Disability Rights UK (DRUK) – News In Brief 2020

Other News can be found at our 2020 newsletters web page or the Archived Newsletters web page

We are updating our DR UK Coronavirus information page as and when we receive new information. You can find this here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/coronavirus

To contact Disability Rights UK (DR UK) see www.disabilityrightsuk.org/contact-us

We are the leading charity of its kind in the UK. We are run by and for people with lived experience of disability or health conditions.

Our key decisions are made through our members who elect the Board of Trustees: and by our Senior Management Team.

We work with our members to influence national policy on independent living, benefits, education, employment, transport, human rights and other issues – shaping policy through direct experience and expertise.

We also work with our local individual and organisation members to empower and to influence local policy and services.

To contact Disability Rights UK (DR UK) see   www.disabilityrightsuk.org/contact-us

October 2020  
Panorama Report On SEND Families ‘On Their Knees’  
The BBC’s Panorama programme has reported on the dire situation many of the one million families with children with special educational needs and disabilities in the UK are facing.

Parents reported that they felt like “an unreasonable drain on resources” as appeals about EHCPs have shot up from 453 six years ago to almost 4,000 in 2019.

DR UK’s Kamran Mallick said: “We hear the same story across the whole country that parents of children with SEND are feeling failed. Raising a child is exhausting. Raising a child while fighting a system which should put the child at its centre, but instead puts the process at its centre, is emotionally and financially draining for far too many families. They are on their knees.

“With the Spending Review just around the corner, and the National Disability Strategy just months away now, we hope that government will recognise that the right foundations of support, laid down in childhood, pave the way for inclusive, accessible futures for all disabled people, for life.”  

Housing Minister Announces Housing Accessibility Consultation  
The Minister for Housing Robert Jenrick has launched a consultation on the accessibility of new homes.

The consultation is seeking views on how to raise accessible housing standards, including the option to raise minimum standards for all new homes. It would also include further features to make homes more easily adaptable over time.

The consultation closes on 1 December 2020.  

Adult Social Care Spending Still Down On 2010 Figures  
Annual adult social care spending in England is still £600m lower than in 2010, according to new analysis published by the TUC.

In his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson promised to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’ but plans have yet to be revealed.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “Again, this report highlights the serious lack of funding in social care and the urgent need for the government to take action.  Society cannot rely on the ad hoc provision of informal care from family and friends.  We are looking at a 49% increase in people aged over 65 by 2040. The system is already broken now. If nothing substantial is done, in twenty years, the outcomes for disabled people and older people are unimaginable.  If the government is serious about the National Disability Strategy, we expect to see major investment in social care in the forthcoming Spending Review.”  

Keep The Universal Credit Uplift And Expand It To ESA  
700,000 people risk being swept into deep poverty when the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit is removed in April 2021 according to new analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Deep poverty is recognised as being when people live 50% below the poverty line.  A further 16 million families will lose over £1,000 from their annual budgets overnight. The Foundation is calling on the government to keep the uplift and extend it to other benefits including disability benefits.

Ken Butler, DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said: “DR UK stands alongside the JRF’s recommendation that “the Government must keep the lifeline, strengthen social security and support the recovery by making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and extending it to legacy benefits.

The Government is due to announce the benefit rates for 2021/2022. So this detailed analysis and these costings are welcome and timely.” https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=58444&qid=8744931

EHRC Reminds Shops To Comply With The Equality Act  
New guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission reminds retailers that the Equality Act requires them not to discriminate on the basis of disability and to provide required reasonable adjustments.  The guidance also asks them to plan ahead for the needs of disabled shoppers, to communicate effectively with disabled customers and to ensure all staff are properly trained.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy said “The EHRC guidance is very welcome and we hope that big and small retailers will take note. This year marks 25 years since the Disability Discrimination Act and it is hugely disappointing that retailers need to be reminded of their equality obligations.  Whilst the experience of disabled people trying to purchase food during the early months of the Coronavirus crisis was appalling, there is now no excuse for supermarkets and other shops not to improve services to disabled customers and to plan for the future.”  

DWP Response To Coronavirus Inquiry ‘Inadequate’  
The Work and Pensions Committee Chair, Stephen Timms MP, has criticised the DWP’s response to the committee’s report on the Coronavirus crisis, for not addressing major points MPs raised.

One recommendation of the report – published in June – was that rates of ESA and other ‘legacy benefits’ must be raised to provide help for those not yet moved to Universal Credit and who are struggling to meet the extra inescapable costs imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic

Mr Timms has asked the Secretary of State to reply to him by 23 September.  

NHS And Care Workers To Be Given Clear Masks  
NHS and care workers will be given clear face masks to help them communicate with people with certain conditions like hearing loss, autism and dementia, the government has announced.

The masks are see-through and have an anti-fogging barrier to ensure the face and mouth are always visible to help doctors, nurses and carers communicate better with their patients and will help those who need to lip read or rely on facial expressions to support communication.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “This is a simple, necessary measure that will go a long way to providing assuring for the 12 million people with hearing loss in the UK.”

