Disability Rights UK Newsletter

News

Two million denied benefit increases: High Court challenge

On Wednesday 17 November, the High Court will be asked to decide whether it was lawful for the Government not to give nearly two million Disabled people on ESA the same £1040 per year increase that it gave Universal Credit claimants.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the DWP announced a £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit, but this vital increase to support was not extended to those on so called ‘legacy benefits’, the majority of whom are Disabled people.

The High Court will need to decide whether the DWP was guilty of unlawful discrimination by breaching the European Convention on Human Rights through not increasing the rate for 1.9 million ESA claimants  by £20 per week.

If the legal action is successful, more than two million legacy benefit claimants should be due £1,500 in back payments from 6 April 2020, when the Universal Credit uplift was introduced, to when it was ended on 6 October 2021.

William Ford, solicitor for the two ESA claimants taking the judicial review action said: “We are pursuing this legal challenge based on the proposition that the pandemic means those dependent upon basic allowances are facing higher basic living costs, and yet despite their very similar circumstances, only some of them receive a Covid-specific uplift to help meet those costs.

“This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million Disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally.

“Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.”

In a September 2021 research report – The Millions Missing out – the Disability Benefits Consortium  found thousands of Disabled people on out of work benefits, such as ESA, are facing considerable mental health and physical challenges as the pandemic has left them struggling financially.

The findings from the DBC survey. completed by over 1,800 Disabled people in receipt of legacy benefits concluded that:

  • Half (52%) are spending ‘significantly more’ on household bills and utilities than they were before the pandemic, and just under half (46%) were falling behind on rent or mortgage payments;
  • Individuals’ weekly income meant they were unable or struggling to eat a balanced diet (67%), attend medical appointments due to public transport, petrol and taxi costs (33%), and pay bills, including their water, gas, and electric (67%).

Over three quarters of Covid child deaths were Disabled people’s

Analysis of 3,000 child deaths during the pandemic by the journal Nature Medicine found that of the 61 deaths of children with Covid, 25 of those deaths were of Covid, and over three-quarters of those children (19) were not ‘healthy’ children.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Once again, the media is using figures to whitewash out the impacts of Covid on the Disabled community. The ‘just six healthy children’ quote we have seen in the mainstream press fails to recognise that the risk has been, and remains, very real for Disabled people, especially those with poor immunity and no access due to age or medical conditions to vaccination.”

Minister writes to families with Disabled children

Will Quince MP, Minister for Children and Families, has written an open letter to parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their families and those who support them.

In the letter, the Minister reaffirms his commitment to delivering the SEND Review and the importance of supporting the most disadvantaged children and young people. He outlines his plans to continue to visit schools, nurseries and colleges around the country to directly hear first-hand from children, young people, parents and carers, school, college and local authority staff as well as meet with SEND organisations and experts so they can influence proposals.

Alongside the letter, the Department for Education has published information about the members of the SEND Review Steering Group. The new group was set up to assist the department to conclude the SEND Review at pace and advise on proposals to be set out in a SEND Green Paper to be published in the first three months of 2022. You can find details of the group here.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It’s great that the Minister wants to listen to Disabled children and  young people, their families and those providing education services, as radical change and increased investment is urgently needed. Far too many Disabled children with additional needs are not receiving the required support, disproportionate numbers of Disabled children are being excluded following support not being provided and Education, Health and Care Plans are not being delivered. The funding crisis is acute, leading to councils and schools unfairly rationing and limiting support.

The new Minister also needs to review the Government’s approach to inclusive education, as    the Government is embarked on a major expansion programme of special schools for Disabled children. Disabled people are part of society and our education system should reflect this.”

Two thirds of UK population clueless about learning disabilities

A new survey has highlighted how despite 1.5 million people in the UK having a learning disability, two thirds of British people don’t know what a learning disability is.

The ‘Talk To Me’ campaign, produced as part of Mencap’s 75th anniversary,  highlights the misunderstanding people with a learning disability face from the wider public, and the negative impact this can have on the whole of society.

