Disability Rights UK Newsletter

The Leadership Academy Programme: a career development programme for Disabled employees

Do you wish to progress your career, or have you recently received a promotion? And do you have lived experience of a disability and/or a long-term health condition? If so, we want to hear from you.

Equally if you’re an employer, or someone who works in Human Resources or Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), this is the perfect course to empower and support the career development of the Disabled employees within your talent pool. You can read more about this in this word download. 

DR UK is now recruiting for the 2022 cohort of its flagship Leadership Academy Programme (LAP), which we are running online via Zoom. LAP is an established leadership training for employees with lived experience of disability. The application deadline for the next Cohort is Friday 4 February 2022.

The Leadership Academy Programme (LAP) was developed after a group of Disabled senior leaders found that while Disabled employees were managing to gain employment, their ability to excel up the corporate ladder appeared limited.

We have seen LAP run successfully now for seven years and to date we have a vast array of testimonials from both delegates and mentors, indicating the impact that participating in LAP has had on them, both personally and professionally. We are always interested in forging new partnerships with organisations who are keen to include a robust leadership programme for Disabled employees, within their D&I Strategy.

Find out more about LAP here.


News Round-up

Government considering merging PIP and UC

The Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has said that the possibility of merging Personal Independence Payment (PIP) with Universal Credit is “on the table”.

Responding to a question raised by Disability News Service at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, she said that “everything is on the table is the best way of saying it, because the green paper is quite broad and we want to get some focus on genuine innovative thinking”.

She added: “Are these benefits actually working? That’s the question I often say past my officials. “Are they having the intended desire? And if not, what are we going to do about that?

“Or is there something that we can have [that is] better… in that regard.”

She said that “probably” the biggest increase in benefits spending had been on “health benefits”, while PIP had “grown in a way that was not anticipated when it was introduced”.

She said that three out of four young people who claim PIP – a total of 189,000 – state that their primary reason is their mental health.

Coffey appeared to suggest that reducing the number of young people in mental distress claiming PIP would help more people “think of the benefit system as fair”.

She said that targeting PIP on “people who really need that support” may improve the “public perception” that the system is fair.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “These pronouncements from the Secretary of State are genuinely horrifying. The idea that a non-means tested benefit that supports the extra costs of disability can be merged with Universal Credit is truly appalling and shows a complete lack of understanding of the lives of Disabled people. The distinctions made between people with physical and mental health are also completely unacceptable. Over the coming months, Disabled people will need to forcefully oppose any plans to merge PIP or to limit the numbers of Disabled people eligible for the benefit.”

DR UK, DPO Forum England and DBC respond to Health and Disability Green Paper

DR UK has responded to the DWP’s Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper.

Published in July 2021, Shaping Future Support considers the options for addressing some “short-to medium-term issues in health and disability benefits”.

It also aims to “start a discussion about the opportunities for wider change to deliver on the objectives of the health and disability benefit system”.

DR UK has contributed to and fully supports the points and recommendations made in the Green Paper responses by the DPO Forum England and the Disability Benefits Consortium. DR UK is a member of both organisations.

Our submission is a supplement to both their Green Paper responses. Read more here.

Report of health and social care committee public inquiry into Covid

The Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee have published a damning new report on the Government’s response to the Covid pandemic. As part of its rigorous analysis, it says:

“The disproportionately high mortality rates that people with learning disabilities and autistic people have suffered throughout the pandemic has highlighted the health inequalities faced by this group. While pre-existing health conditions undoubtedly contributed to the increased mortality risk, they were compounded by inadequate access to the care people with learning disabilities needed at a time of crisis.

“This was a result of restrictions on non-covid hospital activity, and, significantly, because of access restrictions which prevented family members and other carers accompanying people with learning disabilities in hospital to perform their expected advocacy role.

“Do not attempt CPR” notices were issued inappropriately for some people with learning disabilities, which was completely unacceptable…

“Plans for future emergencies should recognise that blanket access restrictions to hospital may not be appropriate for patients who rely on an advocate to express their requirements.

“Initial guidance to clinicians based on the Clinical Frailty Scale was insufficient and had serious consequences.”

The 147 page report makes mention of Disabled people 76 times. DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “At the outset of the pandemic, the Coronavirus Act reduced the rights of Disabled people; patients with Coronavirus were moved into care homes; and there was a failure to prioritise social care. It is only right that this report highlights the catalogue of errors made at the start of the pandemic which resulted in the disproportionately high number of deaths of Disabled people.”