September 2020  
Kickstart Scheme Discriminates Against Disabled Young People  
The Kickstart scheme pays employers to take on young people for 25 hours a week at minimum wage for six months. However, Kickstart does not pay any specific attention to disabled young people who are often furthest from the jobs market.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “It is deeply disappointing to see disabled young people being excluded from Kickstart. Those who desperately want their first opportunity to work but who aren’t on Universal Credit. Disabled young people have higher unemployment rates and should be one of the groups government is supporting to get on the jobs ladder.”  

£120 Million Pounds Spent Defending Challenges To ESA & PIP  
A Freedom of Information Act response requested by the Independent newspaper reveals that the DWP spent £61 million on staff costs for the appeal process for the two benefits in 2018/2019, up from £44 million two years before.

DR UK Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said: “A decade of austerity driven welfare reform has led to the obscene situation where the DWP is seemingly spending more money defending wrongful disability benefit claim decisions than it is on disabled people’s benefits.

“We need widespread reform of the benefits system so that it is no longer based on conditionality and sanctions but on dignity, inclusion and the social model of disability and that ensures a quality of life that is more than the bare minimum.”   https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=58412&qid=8725304

98% Of British Courthouses Inaccessible  
Just 2% of British courthouses are fully accessible according to a new report by law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp. The firm assessed 444 courthouses in England, Wales, and Scotland.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “It is an absurd situation that twenty five years after the Disability Discrimination Act, requiring reasonable adjustments to be made to accommodate disabled people, the places where the law is most commonly upheld still do not comply with legislation.

“There cannot be a pick and mix approach to accessibility where adaptations are made for people with some impairments, but not for others. Accessibility, like the law itself, must be upheld as a universal principle.”  

Only A Third Of Deaf Children Would Be In School If Masks Mandatory  
Just one in three deaf children across the UK are likely to be in school if facemasks are introduced, a new survey by the National Deaf Children’s Society shows.

Of 800 parents of deaf children, just 36% were likely to send their child to school if teachers were asked to wear face masks. A further one in five (19%) were uncertain about what they would do.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “We fully back calls for an inclusive approach to education. We join the calls for clear face masks for those working with deaf children and greater investment in support technologies to ensure a parity of experience within the school environment.”  

Sense Report Shows Devastating Impact Of Reductions In Social Care  
A new report from deafblind support charity Sense shows that as a result of the Coronavirus Act, families had support removed and had nowhere to turn for help. There are 1.7 million disabled adults living with their families. The research showed that 75% of those surveyed had their care and support reduced without any consultation or information, with over 50% of disabled adults and carers experienced reductions in wellbeing.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “This evidence comes as no surprise to disabled people. The government must listen and act to overturn the devastating ongoing impacts of reductions in care and support. Whilst it is understood that some day facilities had to close, alternative support arrangements, agreed with families, should have been put in place.”  

Ground-Breaking Public Consultation On Proposals For A Better Benefits System  
A new consultation on proposals for a better UK social security system has been launched with all solutions being developed by those with direct experience of the system.  Following a call for solutions for a better benefits system which received over 1,000 responses, the public is being asked what it thinks about the ideas.

The public consultation is being led by the Commission on Social Security – all Commissioners are Experts by Experience who have lived experience of the benefits system.  Ellen Clifford Co-Chair of the Commission on Social Security and disability activist said: “Too often the people who design welfare policies do not have first-hand experience of the lives of those their policy aims to serve. This project is different; placing the experiences and understandings of those in direct contact with the system at its centre.”

Input is invited from anyone interested in improving the benefits system: Experts by Experience, user-led groups and claimants, think tanks and charities, policy-makers and the general public. Following the public consultation, a ‘White Paper’ with policy recommendations will be drawn.

The consultation closes on 30 September 2020.  

 Masks In Schools Could Lead To Isolation For Deaf Pupils  
The government has reversed its policy of all schools remaining mask-free for pupils from September. Secondary school pupils will now be required to wear masks while moving around buildings and  hearing impairments.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “There are 50,000 D/deaf children in the UK. If they can’t lip read or read facial expressions used as part of BSL because of compulsory mask wearing, they are effectively being consigned to a year of loneliness and social isolation which also risks serious effects on their mental health. We support the National Deaf Children’s Society’s call for schools to invest in clear masks and a strong commitment to making the reasonable adjustments these pupils need to learn and thrive at school during the pandemic. Schools should be consulting with their D/deaf and hearing-impaired pupils about their reasonable adjustments. Education is a right for all pupils, not just those who are able to hear.”

DWP Enters Legal Agreement With EHRC To Improve Services For Deaf Claimants  
The DWP has entered a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to improve support for deaf claimants accessing its services by telephone.

In the agreement, the DWP has committed to an action plan to address the problems these complaints identified.

For more details on the action plan, visit https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=58375&qid=8704495

New Funds For Post-Hospital Care  
The government is releasing £588 million to cover adult social care or the immediate costs of at-home care for people being discharged from hospital, including disabled and older people from 1 September.

The funding can be used to provide up to six weeks of care and support including additional support such as domiciliary care, community nursing services or care home costs.

