High Court Finds Government’s National Disability Strategy Unlawful

Source: https://www.39essex.com/high-court-finds-governments-national-disability-strategy-unlawful/

25th January 2022

Mr Justice Griffiths has allowed a claim for judicial review brought by four Disabled people challenging the Government’s recently published National Disability Strategy (“the Strategy”) on the basis that:

a) the Defendant’s “Survey” carried out prior to the publication of the Strategy amounted to a consultation at common law; and,

b) the consultation failed to comply with the common law requirement (the second “Gunning” principle) that the proposer must give sufficient reasons for any proposal to permit of intelligent consideration and response.

The claim was unusual in that the Defendant’s primary defence was that the Survey was an information-gathering exercise, rather than a consultation, with the result that the Gunning requirements did not apply.  The court therefore had to consider, applying the test from R (FDA) v Minister for the Cabinet Office [2018] EWHC 2746 (Admin) whether the Survey was “in substance” a consultation.  Griffiths J found this to be the case based on contemporaneous documents which indicated that the Survey results were intended to influence the content of the Strategy, various references to the Survey as a “consultation” by the Defendant as well as the various references in the Strategy to it having been shaped by the Survey.  

The court therefore concluded that the Defendant had voluntarily embarked on a consultation exercise which meant that the Gunning principles applied.

The court went on to find that the consultation failed to comply with the second Gunning principle in circumstances where the Defendant failed to inform consultees of what she proposed to include in the strategy and because the design of the Survey precluded intelligent response:

“The Survey was presented (as I have shown) as being a way in which the Strategy could be shaped, would be shaped and (eventually) was shaped, but the information provided made that impossible.  It therefore failed to achieve its stated purpose.  It did not let respondents to the Survey “know in clear terms what the proposal is and exactly why it is under positive consideration” as required by Coughlan and Moseley.  The Survey was presented as a consultation, and the Strategy was said to have been a response to that consultation, but neither the Survey nor any other form of consultation enabled the “intelligent consideration and response” required by the second Gunning principle of lawful and fair consultation.

 Other criticisms are made by the claimants of the Survey and, indeed, of the Strategy.  In addition to the lack of information, I agree with the claimants that the multiple-choice format, and the word limit on free-form responses (although I am told that this was not enforced), did not allow for a proper response even to the issues canvassed in the Survey.  The design of the Survey forced the defendant’s own analysis on respondents, without providing enough leeway for the required “intelligent response” from the respondents themselves.” (At [75]-[76]).

The full case name and citation is: R (Binder, Eveleigh, Hon and Paulley) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2022] EWHC 105 (Admin). You can view the judgment here.

Steve Broach and Katherine Barnes of 39Essex Chambers acted for the successful Claimants, instructed by Jamie Potter and Shirin Marker at Bindmans.

Disabled Women Take Action – A New Project from Bristol Women’s Voice and WECIL

Poster for Disabled Women Take Action prohect. Text on it reads 'Disabled Women Take Action. Join with others to work towards positive change across Bristol. Get involved: DWTA@BristolWomensVoice.org.uk' Images include a graphic cartoon of group of Disabled women protesting and the logos of Bristol Women's Voice, WECIL, Health Lottery South West and People's Health Trust.

Bristol Women’s Voice (BWV) and West of England Centre for Inclusive Living (WECIL) are working in partnership to deliver a new project called Disabled Women Take Action.

Disabled Women Take Action will be providing an opportunity for Disabled women and those with long-term health conditions to join with others, share their experiences and work towards positive change, identifying common goals and influence practical and policy changes across Bristol.

This partnership project has been developed following the City Listening Project. Supported by the Government Equalities Office (GEO).

If you are interested in discovering more about Disabled Women Take Action and becoming part of this Women’s Action Group, read more about the role here or get in touch directly: dwta@bristolwomensvoice.org.uk.

Coronavirus Update 27th January 2022 – Relaxation of Plan B

Photograph of someone squirting hand gel onto their hands.

From today,  England has eased Plan B restrictions, moving us back to Plan A. This means that:

a) people no longer have to work from home,

b) staff and pupils in secondary schools and colleges do not have to wear a face covering,

c) it is no longer a legal need to wear a face covering in any setting, but it is encouraged. There may be some settings, such as hospitals, where you may ask you to wear a face covering, and

d) venues and events will no longer need to ask for NHS Covid Passes. Yet, organisers and businesses may use them on a voluntary basis.

