No Government progress five years on since Grenfell
Next Tuesday – 14th June 2022 – it will be five years since the fire at Grenfell tower. At the time of the fire, the guidance for Disabled residents was to ‘stay put’, and those who could not self-evacuate did not have access to Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs). 72 people died. 40% of the Disabled residents lost their lives, not including loved ones who would have chosen to stay with them till the end.
On the 30th October 2019, the Prime Minister pledged in the House of Commons to implement all of the Grenfell Inquiry recommendations. To this day, his government are yet to implement one.
In 2019, the Grenfell inquiry (phase 1) called for a legal obligation on building owners to implement PEEPs for those who could not self-evacuate. Since then, the Government has re-hired Colin Todd – who wrote the initial widely discredited guidance and has shared ableist comments online – and have recently refused to implement PEEPs, for reasons including “excessive costs” and the “hindering” of non-Disabled residents’ evacuation.
Disability Rights have written to the Prime Minister, with Claddag (Disabled Leaseholders Group) and Grenfell United (Grenfell Victims and Families) calling on the Government to act, as they promised to nearly 3 years ago. We have also launched a petition which asks that the Grenfell inquiry recommendation on PEEPs finally be implemented – sign the petition online.
Bethany Bale, DR UK Policy and Campaigns Officer, said: “When Grenfell fire took place in 2017 it highlighted unacceptable levels of negligence from the Government – but their failure to act on any of the inquiry recommendations since is nothing short of shameful.
There is currently nothing preventing another Grenfell from happening – there was already a repeat incident in Milan last year – and Disabled residents are currently trapped in their flammable homes with the knowledge that they have no safe means of escape. Five years on, it’s time for the Government to finally act.”
ESA will not stop for those failing to claim UC within three months during managed migration ‘discovery phase’
On 9 May 2022, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) began its compulsory ‘managed migration’ process of moving around 2.6 million ‘legacy benefit’ claimants over to Universal Credit (UC).
500 legacy benefit claimants will be told they must claim UC in a piloting ‘discovery phase’ taking place in Bolton and Medway.
Legacy benefit claimants include:
- 1.2 million on income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
- 1 million on working tax credit and child tax credit
- 100,000 on income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and housing benefit
- 200,000 on Income Support
However, this will need to increase substantially in the future for the DWP to achieve its end of the full roll-out of UC by the end of 2024.
Under managed migration legislation, legacy benefit claimants are notified that they have three months to claim UC. If they fail to do so without good reason, the DWP has the power to stop their legacy benefits.
However, in a letter to the Work and Pensions Committee, Therese Coffey Secretary of State for the Work and Pensions has said concerning the claimants in the initial discovery phase: “I have decided the Department will not terminate any benefits if the claimant fails to claim within the three-month period given.
“Instead, if these claimants have failed to engage with the Department, DWP will make a minimum of a 1-month extension to the deadline outlined in their notice.
“In this time, we will undertake proactive engagement with the claimant to understand why they have not claimed.”
In addition, the Minister said concerning identifying people who may need more support or reasonable adjustments during managed migration that: “As part of our learning during the discovery phase, we are keen to understand what additional support is required for people to make their claim to universal credit and what this means for the scaled-up process.
However, she added: “We will also be excluding some particularly vulnerable and/or complex groups from the managed migration process initially, including claimants who are terminally ill.”
Ken Butler, DR UK Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser, said: “It’s unclear how the DWP will identify “particularly vulnerable” claimants and “complex groups” from the UC discovery phase. Or if those concerned will be told they have been excluded.
“The DWP has admitted that it is not itself able to identify all claimants who will need support, and plans to rely on a hard-pressed voluntary sector and others to help with this
“The DWP should halt UC migration until they can guarantee they will not stop anyone’s old benefits until they have successfully claimed UC. The DWP must also take responsibility for supporting people through a complicated system that its own research has shown to be difficult to navigate.”
For more information see the Work and Pensions Committee’s correspondence with the Secretary of State available from parliament.uk.
See also our related news story Government must halt ‘managed migration’ to universal credit, charities UK wide demand.
Government to trial offer of additional Work Coach support for claimants awaiting their work capability assessment
Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith has given a preview of welfare reforms due to be announced in a summer 2022 Government White Paper.
In July 2021, the Government published a Green Paper, Shaping Future Support, giving options for addressing some “short-to-medium-term issues in health and disability benefits”.
The Green Paper also aimed to “start a discussion about the opportunities for wider change to deliver on the objectives of the health and disability benefit system”.
Speaking at a Disability Confident Jobs Fair on 18 May the Minister for Disabled People said: “Our Health and Disability White Paper later this summer will help Disabled people to live more independently, including with more help to move into work, where work is right for the individual.
The White Paper will set out our plans to ensure the benefits system better meets the needs of disabled people now and in the future, informed by the huge amounts of feedback we received to the Green Paper.”
One of the plans she highlighted was additional Work Support: “We will offer more support to the 2.8 million people with health conditions receiving Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance.
From 14 June, we will be trialling an offer of additional Work Coach support for claimants currently awaiting their Work Capability Assessment, initially across a third of the country.
Later in the year, we will expand the offer to claimants after their Work Capability Assessment with limited capability for work but who want help to move closer or into the labour market over time.”
She added that: “Our increasing numbers of Disability Employment Advisors will help embed the benefits of this additional support, using their expert knowledge to help Work Coaches understand the challenges faced by disabled people and provide tailored support.”
