December 2020


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Disability Rights UK (DRUK) – News In Brief 
To contact Disability Rights UK (DR UK) see www.disabilityrightsuk.org/contact-us

ROYAL MAIL £1.99 SCAM 
A convincing scam email is targeting Royal Mail users asking them to pay a £1.99 fee for undelivered mail - but while the sum might seem small, what they actually want is your bank details. Both the low fee and the style of the email give the impression of being legitimate. 

Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy, said: "Anybody who receives an email claiming to be from the Royal Mail must remember that they will never be asked to pay a redelivery fee. Never input your bank or card information after following a link in any email that claims it is from the Royal Mail, because it will result in your card details being stolen by criminals.  If you have reason to believe that you may have been tricked, it is essential that you contact your bank and cancel your card at once.  Additionally, check your statements for any signs of unauthorised transactions." 

A Royal Mail spokesperson added: " Royal Mail Group takes a serious approach to scam mail and understands the upset that it can cause households across the country, including vulnerable people. Any members of the public who believe they or a family member is receiving scam mail can report it to our dedicated helpline on scam.mail@royalmail.com or phone 0800 0113466. 

Alternatively, they can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit their website https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ and use their online reporting tool.” If you have been the victim of a payment scam, you can get a crime reference number by reporting it to your local police station."  

VISUALLY IMPAIRED STUDENT WINS HIGH COURT CASE ON UNIVERSAL CREDIT -  Edited from RNIB   
A new judgment in the High Court has demonstrated that between 2013 and 2020 thousands of disabled students were unlawfully barred from claiming benefits despite being entitled to universal credit for essential living costs. 

According to the High Court, the Secretary of State, as decision-maker for the Government, had misunderstood the law on how to assess these claims and adopted an unlawful policy of rejecting them without conducting Work Capability Assessments (WCA). A WCA is the medical assessment used by the Department for Work and Pensions to decide whether a claimant has limited capability for work, and therefore entitled to support. 

One of those students was Sidra Kauser, a visually impaired master’s student in York, who was initially supported by the RNIB Legal Rights Team. Sidra made an application for universal credit at the start of her Master’s course last year, following a deterioration in her health. The DWP refused to undertake a work capability assessment to determine her capability for work because she was a full-time student. Subsequently her claim for universal credit was rejected. 

Sidra explained:  “I was concerned that the current policy could put disabled people off becoming students. It is important for me to challenge DWP’s policy because if my judicial review succeeds, then other disabled students will not have to go through the same struggle as I did to get benefits.” In December 2019, RNIB sent a pre-action protocol letter to the DWP. 

Claire Connolly, solicitor with our Legal Rights Team, said:  “Our view was that the Secretary of State’s interpretation created a “Catch 22” situation where disabled students have their universal credit claims rejected because they do not hold the required proof of limited capability for work from the outset of their application. But they are denied the opportunity to have a work capability assessment because they do not have an active universal credit claim.  

The Secretary of State has since made amending regulations which came into force on 5 August 2020. The amendment makes it clear that the DWP is no longer required to refer a claimant in receipt of education for a WCA where they are in receipt of personal independence payment (PIP), disability living allowance (DLA) or attendance allowance. In order to qualify for universal credit a disabled student must already have a limited capability for work determination in place on, or before, the day they claim universal credit.  This amendment cements the very limited circumstances in which a disabled student can apply for universal credit. More work needs to be done to improve the support available to students with disabilities, and we are considering what steps to take next. 

Claire Connolly from our Legal Rights Team adds:  “We were disappointed that the Government did not consult the Social Security Advisory Committee, or any other external body, before amending the regulations. We now want to see them revisit this issue and provide for direct entitlement to universal credit for disabled students. We’d be happy to help you make your case so if you are a blind or partially sighted student affected by either the old or new rules, please get in touch. 

You can email at helpline@rnib.org.uk , or call 0303 123 9999, 8am to 8pm on weekdays, and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.  

BEING FRANK – The Frank Gardner StoryEdited from https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000p3p4/being-frank-the-frank-gardner-story  In June 2004, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner was shot six times by al-Qaeda gunmen whilst reporting on growing terrorist activity in Saudi Arabia. The bullets damaged his spinal nerves and at the age of 43, he was left partially paralysed and has used a wheelchair ever since.

Sixteen years on, he has gone behind those headlines to expose the things about disability we never talk about.  "I want people to see the iceberg beneath the surface," Gardner says of his new BBC documentary, Being Frank. First broadcast on BBC TWO on 5th November and available on the BBC I-Player. "People look at somebody in a wheelchair, like me, and they probably think 'poor guy, I wonder if he needs a bit of help?' What they don't see is all the stuff that we have to deal with beneath the surface." 

Frank talks candidly about the effects his injuries have had on his life, work, relationships and the way he views himself. Disarmingly honest about revealing the ongoing physical indignities that have resulted from the attack, he nevertheless finds talking about his emotional responses more difficult. Revisiting his past as a young man backpacking around the Middle East, he tells the story of how he turned himself into a BBC correspondent in the 1990s. 

