Disability Rights UK Newsletter

News Round-up

Social care plans expose rich vs poor divide in terms of home loss

The Prime Minister has narrowly won a vote on the cap for social care costs, which will mean that many poorer people will continue to need to sell their homes to cover the costs of care.

Senior Conservatives were urging the Prime Minister to reverse plans that would result in poorer people not benefiting from the social care cap, and in many cases having to sell their homes – something the Prime Minister had previously said would not happen.

The Guardian reported that Care Minister Gillian Keegan was “monstered” by backbenchers complaining that the plans were unfair and had not been fully explained or thought through. The Guardian said that former Tory chief whip Mark Harper challenged Keegan to produce more detailed analysis of the plans – which neither she nor two civil servants present were able to do. Harper then said it would not be good enough for her to produce details on the day of the vote, which was held on 22 November.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who chairs the Health Select Committee, said it was “deeply disappointing” that plans were “not as progressive” as those proposed by economist Andrew Dilnot, who drew up the original plans for a cap on individual contributions.

Current plans mean that while someone who owns a £1 million house would be able to protect more than 90% of their asset, someone with a home valued at £70,000 in a poorer part of the country would lose almost everything.

DWP urged to reveal algorithm that ‘targets’ Disabled people for benefit fraud

A Manchester Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) has launched a legal action to make the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) explain how artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to identify potential benefit fraud.

The legal challenge argues that Disabled people are having to endure months of stressful checks and frustrating bureaucracy after being identified as potential benefit fraudsters by an algorithm the government is refusing to disclose. A legal letter has been sent to the DWP demanding details of the process which triggers such investigations.

The Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) said a “huge percentage” of the group has been affected by the system. The group says the government has a legal duty to be transparent about the algorithm.

Rick Burgess of the GMCDP said: “We’re tired of the fear of the brown envelope and tired of being repeatedly forced by DWP officials just to justify who we are”

“It’s time for the DWP to come clean about how this algorithm works and explain why so many Disabled people are flagged for investigation. Disabled people need support – not being ground down by a brutal system that assumes we are fraudulent until proven innocent.” Read more.

Almost £3bn to be awarded to private sector to assess disability benefits

The DWP is to award contracts worth nearly £3bn over the next five years to carry out work capability assessments for ESA and Universal Credit and assessments for PIP.

The DWP selected supplier(s) will have access to a 10 month implementation phase followed by service delivery, expected to commence on 1 August 2023.

The successful supplier in each region will be expected to carry out both PIP assessments and work capability assessments but in Scotland PIP will be replaced by the new adult disability payment, which will be run by the Scottish government.

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said: “For more than a decade there have been continual complaints made against the outsourced private sector companies undertaking benefit medical assessments. The new Functional Assessment Services will perpetuate a system that causes fear, stress and anxiety for Disabled people.

“Worse, it is a system that has resulted in tragedies, with the DWP admitting to internally investigating 97 deaths of Disabled people since summer 2019 as well as 27 cases of serious harm.

“A frequent criticism of the assessment process is that assessors often lack a sufficient understanding of the claimant’s disability or health condition. There is nothing to indicate that this is to change.”

Read more here.

DPAC demo supports High Court ESA claimants

Disability Rights UK joined a number of other DPOs and disability charities at the High Court in London last week in support of a case being heard about the Government’s failure to pay £20 per week uplift to Disabled claimants on legacy benefits during the pandemic.

William Ford, a solicitor with Osbornes Law, who is representing the two claimants, said:

“This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost two 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 February 2021, a research report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) found that 82% of Disabled claimants had to spend more money than they normally would, mostly on food and utility bills.

A demonstration outside the court was attended by organisations including Disabled People Against Cuts, Z2K, the MS Society and a number of politicians including Marsha de Cordova MP, John McDonnell MP and Wendy Chamberlain MP.

Marsha de Cordova said: “This is another example of the hostile environment this government has created for Disabled people. It’s a shame we always have to go to court to get justice. Disabled people cannot continue to be treated as they have been by this Government. For Government to claim they can’t change their IT is total and utter rubbish. They can change the system.”

John McDonnell said: “This is such a just cause. What we’ve said time and time again is how is it that Disabled people on legacy benefits are discriminated against by the system itself. For many of my constituents – many of them are in severe debt and that is putting pressure on them and intense mental stress.

Paula Peters from DPAC said: “My local council gave me no support. I couldn’t get shopping delivery slots. They were gone. Without my fellow Disabled people I doubt I would be speaking to you today. I had to make stark choices because I wasn’t included in a £20 uplift. It was do I eat today or do I heat my home today. We shouldn’t have to make stark choices in  the 21st century.”

Requests for salary info is discrimination – Fawcett Society

Employers must stop asking job applicants for salary history as it discriminates against women, people from non-white British backgrounds, and Disabled people, and entrenches the gender pay gap, according to new work by the Fawcett Society.