Other reforms announced by the Minister related to the Access to Work scheme aimed to transform it to offer Disabled people a “more streamlined, digital service that is visible and accessible”
In addition, she said: “We are also piloting Adjustment Passports to help support and empower disabled people to have a more structured conversation with potential employers about their disability, and to speed up the Access to Work process and reduce the need for assessments.”
Ken Butler, DR UK Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser, said: “To win the trust and confidence of Disabled people, work conditionality and any pressure to work must be removed. A medical certificate (“fit note”) should be accepted as evidence that someone is currently not able to work.
However, support with no strings attached could be offered to those who feel it may be helpful. And, if a person does manage to get back into work, there should be no penalty if it doesn’t work out. If support is going to be genuinely helpful, there needs to be complete removal of any kind of threat or punishment.”
The Minister’s Disability Confident Jobs Fair Speech is available from gov.uk.
See also our related news story DR UK, Disability Forum England and DBC respond to Health and Disability Green Paper.
Ban on Petrol and Diesel cars will impact Disabled motorists
The UK Government are proposing to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. While this is good for the environment, there has been little investigation of the potential impacts on the Disabled community in switching to EVs (Electric Vehicles.) Research from Disabled motoring UK has shown that Disabled motorists are unaware of the forthcoming changes. The evidence the charity has gathered so far suggests that Disabled motorists are not prepared for the change to EVs. Many think it won’t affect them and that an EV is not suitable for their needs.
For many Disabled drivers their cars provide freedom, mobility and help to mitigate inequality. Petrol stations may not offer perfect access, but Disabled drivers are familiar with their local stations and have developed work arounds to fuel up efficiently. EV charging points have not been designed with Disabled people in mind which means that the majority are inaccessible.
The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC) identified a range of access issue with EV design features, such as inadequate space for wheelchair users around the charge point and heavy cables, this coupled with the fact that 40% of households will not have the facilities or access at their homes to have a charging point installed means a troublesome equality issue is on the horizon.
It is apparent that without consultation with Disabled people they will find the switch over to EVs a huge issue affecting their ability to travel freely by car. For many Disabled people public transport is still inaccessible so the switch to EV could create an increase in inequality.
Dan White, DR UK Policy and Campaigns Officer, said:
“We would also like to see manufacturers and conversion companies work together, so that workable and inclusive environmental solutions can be found to all issues around EV and the Disabled community”
Disabled motoring UK are still researching the issue over switching over to EV and are looking for survey participants. To assist in the survey please visit: https://www.disabledmotoring.
Further information on findings by Motability on barriers Disabled people face using electric vehicles: https://www.motability.org.uk/
New Level Playing Field survey shows discrimination and abuse experienced by Disabled fans at Football matches
Responding to a survey, hundreds of Disabled football fans have described how they have been subjected to offensive songs or chants, verbal abuse and other discriminatory behaviour when following their teams to away matches. The research was carried out by the charity Level Playing Field (LPF).
Of more than 600 Disabled fans who responded to the survey:
- 43 per cent said they had been subjected to some form of abuse or negative attitudes at an away game in the last five years.
- 26 per cent said they had been subjected to verbal abuse.
- 16 per cent had experienced disability-related offensive songs, chants or gestures.
- 13 per cent said that “fear of disability abuse” was a barrier for them when attending away matches.
Disabled fans also raised concerns about the poor levels of staff disability awareness, inaccessible public transport, and general access barriers at stadiums.
Mikey Erhardt, Communications Officer at Get Yourself Active, said:
“These new findings from our friends at Level Playing Field paint a stark picture of the reality of being a sports fan as a Disabled person.
In a month that has seen the governing bodies that run the “beautiful game” fail Disabled fans, it is clear that individual clubs also need to do more to support Disabled people’s right to enjoy the world’s favourite sport.
We want to see changes made quickly, with stadium staff empowered to root out those who chant at or intimidate Disabled fans. We wish to see more training given to staff to understand the needs of Disabled fans, and more thought given to accessibility in the design of spaces and services.”
BT Sport announces a three-year commitment to broadcast The FA Disability Cup exclusively
As part of a plan to grow the game, the 2022 Football Association (FA) Disability Cup will see six cup finals scheduled across the weekend, delivered by The FA in partnership with a range of impairment-specific organisations.
The cup is the largest competition of its kind in this country. As part of this announcement, BT Sport confirmed they will show every match on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June, with live coverage beginning at 10am on each day. The presenting team will consist of Paralympic medallist, Ade Adepitan, seven-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockcroft and BT Sport presenter Lynsey Hipgrave.
On each day, live coverage of all the finals will feature on three BT Sport channels. Each offering different accessibility features, including enhanced audio description and British Sign Language, with subtitles available. Highlights coverage will be available on Channel 4 on Saturday 18 June.
Anna Denham, Get Yourself Active Programme Manager said:
“It is great to see progress being made by all stakeholders to grow disability football across the UK. We know how important sport and physical activity are to everyone’s physical and mental health. Therefore any steps taken to create a more accessible game are welcome.
We hope that by giving Disabled sports a bigger platform, we will see barriers to participation broken down, and more Disabled people taking part.
Ultimately, we would love to see the Disability Cup air on free-to-view television by default, as we know that many Disabled people cannot afford the cost of streaming services. and this can therefore present as a barrier.”