DRUK ImageDisability Rights UK - News in Brief - April 2021

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

Disability Minister Replaced In Cabinet Reshuffle
Justin Tomlinson has been replaced by Chloe Smith as Minister for Disabled People as part of Boris Johnson’s latest Cabinet reshuffle.

Tomlinson launched the National Disability Strategy at the end of July along with the Green Paper on Health and Disability with consultation ending on 11 October. He ended the special rules for terminal illness (SRTI) six-month rule policy. The controversial rule had determined that terminally ill people entitled to special government benefits could only get it if they were expected to die within six months.

Smith is now tasked with implementing the Government’s heavily criticised National Disability Strategy. Reflecting on the appointment, DR UK Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi, said: “Justin Tomlinson MP’s time as Minister for Disabled people left Disabled people at the back of the priority and spending queue. There’s been little recognition of the scale of the barriers that Disabled people face across society and the recent Disability Strategy has failed to put forward a radical agenda for change.

“We welcome Chloe Smith to the role and hope to see improved engagement with organisations led by Disabled people to shape and implement strategies to transform the lives of Disabled people. Gillian Keegan replaces Helen Whately as the Minister for Care.

Labour has announced that its Shadow Equalities Secretary Marsha de Cordova has quit, with Party Chair Anneliese Dodds replacing her in the role. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61338&qid=9981905

Cut To Universal Credit Breaches UK’s Human Rights Obligations
Human Rights Watch (HRW), has written to Parliamentarians to say that the October £20 a week cut to Universal Credit would breach UK’s international human rights obligations. In addition, it says that the £20 uplift should be given to those on “legacy” benefits such as ESA.

In its letter, HRW says that if the Government were to proceed with the proposed cut, it would be in violation of its international human rights obligations, in particular the binding International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed by the UK in 1968 and ratified in 1976, which sets out the rights to an adequate standard of living and to social security. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61250&qid=9923838

UN Calls UC Cuts ‘Unconscionable’
The UN has joined charities, welfare groups and the Labour party in condemnation of the planned £20 per week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits due at the beginning of October. They say that it is an “unconscionable” move that breaches international human rights law and is likely to trigger an explosion of poverty. Earlier this week, the Health Foundation warned that the cuts are likely to lead to poorer mental health and wellbeing for thousands of families.

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Reynolds said: “I’m trying to get across to people the scale of this.” He told the Guardian: “This is the biggest overnight cut to a benefit rate ever in the history of the welfare state. The House of Commons library tells me it’s bigger than the cut to unemployment benefit in 1931, which collapsed the government. This is big money.” The Treasury has said that cancelling the reduction would require tax increases. 5.5 million families and 1.7m people who are unable to work will be affected.

New Disability Minister Backs Removal Of UC Uplift
The new Minister for Disabled People, Chloe Smith, has spoken of her support for the withdrawal of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift at the end of September. In a post on her constituency website, posted a day into her new role, she said: “A number of constituents have contacted me regarding the temporary £20 Universal Credit uplift. I do appreciate the seriousness of this issue for some of my constituents and I'm grateful to those who have contacted me to let me know that it affects them.

As people are aware, the £20 uplift to Universal Credit (UC) was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020 to support those likely to be facing the most financial disruption during the pandemic. I do think it has been clear all along that it was temporary, and it was sensible as an emergency response. I also think it is right now to look ahead at what is needed after the pandemic, and to plan for the future. In particular, as the country re-opens, the Government is focused on getting people back into work and has announced a multi-billion pound plan for jobs, in order to support people in the long-term by helping them learn new skills and increase their hours or find new work. The £2.9 billion restart scheme will provide help to over a million jobseekers who have been out of work for over 12 months.

I can assure constituents that I will look very closely at everything to do with welfare in Parliament in the coming weeks. There will be a Spending Review, where the Government will look at how taxpayers' money is used across everything, in the autumn.  That is where I expect the full way forward out of the pandemic and beyond to be laid out.”

