Disability Rights UK Newsletter


DR UK warns transport providers on ensuring options for Disabled people

DR UK is writing to the Department of Transport about the failures of transport providers to meet their obligations to Disabled passengers after the Government published new guidance for companies which provide rail replacement or home-to-school transport services.

The notices explain the options for companies seeking exemptions to provide fully accessible transport for Disabled passengers. Current exemptions are due to run out this summer, but the Government confirmed it planned to extend the exemption period in December last year.

The new guidance comes despite provisions in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (which was replaced by the Equality Act 2010) to ensure public transport was accessible to Disabled people by 2020.

It also highlights the differences in approach by transport companies. Blackpool Transport, for example, has a contract to provide rail replacement services for Northern Rail – and all of its bus fleet is accessible.

DR UK’s Rail Policy Advisor Stephen Brookes said: “Companies like Blackpool Transport show where there is a will, there is a way.”

“The rail and bus industries have consistently failed to address the needs of disabled people by providing accessible bus and coach replacement services at times of disruption.”

“In 2022 we should not be seeing any need for train replacement service operators of buses and coaches to seek exemptions for their continuing accessibility failures, which is simply because there aren’t enough compliant vehicles in service.”

The Equality Act 2010 allows the government to put in place regulations to make it illegal for transport to be inaccessible, but so far it has failed to do so.

Stephen Brookes added: “In the 12 years since there have been piteously few improvements and Disabled passengers continue to face uncertain journeys where assistance is patchy. The Department for Transport and transport providers really do need to get a grip and sort out this discriminatory issue.”

Social Care – House of Lords hears from DPOs

Disabled people are demanding better social care services to support people’s independence as the House of Lords continues to take evidence for its Inquiry on the difficulties people face to get the social care support they need.

Ian Loynes, the Chief Executive of Spectrum Centre for Independent Living told the Inquiry there was a need for a change of mindset, according to the Disability News Service (DNS).

He said “Most definitely there needs to be a change in perception and a change of understanding about Disabled people and older people.

“There’s a notion that once you become Disabled, you’re automatically dependent on somebody else, you’re just looked after and you’re wasting your life until you die. That’s not the reality for… Disabled people [of any age].”

“We all want to make the most of our lives, we only get to live once, and Disabled people should have that right to live a decent life and a life of their choice and their ambitions to be met.”

His evidence comes as PA Pool, a service which aims to match Disabled people needing social care with personal assistants looking for work, is highlighting the challenges facing Disabled people who use personal assistants.

Founded by Katy Etherington, who is a wheelchair user, PA Pool also says there is a misunderstanding about the role of personal assistants as well as a recruitment problem which has been exacerbated by Brexit.

Disability Rights UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “There are some steps the Government could take to ease the social care recruitment crisis, including mitigating the impact of Brexit.”

The House of Lords Inquiry is accepting evidence until 27 May. Details of how to submit evidence are available on the House of Lords website.

New homes – but not for wheelchair users

DR UK is seeking clarification from Homes England after it announced it will spend £15 million on building 1,000 homes over the next five years across Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset but none of the new homes will have to be wheelchair accessible.

The funding comes as part of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, and 30% of the new homes will be targeted at addressing the lack of affordable homes across the three counties.

Accessible housing association specialist Habinteg says around 400,000 wheelchair users are having to make do with inaccessible housing.

Disability Rights UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Disabled people continue to face a myriad of difficulties when it comes to living independently.

There is policy in place which should ensure that new builds are accessible. We challenge councils to recognise the importance of this, and to ensure that they only rubber stamp developments where accessibility is prioritised to create cradle to grave housing solutions.

We also remain concerned about the term ‘affordable housing’, which remains out of reach for many Disabled people. But  making new build housing accessible is a simple fix and helps people stay independent for longer.”

Gold medal winner champions sport for Disabled people

A Disabled woman from Yorkshire has highlighted the benefit of sport after winning a medal at the Invictus Games held in Holland this week.

Lisa Johnson, an amputee who previously served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, won a gold medal in the shot put. She said: “Being in the Invictus Games with so many similar people in similar situations…it’s been amazing.”

She joined a gym and began to increase her exercise after taking up an aerobics class. The Invictus Games was founded in 2016 and is an international sporting event for people in the armed services who have been wounded or injured.

