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

Disability Rights UK’s e-news keeping you up-to-date with disability equality issues, including policy news on coronavirus.

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

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.”  

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.  

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

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.