Charities And Senior Tories Concerned About Triple Threat And UC Cut
Senior Conservatives including former Cabinet member Damien Green are joining over 350 welfare charities in their concerns that the imminent cut to Universal Credit will cause serious hardship as it has been announced that energy prices will massively increase this winter as a result of a 250% wholesale price increase since the beginning of the year, 70% of which has been since August. The benefit cut is due to affect six million households.

DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Government has been insistent that it is going to steamroll ahead with this move, despite knowing it will push 800,000 people into poverty, almost a third of whom are children, many of whom are Disabled, despite announcing a forthcoming burden of increased National Insurance contributions, and now knowing that households who already have to choose between heating and eating will see energy bills skyrocket.

Government has to start listening. A cut in income, next year’s rise in National Insurance, a sky high rise in fuel bills in October and again in April, and shortages and price increases around food, will push people already struggling over the brink. The cut must be revoked.”

50% Of People Fear Their Houses Aren’t Fit To Live In If Disabled
Over half of British adults say they will have to leave their homes if they become physically disabled, new research commissioned by Habinteg Housing Association reveals. The YouGov survey shows that 55% of British adults, who do not have a mobility difficulty, think they would not be able to live in their current home due to its design and layout, if they become physically disabled.
Habinteg’s Chief Executive, Nick Apetroaie, said: “Adequate housing is fundamental to inclusion and equality for disabled and older people, but there’s simply not enough supply for the growing demand.  “The Government’s disability strategy promises more research into inclusive and accessible housing. However, we need action fast rather than more research to solve the immediate and long term needs of the population.”

A Fifth Of Housing Not Fit For Good Health – Good Home Inquiry
Around 10 million people in England currently live in a home that presents a serious threat to their health and safety – defined by the government as ‘non-decent’. That is part of the findings of the Centre for Ageing Better’s Good Home Inquiry report. The final part of the report, ‘Good Homes for All – A Proposal to Fix England’s Housing’, has just been published. The Good Home Inquiry provides an evidence-based analysis of England’s housing policies to determine the causes of, and solutions to, the poor quality of so many of our homes.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “A fifth of the population is Disabled. A fifth of all housing is inadequate to meet the needs of Disabled people and Older People. It is vital that the Government acts swiftly to ensure that our old, unadapted and unadaptable housing stock, in both the public and private sectors, is made accessible. New builds need to reflect full accessibility standards with a percentage being appropriate for wheelchair users, and adaptations to owned and rental homes need to be much easier to procure.

Deaf Mums Win Little Mix Concert Case
Three Deaf mothers have won a landmark case after gig promoters working for the band Little Mix refused to provide BSL interpreters. Lawyer Chris Fry argued on behalf of the parents that they were only able to follow part of the event, and only after issuing an application for an injunction in the County Court. The Little Mix events promoter had refused to accept that British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters were reasonably required, and when challenged with legal action threatened the families with costs liabilities of over £100,000.00. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61343&qid=9981905

Elections Bill Bad News For Disabled Voters
The Elections Bill currently going through Parliament has the potential to make voting even more difficult for Disabled people. The highly contested bill had its second reading at the beginning of the month and is even proving controversial amongst senior Conservative party figures.

In her evidence to the Elections Bill Committee, Fazilet Hadi, DR UK Head of Policy, outlined the international and domestic laws requiring equality of participation in the electoral process by Disabled people. Fazilet highlighted that demanding photo ID and removing rules on prescribed equipment would have the effect of disenfranchising Disabled voters. https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61347&qid=9981905

BBC Recruits Presenter With Down’s Syndrome
The BBC has hired 20 year-old actor and dancer George Webster, who has Down’s Syndrome, to guest present on its cbeebies children’s channel. The move has been met with universal praise on social media, in stark contrast with the fear and criticism received when Cerrie Burnell, who has limb difference, was hired 15 years ago. DR UK’s Media and Communications Manager Anna Morell said: “This is great news. It’s so important that Disabled children can see themselves represented, in public, in all the arenas they want to be in when they grow up. Cbeebies has always been at the vanguard of positive representations of disability at the BBC. That this appointment has been met with such delight compared to the awful, discriminatory reporting around Cerrie’s hiring shows that attitudes are changing fast among our young people. Now we just have to get adult-centric media channels to follow cbeebies’ lead.” https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61348&qid=9981905