NHS Continuing Healthcare assessments for those needing funded long-term care or support will resume from September.  Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We know for the majority of people the road to recovery can be quicker when they receive care and support in the comfort of their own home.

“This funding will help ensure people can be safely discharged from hospital knowing they will get the vital follow-on care they need to recover fully from treatment.  We’re also making sure those with complex health needs continue to receive the best support possible in the community.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We welcome this funding and the commitment to working to ensure care homes remain safe places this autumn and winter. We call on government to ensure that Local Authorities have the funding and support they need should they need to place people with Coronavirus in alternative accommodation while they isolate.”

Challenging Decisions About NHS Disability Equipment  
Scope is looking to speak to disabled people who have had to challenge a decision about disability equipment or assistive tech in an NHS setting. If you’re interested in taking part, please email Andy Lancaster (see contact below)

Temporary Housing During Home Adaptations  
Scope would also like to speak to a disabled person who has had to find temporary accommodation whilst adaptations are being made to their home (either in the past or will happen in the future).

The conversation will take place remotely using Skype and take up to one hour. Scope can offer participants a £30 eGift card. This can be spent online or in store at Amazon, Argos, Tesco, Asda, M&S and other places. The eGift card won’t affect any benefits you might be receiving.  If you’re interested in taking part, please email Andy Lancaster.  

Changes To Shared Spaces  
Has your local authority made sudden changes to your local shared spaces, such as pavements, roads, or shopping areas, which has changed the accessibility of the area?

The Ministry for Transport wants to know if local authorities are running consultations before altering things like road layouts, blocking off accessible parking, and introducing changes to pavements such as al fresco dining which causes issues for people with visual or mobility impairments. If you have any examples you wish to share with us, please email tellus@disabilityrightsuk.org  

Victory For Changing Places Campaign  
Disabled campaigners have welcomed the government announcement that from 2021, all new public buildings will include Changing Places toilets with changing tables and hoists. Buildings will include shopping centres, supermarkets and sports and arts venues. It was recently announced that there would be new changing places facilities at a number of motorway service stations.

These welcome improvements come following a significant campaigning effort drawing attention to the unacceptable restrictions that some disabled people face when out and about.

Read more about this story on the BBC News website.  

Places Created In New Special Free Schools  
The government has announced 3,000 school places for pupils with complex needs. The places, at 35 new special schools, will have trained staff and appropriate equipment. Views amongst families with disabled children and the organisations that represent them will be mixed, with some opposing any form of segregated provision and others feeling that their children will receive education in a more enabling environment. Read the government press release.  https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=58164&qid=8600399

Messages On Exemptions To Face Coverings Need To Be Stronger  
New research from King’s College London has highlighted how face coverings have become a flashpoint for many people. Roughly 1 in 8 people in the UK – equivalent to around six million people – say they have been involved in confrontations or reports to authorities about people not wearing face masks. The research did not ask if respondents were disabled people or unable to wear masks for reasons related to a disability or medical condition. However, we know that some disabled people have been confronted over not wearing a mask, and that fears of being confronted are having a chilling effect on some disabled people going to shops or using public transport. Confronting people who are not wearing masks does nothing to support and encourage good public health practices, and we strongly condemn such acts of vigilantism.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy said “Hostility towards disabled people is not acceptable. We need stronger messages from government, police and civic leaders, making it clear that there are exemptions to wearing face coverings for some disabled people. Too often messages stress that face coverings are mandatory for all, which is not the case.”

The full research findings, a survey of 2,237 adults from across the UK, is available on the King's College London website. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=58242&qid=8641903

Disability Hate Crime Network Reports Disabled People Victimised For Not Wearing Face Coverings  
The Disability Hate Crime Network offer advice for victims and their supporters in relation to hate incidents and crimes. If you would like to look at this Network, or to join it, please go to www.facebook.com/groups/disabilityhatecrimenetwork.

At the moment the network, which is run by David Wilkin, is collecting reports of disabled people who have been victimised in public because they are not wearing a face covering. If you have been a victim of hostility, or you know of someone else who has been, please let them know via the Disability Hate Crime Network. This information will be collected and used anonymously to help notify the government regarding how disabled people are being victimised.

 You can read more information on Hate Incidents and Crimes, how to report them and help people who are victims in this article by David Wilkin on our website. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=58260&qid=8641903

August 2020   
Government Must Commit To Accessibility In Phase Three    
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has laid out the aims of the third phase of its economic planning as part of his Summer Statement.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “With this commitment to spending on important infrastructure projects, including roads, town centres, schools and hospitals, it is imperative that the government commits to these projects with the social model of disability at the foundation of what it plans to build.  “Disabled people are exhausted at being shut out of society because of poor design.

“The Chancellor said earlier in his speech that “no-one will be left without hope” and that the government is “driven by the simple desire to do what is right.”

“It is absolutely right that disabled people are granted the same parity of access within society as non-disabled people. We are counting on that promise of hope from the Chancellor and look forward to hearing inclusive details in the autumn Spending Review."  

