Disability Rights UK Newsletter

Government must halt ‘managed migration’ to universal credit – DR UK

Charities from across the UK have warned the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Thérèse Coffey that plans to restart ‘managed migration’ to universal credit (UC), from 9 May, must immediately be halted.

In an open letter, the coalition of 22 charities, which includes Disability Rights UK, urges the DWP to stop the process due to the risk of cutting off people’s incomes.

‘Managed migration’ is the process the DWP are using to transfer ‘legacy benefit’ claimants across to the UC system.

There are six working-age means-tested ‘legacy benefits’: income-related employment and support allowance (ESA); income-based jobseeker’s allowance; income support; housing benefit; child tax credit; and working tax credit.

The DWP plans to notify claimants that they have a three-month deadline to apply for UC. If they don’t apply within this deadline, the DWP will be able to stop their current ‘legacy benefit’ claim, regardless of their circumstances.

This potentially affects 2.6 million claimants, including 700,000 people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and dementia receiving income-based ESA. Those unable to engage with the process, for example because they are in hospital, risk being left with no income at all.

The charities are calling on the DWP to take responsibility for supporting people through a system that its own research has shown to be difficult to navigate.

Read more about ‘managed migration’ on our website.

Blue Badge allocation a ‘postcode lottery’

Local authorities (LAs) are providing a ‘postcode lottery’ for blue badge applications according to Disabled Motoring UK (DM UK).

It received responses from 180 of the 207 local authorities in the UK, which showed that some LAs are approving nearly all applications while others are rejecting up to a third.

DM UK also found that the surge of blue badge applications expected once the eligibility criteria were changed in August 2019 has not emerged, with under 67,000 blue badges out of 2,710,752  being granted for hidden disabilities.

Only 57% of LAs are recording instances of blue badge abuse, with only 4,815 reports of misuse nationally in 2021.

Only 46% of LAs have reviewed parking provision in their area in the past ten years with one, Bury Council, reporting that it had not reviewed its blue badge parking since 1993. 43 LAs reported never having carried out a review.

Report shows that smart home technology can assist independent living

Policy Connect has published a new report: Smarter Homes for Independent Living. Smart technology can be assistive to Disabled people in several ways – for example, enabling individuals with limited mobility to control their environment, or enabling individuals to remain socially engaged and connected to their communities.

As the use of smart home technology is increasing (Ofcom estimates that half of all UK homes now have a smart speaker) Policy Connect is calling on companies to ensure the needs of Disabled people to live independently is at the heart of their product design and production.

The report makes several key recommendations ranging from Government funding to including Disabled people in the commissioning and design of technology.

Clive Gilbert, Policy Manager at Policy Connect and author of the report, said: “Our recommendations will help millions of Disabled and older people lead more fulfilling lives by putting their needs and aspirations at the centre of technology design and care services. Independent living has long been a key tenet of the disability rights movement. With the ageing society, this demand is being embraced by a growing section of society. With appropriate support from carers, family members and friends, smart home technology promises to give people more choice and control in their lives. To achieve this, we must reform the way technology is used in health and social care services. The technology market must also be made to work better for Disabled and older consumers.”

GCSE and A-Level examinations could be moved online

GCSE and A-Level assessments could transition to paperless exams, as the current system is described by headteachers as “hopelessly outdated”, reports The Times.

Aside from moving away from pen and paper, the exams regulator Ofqual has said it will explore “online adaptive testing”. This would mean that digital exams would “adjust to suit a candidate’s ability in real time” and introduce tiered papers that vary in difficulty. Although The Times reports that this would remove the barrier of all teenagers needing to sit the same paper at the same time nationwide, it also introduces the risk that a student’s ability could be decided before they sit their exams. As was seen when exams were cancelled due to COVID-19, Disabled students are disproportionately impacted by lower and inaccurate grade predictions by teachers.

DR UK Education Policy Officer Bethany Bale said: “The current exam system in this country is not only outdated but also incredibly inaccessible. If GCSE and A-Level assessments are going to be digitalised, then it’s essential that exam boards work with Disabled students and DPOs to ensure that whatever technology they implement is accessible to every pupil sitting exams. Technology aside, the last few years have highlighted how any system that relies on grade predictions will negatively impact Disabled students and their futures. Although greater flexibility in assessments must be explored, it’s imperative that schools cannot pre-determine a student’s potential by pigeonholing their presumed ability in exams.”

Rose Ayling-Ellis takes Bafta, and tells a bedtime story

EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis has become the first CBeebies Bedtime Story teller to tell a story with British Sign Language.

She read the story Can Bears Ski? on Sunday 8 May as part of Deaf Awareness Week. Written by Raymond Antrobus and illustrated by Polly Dunbar, the story follows a bear and explores what it’s like to be d/Deaf in a hearing world. Watch the story on BBC iPlayer.

She also won the Bafta Must-See Moment Award with Giovanni Pernice for their Strictly Come Dancing dance to Clean Bandit’s Symphony, where they danced partly without music to show a moment of her inner world.

‘Only Disabled actors should play Disabled roles’ says RSC Chief

The head of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Gregory Doran, has said that it is no longer acceptable for non-disabled actors to play Disabled characters. Speaking to The Times, he said: “Tony’s [Antony Sher’s 1984 RSC] performance now would probably not be acceptable… It’s the Othello syndrome isn’t it? That moment when white actors stopped thinking of Othello in their repertoire, because it was not acceptable to have blackface any more, at least until the level playing field is achieved. It’s the same with Disabled actors and Richard.” The RSC is gearing up for a Stratford-Upon-Avon production of Richard III featuring Disabled actor, Arthur Hughes, who was recently seen in the BBC drama about 1990s disability activism, When Barbara Met Alan. Read the original story on The Times or without a paywall on the Daily Mail.

DR UK receives £1.7 million in funding for its Get Yourself Active programme

Get Yourself Active, the DR UK programme that focuses on increasing Disabled people’s participation in sport and physical activity, has been named a system partner by the arms-length body for grassroots sport: Sport England.

Becoming a system partner means Get Yourself Active will receive investment and support from Sport England and exchange knowledge and expertise as we work together to co-deliver the ambitions of its 10-year Uniting the Movement strategy.

Anna Denham, Programme Manager at Get Yourself Active said: “Since we began in 2015, we have worked tirelessly to increase Disabled people’s participation in sport and physical activity so that everyone can experience its benefits. When our work began, we quickly saw how barriers prevent Disabled people from getting active. It wasn’t that Disabled people didn’t want to get involved, but that many preventable barriers were stopping them.

Becoming a system partner means Get Yourself Active will receive investment and support from Sport England. We will exchange knowledge and expertise as we work together to co-deliver the ambitions of its 10-year Uniting the Movement strategy. It means that we can continue to centre Disabled people’s voices to remove barriers and change lives for the better.

“We are relishing the opportunity to make sure Disabled people across the country exercise their right to get active however they want. We know that this support means that more Disabled people will have the chance to feel good and have fun wherever they are.”

More details can be found on the Get Yourself Active website.