Disability Rights UK Newsletter

National Disability Strategy declared unlawful

The High Court has declared that the Government’s National Disability Strategy is unlawful due to inadequate consultation with Disabled people.

Disability activists Miriam Binder, Jean Eveleigh, Doug Paulley and Vicki Hon brought the case against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, arguing that the Secretary of State had chosen to consult with Disabled people through the UK Disability Survey which was launched in January 2021, but that she had failed to provide sufficient information on the proposed Strategy to allow for meaningful response.

The government argued that the Survey was an information-gathering exercise, not a consultation. The Strategy was published in July 2021.

The Court held that through the UK Disability Survey, the Secretary of State had voluntarily embarked on a consultation to which legal duties applied. The judge referred to press releases and documents published by Government, which included labelling the Survey a ‘consultation’ and writing that the Survey was to ‘gather views’ on the development and delivery of the Strategy. Reference was also made to putting Disabled people’s ‘lived experiences’ at the centre of the Strategy, and the Strategy said that the Secretary of State had ‘carried out the biggest listening exercise with Disabled people in recent history’.

The Court held that the Survey was presented ‘as being a way in which the Strategy could be shaped, would be shaped and (eventually) was shaped, but the information provided made that impossible’.

Given that the National Disability Strategy was informed by an unlawful consultation, the Court declared the Strategy to be unlawful.

Disability Rights UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “We have a phrase in the disability community: ‘nothing about us without us’. I pay tribute to the Disabled people who fought for justice and gained this landmark ruling.

“A Disability Strategy formulated without deep listening to the voices of Disabled people is doomed to failure. The Government must now go back and do what it should have done the first time round: dedicate time and resources to enable Disabled people to speak freely and fully on our lived experience, demonstrate we have been fully heard, and share draft Strategy proposals with us for discussion and comment.”

CEV list called into question over new guidance

1.5 million people were told to shield unnecessarily under the original English guidelines, while many more who were truly at risk were not included on Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) lists reports The Daily Telegraph.

Dr Tony Williams from the consultancy Working Fit, developed a “Covid-Age” tool to estimate the risk of the virus to individuals. The tool is now officially recognised by the Scottish government.

According to his estimates, 1.5 million people need to have shielded, and a further 1.5 million at risk were not warned or placed on lists.

The largest group on the shielding list were people taking immunosuppressant drugs, but their risk of death was only 20% higher than healthy males. Whereas people medically classified as severely obese have a higher risk than people with severe asthma. Asthmatics were told to shield while bigger people weren’t.

Read more here.

Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike joins calls for protections for shielders

Paralympian activist Anne Wafula Strike is the latest voice to speak up about the lack of protections for clinically extremely vulnerable people and those who cannot medically be vaccinated. Read more about her recent piece in The Guardian.

Disabled leaseholders group dismayed at guidance writer appointment

The Home Office has commissioned CS Todd & Associates to re-write the Means of Escape for Disabled People, and the other suite of fire safety guidance documents.

CS Todd & Associates authored the 2011 Local Government Association (LGA) guidance document Fire Safety in Purpose-Built Flats, with the support of Government, which has been the subject of judicial review. This guidance advised building managers that it was “unrealistic” to prepare emergency evacuation plans for Disabled residents. Last year, following the threat of  legal action from a family member of a Grenfell Tower resident who died, the specific wording which legitimised inaction with regard to evacuation plans for Disabled residents was redacted by the Government. 41% of Grenfell Tower’s Disabled residents died in the fire.

The Chief Fire Officers’ Association stated that “to ignore and eliminate advice on Disabled access and evacuation is a fundamental error of the document.”

A statement released by Claddag, a group representing Disabled leaseholders said: “By awarding yet another contract to the authors of that guidance, the Government sends a message of endorsement of this discriminatory approach and demonstrates that it has learned nothing from the judicial review or the Grenfell Tower tragedy. We implore the Home Office to immediately review its decision on the award of this contract.”

Inquiry sought into deaths of 369 mental distress patients in Sussex Trust’s care

Campaigners are calling for an urgent investigation by Ministers and health regulators into “repeated failings” and missed chances to prevent the deaths by suicide of 369 patients at Sussex Partnership NHS Trust.

The Daily Telegraph reports that 369 people died between 2016 and 2021 while under the Trust’s care despite 15 warnings from coroners about incorrect discharges, medication errors, and a lack of patient supervision.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It beggars belief that deaths in their hundreds over a five year period do not merit a full investigation. The Department of Health and Social Care and the CQC need to investigate  and uncover the systemic issues leading to this exceptionally high level of suicides.” Read more here.

High Court rules loss of around £180 a month disability premiums on claiming Universal Credit is unlawful discrimination

Two Disabled men, TP and AR, have won a fourth legal challenge over the DWP’s failure to provide adequate transitional payments to protect them and others from a ‘cliff-edge’ loss of income following their move to Universal Credit (UC).

According to the DWP, the ruling will affect up to 50,000 Disabled people and will involve sums of up to £150 million to put right.

Read more here.

Covid highlights social security system is “simply unfit for purpose”

New research warns that the soaring price of food and rent, along with energy bills, is forcing families to choose between basic essentials such as food and heat, while growing numbers are being forced into debt and relying on food banks.

The research report, Covid Realities, is a two-year study by the universities of York and Birmingham and the Child Poverty Action Group documenting the lives of 150 low-income families with children during the pandemic. Read more here.

Dramatic decline in Blue Badge enforcement

The latest Blue Badge statistics released from the Department for Transport (DfT) show a 49% decrease in prosecutions for fraud and misuse of the scheme. Only 698 prosecutions took place between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, compared with the previous year’s figure of 1,429 prosecutions. Read more here.

Train companies to reduce ‘tannoy spam’

The Government has announced that it is reviewing and removing so-called ‘tannoy spam’ – train announcements that add unnecessary noise and disruption to journeys. DR UK Rail Policy Adviser Stephen Brookes said: “Train announcements are vital for many Disabled people including people with visual impairments. However, we are aware that too many announcements can be difficult to process for people with other forms of disability, such as autism and mental distress. The Government has said it will work with accessibility groups to ensure that passengers can still receive the necessary information. We cautiously welcome this move, which forms part of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail which seeks to put passengers back at the heart of the railways.”