Disability Rights UK Newsletter

Here’s the latest News Round-up from the excellent Disability Rights UK.

Shaw Trust Power 100 list 2021

The Valuable 500 is the first organisation to land the top spot in the Shaw Trust’s Disability Power 100. The Disability Power 100 is an annual list of Disabled people who the Trust identifies as being the most influential in the UK, with the aim of recognising and amplifying the successes of Disabled people.

The Valuable 500 is an international consortium of organisations committed to disability inclusion in business.

Others who made the 2021 list’s top 10 include entrepreneur Shani Dhanda; Euan MacDonald, founder of the Euan’s Guide disability access review website; Cerrie Burnell, the actor and TV presenter; Dr Frances Ryan, author and journalist; and learning disability activist Ciara Lawrence.

DR UK and our allies make the Disability Power 100

Kamran Mallick: “I am delighted that Disability Rights UK and our Ambassador, Stephen Brookes have made the Shaw Trust Power 100 list this year. The Disability Power 100 list (Home – Shaw Trust Disability Power 100) celebrates and acknowledges the contributions and impact of the most influential Disabled people in our country. Every individual listed has been nominated by their peers for their work to bring down barriers, change perceptions, challenge inequality, and bring innovation and the power of lived experience to create an inclusive society for all. Well done to everyone included this year. You are all role models for the next generation of Disabled people.

Disability Rights UK is recognised in the community action category for our work. Over the past eighteen months, our whole team has worked hard to ensure that the voices and experiences of Disabled people were heard and understood throughout the Coronavirus crisis.

I’m also very pleased that our Ambassador, Stephen Brookes, is recognised for his service to the community. He has extensive experience in the transport sector and has worked with Train Operating Companies include Transpennine Express, Northern Rail, Avanti West Coast and Transport Scotland to improve disability access.

Stephen served as the Disability Minister’s Disability Champion for the Rail Sector And in 2020, Stephen joined us at Disability Rights UK as our Rail Policy Advisor. Stephen is also passionate about tackling hate crime against Disabled people. He was coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, and remains involved to this day. Congratulations Stephen from all of us at Disability Rights UK, we are so pleased for your inclusion in the Powerlist 100 this year and delighted that you bring all your experience and knowledge to the work we do together.

The next generation of Disabled activists are important to us at Disability Rights UK, and I am delighted that this year the Powerlist 100 includes the category of Rising Stars – Rising Star – Shaw Trust Disability Power 100. The work that young Disabled people are doing to change society is wonderful to see and important to highlight.

I am thrilled that Fraser Simmonds, son of one of our trustees is included this year – Fraser Simmonds – Shaw Trust Disability Power 100. Fraser is just eight years old and the driving force behind Fraser & Friends – an online Facebook community which educates people about what it like to live with a rare condition. Fraser has been the face behind many public campaigns and awareness posts highlighting examples of accessibility as a wheelchair user.

In 2019 Fraser was awarded a Prime Minister Points of Light for his campaigning and has been featured on many occasions in local and national media. Fraser is inspiring others into action to bring about positive changes which will make a difference in society and benefit not just young Disabled people, but everyone. Well done Fraser, keep doing what you are and leading the way. We are with you and behind you all the way.

Talking of awards, I would also like to congratulate our Ambassador Clenton Farquharson MBE for his award from Care Talk Magazine Social Care Leaders Top 30.  Clenton said “I am delighted and humbled to win the Care Talk Magazine Social Care Leaders top 30 award tonight. My aim is to use this to raise the profile of people who draw on care and support and influence the social care reform we so desperately need. Thanks to all who voted for me.”

Well done Clenton on the huge contribution you have made to the conversation and thinking on how social care needs to be reformed so that it truly supports individuals to live a life with dignity, control and choice. We are lucky to have you as our Ambassador.”

Budget fails Disabled people

In Wednesday’s budget, despite the Chancellor increasing spending to all government departments, support for the poorest people in society including seven  million Disabled people was noticeable by its absence.

For people working and in receipt of Universal Credit, the amount of money that can be kept from earnings was slightly increased, however,  this only benefits a relatively small proportion of people. There was nothing for those on Universal Credit who can’t work due to impairment, or long term health condition and nothing for Disabled people on legacy benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance.

