Disability Rights UK Newsletter – 29 July 2021

News Round-up

Government’s National Disability Strategy ‘disappointingly thin’

Reacting to the publication of the Government’s National Strategy for Disabled People, Disability Rights UK CEO Kamran Mallick said:

“Disabled people have been waiting a long time for a Strategy that has meat on its bones.

“Despite being 121 pages long, the Strategy is disappointingly thin on immediate actions, medium-term plans and the details of longer term investment.

“The Strategy has insufficient concrete measures to address the current inequalities that Disabled people experience in living standards and life chances.

“There are scant plans and timescales on how to bring about vastly needed improvements to benefits, housing, social care, jobs, education, transport, and equitable access to wider society.

“While we welcome the Government’s recognition that Disabled people are much less likely than non-disabled people to have a job, qualifications, to own a home, or to live in an accessible home, we haven’t been given the bold plans that will fix these huge issues.

“A vision is not enough. Admitting change won’t happen ‘overnight’ isn’t enough. We need radical plans, timescales, and deep financial investment to make change a reality.

“Government speaks of building back better, but Disabled people’s lives have yet to be given the first set of strong foundations on which to build anything at all. Government talks about levelling up, and a week after we saw some of the world’s richest men blast into space, we are waiting to see the Government put a rocket up its disability policy.

“We hope that now Government has laid out the stark inequalities facing Disabled people in its Strategy, it will deliver the money and engage with Disabled people’s expertise to make things happen soon.

“And while overnight change is not the reality, rapid, measurable change has to be the goal.”

The Strategy has been widely labelled a disappointment by Disabled People’s Organisations.

Dr Lisa Cameron, Chair of the APPG on Disability, for which DR UK is the Secretariat, said that the strategy “falls short and has a long way to go to ensure it lives up to this promise.”

The Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said that he hopes the strategy will be seen as a “first step” and will be reviewed annually going forward.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the vast amount of difficulties Disabled people face. Read his foreward to the National Disability Strategy here.

Read Kamran Mallick’s blog about the Strategy here.

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 UK’s disability employment gap has been ‘made worse’ by 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.”

Permission granted for challenge to National Disability Strategy consultation process

Four Disabled people have been permitted by the Court to bring forward a judicial review challenge of the consultation process enacted in the development of the proposed National Strategy for Disabled people.

The claim has been brought forward as the High Court found that the Secretary of State had been in breach of their public law duties during the process and that the case was “important in the public interest”. The claimants are challenging that when the government launched the UK Disability Survey to get input from the Disabled community in January 2021, they failed to put together a survey that was designed in such a way as to preclude proper and effective response.

Nearly all the questions in the survey were multiple-choice. Only four questions allowed free text responses, three of them being limited to 100 words and the other to 250 words. Also at no point did any of the questions outline any proposed content for the strategy or seek views on such content. Questions instead focused on data gathering, such as ‘Does your health condition stop you from doing everyday things?’ to which the possible responses were ‘Yes’; ‘No’; ‘Don’t know’; ‘Prefer not to say’.

Access to the survey was solely online, with easy read copies required to be printed and posted by participants – a clear barrier to access for Disabled people wanting to be included in the process.

With the National Strategy being announced this week with much fervour – this legal challenge could become important in any implementation of the strategy’s recommendations.

Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK said: “Disabled people have waited for much too long for a Strategy that had substance and direction. We believe, along with many other DPOs, that the consultation process was not up to scratch. Nothing about us without us is for us. Insufficient time and contribution mechanisms were in place for this consultation.

“Moving forward the Government must understand that removing the barriers that Disabled people face will take the direct involvement of us in the process. This ruling makes clear that much more can, and should, be done to ensure that Strategies for Disabled people include us at their heart.”

More information on the ruling can be found here.

DWP concedes legal challenge by couple who lost almost £10,000 by claiming Universal credit

A couple who lost £10,000 on transferring to Universal Credit (UC) are to receive full compensation for their past and future loss, following a successful judicial review.

Mary Deadman and John Ryan claimed UC 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.” Read more here.