Schools In England Forced To Cut Support For SEND Pupils
A third of English schools have been forced to cut support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) according to a new survey of headteachers. Almost all (97%) said that funding for SEND pupils was inadequate, and 95% said funding was also insufficient for those on education, health and care plans with greater needs. Four-fifths told the National Association of Head Teachers that they had been forced to buy extra services, including speech and language therapy, educational psychologists and mental health support, which before austerity policy was brought in, would have been provided by local councils, often more cost-effectively. One head said she had to “balance the needs of one child against the needs of a class of children”. Over a third said they would have to make further cuts this academic year.

NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman, said: “The crisis in funding for pupils with special educational needs is clear for all to see and is putting significant pressure on school budgets.” https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61301&qid=9961392 .

Children’s Services Shortage Leads To Acute Beds Crisis
A third of all children’s acute hospital beds in parts of England are being occupied by vulnerable children who do not need acute medical care but have nowhere else to go, reports the Guardian.

Police are increasingly called to help restrain the children, or to bring them back when they run away. Paediatricians told the Guardian they have had to deal with vulnerable children who were not physically ill but displayed such challenging behaviour that they could not be looked after in children’s homes.

“It is estimated that roughly a third of acute hospital beds at the moment are full of these vulnerable young people, many who are subject to child protection plans, or they are already children in care, living in a residential placement that’s falling apart,” said Dr Emilia Wawrzkowicz, a paediatric consultant who is the assistant officer for child protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: The word vulnerable doesn’t help us to understand the genuine needs of these children. If they are experiencing mental distress then a hospital ward is definitely not the right place. The Government’s White Paper on Mental Health earlier this year spoke about increasing community support but things aren’t moving fast enough. We are letting down a generation of children  with mental health challenges and we need to act quickly to offer them hope and a chance in life.”

Lords: Government Failing To Implement Equality Act
Despite the recent publication of its National Disability Strategy, the Government is continuing to fail disabled people by not implementing provisions in the 2010 Equality Act. Those are the findings of a new House of Lords report.

The new National Strategy does not set out proposals to implement key provisions in the Equality Act which have not been brought into force in the 11 years since they became law. Clauses in the Act that the Committee have identified as requiring improvement or implementation and which the Strategy does not address include:

  • Requiring all public sector organisations to apply the Public Sector Equality Duty effectively. The Committee says this is often operated as a ‘tick-box’ exercise because the requirement to have ‘due regard’ to equality issues is too weak and emphasises procedure rather than outcomes. The burden often falls on disabled people to enforce their own rights. The Committee says all public bodies should be required to implement a ‘plan of action’ for how they will meet the requirement of the equality duty.  
  • Access to taxis and private hire vehicles. Section 163 of the Equality Act requires licenced taxis to comply with accessibility regulations, but despite being on the statute books for more than 20 years it has never been implemented, meaning disabled people still find it hard to access taxi services. The Committee calls on the Government to implement the provision with immediate effect and to amend it to ensure it covers Private Hire Vehicles as well as licenced taxis.
  • Access to sports stadia. The Committee says that the Equality Act has not given Disabled sports fans equal access to sports stadia to which they are entitled. The Act relies on individuals taking action against institutions that are not meeting the requirements and often disabled sports fans are reluctant to take action against a sports club they support. The Committee calls on the Government to introduce a Bill to give local authorities power to refuse a safety certificate to large sports stadiums that do not comply with accessible stadia guidelines.

 Baroness Deech, Chair of the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee, said: “While our report was compiled before the Government published its National Disability Strategy, it is clear that the Strategy still does not address long standing failures to implement equality requirements that have been in law, but largely ignored and unenforced for more than a decade.

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK Head of Policy said “The Government should act now to implement all provisions of the Equality Act. It is hard to have confidence in the Government’s commitment to improving the lives of Disabled people when key sections of the Equality Act remain unimplemented, 11 years after the Act came into force.”

Government’s Proposals To Fix The Social Care Crisis Is “Too Little, Too Late”
Commenting on the Government’s social care reform proposals. DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We are glad to see the Government is making efforts to fix the social care crisis, but remain concerned that the proposals, announced this week along with plans to fix the pandemic backlogs in the NHS are aiming to deliver too little, too late.