More Street Hazards For Disabled People  
In the Business and Planning Bill heading to the Lords, the rules for street furniture on pavements are being relaxed, to encourage alfresco eating. Councils will only need to publicise the proposed change on the patch of pavement it applies to and give five working days for objections. For those with mobility issues or sight problems, the street furniture will cause navigation and social distancing challenges.  

Suspension Of PIP And ESA Face-To-Face Assessments Continues But Kept Under Review  
In March, the DWP announced the suspension of PIP and ESA face-to-face assessments for three months.

Today, the Department announced that this temporary suspension, initially brought in to protect people from unnecessary risk of coronavirus at the outset of the pandemic, “will remain in place following a consideration of the latest public health guidance”.

However, some DLA and PIP review and reassessment activity will gradually resume from July 2020.  

DWP Restarts Recovery Of Benefit Related Overpayments And Social Fund Loans  
The DWP has announced that it has restarted recovery of benefit related overpayments and social fund loans from 6 July.

In April, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the DWP temporarily paused the recovery of benefit overpayments, for three months. These included Housing Benefit overpayments and Social Fund Loans.

The Department said that the change would enable many benefit claimants will see an increase in the amount of money they receive in benefits during the outbreak.  https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=58056&qid=8551715 

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).  Early Day Motion  
Caroline Lucas MP has written an Early Day Motion (EDM) which is available in Parliament for MPs to sign. Although not legally binding, EDMs help show the Government the strength of feeling among MPs on an issue.

The EDM calls for: Increased funding for respite care, A living wage for carers - rather than Carer's Allowance, Respite carers to be treated as skilled professionals

The full text of the EDM is:

"That this House commends the extraordinary care that families and Carers provide for SEND children and young people; recognises that the need to provide full time care during the Covid-19 crisis has put families under chronic additional strain and pressure; notes that 50 per cent of families with disabled children are living in poverty and that Carer’s Allowance, at £67.50 per week, is insultingly low; believes that families and carers responsible for children and young people with SEND need increased support; therefore calls for SEND schools and centres to be given bespoke covid-19 guidance that meets the particular needs and behaviours of SEND children and young people, and acknowledges the specific adaptations and timescales required for a safe return to the schools and centres they attended before lockdown; and further calls on the Government to increase funding for good quality respite care centres and respite carers to alleviate the pressure on families, to recognise the extraordinary care that people provide in their own homes by paying carers a real living wage and giving them paid annual leave, and to bring forward a strategy to recruit more respite carers that recognises and pays them as professionals with specialist skills."

View the EDM on the Parliament website. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=58060&qid=8551715   Contact your MP to encourage them to sign it

Disabled Children Face Institutional Discrimination  
The Education Select Committee heard powerful evidence last week on the shocking situation of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

During the Coronavirus crisis, the majority of families were left to cope alone with the health, care and educational needs of their disabled children. The mental and physical health of children has deteriorated and families have been left without any support or respite. Whilst this might have been understandable in the early days of the crisis, it is completely unacceptable for this to continue.

Fazilet Hadi, DRUK Head of Policy said: “Education, Care and Health bodies need to dramatically improve their services to disabled children and their families. They need to act now to restore the wellbeing of children and families, and to work with families to shape personalised plans for September.”  

July 2020  
Disabled People Exempt From Transport Face Covering Rules  
New rules have come into force which require non-disabled members of the public to wear face coverings in some public places, including on public transport. Those with impairments that prevent them from wearing masks are exempt, as are children under the age of 11.

DR UK Ambassador and transport expert Stephen Brookes said: “All areas of feedback from various sensory and mental health organisations have indicated that the rail industry (as well as others) needs to step back and look at the issues of better consistency of understanding on face covering policy on stations and on train services. It is vital to recognise that there are many who cannot access communications using them and some elements of Autism and mental health conditions preclude their safe use.”  

40% Fear Challenge If Not Wearing A Face Covering – DR UK Survey    

Disabled people are frightened about travelling as lockdown eases due to a lack of public awareness and clarity about exemptions to the mandatory need to wear face coverings on public transport, according to a new survey by Disability Rights UK.  Nearly 40% of respondents said that they cannot wear a face covering.

Nearly forty per cent said they had a hidden disability which affects their ability to wear a mask, and 13% said they needed to lip read.  Nearly 60% said they feared being challenged if they did not wear a mask, with the same amount not feeling they had the confidence to stand up for themselves if challenged. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/june/40-fear-challenge-without-face-masks-dr-uk-survey

Call To Create Socially Just Coronavirus Recovery Plan    
Disability Rights UK has joined with leaders of more than 100 household name companies, charities, universities, and trade associations to call on Government to ensure that United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are at the heart of UK Coronavirus recovery plans.

SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States, including the UK, in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “Coronavirus risks putting the prospects of disabled people in this country back at least 20 years. We have fought long and hard for equal opportunities, in employment, in education, for access to our environments, and for our quality of life. But it also provides us with an opportunity to reshape how we do things, to re-address inequality, and to focus on prosperity for everyone. The government has initiated radical short-term solutions to dealing with the Coronavirus crisis. Now is the time for it to show that it can think that radically in the longer term for all of us too.” https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=57951&qid=8488552

End Of Lockdown: One Size Fits All Approach Fails Shielders      
Government plans to relax rules for shielders, including many disabled people and people with chronic health conditions, remove almost all of the key protective measures which have been in place since March.

