Disability News Service news 11 April 2019

Airline forced to apologise after charging woman for carer’s seat reservation

An airline has been forced to apologise to a disabled woman after it charged her extra to reserve a seat next to her for her carer, and then refused to refund the charge.

Helen Jenkins had informed Flybe when she was booking her return flights from Birmingham to the Isle of Man online last week that she would require assistance.

She and her husband are planning to celebrate her birthday in September with a four-day visit to the island – which they have been told has an excellent, accessible public transport system – before she has a major operation that is likely to rule out flying for another six months.

Read the full article here.

Autistic authors’ guide maps out route to quality care

A new guide – written solely by autistic people – aims to show care providers, commissioners and inspectors how to provide “quality care” for other autistic people.

An Independent Guide to Quality Care for Autistic People has been written by members of the National Autistic Taskforce (NAT) and has a “heavy emphasis” on developing choice and control for service-users.

The guide says: “The more autonomy a person has, the less support services need to rely on external authorities such as good practice guides, instead looking to the person themselves as the primary source of information, instruction and guidance.”

Read the full article here.

Disabled activists’ bid to find northern DPOs could ‘combat London bias’

A new disabled people’s organisation (DPO) is hoping to bring together DPOs from across the north of England to provide a strong, collective, regional voice on issues affecting disabled people.

Leeds Disabled People’s Organisation (LDPO) was formed in January last year and has no funding, but it wants to hear from other DPOs across the region*.

It is hoping to map the location of all the DPOs across the north of England so they can work together and provide a powerful new voice, potentially setting up a new regional coalition.

Read the full article here.

DWP ‘victimised’ disabled staff member who claimed discrimination, tribunal finds

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) managers “victimised” a disabled member of staff after she claimed that she had faced workplace discrimination, an employment tribunal has ruled.

It is just the latest case to raise concerns that DWP is institutionally disablist, both in its treatment of disabled benefit claimants and of its own staff.

Last November, DWP admitted failing to keep track of how many complaints of disability discrimination were made by its own staff, while in February Civil Service figures revealed that the proportion of DWP staff who said they had been victims of disability discrimination at work in the previous 12 months had risen by about 50 per cent in just four years.

Read the full article here.

Tomlinson becomes latest ‘shoddy, shameless’ disability minister

Disabled activists have responded with resignation after the government appointed another “shoddy, shameless” minister for disabled people.

The new minister, Justin Tomlinson, previously held the post between May 2015 and July 2016, before he was sacked in a government reshuffle.

Now he has been appointed again, this time to replace Brexit casualty Sarah Newton, and becomes the eighth minister for disabled people – or the seventh if you only count him once – since 2010.

Read the full article here.

Justice for Jodey Whiting: Mum brands DWP’s petition response ‘a joke’

The furious mother of a disabled woman who took her own life after repeated safeguarding failings by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has branded DWP’s response to a parliamentary petition set up in her daughter’s name “a joke”.

Joy Dove said this week that DWP’s safeguarding failures had killed her daughter.

She spoke out after DWP responded to the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, which was set up in her daughter’s name.

Read the full article here.

Council accused of ‘settling scores’ after cutting funding from DPO that criticised it

A council has been accused of being “vindictive” and trying to “silence” a disabled people’s organisation (DPO) by withdrawing funding for its advice service, just months after the DPO published a critical report about social care provision in the borough.

Labour-run Merton council, in south-west London, has been accused of discriminating against disabled people by withdrawing funding from the only advice service in the borough that provides welfare rights experts who will visit disabled people in their own homes.

The council’s equality impact assessment of the decision to withdraw funding from Merton Centre for Independent Living (MCIL)* concluded that it provided “high quality casework support” and was “serving a small number of vulnerable disabled people very well”.

Read the full article here.

DWP ‘hypocrite’ ministers refuse to be held to same safety standards as social media

Ministers have been branded “hypocrites” for rejecting the idea that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should be held responsible for benefit-related deaths, despite their government calling for social media managers to be held criminally responsible for safeguarding failures.