There are some things that have not changed:

1) if you feel unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, get a PCR test. If you test positive, you must self-isolate,

2) it’s not too late to get your vaccination, whether it’s a first, second, third or booster dose,

3) you can collect lateral flow (rapid) tests from various places or by ordering packs online at GOV.UK, and

4) good hand hygiene is vital; keep washing your hands often with soap and water.

For all the latest guidance, visit GOV.UK.

Cases are still high in Bristol. We recommend people continue to be kind and empathetic towards one another. COVID-19 is still with us.

There is still lots of capacity for people to get vaccinated at a local centre. You can find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccine and where to get vaccinated on grabajab.net.

Go Gentle Shows at the Exchange

Go Gentle logo = two G's in circles (one a white circle with yellow g, other yellow circle with white g) with a black box under them with yellow and white text that reads 'Go Gentle Exchange Bristol'.

Exchange, a Bristol music venue, are pleased to announce the launch of their Go Gentle Shows at Exchange on Saturday 29th January, 2pm, with Ben Marwood.

Ben’s show is a matinee to launch the series.  They will be running 6 shows this year as part of the programme.

Go Gentle is a series of relaxed shows at Exchange featuring both touring bands and local performers. They will be cosy, with reduced capacity, a variety of furniture, and much more, to make them inclusive to everyone.  Open to everyone and designed for people who will benefit from a more relaxed environment,

For tickets to the Ben Marwood event, visit https://www.headfirstbristol.co.uk/#date=2022-01-29&event_id=70447.  Find out more about Go Gentle here: https://exchangebristol.com/info/go-gentle-shows/.

Ministers have already broken six Disability Strategy pledges, just months after launch

(Article first published 13 January 2022 on Disability News Service.)

The government has already broken at least six promises it made in last summer’s much-criticised National Disability Strategy, responses by various departments this week have confirmed.

Analysis of the strategy, published last July, shows that at least six of the actions it promised would be carried out by the end of 2021 have not been completed.

This includes action on tackling Disability hate crime, the accessible housing crisis, disability employment and how the government engages with disabled people.

When the strategy was published, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, described it as the “down payment” on his promise to “build back better and fairer, for all our disabled people”.

But the strategy has been described as “just cynical repackaging”, with analysis by Disability News Service last August exposing its lack of bold initiatives and new funding, and how ministers had padded it out with scores of consultations, reviews and vague pledges.

Fresh analysis of the strategy now shows that at least six of the “commitments” made in the document have already been broken.

In a blog posted on 29 December, the minister for Disabled people, Chloe Smith, said that this review had now been extended until the spring of 2022 so as to provide “a full opportunity for meaningful engagement with our stakeholders”.

Smith declined to explain this week why so many of the government’s “commitments” had already been broken.

And she declined to say if this showed that the government was not treating disabled people as a priority, and if the prime minister’s statement that the strategy was the “down payment” on his promise to “build back better and fairer, for all our disabled people” had now been exposed as empty rhetoric.

Over 118,000 Disabled people denied compensation from DWP after benefits error cut payments

(Article first published 13 January 2022 on Disability Rights UK,)

Over 118,000 Disabled people ”are facing injustice” by the DWP after being denied the right to compensation following its “blunder over benefit payments”, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has said.

The PHSO is calling on the Government to urgently rectify the injustice, something which it is so far refusing to do.

In July 2018 – after an investigation by the National Audit Office, an inquiry led by the Public Accounts Committee and legal action from the Child Poverty Action Group – the DWP finally agreed to pay full arrears of benefit to all those who missed out.

The DWP has since corrected the ESA error and set about paying arrears to those affected. But it still will not allow them to claim compensation for the life-changing impact this error may have had.

Despite its refusal to comply, DWP’s own policy states that people should be offered compensation if they suffer injustice and hardship because of administrative errors.

The Ombudsman urges anyone affected by this issue to contact an advice agency to seek help and support.

The full PHSO report and a case summary are available from https://ombudsman.org.uk/.