A series of measures designed to reopen society will come into play for shielders from early July with another set in early August seeing the removal of vital practical and financial support, including Statutory Sick Pay for those shielding because of the virus, and food and medicine delivery services. 

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “On the 1 August people are being forced to choose between their life and their livelihood. This isn’t right.” For full report visit web site  

Report Shows Coronavirus' Impact On Disabled People        
Inclusion London has launched its interim report based on hundreds of responses to its Social Care survey.

The report paints a stark picture, according to the pan-London DPO:  “From the outset, disabled people have been discriminated against, forgotten, and in some cases abandoned as policymakers have ignored our needs. Or, at best considered us as an afterthought.  During the pandemic disabled people saw our legal rights diminished, we experienced resource rationing and blanket policies. This led to many of us struggling to get bare necessities, losing support and independence and living in fear for our lives.   Fazilet Hadi DRUK’s Head of Policy said:  “This is a depressing account of the struggles and discrimination disabled people have faced during the coronavirus crisis and shows how far away we are from equality.  We need government and wider society, to ensure that recovery planning is fully inclusive of disabled people.” 


Disabled People Locked Out Of Digital Streaming Services      
Missing out on the latest film or TV series is not just about missing out on the content. It’s about being excluded from the wider conversation.

A survey of more than 3,300 disabled people reveals four in five disabled people experience accessibility issues with video on-demand services. And more than two in three disabled people feel frustrated, let down, excluded or upset by inaccessible video streaming services.  One in five disabled people have cancelled their subscription or stopped using a streaming service because of accessibility issues.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick, who sits on The Big Hack’s advisory board said: “streaming services need to step up and realise that over a fifth of our population is disabled and deserves parity of experience with non-disabled people. We should have the same rights to watercooler moments dissecting the latest must-see programmes as the rest of the population.”  

June 2020 - Special Issue 6  
Disabled People ‘Forgotten By Government’ As ‘Perfect Storm’ Puts Vital Services On The Brink
Disability Charity Consortium (DCC) members including DR UK say the UK’s 14 million disabled people are being “forgotten by the Government” and “allowed to fall through the cracks”.

Vital services for physically disabled people in particular have missed out on emergency funding so far. The DCC has highlighted a lack of a coherent strategy to specifically support disabled people through the pandemic and beyond, with many services suspended and facing a perilous future.

Whilst some money has been made available for mental health, autism and learning disability it is nowhere near enough to match the demand for services. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/june/disabled-people-%E2%80%98forgotten-government%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98perfect-storm%E2%80%99-puts-vital-services-brink

Shielders Resist New Guidance On Going Outdoors Government advice issued on 31st May, allowing people who have been shielding to go outdoors, either alone, with their household, or at a two metre distance with one person from another household has received a mixed response from shielders in England and Wales, with many choosing to continue to follow the previous advice of total shielding.

DR UK’s Policy Lead, Fazilet Hadi, said: “Decisions need to be made by the people shielding and not by government. Government needs to provide the best possible evidence on societal risk. People shielding will also want to understand the level of personal risk to themselves, from their medical advisers. It is then their decision on what activity they can undertake at the same time as keeping safe. The new advice is in direct contravention of the advice issued in mid-May, which said that if the country remains at level 4 risk of the international Covid Alert System, lockdown needs to continue. The government has confirmed the country is still at level 4.” https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/june/shielders-resist-new-guidance-going-outdoors

‘Isolated, Alone, Forgotten’ – DR UK Shielding Survey Reveals Huge Sense Of Lack Of Safety And Neglect
Eighty-five per cent of people shielding feel unsafe going outside since the relaxing of lockdown rules on 1 June, according to a new survey by DR UK.

Only two-fifths of people shielding from Coronavirus have had the confidence to leave home since the regulations around shielding were eased. Most people who left their home did so by themselves or with a family member, although some took the opportunity to meet someone outside their household following social distancing advice.

There was a very low level of reported trust in the government’s advice on shielding. Only 15% of people reported they trusted the government’s advice, and only 13% thought the government was following the best available scientific advice on shielding.

The limited list of impairments and health conditions produced by the government has left people with rare conditions or in moderate risk groups particularly confused. Respondents in these categories described particularly difficulties getting food and medication, as they were not able to access volunteer schemes or pharmacy deliveries. A third of people who reported shielding do not have conditions listed on the government’s official list.

Respondents described the government’s communication as being unclear and inconsistent, and many reported they trust their doctor more than the government. Many respondents found the government’s language around shielding to be unhelpful, and were frustrated by feeling like they were under house arrest, best summed up as: “I've done nothing wrong, I'm not a criminal, I can't help the fact I am ill but it feels like I have committed a crime”.

Many people who are shielding want to go outside but are worried about others not giving them enough space, or not being able to safely access parks or other open spaces where it is easy to maintain physical distancing.