“We are concerned that the national conversation is still almost exclusively about Older People, despite a third of people using Social Care being Disabled people of working age, and using half of the overall social care budget. Further, thresholds for Social Care, which are not always based around finances, are so high that around half of all applications to Local Authorities by Disabled people in need of care are turned down.

“The proposed measures do not kick in for another two years. They may not be enough to cover care costs, they may still rely on those with minimal assets having to contribute to care costs, and they do not cover the vastly greater accommodation or food costs, known as hotel costs, for Disabled people in residential care.

We also believe it is the wrong mechanism to use National Insurance contributions instead of Income Tax.”

Accessible Toilet Access Varies Wildly Across UK
There is a vast disparity across the UK when it comes to finding an accessible toilet, research by health and wellness testing company ‘Check My Body’ Health has found.

The company analysed the availability of public toilets per capita in every UK city to determine which cities are the most loo-friendly, as well as looking into the percentage which are deemed to be accessible.

Its research also analysed pharmacies per capita to give a view on facilities for those struggling with pain-related to wider digestive problems, such as IBS.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “There are few more pressing needs in life than toilet access. It’s appalling that in 2021, many towns are still inaccessible to Disabled people as they lack the most basic of accessible toilet facilities.” https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61253&qid=9923838

Sense Launches Covid Inquiry Petition
A new survey by disability charity Sense shows that over three quarters of Disabled people want next year’s Covid Inquiry to investigate their experience.

More than three quarters (77 per cent) of Disabled people say the Covid Inquiry must investigate what has happened to them, and if it doesn’t, fear the same mistakes will happen again.

With six out of ten Covid deaths those of Disabled people, three quarters say our needs have been overlooked and haven’t received enough support. Two thirds of respondents say their mental health has got worse during the pandemic, with over half citing a deterioration in physical health.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Almost 60% of all deaths during the pandemic were of Disabled people and we absolutely believe that our voices and our issues should be at the heart of the public inquiry. Decision makers did not engage with us, our needs were often overlooked and communications were largely inaccessible. Health bodies treated our lives as less valued, Disabled people receiving social care were inadequately protected, some Disabled children were denied education and support and supermarkets failed to ensure that we could access food. There is a long-standing phrase in our community: “nothing about us without us.” As such, it is imperative that Disabled people’s voices are front and central to the Inquiry.” Sense has now launched a petition calling on Disabled people to be put at the heart of the inquiry.

Becoming A Paralympian Isn’t Just About ‘Trying Harder’
Writing for the Guardian, Lucy Webster, political journalist, writer and disability advocate, highlights the barriers that Disabled people face not just in accessing sport, but also in wider society. 

As Webster explains, the Paralympics as an event inspire a limited discourse on Disability. Commentators focus on the idea that Paralympians represent what all Disabled people could achieve “if they just applied themselves”. The dominant thinking in society is that if a Paralympian can lift 150kg then surely the “average” Disabled person can get to a job interview. 

However, what Webster believes the Paralympic conversation should be, is how other Disabled people would flourish if they received the same care, attention, and resources that Paralympians did? Over £75m was spent on funding Paralympics GB for Tokyo, what would happen if similar sums were additionally targeted towards helping Disabled people live fulfilling lives from work to being able to see friends or exercise and get active in ways that suit them? 

Of course, it’s not just practical support Disabled people need – ableism is endemic and hostile attitudes towards Disabled people remain across society. 

The message from the Paralympics is clear, stresses, Webster, in the closing section of her piece: 

When we watch the Games, we are not watching people who have “overcome” disability. What you’re seeing is people who have fought tooth and nail for the basic support to allow them to access sports with their disability, who had encouragement from those around them, who believed they could achieve sporting greatness, and then had the resources to make this happen” 

Disability Rights UK Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi said “I love the spotlight that the Paralympics puts on Disabled people. We are often invisible in the media, so it’s fantastic to see us take centre stage. 