Home secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) said this week that the government was acting to hold the social media industry accountable for its failures because “we know, in our hearts, we know that protecting the vulnerable is our shared responsibility”.

But evidence has also mounted over recent years of links between the failings of DWP ministers and senior civil servants and the deaths of disabled people, particularly in relation to the flawed work capability assessment (WCA) process.

Read the full article here.

Whistle-blower withdraws offer to help police reopen probe into autistic abuse scandal

A whistle-blower who has vital evidence of serious abuse at a care home for autistic adults has retracted her offer to talk to police about what she witnessed, which could have led to them reopening their failed investigation.

Disability News Service (DNS) found out this week that Avon and Somerset police had failed to interview her, even though her whistleblowing played a key part in helping to expose the abuse scandal at Mendip House, which was run by the National Autistic Society (NAS).

The whistle-blower, Hannah*, had talked in depth to DNS this week about what she witnessed at Mendip House in Brent Knoll, Somerset, and revealed that she had never been interviewed by Avon and Somerset police.

Read the full article here.

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Pavement parking inquiry launched by Transport Committee

Car parked on pavement

The Transport Committee has launched an inquiry to explore the problems of pavement parking in England and consider the possible solutions.

‘Pavement parking’ is when one or more wheels of a vehicle are on the footpath. As well as creating obstacles for people wanting to use footpaths, Councils face additional costs to repair damage to surfaces which are not designed to take the weight of motor vehicles.

Thoughtless pavement parking can cause problems for Disabled people. Wheelchair users get blocked in, unable to go around parked cars and visually impaired people often collide with the vehicle as they might not see the obstruction until it’s too late.

Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Committee, said: “This is an area where some people’s actions cause real difficulties for others. Parking on pavements risks the safety of all groups of people from the littlest to the oldest, with differing needs.”

Lack of progress in tackling pavement parking has led many groups to campaign on the issue (you can find information about RNIB’s campaign, ‘Who put that there!’ here) and although it is regularly raised with MPs by their constituents, the Government has not taken any action on this issue in recent years.

Has pavement parking caused issues in your local area? The committee is calling for written evidence on the impact of pavement parking; you can find out more about the inquiry and how to respond here.

The closing date to submit written evidence is 14 May 2019

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Adult social care “at breaking point” say charities and organisations

Stacks of pound coins

Age UK, Care England and Alzheimer’s Society are among the 15 organisations urging the Government to invest in adult social care services.

The joint letter warns that “adult social care is at breaking point” and that increases in costs and decreases in funding has meant that it has become more and more difficult to offer people the high quality care they need to be independent and live the lives they want to lead.

The letter points out that adult social care services face a funding gap of £3.6 billion by 2025 and it has now been two years since the Government recognised the need to find a long term, sustainable solution for adult social care. The organisations that have signed the letter are uniting to ask the Goverment to consider this funding crisis in its upcoming adult social care green paper and Spending Review and to “urgently invest in these essential services”.

The letter was signed by the following organisations:

Local Government Association
Age UK
Alzheimer’s Society
Association of Directors of Adult Social Care
Association of Directors of Public Health
Care and Support Alliance
Care England
Care Provider Alliance
Carers UK
Independent Age
NHS Confederation
NHS Providers
Sense
Solace
Voluntary Organisations Disability Group

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Disability News Service news 21 March 2019

Disabled people ‘must keep fighting for their right to travel on public transport’

Disabled people must keep fighting for their right to travel on public transport, and should “challenge the status quo”, an accessible transport campaigner has told a conference.

Alan Benson, chair of the user-led, pan-London organisation Transport for All, told Transport for London’s Access All Areas conference that the pace of access improvements to the capital’s public transport system had slowed since the “watershed” of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Benson (pictured, centre), a wheelchair-user, said that in the last week he had missed a train because of slow assistance from rail staff, missed buses because the wheelchair spaces were full, and had been stuck at Bank tube station because the lift broke.