As well as a lack of understanding, over six in 10 adults (64%) have witnessed someone be rude to or about a person with a learning disability.

The survey shows that representation matters, with two in five people in the UK (42%) having not seen someone with a learning disability in the media in the past year.

Mencap has developed a set of tools and online resources to help with people’s lack of understanding of learning disability, including a pledge to stand up for the rights of people with a learning disability. You can find Mencap’s pledge here and the online resources here.

SEND review ‘must hear from people from other ethnic backgrounds’

Special Needs Jungle (SNJ) is calling for people from non-white British backgrounds to be heard in the forthcoming SEND review. It writes: “the word “inclusive” is often used in the SEND sector, and, just as often, it fails to materialise. For families from ethnic backgrounds, it’s even less likely to be their experience of additional needs support within education.

“The SEND Review needs to hear — and act on — the different needs and experiences of all voices, not just those who find participating easy. The same goes for health, care and local authority policy-makers.

Mala Thapar, the parent of a Disabled 17-year-old autistic boy, told SNJ how “extensive national research has found that Disabled children and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds face stereotypes, assumptions and prejudice from wider society and communities. There is also experience of significant uncaring institutions and  negative discriminatory racial and cultural stereotypes.” Read more here.

Sickle cell patients ‘face racism in NHS’

Racism within NHS services is causing harm to people with sickle cell disease, reports The Times.

“Serious failings” in the care of patients is in some cases leading to avoidable deaths, according to a report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on sickle cell and thalassaemia.

Around 15,000 people in the UK have sickle cell, a blood cell disorder, which can cause clumping and blockages in small blood vessels. Patients have severe pain and may need hospital treatment for crises several times a year. It mostly affects people from African, Caribbean and Mediterranean backgrounds.

Haematology departments are of a good standard but: “This is far from the case on general wards or when accessing accident and emergency departments,” said the report.

“This sub-standard care has led many patients to fear accessing secondary care, or even outright avoid attending hospitals.” One patient said he had “been called the ‘n word’ to my face”.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “DR UK’s DRILL project with De Montfort University revealed stark inequalities in terms of how people with sickle cell were being treated by employers. We are angry but unsurprised to hear that the same levels of prejudice apply to healthcare. Disabled people from non-white ethnic backgrounds endure a hideous doubled down version of discrimination. They face both disability and racial discrimination on a daily basis. Evidence shows that such discrimination can affect whether they live or die. The government and NHS must act on the findings of this report to ensure such discrimination ends, now.”

DLA videos

The government has produced four new short videos about Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children.

The videos provide a clear and simple overview of what DLA for children is; who can apply for it; what people can expect from the application process and what happens when the child turns 16.

Each video can be watched as a standalone film or in sequence. Watch them on the

DLA Videos playlist here.

The videos are also available as British Sign Language versions using two translators having a conversation in British Sign Language (BSL).

Watch the British Sign Language videos playlist here.

The content of the videos is also available through GOV.UK as Easy Read products.

Get Involved

Support Manchester Cladiators

Manchester Cladiators wants to investigate whether there are grounds to take legal action against the Government regarding the cladding and building safety crisis. Law firm Irwin Mitchell has set up a Crowd Justice fundraising page. You can support this here.

ULEZ Judicial Review claimant sought

DR UK Ambassador Kush Kanodia is spearheading a campaign about the impacts of the London ULEZ traffic zone upon Disabled people.

The campaign is looking for a suitable Blue Badge holding claimant for a Judicial Review in respect of human rights and the application of the Equality Act since the expansion of the zone from 25 October 2021. There is only a three month window from this date in which to seek a Judicial Review.

A suitable claimant would, at a minimum, need to be a Blue Badge holder and be affected by the ULEZ charge (whether that be because their own car is non-compliant, or one of the cars in which they frequently travel in is non-compliant). Please contact Kush Kanodia for more information or to put yourself forward at kushuk@gmail.com.