As eloquently expressed in this article, with the right support Disabled people flourish. This is a message that the Government needs to take to heart.  Investing in Disabled people will enable us to live independently and unlock our talent and contribution.” 

You can read Lucy Webster’s full article https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61202&qid=9896417

Food Suppliers Warn Of Threat To Care Home Deliveries 
A company which supplies food to care homes says it is taking "drastic action" to address the shortage of lorry drivers. 

The boss of Country Range said the group was buying smaller vans so it could reduce the "significant" problems caused by a lack of qualified HGV drivers. Smaller vans can be driven by people with ordinary driving licences. 

Managing director Coral Rose told the BBC that the issue was set to get worse as schools and offices return to normal through September.   A combination of Covid, Brexit and other factors has meant there are not enough drivers to meet demand. 

The Road Haulage Association estimates there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK, from a pre-pandemic figure of about 60,000.   Country Range supplies food and non-food products to care homes, schools, hotels, restaurants and small shops.  Ms Rose said the shortage of drivers had affected both the supply of products from manufacturers to its warehouses and also from its warehouses to its customers. 

The government said there was a "highly resilient" food supply chain and it was taking measures to tackle the driver shortage.   A Government spokesperson said it had "well-established ways of working with the food sector to address food supply chain disruptions". 

Financial Institutions Failing Disabled People On Accessibility 
All the UK’s best known financial institutions tested by digital inclusion specialists have accessibility errors on their website homepages that are causing unnecessary hardship for disabled people. 

Dig Inclusion, which helps public bodies and private organisations improve their digital accessibility, carried out a survey of 20 of some of the biggest banks, building societies, lenders, and insurers in the UK in July. They found a range of issues that impede accessibility for Disabled people. 

Steve Webb, Head of Customer Engagement at Dig Inclusion, said: “We are shocked at these findings, which are far worse than we expected. Without fail, each and every one of the homepages we manually tested against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) reported a fault. Some of the issues on the homepages alone – which are effectively the digital shop windows of these financial institutions - are worryingly critical. We didn’t look beyond the home pages for this test, but I would be confident that the issues will extend to other pages, apps and tools.” 

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy, said “Disabled people have the right to live independently and that means that we need the same access to our bank accounts and other financial products, as the general population. It’s clear from this survey that we are being let down by household names in the financial sector. These organisations have a legal duty to meet the accessibility needs of all Disabled people including those with sensory and cognitive impairments. 

Minister Rejects DR UK Request To Extend Railcards  
Transport minister Chris Heaton Harris has rejected calls to extend the Disabled Persons Railcard. Many Disabled people were unable to use the Card for extensive periods during the pandemic. 

DR UK Rail Policy Adviser, Stephen Brookes, wrote to the Minister requesting an extension to the card operating period. 

Stephen wrote “You will appreciate that many Disabled people live on the poverty line and many of us were forced to shield during the crisis. Having a rail card that couldn’t be used has led to unnecessary expense. We would ask that there is some extension made for the period in which the card couldn’t be used.” 

However, in his response the Minister said that “fares revenue fell drastically during the pandemic compared with pre-COVID levels and is yet to recover”. He added that the Government must be “fair to taxpayers and support our economic recovery”. 

ut Stephen says that the highly discounted fares many rail companies are offering to attract customers back to the system are costing far more than extending the railcard. 

He said: “I am deeply disappointed and feel the response to our reasonable request is most unfair. Disabled passengers are being treated very badly by the industry, which is failing to recognise the extenuating circumstances that should result in a railcard extension. We asked for a low cost, meaningful inducement for Disabled people to return to using rail. The response demonstrates that we must keep pressing for greater recognition of the unique needs of Disabled people in using public transport.” 

Pupils With Special Educational Needs Hit By Shortage Of Psychologists 
Many children with special educational needs and disabilities are starting the new school year without the education, health and care plans (EHCPs) that they are entitled to, according to a report in the Observer. 

At least one local authority, North Yorkshire County Council, has written to parents warning them that a shortage of psychologists to conduct needs assessments means many will not be completed within the statutory requirement of 20 weeks. 

The council says in the letter that many other local authorities are facing similar recruitment difficulties. 