At this time, he met his wife Amanda, and they had two children. He also revisits the hospital where he spent months receiving treatment for his injuries. Reflecting on his recovery, he says it was Amanda who helped him most - but it was not without its impact on their relationship. 

Recently, he and Amanda have divorced, amicably, and He now finds himself at a turning point in his life in a new relationship. Travelling to report for the BBC from the Colombian rainforest, He comes to terms with the frustration of just how dependent on others he will always be. Yet despite the considerable physical hardships he endures and knowing that the mental recovery after a life-changing injury can take years, he continues to live life to the full. 

Ultimately, he is really very happy, just being Frank.

THREE-TIERED REGIONAL MEASURES RETURN BUT EACH TIER WILL BE TOUGHENED.  The allocation of tiers will be dependent on a number of factors, including each area's case numbers, the reproduction rate - or R number - and the current and projected pressure on the NHS locally. Tier allocations will be reviewed every 14 days, and the regional approach will last until March. 

Describing how the tiers had become tougher, the PM said: 

  • In tier one, people should continue to work from home where possible 
  • In tier two, only pubs serving substantial meals can serve alcohol 
  • In tier three, hospitality will close except for delivery and takeaway, and indoor entertainment venues must also close. 

Where pubs and restaurants are allowed to open, last orders will now be at 10pm, with drinkers allowed a further hour to finish their drinks.  Indoor performances - such as those at the theatre - will also return in the lower two tiers, although with reduced capacity. 

In terms of households mixing, in tier one a maximum of six people can meet indoors or outdoors; in tier two, there is no mixing of households indoors, and a maximum of six people can meet outdoors; and in tier three - the toughest tier - household mixing is not allowed indoors, or in most outdoor places. In all tiers, exceptions apply for support bubbles. 

From 2 December, parents with babies under the age of one can form a support bubble with another household. 

For pubs: In tier one, they will be able to open until 23:00 GMT, with last orders at 22:00 In tier two, they can only open if they serve substantial meals. Alcohol can be served with that meal In tier three, hospitality venues must close apart from delivery and takeaway 

Spectator sports: Can resume in tier one with a maximum crowd of 50% of stadium capacity or 4,000 spectators, whichever is smaller Can resume in tier two with 50% of capacity or 2,000 spectators, whichever is smaller Cannot resume in tier three Measures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continue to be decided by the devolved administrations, but a joint approach for  the relaxation of COVID rules for Christmas has been finalised by the first ministers of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who chaired Tuesday's COBRA meeting, said: "We all know that Christmas this year won't be as it has been in years past.  But all the governments agreed we should balance the need to protect public health with also allowing people to be with their loved ones." He also warned there was a need to "be careful", adding: "It's important we don't let things go too loose over Christmas." 

Under the Christmas rules, once a three-household bubble is formed it cannot be changed or extended further at any point.  And - beyond private homes, places of worship and outdoor public spaces - people should continue to follow all other local restrictions in their area.  This means Christmas bubbles are unlikely to be able to meet in pubs, bars or restaurants.  However, people will still be able to meet others outside their Christmas bubble outdoors, if allowed under the rules of the tier in which they live. Each country will clarify their own rules on support bubbles and extended households. 

In England, support bubbles will continue to be counted as one household.  There will be no further relaxation of restrictions for New Year celebrations. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was "very clear" that a three-household bubble was "fixed" for the five-day period.  You can't see two households one day, and another two households the next day," she added.  Ms Sturgeon also stressed that "just because this can be done, it is not the case that people feel they should do it if they don't have to.  We're asking people to keep well within these limits, because there is a risk to households coming together," she said.  “And, therefore, if you can feel you can get through this Christmas without seeing other people - or if you can see people for one day and not across five days - then try to limit your interaction." 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said: "Everyone has done so much to help control the spread of the virus and to save lives. But that has meant many sacrifices, including not seeing family and close friends.  "We are all looking forward to Christmas and a chance to spend some time with all those we hold dear." Helen Dickinson, of the British Retail Consortium, said shops would be "relieved" at the decision to allow them to reopen.  "Sage data has always highlighted that retail is a safe environment, and firms have spent hundreds of millions on safety measures including Perspex screens, additional cleaning, and social distancing and will continue to follow all safety guidance," she said. 

But the UK hospitality industry warned the new rules "are killing Christmas and beyond" and said pubs, restaurants and hotels faced going bust.  

POLL SUGGESTS UK PUBLIC WOULD RATHER HAVE CHRISTMAS IN LOCKDOWN THAN NEW RESTRICTIONS  With the government considering the extent to which restrictions should be lifted to limit the impact on Christmas family gatherings, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that the public opted for a locked-down Christmas over new January restrictions by amargin of 54% to 33%. 

There was also strong support for banning people from posting conspiracy theories about the vaccine online, with 64% supporting the idea. The public are split on whether coronavirus vaccinations should be mandatory, with 42% in support and 45% opposing. Two thirds (66%) of adults in the UK would take a vaccine if it became available and were recommended by the government for people like them.  