Whilst there was a welcome increase in the minimum wage, there was no increase in the Warm Home Discount or Winter Fuel Allowance, despite spiralling energy costs.

There was no additional ring- fenced money for social care or for education support for Disabled children with additional needs.

With the removal of the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit in early October (an amount which was never paid to Disabled people on legacy benefits), the rising costs of food, energy and fuel, and the increase to National Insurance contributions from next April, the future for the poorest Disabled people within our society is set to be exceedingly bleak.

Fazilet Hadi, Disability Rights UK Head of Policy said “With the majority of foodbank users being Disabled people, with charges for social care increasing and with prices for basic necessities rapidly rising, the Government has completely failed to take any action to improve the lives of Disabled adults and children.

It is not enough to publish a Disability Strategy, Disabled people need a decent income and support and services to enable independent living.”

Over two thirds of Universal Credit claimants currently in arrears while living costs rise

Low-income households, who have borne the financial brunt of the pandemic so far, are also being dragged down by debt, according to new research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

One of the groups most likely to be in arrears and struggling with household finances are Universal Credit claimants.

JRF says:

“This group has been hard hit through the pandemic … over two thirds are currently in arrears and aren’t confident they will be able to pay their bills and avoid further debt. Read more here

Assisted dying bill in the House of Lords

Members of the House of Lords didn’t vote on whether the law should change around assisted dying in a day long debate with over 100 peers giving their views about the perceived dangers and benefits of changing the law.

The debate follows DR UK’s decision to remain neutral on the issue of changing the law.

The bill was introduced by Baroness Molly Meacher, chair of Dignity in Dying, who said ”…its potential to transform all our lives and deaths is colossal”.

Speaking against the bill, Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton warned that Disabled people don’t have real choice or autonomy around assisted dying when health and social care services are so stretched, that they can’t get the help and support they need.

In an article in The Guardian, Baroness Campbell said that until we could ensure everybody had genuine choices about their care, assisted dying was, in fact, assisted suicide.

Tanni Grey-Thompson also spoke against the bill, arguing the proposed legislation  is unsafe for disabled people.

Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK said:

“This issue shines a spotlight on the principles around choice, autonomy and power, and will continue to provoke significant debate amongst Disabled people.”

The bill is expected to go to committee stage next year, where it will be scrutinised in detail. It is unlikely to become law, as the government is unlikely to make the time required for it to go through Parliament.

Disabled people at risk as social care recruitment problems bite

The annual analysis published earlier this month from Skills for Care, the organisation which supports social care employers, has highlighted ongoing problems for Disabled people seeking social care support.

Skills for Care says vacancy rates and turnover in the social care sector remain high, creating difficulties for social care providers as well as disabled people who are trying to recruit personal assistants.

The report features in an article in the Observer, which also blames Brexit for the difficulties Disabled people face when it comes to recruitment.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), the social care regulator, has published its ‘State of health and social care in England’ report, which also highlighted the difficulties in recruiting staff, warning of a ‘tsunami of unmet need’. It says that the biggest problems are in the adult social care sector, and it’s important to develop new models of care to ensure people receive the support they need when they need it.

The CQC report also points out that money invested in social care helps relieve pressures on the health service. Disabled people and those with long term health conditions are less likely to seek help from acute services if they are getting the social care support that they need on a day to day basis.

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK said:

“Disabled people continue to struggle to get the support needed to live independently  and radical action is needed to fill the growing number of care staff vacancies. Whilst we welcome the increase in the national minimum wage, Government needs to ensure that extra money is provided to local authorities, otherwise the result will be further cuts to social care services.”

Bereaved families write second letter to Secretary of State to demand public inquiry into benefit related deaths

In July 2021, five families who lost loved ones in cases where the DWP has been implicated in their death, wrote to the Secretary of State, Thérèse Coffey to demand a public inquiry into deaths and serious harm linked to the benefits system.

Three months on and they have had no response so all five families have written again to the Secretary of State.

You can read their letter here.