It says: “This is not an issue purely for North Yorkshire; the Department for Education have been monitoring educational psychology capacity during the pandemic and the current data identifies that 70% of local authorities are operating with reduced educational psychology capacity.” 

EHCPs set out the extra provision that children with high special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are legally entitled to. To decide whether to provide an EHCP, and what should go in it, councils must carry out an assessment, drawing on advice and information from an educational psychologist. 

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy said “Children and young people with SEND have had an extremely rough deal during the pandemic and this latest blow puts them at a further disadvantage in catching up with missed learning. 

The National Disability Strategy demonstrated a lack of Government support for inclusive education and inadequate future planning for children and young people with SEND. A long awaited review of the SEND system is in the pipeline with no publication date.    

Youngsters Previously Classed As Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Expected Back At School Following Official Advice 
Children and young people under 18 should be removed from the national database of shielded patients, the UK Clinical Review Panel has recommended. 

In a statement, the Department for Education (DfE) said that clinical studies have shown that children and young people, including those originally considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), are at very low risk of serious illness if they catch the virus.  

It said that specific clinical advice around shielding may be given to a few such children but others should instead follow the same guidance around Coronavirus safety as everyone else.  

This means that school attendance for this group of children is mandatory and the DfE statement acknowledged that some “may be anxious about returning to face-to-face education for the autumn term”. 

It continued: “Whilst attendance is mandatory, we recommend that leaders in education work collaboratively with families to reassure them and to help their child return to their everyday activities. Discussions should have a collaborative approach, focusing on the welfare of the child or young person and responding to the concerns of the parent, carer or young person.” 

The Department for Health and Social Care has developed an online FAQ and written to the families of children and young people previously classified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. 

Fazilet Hadi, DR UK Head of Policy said “Of course it is good news that the evidence shows that the majority of children and young people previously shielding need not continue to do this. However, for a small minority, precautions will still be needed. 

Parents and young people need to be supported to understand their specific situation and directed to specialist medical advice” 

‘Booster’ Vaccination Programme Launch 
Ministers have accepted expert advice which will see people with severely weakened immune systems offered a third jab before a wider ‘booster’ vaccination programme is launched. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid emphasised that the third shot recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is intended to ensure that people with weak immune systems have the same level of immune response as most people generate from two jabs.   He said it was based on trial data around immunosuppressed people and is not part of the proposed booster programme which will cover many more people.   “The NHS will contact people as soon as possible to discuss their needs and arrange an appointment for a third dose where clinically appropriate,” he said. 

Mr Javid said that ministers and officials are continuing to develop plans for the booster programme to begin this month “to ensure the protection people have built up from vaccines is maintained over time and ahead of the winter. We will prioritise those most at risk to COVID-19, including those who are eligible for a third primary vaccine, for boosters based on the final advice of the JCVI.” 

Broken Benefits System Forcing Thousands Of Disabled People To Fall Behind On Payments And Skip Meals
Thousands of Disabled people on out of work benefits, such as ESA and Jobseeker’s Allowance, are facing considerable mental health and physical challenges as the pandemic has left them struggling financially, new research shows. 

The stark findings are from the latest Disability Benefits Consortium’s (DBC) survey. 

It was completed by over 1,800 Disabled people in receipt of out of work benefits (also known as ‘legacy benefits’) and findings include: 

  • Over two thirds (78%) said their financial situation was ‘worse’ compared to at the start of the pandemic 

Disabled People’s Led Organisations Absent From Health And Wellbeing Alliance. 
Health minister Helen Whately this week announced new appointments to the Health and Wellbeing Alliance, which receives £2m to provide a voice for a range of people with particular interests in health issues. 

The Government had previously communicated the withdrawal of funding from the Lived Experience Alliance – which includes Shaping our Lives, Advonet, NSUN and Disability Rights UK. Only NSUN will continue involvement in the Health and Wellbeing Alliance , as part of a mental health coalition. 

DR UK chief executive officer Kamran Mallick  said “We had hoped that the Government’s decision to stop funding the Lived Experience Alliance made up of Disabled people’s led organisations was an oversight that they would put right. Clearly we were too generous. Ministers continue to deny disabled people a direct voice at the table during crucial discussions, at a time when Disabled people are experiencing unprecedented barriers in accessing social care and health services. 