Claimant views on ways to improve PIP and ESA questionnaires: new DWP research

The DWP has published research to obtain their views on how the questionnaires used as part of the PIP and work capability (WCA) assessment processes, could be made more user-friendly and “less distressing” for claimants. Read more here.

Chairs of all UK cross-party committees urge £20 week UC uplift to be kept and extended to legacy benefits

The Chairs of a range of UK cross-party committees have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions urging permanent retention and extension of the £20-week Universal Credit uplift that “has been a lifeline for millions of families”.

The letter written by Neil Gray MSP, Stephen Timms MP, Paula Bradley MLA and Jenny Rathbone MS outlines how important the uplift has been for millions of families across the UK. The members hope that the government will consider making the uplift permanent and extending it to legacy benefits, which are disproportionately claimed by Disabled people.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK said: “Although we welcomed the government’s introduction of the temporary uplift in Universal and Working Tax Credits in March 2020, we were disappointed in the decision to not extend this to other ‘legacy’ benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance left almost two million Disabled people without the support they needed. We echo the call of the cross-party Chairs for the uplift to be made permanent.

“As we look forward, that the Government has not changed course or even acknowledged the discrimination the lack of uplift causes to those on disability benefits is very disappointing. More needs to be done to ensure that levels of payments of disability benefits better reflect the actual cost of living with a disability or long-term health condition, regular, independent surveys should be established to understand the actual costs people face.

“Without changes, disability benefits will continue to fail to meet Disabled people’s actual cost of living. So many are forced to rely on this reduced amount for many years, or their whole lives and the results are obvious: living precariously, never having enough to cover all your costs, and not having any financial cushion to help you cope with changes or challenges that arise out of the blue.”

You can read the full letter here.

Write to your MP about UC extension

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), of which DR UK is a member, has issued a Briefing to MPs and a template letter to send to your MP, highlighting the need to retain the £20 week Universal Credit uplift and extend to and extend it to legacy benefits. Read more here.

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. Read more here.

Disabled graduates’ job prospects dented by COVID – AGCAS report

New research from 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 here.

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.

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.

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.”Factsheets

Our work capability assessment factsheet

The work capability assessment is very important for universal credit and central to employment and support allowance (ESA). Our factsheet F71 explains the work capability assessment in a detailed but simple way.

The work capability assessment has two parts.

The first part is the limited capability for work assessment. For universal credit, if you are found to have a limited capability for work, your work-related responsibilities will be limited. For ESA, if you are found to have a limited capability for work, you can stay on the benefit.

In each case, a points system is used to see how well you can carry out a range of activities. Each activity is divided into different ‘descriptors’, which explain related tasks of varying degrees of difficulty. You score points when you are not able to perform a task described safely, to an acceptable standard, as often as you need to and in a reasonable time. If you score 15 points, you qualify as having a limited capability for work. The descriptors and the points that you get from each are listed in the factsheet.

The second part is the limited capability for work-related activity assessment. If it is decided that you have a limited capability for work-related activity, no work-related responsibilities will apply to you and you will be entitled to a higher level of universal credit and/or ESA. The assessment has a list of descriptors, relating to both physical and mental functions. If you meet at least one of them, you will have a limited capability for work-related activity.

As well as explaining the two parts of the assessment, the factsheet also covers the following:

You can download the factsheet for free in word or pdf formats.

For a full list of all our other factsheets, visit the Disability Rights UK website.Get Involved

Is getting out and about more difficult?

Over the past 18 months it seems like the street environment has got a lot more inaccessible. We have more silent vehicles, restaurants on pavements, cars banned from streets, as well as the usual street clutter and pavement disrepair.

Disability Rights UK would be really grateful if you would take the time to answer some very simple questions about your sense of the current situation and if you are willing, to set out your key concerns. We know many of you are campaigning locally and we want to raise the issues nationally with the UK Government.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey, which closes on 8 August:


If you are a Disabled People’s Organisation, please share this survey link with your members and supporters.