Shielding has thrown people’s lives into disarray; described by one respondent as “I exist but do not live”. Comments received from survey participants indicated that many feel isolated, alone and forgotten.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “The government has failed to deliver strong support for disabled people and those with chronic health conditions throughout the Coronavirus crisis. It is clear that many people do not trust the government’s handling of the crisis to date. If it is to win trust, it must recognise that there are far more people who need proper support beyond those with immuno-suppressed conditions. People with autism, sight impairments and mobility issues have all been saying they cannot safely go out and maintain social distancing and may need extra support in terms of consistent home delivery services. There has also been a total lack of support to help disabled people boost their mental health and improve access to socialisation through digital means. Many disabled people cannot afford digital technologies, and have not had training in how to use them. Such technologies have been transformative for many people during lockdown – for everything from shopping, to socialising, and working, but many disabled people still remain shut out of digital access. This needs to change.”

DR UK received survey responses from a self-selecting group of 291 people between Friday 5 June and Wednesday 10 June 2020.

Universal Credit £20 Per Week Increase Must Be Extended To ESA, DBC Tells Chancellor
Disabled people receiving ESA have been missing out on an emergency £20 week out of work benefit top up to help them through the Coronavirus crisis as the Government says it will take too long to make changes.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations, including DR UK, has been told the reason people on all legacy benefits have not received the same £20 uplift as those claiming Universal Credit is because it is “too complicated” for the Government computer system.

This is despite a April 2020 DBC survey finding that 95% of disabled people had seen an increase in their costs as a result of the pandemic – from needing more money to safely access food to having to pay for higher heating and water bills while shielding at home.

The DBC has written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, urging him to end the discrimination against disabled people, and for pay to be backdated to when the top up to Universal Credit was introduced.

You can add to the 115,000 signatures on the DBC petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-leaving-disabled-people-behind

Government Extends Removal Of Rights In Last-Minute SEND School Guidance
DR UK’s Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi, said: “Despite children with Education and Health Care Plans being classed as ‘vulnerable’, despite nearly 50 DPOs demanding clarity in a letter sent last week, despite 60 Local Authorities being at loggerheads with the government regarding its plans for schools to reopen, despite strong opposition from teaching unions about the safety of a return to school at this time, and with at least half of all parents expected to keep their children at home, the government didn’t see fit to even tack on half-baked plans for children with SEND to its proposals until this weekend". https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/june/government-extends-removal-rights-last-minute-send-school-guidance

Accessible Holiday Accommodation Petition
The future of firms providing holiday accommodation for severely disabled people is in doubt because of the impacts of the Coronavirus crisis.

A petition has been set up asking for it to be made law for hotels of a certain size to provide accommodation for severely disabled people (including facilities such as a profiling bed, ceiling hoist, wheel-in shower wet room and wheelchair access throughout all key facilities). You can find the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/301139

Disabled households worse off on Universal Credit breakthrough test case win  
A single mother with a disabled daughter and a woman with mobility difficulties who were left worse off after they were forced to move to universal credit (UC) after their existing benefits were wrongly stopped have won a breakthrough case in the Court of Appeal.

The judgment means that, depending on what remedy the DWP chooses, the two households – and potentially thousands like them subject to wrongful decisions by the DWP – will be able to return to their previous benefits or have their UC awards topped up to the level of their previous benefits.

For more information head to our website. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/may/disabled-households-worse-universal-credit-breakthrough-test-case-win

DRUK Gives Evidence To House Of Lords Economic Affairs Committee On Universal Credit  
Disability Rights UK Researcher Evan Odell gave evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee inquiry into the economics of Universal Credit on May 13th. He was joined by James Taylor of Scope. The evidence included the impact of the lower benefit rates of Universal Credit on disabled people, the harm caused by sanctions, and the insufficient support given to disabled people who want to work, among other topics.

There should be a transcript published of the session sometime in the next fortnight. You can read our written submission to the inquiry in from March at https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=57766&qid=8389632

Gov.Uk Publish Information On The Help DWP Provide For Those Claiming Benefits With Access Requirements  
The new web page is to be regularly updated as the DWP improves its accessible communication services.  The DWP says it can make adjustments if your disability or health condition means that you have:

•       Difficulty using the phone

•       Difficulty using a computer

•       Difficulty reading letters or filling in forms

•       Difficulty attending face-to-face meetings

•       Difficulty managing your own affairs

The DWP says that it now working to have a link placed on all relevant pages for customers to easily find the above information.  

Over 260,000 Disabled People Waiting For DWP Benefit Assessments  
Figures published by the DWP in response to a parliamentary written question show that as of 27 April there were 166,630 PIP claimants with either an assessment scheduled or awaiting scheduling. As of 4 May, 101,910 people were waiting on ESA claims.

The shocking backlog has been caused by DWP disability benefit staff being transferred to deal with the upsurge in new Universal Credit claims in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

June 2020  
Victory for Disabled Bus Users  
Following our support for a legal challenge, Arriva London North Ltd has come to a legally binding agreement with a passenger from London to help ensure that their drivers do more to enable disabled people to access public transport.

