Disability Rights UK E-Newsletter

22 January 2021

A message from the Disability Rights UK CEO:

Over the past year it has often felt like disabled people’s lives haven’t been valued equally. We have had Care Act rights removed, our access to health care de-prioritised, inadequate support for education, challenges in buying food and barriers to accessing information.

At times in the past, we have come together to assert our place in society and this is one of those times. With the Government’s Disability Strategy to be published in the spring, we need to take the opportunity to say loud and clear that We Belong in every area and aspect of society. That we must have a society that is designed to enable us to be full and equal citizens. A society that recognises our need for support and adaptation and our talent and contribution.

In autumn 2020 Disability Rights UK ran an engagement campaign to gain the views of disabled people on what societal change was required. We have now produced a report based on the feedback we received. I’m sure the list of recommendations we make isn’t exhaustive but implementing them would be an amazing start to creating a society that truly includes us. We ask the government to ground the Disability Strategy in the recommendations the report makes. It is not enough to tinker with current policies and services, we need radical and ambitious change.

We need renewal of equalities legislation, funding of Disabled People’s Led Organisations, genuine co-production and engagement, full political participation and fundamental changes to social security, social care and employment services.

I hope this report acts as a call to action to disabled people to demand widespread and lasting change. I hope that the government takes strong action to embed the Social Model of Disability across all aspect of society, and in its actions, reflects the extent of our ambition. I hope that within the next ten years, we can hand on heart say: We Belong.

Read the We Belong report by clicking here.

Kamran Mallick, CEO
News Round-up

DPOs dismayed at One Month Window to respond to National Strategy

Disabled people have been given just one month to influence the government’s National Strategy for Disabled People. On 15 January, the government launched a survey to find out what disabled people want to see in the Strategy. The government has said that for views to be considered to shape the Strategy, they must be received by 13 February. On the gov.uk website, it says:

“If you share your views by 13 February, your views will inform the development of the National Strategy for Disabled People, but thereafter we will continue to listen. The survey will remain open until 23 April, and your views will be used to inform the delivery of the plans we set out.”

Disabled People’s Organisations including Disability Rights UK have expressed dismay that the window of opportunity to respond to the survey and fully influence the Strategy is so small, especially during the pandemic.

Whilst the government has been engaging with regional disability forums and with disability experts and professionals over the past few months, this is the first time it has asked the wider disabled public, 14 million people, for its views.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy said: “The starting point for the Disability Strategy should be the views of people with lived experience of disability, not government departments or professionals.

“It is understandable that engagement has been made more difficult due to the Coronavirus crisis, but giving disabled people one month to respond is not remotely acceptable. For many of us, information on the survey will take time to reach us, some of us will want to discuss our responses with others, and some of us will require assistance to respond. A month just isn’t sufficient to enable disabled people to genuinely influence groundbreaking changes in the way society treats us.”

The survey can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/citizen-space-survey-national-strategy-for-disabled-people

End Unfair Charges for Shielders, Supermarkets Told

Supermarkets must end unfair delivery charges and minimum spend thresholds for shielders – that is the message delivered to the CEOs of the UK’s leading grocery retailers by Disability Rights UK and twenty other charities.

Shielders are unable to shop in supermarkets in the third lockdown without high risk to health. Many disabled people who are shielding live on benefits. Basic state benefits amount to around £74-90 (excluding rent). The average minimum spend requested by supermarkets for free delivery is £40 (£75 for Ocado), with delivery when charged costing up to an additional £7.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “The thresholds required by supermarkets might be achievable for a double middle income working household, but for shielders who have no option other than to use delivery services right now, it is often a choice between heating or eating.

“We are at the worst point in the pandemic, at the coldest point in the year. We read economic headlines about profit margins tumbling because supermarkets are investing in more online solutions. They are still making a profit, at the expense of those in society who are currently living in extreme isolation and penury.