Read the full article here.

Disabled young people have been cheated by support reforms, MPs hear

Disabled young people have told MPs how they have been “cheated” by the government’s new system for supporting pupils and students through school and college.

MPs on the Commons education committee heard how disabled pupils were being denied a voice in drawing up their education, health and care plans (EHCPs), and how they were not receiving what had been promised in those plans.

The committee also heard that EHCPs were too focused on education, rather than being “life focused”.

Read the full article here.

Domestic violence services even worse 10 years on, says report

Regressive government policies have disproportionately affected the ability of disabled women who have experienced violence and abuse to access the services they need, according to a new report.

Shaping Our Lives (SOL), which has written the report, says some services have been discriminating against disabled women under the Equality Act because of a lack of knowledge and training, and a “pitiful” lack of accessible buildings.

It says that these failures are a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Read the full article here.

Still no replacement for Newton, seven days after resignation

The government has given no indication of when – or even if – it intends to appoint a replacement for the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, who resigned last week over Brexit.

Nearly a week after Newton’s resignation, no replacement has been announced.

A spokesperson for Number 10 said yesterday (Wednesday): “As soon as there is one, we would announce it in the usual way.

“I haven’t got any guidance on when that appointment will be.”

Read the full article here.

Autistic campaigners to protest outside charity over regime of care home abuse

Autistic campaigners are to protest outside the headquarters of a national autism charity next week to highlight what they say is its abhorrent failure to act on a regime of abuse that took place at one of its care homes.

The protest in London on 29 March by two autistic-led organisations – Autistic Inclusive Meets and Autistic UK – will highlight the lack of justice for those abused at Mendip House, in Highbridge, Somerset.

Official reports show the National Autistic Society (NAS) failed to share the results of internal investigations into Mendip House with Somerset County Council or the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Read the full article here.

CQC admits one in five social care services have not been inspected in two years

Nearly 5,000 adult social care services – nearly one in five – have not had an inspection by the care regulator in the last two years, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) have revealed.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) figures have raised fresh doubts as to whether the regulator is fit for purpose, while Labour’s shadow social care minister has said they are “highly concerning”.

The figures were released to Disability News Service days after the latest revelations concerning a care home run by the National Autistic Society, where autistic people were taunted, abused and ill-treated by staff.

Mendip House, in Somerset, had itself not been inspected by CQC for more than two years when whistleblowers came forward and exposed the abusive regime in 2016.

Read the full article here.

Jodey Whiting petition: DWP ‘has blood on its hands’, says Green party

Labour and the Green party have backed a petition that calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the failings of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and an investigation into potential criminal misconduct by ministers and civil servants.

The Green party co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, himself the father of a disabled son, said this week that DWP had “blood on its hands”.

Less than a week after the launch of the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition* last Friday (15 March), more than 6,000 people have already signed it.

Read the full article here.

Jodey Whiting petition: Seventh family demands justice over DWP benefit deaths

The disabled daughter of a woman who took her own life after losing her disability benefits has explained why she believes ministers and senior civil servants should face prosecution for the deaths they have caused.

Hayley Storrow-Servranckx spoke out this week to back a new parliamentary petition that calls for an inquiry into deaths linked to the actions of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and for that inquiry to pass any evidence of criminal misconduct by ministers and civil servants to the police.

The petition – Justice for Jodey Whiting. Independent inquiry into deaths linked to the DWP* – brands DWP “institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose” and demands urgent action to make the safety of all benefit claimants a priority.

Read the full article here.

DWP’s latest confession on safety: ‘We keep no record of complaints linked to deaths’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is facing fresh allegations of negligence – potentially criminal – after admitting that it keeps no records of how many of the complaints it receives involve the death of a claimant of disability benefits.

The admission came in response to a freedom of information request from Disability News Service (DNS), which arrived just 24 hours before the launch of a new parliamentary petition* calling for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP failings.