Nina Grant has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and uses a wheelchair to facilitate her independence. Despite a ruling from the Supreme Court in Paulley v FirstBus plc that bus companies must end ‘first come, first served’ policies and do more to provide access for wheelchair users, she has regularly been left kerbside by bus drivers. On one occasion a driver failed to open the doors to her before driving off, as he said that there was a buggy in the wheelchair space and this couldn't be moved.

As a result of Nina's challenge, with immediate effect, Arriva has agreed:

•       To improve accessibility for disabled passengers. 

•       Every induction for a driver shall include comprehensive mandatory training on the Equality Act and the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers.

•       Every driver shall be required to undertake refresher training in relation to the above and shall be assessed to a minimum competency standard, a record to be maintained on each driver’s personnel file. Such training shall form part of each driver’s mandatory CPC training regime. 

•       Should a driver fail to reach the Competency Standard as specified above, the driver shall not be permitted to drive pending successful resolution of the training course. 

•       At the end of each shift, every driver shall be required to complete and file a record of each occasion when during their shift, access has been refused to a wheelchair user. Failure to do so will give rise to an investigation in respect of that driver, and where appropriate, disciplinary action.

Nina said, “This case was all about accountability to disabled passengers. I hope that others will benefit from this Court Order which binds Arriva to what is essentially a code of practice affecting their own policing of the need for priority for disabled passengers to have priority access to the wheelchair space.

Drivers need to know that their behaviour matters and will be scrutinised at the depot.”

For more information read the Equality and Human Rights Commission report. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=57820&qid=8411355

May 2020 - Special Issue 5  
Supermarkets Urged to Talk to Disabled People
During the crisis, thousands of disabled people have visited charity helplines, tried to contact supermarkets and sought to get on to the government food emergency scheme, as previous arrangements for buying food either broke down or were no longer practically possible.

Disability Rights UK along with other disability organisations have asked to meet with supermarkets, to discuss the reasonable adjustments that need to be put in place for disabled customers, but with no success. Disability Rights UK has been invited to give evidence to a Select Committee on the problems disabled people have encountered in accessing food and what could be done to move things forward.

NHS Roadmap To Safely Bring Back Routine Operations
Health leaders have recently set out a series of measures to help local hospitals plan to increase routine operations and treatment, while keeping the necessary capacity and capability to treat future coronavirus patients.

Over the coming weeks patients who need important planned procedures will begin to be scheduled for that care, with specialists prioritising those with the most urgent clinical need.

Patients will be required to isolate for 14 days and be clear of any symptoms before being admitted. Testing will also be increasingly offered to those waiting to be admitted. Those requiring urgent and emergency care will continue to be tested on arrival and streamed accordingly, with services split to make the risk of picking up the virus in hospital as low as possible.

Those attending emergency departments and other ‘walk-in’ services will be required to maintain social distancing, with trusts expected to make any adjustments necessary to allow this.

Inclusion Scotland - Survey Of Disabled People
Inclusion Scotland has conducted a survey of 822 disabled people and Carers in Scotland, the initial results are available on their website. www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=57773&qid=8389632

Disabled people and their Carers are under significant pressure because:

  • Social care support has been stopped or reduced: Almost half of people responding that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the social care support they get, formal and informal. Around 30% of respondents told us their support had either stopped completely or had been reduced.
  • People have new or increased caring responsibilities: Around 40% of people who responded to this question are experiencing challenges with caring for children/family members since the start of the pandemic.
  • Disabled people are struggling to get access to the food and medicine they need: Around two thirds of those responding to this question (64%) said that the crisis has had an impact on getting the food or medicine that they need for themselves or the person they care for.
  • People are concerned that they will lose their job: Around one in ten respondents to this question (11%) were concerned that they could lose their job as a result of the pandemic.
  • Social distancing and isolation is proving extremely challenging: Disabled people with and without pre-existing mental health conditions are finding everyday life under lock-down extremely stressful. Significant numbers of disabled people (15) with existing mental health problems told us that they are feeling suicidal at this time

Access to Health Care
Following the open letter to the NHS, published on DR UK's website https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/covid-19-and-rights-disabled-people and signed by over 2,000 individuals and organisations, asking that disabled people receive equal access to health care, the British Medical Association (BMA) have replied.

However, concerns about access to health care have continued. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also wrote to the BMA, asking that their guidance in relation to disabled people be reviewed, to ensure that non-pertinent health conditions and impairments do not affect treatment decisions.

The BMA have now also sent a reply to the EHRC, and both letters can be accessed via their website by clicking here. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-work/news/coronavirus-pandemic-letter-british-medical-association

Nearly Two-Thirds Of Disabled Adults Say COVID-19-Related Concerns Are Affecting Their Well-Being
An Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey finds that nearly two-thirds (64.8%) of disabled adults say COVID-19-related concerns are affecting their well-being. The main reasons cited by disabled adults for their well-being concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic were feeling worried about the future and being stressed, anxious or bored.

Disability Rights UK Continues To Campaign For Safe Access To Food And Other Essential Items For Disabled People During The Covid-19 Pandemic.
In partnership with a number of disabled, older people’s and unpaid carers’ charities, we are inputting into the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to improve access to food.

