.

“Gavin Williamson should also be looking at research conducted during and immediately after lockdown which points to increased mental health among children and young people once they were forced to be away from school during lockdown.

“Education is broader than schooling. Not all children with SEND can cope with or thrive in a school environment. We call on the government to use the lessons of lockdown and consult with the nation about how education can be provided innovatively to suit pupils, not outdated systems.”

Wellbeing for Education Return is a joint initiative from the Department for Education, Department of Health and Social Care, Health Education England, NHS England and Public Health England. It is being developed by MindEd, the e-learning platform, and delivered by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families with input from mental health and education experts, local authorities, the voluntary sector and school and college leaders. The funding will be used to appoint and train local experts to adapt and provide training and resources to nominated staff in all state-funded schools and further education settings in England, and provide advice and support through to March 2021.

New online benefits training courses

DR UK is pleased to offer two new online courses in partnership with the Benefits Training Company. Each course costs £112.50 + VAT per person for DR UK organisational members. After booking you will receive a Zoom link and supporting materials by email.

Introduction to Welfare Benefits will be held on 29th and 30th September. The course 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 two parts, using Zoom and facilitated by an experienced benefits trainer.

  • Part 1: The structure of the system and the importance of health & disability benefits – Tues 29 Sep 9.45 – 12.45
  • Part 2: Universal Credit, the wider benefits system and maximising income – Wed 30 Sep 9.45 – 12.45

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

Preparing for an Appeal Tribunal will be held on 9th and 10th December. This course is aimed at professionals who work in advice or advocacy who need to know about how to prepare an Appeal Tribunal. A working knowledge of Personal Independence Payment and the Work Capability Assessment is assumed.

As above, the course will be run in two parts, using Zoom and facilitated by an experienced benefits trainer.

  • Part 1: Assessing the case, reviewing the DWP decision – Wednesday 9 December 9.45 – 12.45
  • Part 2: Composing effective written submissions, preparing claimants for appeal hearings – Thursday 10 October 9.45 – 12.45

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

Social care funding petition

A National Autistic Society volunteer, Jo, has set up a petition calling on the government to properly fund social care.

Over 3,000 people have signed the petition so far asking for disabled people, older people and their carers to get the support they need.

Read more and sign the petition.

Get Yourself Active website refresh – your feedback would be greatly appreciated

Do you use our Get Yourself Active website? If so, we would really appreciate your feedback on how it could be improved.

We would like to know your thoughts on the content of the website and its usability and accessibility.

Please complete our online survey, which should take approximately ten minutes to complete.

If the survey is not accessible to you, please e-mail anna.denham@disabilityrightsuk.org or call 0203 687 0784 and let us know if you would like to complete the survey via e-mail or by telephone. Your thoughts on how we can improve the website will be much appreciated and help us to give the website a refresh, so that it is more accessible and helpful to those using it.

DPOs to receive Coronavirus funding

The National Emergencies Trust has announced £1.5 million of funding to support grassroots Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) across the UK to respond to the needs of disabled people affected by Coronavirus and its social impacts.

The funding will be administered and distributed through a partnership of DPOs across the UK. Inclusion London and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance are the national partners for England and Disability Sheffield, which is one of the DR UK Voices members, feeding in regional information so we can collate national trends, has been chosen as the regional partner for South Yorkshire and the Humber.

Any DPO in the UK can apply if at least 51% of its governing body or management committee is made up of disabled people and it has a constitution (you do not need to be a registered charity).

The Fund will open for applications for four weeks from early September and will close on 5 October. The minimum application is for £1,000 and the maximum is £25,000.

Full details and an application form will be available from the beginning of September.

For more information contact info@rofa.org.uk

Track and Trace testers wanted

The government’s National Resilience Hub is calling for disabled volunteers to test the accessibility of its new Track and Trace app. For more information and to apply to be a volunteer, please email farida.leander@cabinetoffice.gov.uk or call 020 7004 1344.

Challenging decisions about NHS disability equipment 

Scope is looking to speak to disabled people who have had to challenge a decision about disability equipment or assistive tech in an NHS setting.

If you’re interested in taking part, please email Andy Lancaster.

Temporary housing during home adaptations 

Scope would also like to speak to a disabled person who has had to find temporary accommodation whilst adaptations are being made to their home (either in the past or will happen in the future).

The conversation will take place remotely using Skype and take up to one hour. Scope can offer participants a £30 eGift card. This can be spent online or in store at Amazon, Argos, Tesco, Asda, M&S and other places. The eGift card won’t affect any benefits you might be receiving.

If you’re interested in taking part, please email Andy Lancaster.

ME/CFS research project

The national decode ME DNA research study is hoping to find 40,000 volunteers with ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome before March 2021. If you would like to participate, go to: https://www.decodeme.org.uk/

Changes to shared spaces

Has your local authority made sudden changes to your local shared spaces, such as pavements, roads, or shopping areas, which has changed the accessibility of the area?

The Ministry for Transport wants to know if local authorities are running consultations before altering things like road layouts, blocking off accessible parking, and introducing changes to pavements such as al fresco dining which causes issues for people with visual or mobility impairments. I

f you have any examples you wish to share with us, please email tellus@disabilityrightsuk.org