It adds to mounting evidence that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose and will fuel calls for urgent changes to its policies and administration of benefits to ensure it makes the safety of all claimants a priority, as demanded by the petition.

Read the full article here.

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Justice for Jody Whiting petition

Jody Whiting took her own life in 2017 when her disability benefit payments were stopped because she missed a capability assessments. An independent inquiry into her death found that the DWP failed 5 times to follow their own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to her suicide.

A petition has been launched which calls for:

1. An independent inquiry to investigate DWP failings in relation to these deaths, including whether there has been misconduct by civil servants or Ministers. 

2. Any evidence of misconduct contributing to serious harm or deaths to be turned over to the police. 

3. Recognition that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose. 

4. DWP to urgently change its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority.

So far, the petition has been signed by nearly 18,000 people. At 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in parliament. You can sign the petition here.

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70% of benefit appeals find in favour of claimants, figures show

More than two-thirds of people who faced being denied social security benefits were found to be entitled to that support, prompting calls by the SNP for a fresh review of the DWP assessment and appeals process.

Official government figures show that 70% of people who faced the possibility of losing their entitlement, and took this decision to hearing, had their cases overturned.

Social Security and Child Support appeal disposals totaled 51,256 in the quarter up to December 2018 and 41,171 (80 per cent) were cleared at hearing. Of those cases cleared at hearing, 70 per cent were found in favour of the claimant (up from 65 per cent on the same period in 2017).

Read the full article here.

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New Rough Guide to Accessible Britain

Packed with over 180 reviews of accessible and inspiring days out, there’s something for everyone in theRough Guide to Accessible Britain. The Guide aims to inspire and support people with diverse needs in enjoying the best of Britain’s attractions – whatever their disability.

The perfect tool for Motability Scheme customers wanting to explore the UK, the revamped Rough Guide to Accessible Britain is free to download or view online.

Now in its 10th year, the Guide is an ideal planning tool for anyone with access needs and now also includes information for visitors with more hidden conditions such as autism or mental illness. Every venue in the Guide is reviewed by Rough Guides’ team of writers, who either have a disability themselves or visited the venue with disabled friend or family member.

The Guide provides clear and helpful advice to highlight the very best inclusive and accessible days out for people of all abilities, from museums and art galleries, to wildlife parks and gardens.

View the Guide online.

Download your free Guide.

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The EnAble Fund for Elected Office

Following a campaign by the cross-party group More United , the EnAble Fund for Elected Office was launched on 3rd December 2018, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The Fund is provided by the Government Equalities Office and is administered by Disability Rights UK. It is intended to cover the additional financial costs associated with a disability, that would otherwise prevent someone from seeking elected office.

To apply for the Fund you must have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

You must also have a genuine intention to seek elected office, for an election that takes place during the timescale of the fund. These will include Local Government Elections in May 2109 and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections in May 2020.

You can find out more about the Fund here.

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Disability News Service News 21st Feb

Long-awaited Newton meeting confirms confusion over DPO engagement

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have raised ongoing concerns about the government’s failure to comply with basic principles of the UN disability convention at a long-awaited meeting with the minister for disabled people.

Representatives of six of the UK’s leading DPOs met with minister for disabled people Sarah Newton and senior civil servants last week to discuss the government’s track record on engaging with disabled people and their user-led organisations.

It was the first time that Newton (pictured) had met with the group of DPOs – members of the UK CRPD Monitoring Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations – since she took up her post in late 2017.

Read the full article here.

Council told to improve disability equality training after councillor’s ‘ignorant’ attacknull

A disabled politician has described the equality training given to fellow councillors as “a joke” after a Liberal Democrat rival was forced to apologise for posting a message on social media that accused him of using his impairment for political purposes.

The comments by Lib Dem Joe Naitta were targeted last June at fellow Derby city councillor Amo Raju, who is a Labour party member and also chief executive of the user-led organisation Disability Direct.