Government weighs up integrated health and care system as social care misses over 100k workers

Sajid Javid is said to be working on a radical plan to merge social care with health in England. The proposal aimed at freeing up NHS beds and offering home care, could be included in forthcoming reforms

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid is considering radical plans to combine health and social care as part of a white paper to be revealed next month, senior Conservatives and Whitehall sources have told The Observer.

At the moment, local authorities (LAs) have responsibility for running social care services. It is cheaper for LAs if those in need of care go into hospital where the cost is met from a separate NHS budget. This means that people who could receive care at home are denied that choice and are instead using much-needed hospital beds (a tenth of the population is currently on a waiting list for treatment).

The Government is considering LAs and the NHS working together under an integrated system, or even LAs being removed from the picture and the NHS taking on social care.

The social care system is suffering from a severe shortage of workers which has become even worse since the pandemic with almost a tenth of care roles, over 100,000 positions, unfilled.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “The Government has failed to engage with Disabled people in shaping its social care reform proposals and as such we can have little confidence that closer working between health and social care will lead to more Disabled people receiving the care and support needed to improve lives.

“Disabled people should be able to determine the care and support we need to lead full lives. Care and support should be free at the point of delivery, national care standards should be set, and investment in social care should be vastly increased. If reforms are to benefit Disabled people, these foundations must be put in place.

The DPO Forum has created a sub-group on social care and we would like Disabled people and DPOs to speak to Members of Parliament about how social care needs to change. Inclusion London has prepared campaign materials. Access them here.

Disability Rights UK position on assisted dying

The Private Members’ Bill currently going through Parliament seeks to give people who are terminally ill and in the final months of their life the option of assisted dying.

The issue of assisted dying divides Disabled people.

Disability Rights UK, an organisation led by Disabled people, for Disabled people, remains committed to listening to what our members think and reflecting those views fairly and accurately. Having listened to opinions from both sides, and following discussion by the Board of Trustees, our position on assisted dying remains a neutral one.

A debate will take place on 22 October.

DR UK held a discussion on assisted dying last month. You can listen to the recording here: https://youtu.be/KhjERvkSqQ8

Disability hate crime up by over 50%

New data on policing and disability hate crime gathered by Leonard Cheshire shows disability hate crime has increased by 52%.

In figures obtained under a freedom of information request, 39 police forces reported 9,252 disability related hate crimes in the year 2020/21. Only 104 cases were referred to the CPS for prosecution.

A worrying development is that 4,101 reports were classed as violent, and online hostility increased to 981 – a rise of 51% from the previous year.

At Disability Rights UK through our work with the Disability Hate Crime Network we know these numbers do not begin to reflect the actual amount of cases which should be actioned. This is because of under-reporting and the ongoing failure of police forces to identify the incidents as hate crimes.

DR UK Rail Policy Adviser Stephen Brookes, who for 11 years was lead co-ordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network said: “These figures are hugely disappointing and show that despite so many promises and positive statements, there is still no consistent approach by police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in tackling disability hate crime “We need joint action to press for real change and better understanding of disability matters and the police and CPS need to recognise the serious impact disability hate crime has on victims who become afraid of going out and feel more isolated than ever, as repeat offences are often a result of police failures. As a result of this report, we are calling for a minimum action of creating a disability co-ordinator role in every police force.”

ESA claimants’ food insecurity increased during pandemic

Claimants of Employment and Support Allowance did not receive the £20 per week uplift available to claimants of Universal Credit, and as a result, their levels of food insecurity have sharply increased according to new research.

Among other conclusions of the research report are the following.

It is not possible to talk about food insecurity in the UK without talking about benefits. Among working-age people who are food insecure, 52.9% are claiming income/work-related benefits; and among people who are severely food insecure, 62.1% are claiming benefits.

The just-announced Household Support Fund will not compensate for the end of the £20 per week UC uplift. A £500m fund can only make up for the loss of £20 per week for 1m households (probably 1.3m adults). Even if the fund is targeted perfectly, it cannot cover all of the 1.7m who were severely food insecure, and can cover less than half of the 3m who had any food insecurity.

The end of the uplift not only risks more people falling into food insecurity; most UC claimants already in food insecurity will lose £20 per week as well. Read more here.

Special needs school failed autistic girl who died by suicide

A 15-year-old autistic girl took her own life after an “enormous and systemic failure” by her special needs school which left her with unfiltered access to suicide websites.

Frances-Rose ‘Frankie’ Thomas attempted to end her life after reading a story about a character who died by suicide on an iPad provided by her school.

Assistant Coroner Karen Henderson said she believed Frankie was influenced by the material she accessed. “Frances-Rose Thomas had a number of underlying vulnerabilities, including significant childhood trauma, high-functioning autism and impulsivity,” she said.