Disabled People Paying Vastly More For Care In Past Two Years
Disabled people are being told by councils to pay vastly more for care, according to research from the BBC. Some adults with learning disabilities are being forced to pay thousands of pounds more, with six councils doubling the amount of money they were previously requesting.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “It feels criminal that Disabled people with the least resources have to somehow magic up vast sums of money to pay for these punitive increases. It is inconceivable that the Government can speak of levelling up, and release a strategy on disability, and still ignore the basic fact that people are living in penury trying to meet the costs of their most basic needs which should, in a civilised society, be met by the State.

94% of people with learning disabilities are not in work. Those receiving care from their local authorities have met very high thresholds to qualify, showing high levels of need, and low levels of income. That in itself is a sign that they cannot afford to pay more. “Nobody should be in the position where they have to choose between eating and heating, and care. And that is where we are currently at.” https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=61100&qid=9855519

Winter Vaccine Schedule For Disabled People Unclear
Plans for the universal roll-out of a third booster vaccine are in doubt. The Government is now likely to propose that only over-16s with immune-suppression, care home residents, over-70s, frontline health and social care workers and people classified as clinically extremely vulnerable may be considered for a third jab.

The news comes as new research shows that fully vaccinated adults can harbour Delta variant virus levels as high as unvaccinated people. There is not yet a consensus on whether this causes greater transmission of the virus, but it does raise concerns.

The current data suggests that people who cannot be vaccinated, and those with conditions the government does not recognise as making them clinically extremely vulnerable, may be at greater risk. The government is currently funding a study, OCTAVE DUO, to determine the effectiveness of a third vaccine for people with weakened immune systems. The initial OCTAVE trial has published data showing that 89% of immunocompromised people produce antibodies following vaccination, with 60% generating a strong antibody response after a second dose. The remaining 40% show a low or undetectable immune response.

On 1 August 2021, 91% of people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, had received both doses of the vaccine, with 94% having had their first dose. The government is also considering reducing the age limit for people who can have vaccines down from 16 to 12 with a view that this will stop the virus from sweeping through secondary schools in the autumn term, and protect clinically vulnerable teenagers.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We heard from many Disabled people who were vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus during lockdown who were not in the top priority groups for vaccination. If the Government is going to offer booster jabs to those it considers to be the most clinically vulnerable, it must focus on groups one to six, not just groups one to four. Group six included people with conditions such as kidney disease, learning disabilities, motor neurone disease and ME. We know that hospitalisations and deaths are down as a result of the vaccine rollout, but there are still thought to be over two million people who have developed long covid. This debilitating condition wrecks both lives and the economy.”

Disabled Children Face Digital Divide
Disabled children face greater inequality because of lack of access to digital technology, according to a new report from the KIDS charity and the Disabled Children’s Partnership. Barriers to getting online are creating a digital divide between young people who can access education, services and friends, and Disabled children who can’t.

A new report from the University of the West of England - Locked Out: Digital Disadvantage of Disabled Children, Young People and Families during the Covid-19 Pandemic reveals digital disadvantage happens when families are unable to access computers, phones and broadband for financial reasons or lack of digital knowledge, but also when hardware and software is not designed inclusively or when services do not invest in inclusive technology. This results in children and young people being locked out from accessing education, health care and a social life at a time when being able to use digital technology is increasingly a requirement for equal participation in society.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of KIDS, said: “Digital access isn’t a luxury, it’s a right, but one denied to many Disabled children. As we move into an increasingly online world we must make sure no child is left behind. “The pandemic lockdowns have shown the importance of digital technology for young people, and many Disabled people developed their digital skills and confidence. But for those who were locked out by equipment, funding or because of sensory impairments, tech-phobia or dexterity limitations, lack of online access has increased isolation and reduced access to support.”

The report recommends that an urgent recovery programme is put in place to increase digital skills for whole families to stop digital disadvantage resulting in children being permanently locked out; that digital service design should start with accessibility, co-created with Disabled people; accessibility standards must be improved so that Disabled children and young people aren’t locked out from essential information; digital infrastructure should be fast, available and affordable for all, and that digital inclusion should be an explicit part of government policy at every level from disability policy to strategy and reviews.