Naitta said in a Facebook post to his supporters: “This one uses his disability, get rid of labour in Blagreaves ward.”

Read the full article here.

Disabled residents play ground-breaking co-production role in major development

Disabled people have played a “ground-breaking” role in co-producing a major new redevelopment scheme.

The role played by disabled people in the planning application to redevelop Hammersmith town hall and the surrounding area in London is the first major product of a pioneering agreement to embed a genuine culture of co-production within Hammersmith and Fulham council.

A report last year by the Hammersmith and Fulham Disabled People’s Commission (pictured, the report’s launch) was accepted in full by the council and hailed as a blueprint for disabled people’s organisations across the country to push for change from their own local authorities.

Read the full article here.

Watchdogs’ comments boost hopes for rail access improvements

Powerful warnings from two watchdogs about the barriers faced by disabled passengers have been welcomed as a “wonderful step in re-instating access to rail for all” by a leading accessible transport expert.

One of the two watchdogs, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), warned the government and train operating companies that two major elements of the rail system could be discriminating against disabled passengers.

In a letter to MPs on the Commons transport select committee, EHRC chair David Isaac says the commission is concerned about the impact of “ongoing transport policies”, particularly the move towards running more trains without a member of customer services staff on board – driver-only operated (DOO) trains – and an increase in unstaffed stations.

Read the full article here.

Call for urgent probe into police passing DWP information about protesters

There are growing concerns and calls for an urgent investigation into admissions by two police forces that they have shared information about protesters with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Both Lancashire and Greater Manchester police forces have now admitted passing on information to DWP about people taking part in protests.

The admissions originally came following claims reported by Disability News Service (DNS) that police forces had been targeting disabled people taking part in peaceful anti-fracking protests across England.

Read the full article here.

DWP ‘refused reasonable adjustments for community recruits’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) repeatedly failed to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people who were recruited to build bridges between jobcentres and the local community, it has been claimed.

But the department also appears to be set to discard all the disabled people they recruited from outside the Civil Service when their fixed-term contracts end.

It is feared that none of the scores of Community Partners taken on by DWP to build relationships between jobcentres and local organisations will secure permanent roles when their contracts end at the end of next month.

Read the full article here.

Jodey Whiting: DWP continued to phone woman who took her own life, inquiry finds

he Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continued to phone and write to a disabled woman who had taken her own life after having her benefits stopped, an independent investigation has found.

The report by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), Joanna Wallace, concluded that the DWP has no system that immediately alerts all the relevant staff that a claimant of employment and support allowance (ESA) has died.

Because of that failure, DWP continued to phone mum-of-nine Jodey Whiting, and leave voice messages for her, and also wrote to her, after she had taken her own life in February 2017.

Read the full article here.

Jodey Whiting: DWP ignored five ‘safeguarding’ chances before WCA suicide

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to the suicide of a disabled woman with a long history of mental distress, an independent investigation has found.

The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case of mother-of-nine Jodey Whiting (pictured), who had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a work capability assessment (WCA), and took her own life just 15 days later.

The report is the latest evidence of the institutional failure of DWP to guarantee the safety of disabled people – and particularly those with a history of mental distress – within the “fitness for work” system.

Read the full article here.

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Survey on UC for Disabled people and people with long term health conditions

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) has launched a Universal Credit survey so that they can find out more about the experiences of Disabled people and people with long term health conditions

If you have applied for Universal Credit or tried to apply – the DBC want to hear from you.

You can take the online survey here.

The survey should take up to 20 minutes to complete and the results will be completely anonymous. This means your name will not appear in any reports produced by the DBC.

Please share your experiences with Universal Credit and add your voice thousands of other disabled people and people with long-term health conditions so the DBC can lobby the government and campaign for a fairer benefits system.

If you would like the survey in an alternative format or would like to complete it over the phone please contact the DBC here.

The survey closes end of February 2019.

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