“We are asking supermarkets to practically help shielders until the group four vaccine rollout has been completed. Tesco says ‘every little helps’. Sainsburys says ‘live well for less’. Asda says ‘save money, live better’. We would ask them to make their slogans a reality for shielders right now by suspending delivery charges and lowering minimum spends.”

Read the letter here: https://www.independentage.org/news-media/press-releases/joint-open-letter-to-supermarkets

Woman challenged by police to produce mask exemption document

A woman was removed from a supermarket by police in Kent after refusing to show evidence of her medical exemption from needing to wear a face covering.

National and local press picked up on video recorded by the woman and first published on social media. The Daily Mail branded her an ‘anti masker’.

The woman is seen to correctly and calmly tell police that the evidence is not necessary and shows them a print off from the government website which they refuse to read before escorting her off the premises.

DR UK sought urgent clarification from the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott that officers are clear that there is no legal basis for individuals to be challenged to produce evidence to prove exemptions from wearing face coverings.

A spokesman for Kent Police replied: “At 10.55am on Saturday 16 January 2021 Kent Police was called to Sainsbury’s in Dartford following a report of a dispute between staff and two customers.

“It was said that staff had requested a man and woman to leave the premises due to them not wearing a face mask.

“Officers attended to prevent any possible breach of the peace and sought to engage with the couple before escorting them from the shop. No further action will be taken.

“All officers are familiar with the government’s health-care legislation and, in line with national standards, they have always sought to engage with individuals, and encourage them to comply with the restrictions. Enforcement is only used if it is considered proportionate.

“As a force that has been graded as ‘outstanding’ by the independent policing inspectorate for its legitimacy for the past four years, the public can be assured that officers treat people from all groups in an open, fair and consistent manner.

“No formal complaints have been received from anyone involved in the incident.”

The Kent Messenger originally alluded to ‘confusion’ around the situation of needing evidence of exemption but have now amended their story with better clarification around exemptions:

https://www.kentonline.co.uk/dartford/news/woman-ejected-from-supermarket-for-refusing-to-wear-face-mask-240931/

Government guidance is explicit – exemption documentation is legally unnecessary:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We understand the challenges that the police face when dealing with mask refusers. But such people are distinct from people with disability-related exemptions. This woman is calm, clear and correct on the law in the video footage. Disabled people who cannot wear masks are not ‘entitled’ or ‘anti mask’, they are simply trying to go about their daily business.

“Just last week we wrote to Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs Council about this very issue.

“The language the media uses around disabled people who cannot wear masks is fuelling public fury towards disabled people. The law is clear.”

Read the letter to Martin Hewitt by clicking here. Read the guidance sent by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to supermarkets about face coverings here.

Emergency Evacuation Plans needed for Disabled People in High Rise Blocks

The Grenfell Tower fire saw disabled people and their loved ones who stayed with them tragically die as they were unable to leave the building. Shocking and heart breaking evidence was presented to the Grenfell Tower inquiry, which led to it recommending that disabled people in high rise flats should have personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs).

There was considerable concern that the government wasn’t going to act on this recommendation and legal action was taken. Now, the government is planning a consultation on the implementation of personal emergency evacuation plans for disabled people.

Disability Rights UK is in contact with the Grenfell Next of Kin Group which is keen to ensure that disability groups are fully involved in the consultation.

We have contacted the relevant civil servants and it has been confirmed that a consultation will take place in the near future. We will share details when these become available.

The concerns regarding how disabled people can safely evacuate from flats is now also being taken up by the Leaseholder Disability Action Group (LDAG). In addition to safety concerns, disabled leaseholders are worried about the falling value of their flats, the cost of replacing flammable materials and the difficulty of moving out of specifically adapted accommodation. You can follow the Leaseholder Disability Action Group here: https://twitter.com/claddag

SSAC: DWP should recruit large scale panel of disabled people with experience of social security which it can consult and draw from to work on detailed projects

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has published a new wide-ranging and detailed report that focuses on how the DWP involves disabled people when developing, delivering and evaluating social security programmes that affect them.

