Disability Rights UK Newsletter

Disabled people urged to back campaign on social care charges

Disability Rights UK is urging campaigners and disability organisations  to back parliamentary efforts to scrap social care charges for working age Disabled people.

The issue was raised this week in the House of Lords as peers debated the Government’s Health and Care Bill.

Baroness Jane Campbell argued during the Committee stage of the Bill that free social care is a vital human right for Disabled people.

Read more here.

Government fails to protect Disabled people in residential blocks from fire

There were shocked faces in the House of Lords yesterday evening, as Baroness Tanni Gray- Thomson made a hard hitting, emotionally charged speech on the Building Safety Bill.

Baroness Tanni Gray-Thomson spoke of the poor fire safety guidance and practice that ultimately led to 41% of Disabled residents of Grenfell Tower losing their lives in the 2017 fire. She highlighted the Government’s failure to implement the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to place a legal duty on owners and agents to prepare Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for disabled residents unable to self-evacuate, despite a consultation ending on 19 July 2021. She spoke of the Government awarding the contract to produce new fire safety guidance to a fire safety expert whose testimony was rejected by the chair of the Grenfell Inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick and who had made offensive comments on social media about Disabled people.

Baroness Grey-Thompson speaking at House of Lords

Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at DR UK said “The Government’s silence on requiring owners and agents to implement PEEPs is extremely concerning and causing distress to thousands of disabled people living in residential blocks. The Prime Minister made a commitment to implement the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations in full. Yet the recommendation on PEEPs was made in October 2019 and no action has yet been taken.

The award of the contract to prepare new fire safety guidance, to a person who for the last decade has said that PEEPs are unrealistic and who has expressed ableist views on social media, is truly breath-taking.

We urge the Government to implement PEEPs without further delay and to withdraw from the contract.”

New user-led plan to transform the social security system

A user-led commission has published plans for sweeping reform of the social security system that include a new “extra costs” benefit for disabled people.

The Commission on Social Security – led by experts by experience – calls for a system that is no longer “guided by stereotypes and myths about Disabled people and people in poverty”.

Proposals include a Guaranteed Decent Income that would mean no-one would receive less than half the weekly minimum wage and the abolition of PIP.

Read more here

DWP blocks publication of research on effectiveness of benefit sanctions

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey is refusing to publish a report on the impact of benefit sanctions on decisions about work. The revelation comes as the Government plans to impose financial penalties on jobless claimants who refuse any job offered to them.

The Department for Work and Pensions commissioned its own internal research on the effectiveness of sanctions in 2019 and explicitly promised to make the findings public, in part to settle an ongoing political row over whether sanctions were effective in persuading people into work.

The department has rejected a Freedom of Information request from Glasgow University academic David Webster to see the research because it includes “details of a sensitive nature”.

Read more here

Rail use figures show pandemic reduced Disabled people’s travel

Official figures reveal a 40% drop in the number of Disabled Persons Railcards in use during 2020/21 as the pandemic slashed travel.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) 2021 Rail Factsheet published this week also confirmed a dramatic 78% fall in total passenger journeys.

DR UK has warned throughout the pandemic that transport providers and regulators need to recognise the vital importance of public transport to many Disabled people.

Stephen Brookes, Rail Policy Adviser for DR UK, says “We have been reminding bus and train companies, that accessibility of time-tabled services must be a key priority. It is important to understand that for many disabled people public transport is the only option.

“Many Disabled people  use buses and trains for vital journeys such as hospital and medical appointments. The reduction in services during Covid has had a serious impact, leading to a loss of confidence in transport services, with fewer jjourneys being made by Disabled people.”

DR UK will continue to work with the DfT, Office of the Rail Regulator and the Rail Delivery Group, to ensure that Disabled people’s needs are addressed in the post-Covid rebuilding process.

University of Sheffield failing Disabled students during pandemic

Learning support plans for Disabled students at the University of Sheffield were not implemented when teaching moved online, an internal survey has found.

The Independent says that the survey also revealed that reasonable adjustments were not provided for disabled staff members and widespread ignorance and bullying is rife.

This lack of support resulted in students dropping out of university and left some staff and students feeling suicidal.

The University of Sheffield said it has developed a ‘disability equality strategy and action plan’ to begin tackling these issues.

BSL set to gain official status

British Sign Language is set to become a legally recognised language after the Government backed a private member’s bill.

The change will mean that public bodies have to promote the language and ensure that interpreters are available for certain services and events.

Labour’s Rosie Cooper, who introduced the Bill, said it would send “a clear message that they [the deaf community] deserve equal access”.

Read the full story here.

Eight year old with autism wins hearts and minds in Big Tech

A video games company has restored access to a game following a request from the father of an eight-year-old boy who has autism.

The Guardian reported that the game – Joe Danger – not only provided the un-named boy with pleasure and entertainment but helped him deal with stress and interact with his friends and family.

However, updates to Apple’s iOS operating system rendered it defunct until his father asked the game’s developer to put it back online.

The company rebuilt Joe Danger so it could return to Apple’s iOS.