Cabinet Office safety zoom

On Thursday 25 November at 11am the Cabinet Office and UK Health Security Agency will be hosting the next in the series of Keeping Communities Safe During Winter webinars on Zoom to support community and faith leaders, voluntary and community groups with their ongoing engagement and communications.

As well as providing an overview of the most up-to-date Government guidance, the webinar will feature presentations on the continuing importance of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu this winter and community engagement lessons to be learned from dealing with the pandemic so far. There will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions, share ideas for more effective engagement and to inform the Government about challenges and barriers faced by your local communities.

To submit a question in advance or if you have any questions or access needs, contact Obaayaa Asantewaa or Pascoe Sawyers at community.resources@dhsc.gov.uk by Friday 19 November. Go here to register.

Share your experiences of seeing or posting online content about suicide or self-harm

Samaritans and Middlesex University are inviting people aged 16+ who live in the UK to fill in a 10 to 20-minute survey about their experiences of seeing or posting online content about suicide or self-harm.

You can take part in this survey if you’ve ever seen, posted, or engaged with self-harm or suicide content online. This content could include news stories about self-harm or suicide, lived experience accounts, or posts about recovery. You don’t need to have personal experience of self-harm or suicidal feelings to take part.

Find out how to take part in this survey here.

Can you help the Get Yourself Active team?

At the beginning of this year, Get Yourself Active (GYA) focused its efforts on supporting Disabled people to be active at home during the pandemic. This work included creating accessible exercise videos created from research with Disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. If you need a refresher, you can access the Active at Home section here or find the videos on their Youtube channel.

GYA would now like to follow up with Disabled people to find out how valuable this work has been and plan how to support individuals moving forward. The survey will take around five minutes to complete, and you can find the link for the survey here.

It would be massively appreciated if you could share this with your networks and community to make sure we’re hearing from Disabled people from all backgrounds and across the country.

If you have any questions, please e-mail lydia.bone@disabilityrightsuk.org.

BFI film courses for young people

The BFI Film Academy specialist courses are now accepting applications from young people. These courses provide 16-19 year-olds with the opportunity to gain valuable skills specialising in an area of filmmaking that they’re interested in.

The courses comprise of five residential programmes across the UK. People of all abilities and backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Bursary schemes are available to help with any costs.

The courses run over the February half term and the Easter holidays. Specialist courses are designed to develop participants’ skills in areas such as Stop Motion Animation, Art Department, Documentary, VFX and Craft Skills.

Students will get masterclasses, workshops, and technical skills lessons, all delivered by established industry professionals. Everyone that completes the course will become part of our alumni network and get access to fantastic opportunities including a BAFTA mentoring scheme and paid traineeships.

Applications close 6 December 2021. Apply here.

Have your say and help shape the future of Functional Assessment Services 

Have you attended a Health Assessment for Personal Independence Payment or Employment Support Allowance/Universal Credit in the last 12 months? We would love to hear about your experience.

A research company is looking to recruit up to ten participants for in-depth one-to-one (video call) interviews. This would be to understand your experience of how PIP and Health and Disability Services Assessments are currently delivered and what your aspirations for the future of the service may be.

It wants to know whether you were offered the competency and care that you would expect, as well as to hear your ideas for how you think the service could be improved.

This is an opportunity to help drive real, tangible change by helping to redesign the service from the ground up.

It is offering an Amazon voucher incentive of £50 per one hour interview. Interviews would be conducted on 24 and 25 November.

If you are interested in participating, please email training@disabilityrightsuk.org with your name, contact details and availability. Please include FAS Interviews in the email subject line. Details will be passed directly to the research company and strictly for the purpose of inviting people to participate. Please note the researchers will operate a first-come first-served opportunity to take part.

Helplines

Our helplines are operating as normal:

Personal Budgets Helpline

 

Disabled Students Helpline

Welfare Rights Helpline for Member Organisations