MISINFORMATION AROUND COVID-19 IS ON THE RISE Edited From Surrey Matters Published: 28 October 2020 We live in a digital age where everything is shared on social media, but we are also living in a pandemic where there is a lot of uncertainty and a huge amount of information related to COVID-19 shared on a daily basis – both trusted and false. Unfortunately, the more trusted information is shared, the more misinformation is circulated via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other online channels. 

The MYTHS and MISINFORMATION around COVID-19 include… (Some of these are really dangerous and hard to believe so brace yourself): spraying and introducing bleach or another disinfectant into your body protects you against COVID-19 young people can't be infected by COVID-19 being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort means you are free from COVID-19. Check out the World Health Organisation's list of the most common COVID-19 myths for more. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters 

Reporting Misinformation Online During the summer, World Health Organisation (WHO) ran a campaign with the government to do three things; raise awareness of the risks of misinformation around COVID-19, bust the myths and encourage people to double check COVID-19 related information online with trusted sources, such as WHO, national health authorities, the government and local government.

WHO are now asking people to: identify potential false information check to see if it's from a trusted source if not, report it as misinformation on the channel where it's been spotted. 

Here Are A Few Tips To Help You Spot False Information: did the person send a rumour to the group chat? did the person double check their facts? did the person get their news from trusted sources? did the person ask, 'How do you know that's true?' Find out about how to report misinformation online on the WHO website. https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/how-to-report-misinformation-online  

NATIONWIDE TOUR - ‘LOST VOICE GUY’ – LEE RIDLEY Following the success of his sell-out debut tour last year, during which he performed at more than 100 UK venues, Lee Ridley – aka Lost Voice Guy – is heading back out on the road next year to put a smile on the faces of people up and down the country once again. Lee is the first stand-up comedian to use a communication aid. 

He made his first stand-up appearance in February 2012 and took his first solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013. He has performed a show there every year until COVID-19 came along. The third series of Lee’s popular Radio 4 sitcom, Ability, which he co-writes and in which he also stars, will air next spring. He recently hosted a ‘one off’ 30-minute radio show to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, which criminalised discrimination against disabled people in many areas of life. 

The show is named after the 13 million people in the UK who identify as having some kind of disability, yet 50 percent of British adults say they don't know any disabled people.  “This is a remarkable snapshot of the contrast between the part the disabled play in our society, and the amount of attention we collectively pay to them" the show's producers say. 

"The Thirteen Million Club is a bold, ballsy backlash against this tendency - a stand-up showcase which shines a light on large pockets of the country we don't hear from enough - either on the radio or anywhere else." 

Lee’s debut book, I’m Only In It For The Parking – an autobiographical look at disability and the way we approach it – will be published in paperback in March 2021.

FILM MAKER APOLOGISES OVER DEPICTION OF LIMB DIFFERENCE IN NEW FILM Warner Bros has issued an apology after many disabled people took issue with the way limb difference was depicted in their new film version of The Witches. 

Released last month, the new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic book adds a new detail not seen in the original book – or the first adaptation starring Anjelica Huston – in which her character has only three fingers on each hand. 

Following the film’s debut, many disabled public figures voiced their disapproval of this detail, suggesting it perpetuates stigma around disability.  “Was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect the limb difference community?!” questioned Paralympian Amy Marren, who said: “It’s upsetting to [see] something that makes a person different being represented as something scary. 

Comedian Alex Brooker, who has hand and arm impairments, told the BBC that the images "jarred quite a lot" and could "add to the stigma" around disability.  Brooker said that when he first watched the film he was expecting "something very different" beneath the witches' gloves. "It clearly looked like they'd removed some of the fingers," he told BBC reporter Matt Graveling. "To me It sends out a message that we should be scared of people with missing fingers. 

A lot of kids and adults have that - that's a life people live." Actress and TV presenter Grace Mandeville said she was "really disappointed with the decision to give the villains in the movie a disability for absolutely no reason other than to make the character seem scarier". She told BBC News: I thought we were moving forward in this industry, but once again a movie has used scars and a disability to create a scary character.  I dread to think how a class of children would react to a new classmate who has a scar or a limb impairment after they've all watched this film." 

The charity Reach has also criticised the film, saying it had left "members of the upper limb difference community... appalled and devastated". 

Warner Bros said: “In adapting the original story, we worked with designers and artists to come up with a new interpretation of the cat-like claws that are described in the book. It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.”  They added: “This film is about the power of kindness and friendship. It is our hope that families and children can enjoy the film and embrace this empowering, love-filled theme.”


SCAN’s BLUE BADGE PARKING BAY ABUSE SURVEY  
We are asking shoppers, who are Blue Bade Holders, to think back over the last 12 months to consider their general parking experience and answer some questions about their experiences at supermarkets and on their other journeys where they have needed to access a parking space designated for Blue Badge Holders

Please contact us if you wish to help us with this survey.  Email info@spelthorneaccess.org.uk  or text 07853 038933 to register your interest or visit our website forum where the questions are listed. https://www.spelthorneaccess.org.uk/forum/scan-blue-badge-parking-bay-abuse-survey