The report highlights that that it is clear that the level of trust between the disabled people and the DWP has deteriorated over a period of successive administrations, during which time a number of significant benefit changes have been introduced.

In meetings with the DWP, officials acknowledged this to the Committee: “They told us that lack of trust was a major issue; and a barrier not only to joint working but to the effective delivery of their services. They said they wanted our study to give them feedback on how far they had come, and to provide advice on how to improve further. This report is written in that spirit.”

The SSAC Occasional Paper 25: How DWP involves disabled people when developing or evaluating programmes that affect them is available from gov.uk. Read a precis of the recommendations here:

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2021/january/dwp-should-recruit-large-scale-panel-disabled-people-experience-social-security

Errol Graham Case Heard by High Court

The High Court has heard how Errol Graham, who starved to death in 2018, was left at risk of “serious harm” by the government, after his benefits were stopped

His body was found in his Nottingham flat in June 2018 when bailiffs broke in to evict him.

His family, which has brought the case, says that the Department for Work and Pensions’ handling of his case was unlawful and breached his human rights.

Alison Turner, Errol’s son’s fiancée, says that equality legislation was breached because his mental state was not considered as a factor when he missed a fitness for work assessment and did not answer phone calls or answer the door to home visits. She is claiming the government puts the onus on vulnerable people, who may be too ill to do so, to have to prove why they have missed appointments.

Barrister Adam Straw told Mr Justice Bourne the claim concerns “a well-recognised cohort of [benefits] claimants who are unable, because of mental disabilities, to engage with, or respond to the DWP”.

He said claimants are “frequently unable to respond to or engage with the DWP because of mental disability or illness”, with rejected applications presenting “a significant risk to their health”.

He continued: “It is a momentous decision which will often entail a sudden and complete loss of income – leaving the person destitute without food and housing.”

“Withdrawing benefits for a vulnerable claimant like Mr Graham will often put that individual at risk of serious harm.”

The judge will give his ruling at a later date.

Network Rail North West Commits to Better Accessibility

Network Rail North West has signed a legally binding commitment to improve services and make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers during refurbishment works.

Disabled passengers were forced to drag themselves up steps last year at Manchester Victoria station when there was no working lift during a refurbishment project. Network Rail had failed to complete a Disability Impact Assessment or to consult with disabled passengers or groups to determine whether arrangements to replace lift access were appropriate.

DR UK’s Rail Policy Adviser, Stephen Brookes, said: “We are working with the Network Rail Area Station Manager to set up a pan disability access user group for Manchester, which now has a membership of 12 disabled people.

“We have jointly planned a fully accessible Travel Reception Lounge incorporating a Changing Places facility and we are currently working on mitigations for further lift maintenance at Piccadilly Station. This simple outcome will ensure that future decisions on stations and trains automatically includes disabled people as part of access and inclusion groups and panels. It will also ensure that  following Covid, confidence in rail needs will be rebuilt and our various access needs and experience will ensure that by getting it right for disabled people, we will get it right for everyone.”
Get Involved

We’re Recruiting

Disability Rights UK wish to recruit a Fundraising Manager. This newly created post is designed to build our digital fundraising, grow the number of individuals actively supporting DR UK and increase income from trusts and foundations. You will be asked to come up with as many effective, innovative and engaging fundraising approaches as possible to help achieve these aims.

Further information, including the job description and person specification, can be accessed by clicking here.

Trailblazing Interviews from Disability Rights UK

You can now watch Sam Renke in conversation at our AGM with Saba Salman, Baroness Jane Campbell, Clenton Farquharson MBE and Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike MBE on our youtube channel. Watch them all here.

Social Care Future Inquiry

Social Care Future is leading an inquiry into social care, and the lack of equality people who need social care, experience in daily life. If you would like to take part, details can be found here:

https://socialcarefuture.blog/2021/01/15/whose-care-is-it-anyway-the-socialcarefuture-inquiry-needs-you/

or you can email inquirysocialcarefuture@gmail.com

Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry

The Women and Equalities Committee is opening a new inquiry which will examine how the Government Equalities Office (GEO) is delivering on its responsibilities.