Hate crime survey

Liberty Investigates, the editorially independent journalism unit of the human rights organisation, Liberty would like to invite you to complete the following survey, which is part of a larger journalistic project we are carrying out into how police forces handle reports of hate crimes. The survey is for people who have suffered hate crime and decided to withdraw from the police investigative process. We are particularly interested in finding out the reasons why people withdrew.

The survey is completely anonymous, consists of 11 questions, and takes roughly 10 minutes to complete. The deadline to complete it is 28 August.


If you have any questions, email: libertyinvestigates@libertyhumanrights.org.uk

Get Yourself Active social care resources webinar

Next month the Get Yourself Active team is launching a new Social Care Activity Pack. Co-produced guidance with social workers to support asset-based approaches to discussing the opportunities and outcomes brought about by physical activity. Get Yourself Active appreciates that carers and support workers are also essential messengers about the importance of physical activity to Disabled people with the pack helping in this regard.

The pack will develop carers knowledge of physical activity, help them to have more conversations with the people they support about getting active and how to provide active support, as well as giving them ideas to build exercise into everyday activities.

The pack will be launched at a webinar on Friday 13 August at 11am which will provide an overview of the resource, its origins and what it contains. The webinar will include talks from DRUK, Durham University, Sense and social care staff around the importance of supporting people to be active and how this resource can help. They will also take attendees through how to use the pack itself. You can register below at the link below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Register in advance for this webinar here.

Disability journalism event

The Zero Project has teamed up with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication to celebrate journalistic excellence in reporting on disability.

On Thursday, July 29 at 16:30 pm CEST (15:30 in the UK) it is running an online event to highlight the Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, the only – global – journalism contest devoted exclusively to disability coverage.

Speakers will include reporters from the BBC, the Chicago Tribune, ProPublica and members of the National Center on Disability and Journalism: Amy Silverman, Advisory Board Member, National Center on Disability and Journalism; Jodi Cohen, Reporter, ProPublica; Jennifer Smith Richards, Data Reporter, Chicago Tribune and Nikki Fox, Disability Correspondent, British Broadcasting Corporation. Register to attend here.

Media Trust Facebook masterclass

Media Trust has teamed up with Facebook’s Community Partnerships Team to offer a free masterclass at 10am on 15 September on building communities through Facebook groups. The trend towards online connectivity and community has only accelerated during the pandemic. Today, 35 million people in the UK are part of Facebook groups. Many charities and mission-driven enterprises are already building and leveraging online communities to support their work and further their causes.

This masterclass will unpack the power of community and outline the key skills necessary for how charities can effectively manage online communities. In the second part of the masterclass, the Facebook team will give an overview of their new Certified Community Manager Programme, which will be offered pro-bono to all charity participants interested in starting, growing, or sustaining their online communities. Book your place here.

DR UK blogs

Read our latest blogs on the new BBC season of Jerk,  and a young person’s view of Yayoi Kusama’s art.

Scope launches accessible sports fundraising initiative

Scope has recently reported that almost half (48%) of Disabled people have said that they had become less active since the pandemic began.

This lack of activity has had significant negative effects including dramatically worsening the mental and physical health of respondents. This news highlights that too many barriers exist for Disabled people to be able to access sport and physical activity. Scope found Disabled people experienced many barriers in sport settings.

With these barriers in mind, Scope has launched a new fully accessible virtual sporting fundraiser called Make it Count which they hope will inspire more Disabled people to get active. The fundraiser will take place alongside the Tokyo Paralympic Games, between 24 August and 5 September, when the attention of people around the globe will rightly focus on disability sport. You can read more about Scope’s new initiative here.

Benefits training courses  

DR UK offers a range of essential online courses in partnership with the Benefits Training Company. Each course is run in two parts, using Zoom and facilitated by an experienced benefits trainer.

Preparing for an Appeal Tribunal

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.

Part 1: Assessing the case, reviewing the DWP decision – Wednesday 18 August 9.45am – 12.45pm

Part 2: Composing effective written submissions, preparing claimants for appeal hearings – Thursday 19 August 9.45am – 12.45pm

Click here for more information and to book your place.

These courses sell out fast so early booking is encouraged.

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.

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