Actors ‘Too Disabled’ For Disabled Roles
Disabled screenwriter Jack Thorne has spoken of how Disabled actors are being turned away from TV roles written for Disabled characters because they are deemed to be ‘too Disabled’. Parts are instead going to non-Disabled actors – a move known as ‘cripping up’ or ‘cripface’.

Giving the McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, he called for quotas to level up the number of Disabled people seen on screen. He said that funding for shows featuring Disabled characters is difficult to obtain, Disabled writers are regularly unable to attend script meetings because production offices are inaccessible, and spoke of the time a wheelchair-using friend had to crawl along a muddy floor to reach her desk on a film shoot.

Calling disability the “forgotten diversity”, he said that the situation was just as bad for Disabled people working behind the scenes in TV as well. He called for production companies to set aside extra money in their budgets to create a dedicated fund to make facilities fully accessible. “I know the Black Lives Matter movement has a long way to go, and that no one is satisfied with our current state of affairs, but I can’t tell you the difference it has made to casting conversations,” he said. “However, the conversation on disability representation is nowhere near as advanced; I have had conversations about Disabled talent for years where some of the most appalling things have been said.”

Disabled people and Disabled stories tend to be relegated into two camps – heroes or victims, preferably both. Inspirational crips climbing up a mountain on their hands while we all applaud. Sometimes they’re funny, an acerbic best friend; mostly they’re just sorrowful.”

C4 Privatisation Is A Threat To Paralympics, Says Ex-Chief
Channel 4’s decade of Paralympic coverage on prime-time TV could be abandoned by its new owner, says a former CEO. The channel is broadcasting a record 1,300 hours of coverage of the Tokyo Games, treble that of the BBC’s Olympic coverage, securing its place as the world’s leading Paralympic broadcaster.

Channel 4 was set up by the Conservative government in 1982 as an editorially independent broadcaster to provide a culturally challenging alternative to the then other three terrestrial channels. It is publicly owned but commercially funded, mainly by advertising.

The way that Channel 4 was set up gives it the ability to do things unlikely to be achieved by any other broadcaster,” said Lord Burns, who chaired Channel 4 when it took over the Paralympic TV rights from the BBC. “The Paralympics was made for a TV station like Channel 4, with people who can take risks, people whose remit requires something that is different. I think it is unlikely another broadcaster would do the Paralympics on the scale of Channel 4,” he said. “Certainly not with the same determination and investment. It is a commercially riskier activity.”

DR UK Slams ‘Disability Freakshow’ Dinner
Note from the editor – DRUK have highlighted this very ‘sick’ event that was due to take place in October however a petition has been launched https://www.change.org/p/itae-productions-stop-the-exploitation-of-people-with-disabilities-in-your-dinner-and-dissection-show . Because of the pressure on space in SCAN’s newsletter I cannot do justice to the level of condemnation that this company has generated. DRUK haven’t yet reproduced the article on their website. And the only web link that I have been able to find, other than for the petition, is to the Leicester newspaper that carried the article back in July so for those with a stronger stomach than I, if you wish to read more please use the following link https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/outrage-barbaric-show-recreates-dissection-5642030

DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “While dissection and dinner might not sit well together for most people as an entertainment concept, there is an education market for that. What there absolutely should not be a market for however is a disability freakshow. It is absolutely disgusting that in 2021, companies think it’s ok for the sake of entertainment to literally revive the worst excesses of Victorian culture which demonised, objectified and exploited Disabled people. The whole theme of the event is tantamount to a hate incident. In UK law, there is no recognition of disability hate crime, despite hate crimes being recognisable for other protected characteristics. It is hateful and discriminatory, deeply hurtful to those who live with these conditions, and is exactly the kind of event which ensures that society continues to believe in and perpetuate damaging stereotypes of Disabled people.” One mother whose daughter has an overgrowth condition, has started a petition which has over seven thousand signatures to try to get this event stopped.




17:36, 23 Oct 2021 by Lesley Windle