Read about the role of the GEO here.

Submit evidence to this inquiry here.

Find out more about the Women and Equalities Committee here.

The inquiry will focus on:

*The structure and function of the GEO and its location in the Cabinet Office: how effectively does this enable it to support cross-departmental work on equalities, including the collection and analysis of equalities data?

* The GEO’s role in supporting compliance with international obligations including the UN Conventions and Sustainable Development Goals: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

The role of Minister for Women and Equalities: what does it mean for this to be a dual departmental role? How robustly does it champion equalities across Government?

The GEO’s role in highlighting the numerous equalities issues which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The inquiry will also consider the new approaches and initiatives which Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss announced in her speech on fighting for fairness at the Centre for Policy Studies on 16th December 2020:

https://capx.co/the-new-fight-for-fairness-liz-truss-speech-at-the-centre-for-policy-studies/

This includes the implications of the GEO taking on sponsorship of the Social Mobility Commission.

Secretary of State Member Appointments to National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Conservation Boards in England

Applications are being invited for Secretary of State member appointments to National Park Authorities and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Conservation Boards in England as follows:

The Broads Authority – 2 vacancies

Chilterns Conservation Board – 1 vacancy

Cotswolds Conservation Board – 2 vacancies

North York Moors National Park Authority – 1 vacancy

Defra is looking for a wide range of passionate and committed individuals who want to help shape the strategic direction of our National Parks and AONBs. The campaign is now open with a closing date of midday on 12th February.

Defra is looking for applicants who are sensitive to the needs of the local communities, whilst having an ability to respond to the challenge of widening access to more diverse groups in society. It particularly encourages applications from disabled and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and younger candidates as currently the Boards of National Parks and AONBs are not fully reflective of our diverse society. For more information, including how to apply, see HM Government Public Appointments.

Enable Magazine Now Online

Enable magazine is online. You can find the January/February issue of the magazine here.

Benefits Training Courses

DR UK is pleased to offer two 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.

Preparing for an Appeal Tribunal will be held on 27 and 28 January. 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.

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 27 January 9.45 – 12.45
  • Part 2: Composing effective written submissions, preparing claimants for appeal hearings – Thursday 28 January 9.45 – 12.45

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

Introduction to Welfare Benefits will be held on 10 and 11 February. 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.

As above, 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 – Wednesday 10 February 9.45 – 12.45
  • Part 2: Universal Credit, the wider benefits system and maximising income – Thursday 11th February 9.45 – 12.45

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

DWP Seek Board Members for National Employment Savings Trust

The National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) is a workplace pension scheme designed around the needs of employers and workers to support automatic enrolment. The DWP is looking for two new Board Members. The successful candidates will receive a salary of £19,050 per annum, working a minimum 30 days per year.

Read more here.

Has Coronavirus Affected Your Access to Speech & Language Therapy?

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists is inviting you to have your say on how your treatment has been affected by the pandemic. Complete the survey by 5 February. You can access the survey here: https://www.rcslt.org/has-coronavirus-affected-your-access-to-speech-and-language-therapy/

Get Yourself Active at Home

Get Yourself Active has released a series of videos for its new Active at Home series that have been developed alongside Sense and Durham University. These are accessible videos to support disabled people to get active at home during the pandemic. The videos have been designed using the experiences and feedback of 450 disabled people and people with long term health conditions.

Get active here.

Channel Four Production Training Scheme

Channel 4’s 2021 Production Training Scheme has recently opened for applications. The scheme is for new entrants to the TV industry or those with less than three months experience. It is particularly looking for disabled applicants, as well as people from BAME backgrounds, socially disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds. The one-year scheme is aimed at anyone aged 18 and over.

There are 14 trainee researcher and one script editor vacancy, all paid at £22,000. The deadline for applications is Friday 29th January. Find out more about the scheme here: https://careers.channel4.com/4skills/production-training-scheme 

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