In its latest survey to mark Equal Pay Day on 18 November – the date women effectively start to work for free because they are paid, on average, less than men – it found that asking details about previous earnings is also unreliable because almost half of working adults lie about their salaries.

Fawcett Society Chief Executive Jemima Olchawski said: “Asking about salary history can mean past pay discrimination follows women, people of colour, and people with disabilities throughout their career. It also means new employers replicate pay gaps from other organisations.

“Stopping asking is a simple, evidence-led way for organisations to improve pay equality – it’s good for… employers and our economy.” Read more here.

York a ‘no go zone’ for Disabled people

Disabled campaigners in York are planning a legal challenge against City of York Council after it voted to ban blue badge parking on key city centre streets.

York Accessibility Action (YAA), told the Guardian that the city has become a “no go zone” for many Disabled people and there was now no accessible parking within 150 metres of the city centre.

The council voted unanimously to stop Disabled parking in pedestrianised areas to make way for the installation of anti-terrorism defences. YAA will say in its legal challenge that such moves breach the Equality Act 2010 and the human rights of Disabled residents and visitors.

They have instructed a lawyer and are exploring whether they have a case for a judicial review.

Concern and surprise over survey that showed care users do not want staff vaccinated

Disability News Service has reported on the surprise of DPOs that nearly two-thirds of people in need of social care do not support mandatory Covid vaccinations.

It says that the government has refused to investigate whether a consultation on care worker vaccinations was hijacked by anti-vaccine activists.

The government has made it mandatory for most care home staff in England to be vaccinated since 11 November.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said that the lack of support for vaccination “sounds far too high”. She said: “Disability Rights UK supports government plans to make COVID vaccinations compulsory for all health and care workers, unless there is a medical exemption.

“We believe that all reasonable safeguards need to be put in place, to ensure that disabled people receiving care are protected from COVID.” Read more here.

E-scooters ‘should have number plates’

A leading e-scooter retailer has said that the half a million privately owned e-scooters in the UK should have to be registered and display numberplates to curb anti-social behaviour.

Adam Norris, founder of Pure Electric, said such a move could curb their speeding and stop riders encroaching on pavements, issues which can cause major hazards to Disabled people.

He is calling on the Government to legalise them and introduce clear-cut rules.

Only 20,000 e-scooters are involved in around 50 official trials. Rental scooters can travel at up to 15.5mph, but private scooters are not subject to speed restrictions and can exceed 50mph. Nine people have died in accidents involving privately owned e-scooters this year and one London hospital has reported nearly 200 accidents.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “We welcome moves from within the industry to make the use of e-scooters safer. Disabled people are feeling increasingly under threat from the encroachment of e-scooters on pavements and in shared social spaces.”

Read more at The Times here.

Get Yourself Active Launches new Moving Social Work programme website

Get Yourself Active, Durham University and Sport England are delighted to announce that the Moving Social Work summary is available via the Get Yourself Active website, in time for Disability History Month. This significant partnership seeks to make the resources to teach future social workers.

Professor Brett Smith at Durham University said: “This is the first research of its kind. Training the social workers of today and tomorrow in promoting physical activity promotion is an untapped yet vital move to supporting the health and wellbeing of Disabled people. We are excited to be working with Disabled people, social workers, physical activity stakeholders, and different universities to co-produce research that will have wide reaching and significant impact.”

Notably, the three programme leaders have worked together with different people to co-produce the project’s work. As part of the launch, the team has prepared several resources, including a detailed academic summary and infographics that detail the aims and timeline for the programme. These can now all be found on the Get Yourself Active Website here.

New report on legal info accessibility

The CLARiTY Project has published a new report about making legal information accessible.

The aim of the CLARiTY project was to increase access to justice and address areas of unmet legal need relating to mental capacity and health and social care law during the Coronavirus pandemic.

You can read the report here.

Transport research

Roots Research is a market research recruitment agency based in Brighton, currently working on a project with Disabled public transport users (or people willing to talk about why they don’t use public transport).

The company has been asked to recruit those who feel that their needs are not met when using public transport so they can share their ideas and opinions of what would help them. Taking part in this research will really make a difference to those who struggle using public transport as well as sharing awareness on how difficult this can be for those who have a disability, impairment or condition.

The research will be looking towards those who have a disability, impairment, or condition and if their accessibility needs are met on public transport and if not, what can be done to improve this. The research will be in the form of a one hour online interview via Teams and will be paid £50 – £100. Apply here.

The Loughborough Challenge

This new challenge is inspired by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for young people. The Loughborough Challenge asks you to learn something new, to take exercise and to make a social contribution. It asks you to lean against your boundaries and see what’s possible. Participation is welcomed by 25 – 54 year olds who self-identify as experiencing issues of mental health or mental/physical impairment. More information can be found on the website Home | The Loughborough Challenge