Active Lives Report – Disabled people continue to lose out

Last week, Sport England, the arms-length body of government responsible for growing and developing grassroots sport and getting more people active across England, released their latest Active Lives Adult Survey.

The results are stark and worrying. Put simply, Disabled people are not getting active, and the deficit between activity levels of Disabled and non-disabled people continues to widen.

Worrying trends

The survey shows that Disabled people have struggled to get active during the pandemic, with their activity levels dropping. Only 45% of Disabled people describe themselves as being active compared to 66% of non-disabled people.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that activity levels for Disabled people or those with long-term health conditions saw no recovery across mid-March to mid-May 2021, compared to the first total lockdown during the same period in 2020 – remaining 7.1% down on 2019.

This activity gap between Disabled people and non-Disabled people had started to narrow pre-pandemic, so seeing it widen again is troubling. We urgently need to get back on track to where we were with the progress that we have made.

Finally, the report emphasised that feelings of loneliness are higher among Disabled people or those with long-term health conditions than non-disabled people. This sadly increases further for those with three or more impairments.

The Sport England report is one of the most comprehensive studies of the relationship between Disabled people and physical activity. It spans the period from mid-May 2020 to mid-May 2021, including periods of national and tiered restrictions introduced to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

Lydia Bone, Programme Manager at Get Yourself Active, a programme run by Disability Rights UK, said:

“The Active Lives survey from Sport England shows the continued widening inequalities for underrepresented groups, including Disabled people.

This report brings it home that although things were getting better before the pandemic, Disabled people have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and continue to face more barriers than before. It shows the continued importance of organisations working collaboratively to tackle these inequalities and the sports sector ensuring they are flexible in their approach.

It shows the necessity for co-production and working in partnership with Disabled people to increase opportunities and ensure that Disabled people are not left behind.”

Disability Employment Charter link

The link to the Disability Employment Charter which featured in last week’s E-news is available here. The Charter highlights a number of demands to help tackle the disability employment gap, including asking the government to introduce mandatory work force monitoring and improving the Access to Work scheme. The Charter featured in a story about Disabled people and employment in the Independent, which noted that disabled people are less likely to take sick leave from their jobs than their non-disabled colleagues.

Young Disabled people protest at Facebook about Disability hate crime.

Young Disabled activists from Coventry took their fight against Facebook to the social media giant’s London offices as figures show a 52 per cent increase in disability hate crime online.

The group says Facebook is failing to protect disabled people from abuse and discrimination. Comments including “he’d be better off dead” can be reported but are frequently left untouched by moderators.

The protest comes after Coventry Youth Activists group launched their ‘Facebook Has No Standards’ campaign.

CYA have garnered support from fellow disabled activists, Facebook transparency campaigners and celebrities such as actor Sally Phillips who said of educating others around disability: “We need to keep reiterating the message that it’s not OK not to include people just because it might be a bit harder.”

Taiwo Owatemi, MP for Coventry North West, said: “Tech giants can and must do more to protect the rights of their users to feel safe, both online and in their everyday lives, and their users’ free expression should not mean that they are free from consequences of their actions.”

CYA wants to see Facebook take more action on ableist comments and slurs on the social media platform.

Disability Hate Crime

Policing leader calls hate crimes “distracting” Donna Jones, Police Commissioner for Hampshire and lead for Police and Crime Commissioners on organised and serious crimes, says that a growing focus on investigating hate crimes risks distracting police from solving serious crimes including rapes and murders.

She said that the near doubling of hate crimes in the last 6 years reflected a push for police to investigate rather than necessarily a real increase.

CEO of Disability Rights UK, Kamran Mallick said “Everyone should be worried that hate crime is on the increase, with recent figures showing a doubling of disability hate crime. It is not true to say that this is just about better recording, many more Disabled people are experiencing hate crime.

Hate crimes, however expressed, have a hugely negative impact on the emotional and physical wellbeing of those who experience them. The police need to act decisively to stop the crime and to take legal action where appropriate.

Some hate crimes do involve violence against the person, including rape and murder, which Donna Jones completely fails to recognise and acknowledge.

The comments of Donna Jones are truly appalling and police leaders need to speak out against them.”