Mikey Erhardt from DR UK’s Get Yourself Active programme said: “Sport and physical activity has so many benefits including increased well-being and helps combat social isolation. You don’t have to be a Paralympian to benefit from sport. Disabled people have a right to be active and have fun wherever they are.”

The Invictus Games runs until April 22ndHighlights can be found on BBC1, with coverage hosted by JJ Chalmers, a previous Invictus Games medal winner.

COVID-19 – NHS Providers warns of impacts as hospital numbers double

The Chief Executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS hospital trusts and other services, is calling for the Government to take “sensible precautions” in the light of the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

In an interview with The Times (£), which was followed up by The Independent, Chris Hopson said there was a need to have a debate about what “living with Covid actually means” at a time when the number of people in hospital with the virus has doubled in recent weeks to nearly 16,000.

In a Twitter thread, he also highlighted some of the problems which have arisen because of the pandemic such as high levels of staff sickness in the NHS. These incudes long waiting lists for routine surgery and people unable to leave hospital, even though they are medically fit, because they can’t get social care and other services they need to return home.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “We’d welcome the opportunity to be part of a sensible debate about living with Covid. The pandemic is ongoing and Disabled people are being hardest hit because the Government doesn’t seem to be too concerned about what happens to us. A good starting point would be a return to basic precautions that protect people, like social distancing and using facemasks.”

New consultation on Government mental health and well being plan as more than one million people left waiting for treatment

The Government has launched a consultation on the best way to support people’s mental health and well being.

The consultation, which runs until the summer, is inviting organisations and individuals to suggest ideas on how people can improve their mental health and well being; and how different sectors and organisations, including employers, can work together to improve people’s mental health.

The consultation asks for people’s advice and experience in six key areas:

  • How to promote positive mental wellbeing
  • How to prevent the onset of mental ill health
  • How to intervene at an early stage when people need help with their mental health
  • How to improve the quality and effectiveness of treatment
  • How to support people with mental health conditions to live well
  • How to support people having a mental health crisis.

Concerns remain about the current waiting time for mental health services. Last month, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said over one million people were still waiting for mental health treatment after the demands of the Covid pandemic had pushed referrals to a record 4.3 million in 2021.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “This is a welcome initiative and I’d encourage Disabled people to respond to the consultation to ensure our voices are heard.

“But we also need to tackle the backlog so people can get the support they need, rather than languishing on a waiting list.”

“It’s also important for the Government to remember that poor mental health is linked to other social problems. If people don’t have enough money to live on, they are more likely to experience poor mental health.

There are lots of things we can do to improve our mental health, as people and as organisations. But the Government needs to acknowledge its own role in this. Policies that push people further into poverty for example mean we are likely to see an increase in demand on mental health services as people find it more difficult to cope.”

You can respond to the consultation on the Department of Health & Social Care website. Consultation responses have to be in by the end of July.

The reality for Disabled people in Donbas

Though most Ukrainian citizens living in the Donbas left their homes a fortnight ago, heeding government calls to evacuate amid fears that Russian troops would indulge in the widespread murder of civilians as they had done elsewhere, thousands remain.

Among them are the most vulnerable and those with nowhere else to go: Disabled people, those with long term health conditions and those too poor to leave.

“I am already familiar with the sounds of war,” said wheelchair user Lyudmila Brostovskaya Brostovskaya, who has been stranded in her flat for 54 days since the lift stopped working on the first day of the Russian invasion

“I have had plenty of time here alone in all this to tell a Grad rocket from a mortar or a howitzer.”

Read the first-hand accounts of those left stranded in the Ukrainian city on the Times website.

Rising bills having ‘catastrophic impact’ on Disabled people

New research by charity Leonard Cheshire has found many Disabled people are struggling to pay for the basics – with potentially “catastrophic” consequences.

A quarter of those surveyed said they missed meals because they couldn’t afford it.

28% had not been able to afford to heat their home, and seven per cent said they have less than £10 a week for essentials like food after paying for housing and bills.

Ruth Owen, the CEO of Leonard Cheshire, said: “How can anyone manage a weekly shop with £10? Many disabled people face impossible choices and are living day-by-day on a financial knife edge. The government needs to recognise this and urgently act to avoid a desperate situation becoming a catastrophe.

“Distressingly, the situation is deteriorating. The cost-of-living crisis is pushing more and more disabled people to despair and into poverty.”

You can find the full story, including video interviews with Disabled people affected by the crisis, on the ITV website.