Frankie’s parents are calling on the Department for Education to ensure the safeguarding of pupils from online harms is standardised across all schools.

Research shows that autistic people are nine times more likely to die by suicide and 28 times more likely to think about suicide.

Read more here.

Universities in England ‘failing to mark down students’ for poor writing skills

Grade inflation is occurring because universities and colleges are failing to mark down students for poor spelling, grammar and punctuation according to England’s higher education regulator, the Office for Students (OfS).

It warned that it was willing to punish universities for failing to tackle poor writing skills.

The review follows reports of cases of institutions using “inclusive assessment” policies more widely, and only taking quality of writing into account in courses where it was deemed to be critical. Ministers are said to be highly critical of this approach.

Susan Lapworth, the OfS’s Director of Regulation, said: “The common features we have seen in assessment policies suggest that poor spelling, punctuation and grammar may be accepted across the sector. In publishing this report, we are being clear with universities and colleges that we want to see change.

The OfS said it found “common themes that gave us cause for regulatory concern”, including interpretations of the Equality Act and similar legislation made by several universities to justify not assessing proficiency in written English for all students.

“As a consequence, it appears that accurate use of spelling, punctuation and grammar is not assessed for many students at these providers, and in some cases its assessment is explicitly not permitted.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “The OfS has used just five case studies to reach conclusions which appear to be a direct breach of the Equality Act in terms of failing to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made for people with cognitive or neurodiverse disabilities such as dyslexia. Rather than penalising students for aspects of presentation beyond their control, the OfS should focus on making sure that all students who struggle with written work have the personal support they need.”

On the road with hidden disabilities: sunflower and National Highways

The success of the hidden disabilities sunflower lanyard scheme is being rolled out to vehicles.

The hidden disabilities sunflower is widely recognised for helping people with non-visible disabilities get the support they need in the public domain. In a new partnership with National Highways, the iconic Sunflower can now be displayed on vehicles, enabling drivers and their passengers to let others know that they may need additional support, help or a little more time. National Highways traffic officers routinely patrol all motorways and some sections of major A-roads in England and are often first on the scene in an emergency. Their priorities are to keep people safe and fully reopen the road as soon as possible. The Sunflower for vehicles discreetly indicates to traffic officers that someone in the vehicle has an impairment which may not be visible.

No end in sight to inaccessible rail replacement buses

Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has extended the period during which the rail sector may continue to use inaccessible rail replacement buses.

The latest extension stretches the exemption from 1 October 2021 to 30 June 2022.

The Minister said: “I recognise the efforts that the industry has made to introduce other measures to ensure accessibility for disabled passengers and I believe that this extension will give my officials and the industry time to continue to deliver the more robust long-term solution to this issue.”

The Minister has urged the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and the Train Operating Companies to use accessible buses wherever possible and to only use a non-compliant vehicle when all other options have been exhausted.

Stephen Brookes Rail Policy Adviser at Disability Rights UK said: “While the Minister is firm about maintaining equality of service for Disabled passengers, this latest extension is completely unacceptable, as inaccessible rail replacement bus services are one of the most regular complaints made by Disabled passengers. The rail and bus industry must not continue finding excuses or blaming each other for failing to address this matter, as they’ve been doing since the Disability Discrimination Act was introduced in 1995. We will work with Disabled people to ensure that these exemptions are ended next summer.”

We Are Recruiting

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) is recruiting two Policy & Campaigns Officers to work with Disabled People’s Organisations, Disabled people and allies, to influence policy and service change for Disabled people.

The job description and person specification can be accessed by clicking here. To apply, please send your current CV together with a cover letter, outlining your interest in and suitability for this job, addressing each point in the person specification, to recruitment@disabilityrightsuk.org.

Should you wish to apply using another format or require reasonable adjustments to do so, please contact us at recruitment@disabilityrightsuk.org or on 0330 995 0400.


DR UK offers two essential online courses, each run in two parts 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 – Monday 8 November 9.45am – 12.45pm

Part 2: Composing effective written submissions, preparing claimants for appeal hearings – Tuesday 9 November 9.45am – 12.45pm

Click here for more information and to book your place.

Introduction to Welfare Benefits 

This 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.

Part 1: The structure of the system and the importance of health & disability benefits – Wednesday 17 November 9.45am – 12.45pm

Part 2: Universal Credit, the wider benefits system and maximising income – Thursday 18 November 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 £120 + VAT per person for DR UK organisational members. After booking you will receive a Zoom link and supporting materials by email.