Temporary Timetables from Great Western Railway (GWR)

You will have seen that a number of train operators have introduced temporary timetables as a result of increased sickness and self-isolation due to the rise in Covid cases.  You may also be aware that Great Western Railway (GWR) have had a number of ad hoc, short notice cancellations recently, as we are also managing with much reduced staffing levels. 
As a result, from this Saturday 8 January, GWR are introducing a temporary timetable, which will run through to Saturday 15 January. During the week they will assess the situation and if necessary will continue with a temporary timetable.  They will review weekly as they are hopeful that this is a short-lived measure with a quick return to full services.  
GWR have prioritised high use school and college services and key worker services, protecting them as much as they can.  They have also focused changes where it will help them to release train crews.  This means GWR can give customers greater confidence that their services will run.  The vast majority of their services will continue to operate as planned.  
The full list of changes is on the GWR website on www.gwr.com/timetables along with advice to customers.  They have also worked with Network Rail to make sure that the changes are in the national database, so online journey planners are accurate from today.  If they make further changes beyond 15 January, these will show in journey planners from 12 January.   
GWR are also contacting customers who have booked onto services they are changing to offer refunds or transfer to alternative services.  The Book with Confidence scheme that allows customers to change non-refundable tickets has been extended until March, and they will be issuing traditional and social media updates and doing all they can to alert customers to the planned changes.   

Coronavirus Update 6th January 2022

Photograph of a white face mask sitting on a light blue backdrop.

Current Statistics

Infection rates in Bristol are extremely high and continue to rise rapidly with the current rate of infection at 1,587 cases per 100,000.  The national average in England is 1,676.  There have been 7,392 new cases in the last seven days and there are 130 people currently in our hospitals unwell with COVID-19.

In Bristol, of all people over 16 years of age, vaccination levels are:

344,473 (79 per cent) people have had one dose

324,294 (74 per cent) people have had two doses

222,889 (51 per cent) people have had three doses – this number includes booster jabs and third doses for people who are severely immunocompromised.

Please continue to take precautionary measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to protect yourself and our communities, including:

taking regular rapid (lateral flow) tests particularly before attending gatherings in enclosed or crowded spaces or before visiting elderly or vulnerable people

booking your COVID-19 vaccination, be it the first, second, third or booster dose

wearing a face covering in public settings (unless exempt)

working from home if you can.

Face coverings and working from home

New measures have recently been introduced in England to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

From Friday 10 December:

face coverings are mandatory inside most public venues as well as on public transport and in shops

there are exceptions in venues where it is not practical to wear one, such as when you are eating, drinking or exercising.

You can find the full list of when to wear a face covering on the GOV.UK website.

From Monday 13 December:

anyone who can work from home, should now do so

people who cannot carry out their work from home can continue to go to work, but should follow the precautionary measures and behaviours at all times.

For further information on the latest guidance please visit GOV.UK.

Where to get Tested

Regularly taking rapid (lateral flow) tests is strongly recommended to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Taking regular rapid tests helps to identify people who do not have symptoms of the virus but may still be infectious. 

Rapid home testing kits can be collected from pharmacies, libraries, the Bristol Rapid Testing Centre on Wellington Road, and from our local mobile testing vans.

Find more information on where to collect test kits on the Bristol City Council website.

Test kits can also be ordered online and delivered to your home. 

Order test kits through the gov.uk website.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have received a positive rapid test result, please follow government guidance to self-isolate and book a PCR test.

book a PCR test at a local testing site through the National Booking System.

If you are unable to book an appointment, please self-isolate until more PCR test appointments become available.


Now is a really great time to get vaccinated for COVID-19, as we welcome in 2022 and start looking forward to the year ahead.

There are currently vaccine slots available right across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, meaning there is a place near you.

Maybe you’ve not had chance during the busy festive period, or you’ve just been weighing it up for a while.  But with the festive season behind us, and new year’s resolutions in mind, perhaps now is the right time.

The good news is that it’s never too late, whether it’s a first, second or booster vaccine that’s needed.  And appointments are available in a wide range of settings including GP practices, community pharmacies and dedicated vaccination clinics.

To find out about bookable and walk-in clinics, (excluding those direct with GPs), go to www.grabajab.net for full details.


As you may be aware, there has been an update to guidance on face coverings in educational settings.  From today (4 January) in England, it is recommended that all secondary school pupils wear a face covering in classrooms.  This is a temporary measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

The latest government guidance for parents and carers is available on the government website.

Please continue to keep our schools, colleges and early years’ settings safe by following the precautionary measures:

  1. education and childcare staff, families, secondary pupils and college students to continue to take regular rapid (lateral flow) tests to help to identify infections early and reduce transmission,
  2. if you are unwell, please reduce the spread of infection by recovering at home.

Given the risk to Disabled people of not following the Covid-19 guidelines, we would like to thank you for everything that you continue to do to protect our city.