In a shared letter, we wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the 15th April, to notify him of the lack of instore and online reasonable adjustments provided by supermarkets, for many disabled and older people who fall outside of the 1.5 million identified by the government, as “clinically” at risk of COVID 19.

Prior to this, Disability Rights UK wrote to the CEOs of nine major supermarket chains, about the lack of priority for online delivery slots and failure to make sufficient reasonable adjustments in store, which continue to make shopping difficult, even impossible and unsafe, for many disabled and older people and their carers. We are extremely disappointed that the biggest supermarkets including Tesco’s, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Asda have not replied and insist that they will only talk to disability organisations through government. We find this unacceptable.

DRUK Response to Women and Equalities Committee (WEC)
DR UK today submitted our response to WEC on the impact of Coronavirus on disabled people. We raised the devastating effects the virus is having on millions of disabled people including reductions in social care, challenges with health care and problems with supermarket shopping. We also highlighted failure to consult with disabled people and inaccessible information. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/dr-uk-response-women-and-equalities-committee

Incapacity And Disability Benefit Claimants Feel Particularly Hard Hit During Coronavirus Outbreak, MPs Find
The Work and Pensions Committee of MPs has published the results of a survey to find out people’s experiences of the benefit system during the coronavirus outbreak. The survey shows that incapacity and disability benefit claimants feel particularly hard hit

More than 6,000 people responded to the Committee’s call for submissions from people claiming benefits for the first time, from existing claimants, and from people who need support but have found they are unable to claim any benefits.

The suspension of face to face assessments for disability benefits has caused problems for people whose assessments have been cancelled and not yet rescheduled, leaving them uncertain about when they will take place.
https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/incapacity-and-disability-benefit-claimants-feel-particularly-hard-hit-during ­

New Report From Independent Age, In Focus: Experiences Of Older Age In England  
This project sets out to explore the reality of life for older people whose voices can be less often heard in debates about ageing, and what is important for people in this age group. It is a new piece of research, which took place in 2019, using qualitative and quantitative data to examine subgroups of older people in England through the lenses of health and wellbeing, social connections, and financial security. We commissioned interviews with 45 older people across England, and a deep dive into the Understanding Society survey. To read the full report and other factsheets visit the Independent Age website https://www.independentage.org/in-focus.

New-Style Employment And Support Allowance (NSESA) NSESA may be claimed if you are ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work. NSESA is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit. It is a contributory benefit.

Normally, this means you may be able to get it if you’ve paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the 2 full tax years before the year you’re claiming in.

To find out if you're eligible and to make a claim visit https://www.apply-new-style-employment-support-allowance.dwp.gov.uk/eligibility-start

DWP Criticised By The UK Statistics Authority  
The UK Statistics Authority has criticised the DWP for failing to provide information on geographic and key demographic breakdowns of new Universal Credit Claimants, after stating it would do so.

The DWP also stated it would be publishing information on the busiest times of day for calls to the UC phone system, and other relevant performance information. Transparency in DWP data is vital to allow civil society organisations to hold the government to account.

The full letter, which is about the toughest language you can expect from the statistics regulator, is available here:  

Changes to NHS Volunteer Scheme  
The NHS volunteer scheme run in conjunction with Royal Voluntary Service is now open to all vulnerable people. The scheme has over 600,000 volunteers and since it opened two weeks ago has dealt with 35,000 requests for help. Volunteers have delivered food and medicines, transported medical equipment and phoned people for conversation.  

EHRC Warns That Remote Video Hearings Could Disadvantage Disabled People  
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the human rights watchdog has published interim findings from its criminal justice inquiry to help mitigate the risks that these technologies pose to disabled people.

Government Guidance For Disabled People Employing Their Own Personal Assistants  
This guidance has now been published alongside a Q and A.

All employers of PAs should have been contacted by their local authority/CCG giving you information about what you need to do during this current crisis. The guidance states that local authorities and CCGs should have procedures in place to respond to any difficulties you find yourself in.

The plan covers all of social care although there is little more than an acknowledgement of disabled people employing their own personal assistance. It does contain information about getting Personal Protective Equipment PPE. For PA employers that means contacting your local authority if you have a social care package or your CCG if you have a personal health budget.

The plan also introduces us to the new green ‘CARE’ badge.  Although it is designed to stress the importance of social care alongside the NHS many disabled people will have an issue with the use of the term ‘care’. Let us know your thoughts.

Testing for COVID-19  
Employers can now request testing for their PAs if the PA is suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms.  A series of documents has been released:

•             A powerpoint giving details of how the system will work

•             Information about the National Coronavirus Testing Programme

•             A draft letter to PA employers

•             Information for personal assistants on how to register for a test  

The expectation is that employers of personal assistants should purchase what they need using their direct payment. However if your direct payment does not cover such purchases you should contact your local authority/CCG. Again you should make the same contact for problems getting hold of PPE either because none is available or you are being asked to pay high prices.

Skills for Care offer COVID-19 related training which employers of personal assistants can apply for their PAs for example on infection control. For more information visit:

More Information  
The Social Care Institute for Excellence SCIE have produced a Q and A about social care.