Your right to shop 

DR UK has recently partnered with ServeOmeter, a platform and app which enables you as a Disabled person to give a score to a shop you’ve visited and tell others about the level of accessibility and customer service you experienced.

This means you can share your real time experience with other Disabled people. The app will give your feedback to those who need to act on it – store managers and owners.

This partnership will mobilise the power of Disabled people to put pressure on businesses to improve access and remove barriers. Today, as Disability Rights UK’s members and supporters, we ask you to be a part of this exciting opportunity to help shape the future.

On top of leading this positive change, we are also inviting you to take part in a weekly prize draw to win one of four £50 Amazon vouchers.

So what do you need to do?

  1. Download the ServeOmeter app (it’s available on iOS and Android), or register on the website www.serveometer.com, and submit a score
  2. Sign up to ServeOmeter’s newsletter
  3. Follow ServeOmeter on Twitter twitter.com/AskServeOmeter

Further information:

Disability Rights UK AGM 2021

We are delighted to invite you to our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday 24th November from 13.30pm to 15.30pm.

Join us to hear about what we have done in the past year, how we responded to the pandemic and our plans for the future. Meet the Leadership Team in a panel session to hear about the challenges and opportunities. You will be able to ask questions of the team as well.

Please see our website for more information


Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services (NEPTS) review

Updated national eligibility criteria for patient transport has been developed and is currently in a consultation period which will end on 25 November 2021.

The NHS is holding four workshops on the proposed changes. These workshops will be held virtually via MS Teams and will provide an opportunity for everyone to directly have their say on the proposed criteria and will broadly focus on the same lines of enquiry as those in the consultation. The feedback collated during the workshops along with responses received via the online consultation, will feed into the final stages of the development of the criteria before its publication in early 2022.


Engagement Workshop 1

13:30-15:00 on 19 October 2021

Discussion: medical need, haemodialysis patients, cognitive and sensory impairment

Engagement Workshop 2

13:30-15:00 on 28 October 2021

Discussion: defining mobility impairment and escorts and carers

Engagement Workshop 3

13:30-15:00 on 4 November 2021

Discussion: other transport options, wider support and safeguarding

Engagement Workshop 4

13:30-15:00 on 1 November 2021

Discussion: health inequalities and implementation approach

More information on how to register for these workshops will be released imminently. You can express an interest in being involved by emailing nhsi.neptsreview@nhs.net. Please email the same team if you have any accessibility requirements.

Disability and abuse booklet

Children with any type of physical or mental disability or health condition are up to four times more likely to experience abuse. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) has produced a booklet about disability and abuse and is suitable for adult survivors and those supporting them.

Bristol based job vacancy

Bristol City Council is looking to recruit a Commissioner role for Bristol’s Disability Equality Commission. Details here.

There will be two ‘What is a commissioner Q&A’ virtual Zoom sessions:

Session 1: 14.00-15.00 on Tuesday 26th October 2021, Zoom link here: https://zoom.us/j/95019198915

Session 2: 19.30-20.30 on Monday 8th November 2021, Zoom link here: https://zoom.us/j/97782659547

If you have any accessibility requirements email General.BDEC@gmail.com or call 0117 922 3114 specifying your requirements in good time.

Neurostages festival

Neurostages is a two-day festival of workshops, films, discussions, and performances curated by the Scottish Neurodiverse Performance Network (SNPN) on 15 and 16 October in Glasgow and online. Passes are available on a pay what you wish scale from £0 to £20. Find out more.

UN disability treaty online event  

What is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (CRDP), why do we have it and how can Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) use it to advance our rights? – all these questions and more will be answered by a panel of experts as the UK gets ready to be examined again by the CRDP Committee. The event will be held from 6-7.30pm on 20 October 2021 and BSL will be provided. More details via Inclusion London.

Hate crime survey

In 2016 Dimensions UK ran a survey to understand more about hate crime and how well victims feel supported by the police. This year, it’s running another survey for people with disabilities, learning disabilities and/or autism. It wants to show how important it is that national disability hate crime statistics and learning disability and autism hate crime statistics are separated. It will use the data from this survey to continue its #ImWithSam campaign against hate crime. Details here.

Glow Up

BBC Three is casting make up artists for Glow Up. If you have not seen the show before, you can see previous series here. It is looking for individuals who have a creative eye, are brimming with ideas and a drive to succeed. Disabled applicants are welcome. More info here.

Our Helplines 

Our helplines are operating as normal:

Personal Budgets Helpline


Disabled Students Helpline

Welfare Rights Helpline for Member Organisations