Mar 282019


Capita assessor lied about woman’s thoughts of suicide, recording shows

A disabled woman who repeatedly spoke about her thoughts of suicide during an assessment had her disability benefits removed after the assessor lied to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about what she had heard, a recording shows.

The woman, Diane*, who has been under the care of a psychiatrist for more than two decades, secretly recorded last November’s face-to-face assessment, which was carried out by an occupational therapist working for the outsourcing giant Capita.

Despite Diane later telling DWP what had happened in detail, explaining her concerns about the assessment, and reminding the department that she had had years of treatment for significant mental distress, a civil servant dismissed her account and confirmed the decision to remove her entitlement to personal independence payment (PIP).

It is the latest evidence that DWP’s disability benefits system poses a significant risk to the safety of disabled people claiming benefits, particularly those experiencing mental distress, and that the department itself is not fit for purpose.

And it will add weight to calls – through the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition – for the department to take urgent measures to make the safety of claimants a priority, for MPs to acknowledge that DWP is not fit for purpose, and for them to call for an independent inquiry into links between its actions and the deaths of disabled people claiming benefits.

Only last week, DWP faced fresh allegations of negligence after admitting that it keeps no records of how many of the complaints it receives involve the death of a claimant of disability benefits.

Diane has told Disability News Service (DNS) that her experience convinced her that the assessment process was “utterly broken and unfit for purpose”.

On the recording, Diane tells the occupational therapist who carried out the assessment several times that she is currently struggling with suicidal thoughts.

But the assessor, in a report subsequently sent to DWP, concluded: “They deny any current thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm.”

And despite Diane – and her husband, who had accompanied her – describing her paranoid delusions, hallucinations, psychosis, extreme levels of anxiety and suicidal depression, the assessor told DWP in her report: “She denies experiencing any thought disorders or perceptions.”

There were many other blatant inaccuracies in the report.

A month after the assessment, her mental health further damaged by the assessment process, Diane attempted to take her own life.

Three weeks later, on 6 January, as a result of the assessment report, DWP removed Diane’s eligibility for PIP, which she had previously received at the daily living enhanced rate.

She was admitted to hospital again later that month, after her husband began the process of seeking a mandatory reconsideration of the decision.

But when she told DWP about the dishonest assessment report, a civil servant confirmed the decision to remove her PIP and told her that assessors have “nothing to gain by fabricating evidence or suppressing information and will invariably report what they observe and what they are told at the assessment.”

The civil servant added: “The available evidence indicates there is no significant degree of impairment.”

Diane contacted DNS about her experience after reading about the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, which asks MPs to: brand DWP not fit for purpose and disablist; call for the department to take urgent action to make the safety of benefit claimants a priority; and demand an inquiry into DWP’s links with numerous deaths.

The petition** has been backed by the families of seven disabled people who have died in cases linked to DWP, as well as four grassroots groups of disabled people – Black TriangleDisabled People Against CutsMental Health Resistance Network and WOWcampaignand DNS.

After being contacted about Diane’s case by DNS, a Capita spokesperson refused to say if the company accepted that the assessment report was negligent or dishonest, or if Diane’s experience showed it was putting the safety of claimants at risk and that DWP was not fit for purpose.

But she said in a statement: “We are committed to delivering a high quality and empathetic service for people applying for PIP.

We operate a robust complaints process for anyone that is unhappy with the service provided, including escalating the complaint to the DWP should a customer feel it has not been satisfactorily resolved.

We are looking into this case.” 

A DWP spokesperson said: “We want everyone to have a good experience at their PIP assessment and we have asked our assessment provider to look at [Diane’s] PIP claim to ensure she is getting the full support she’s entitled to.”

But she declined to say if DWP believed the assessment report was dishonest or negligent, or if the case showed again that the department was not fit for purpose and was putting the safety of claimants at risk.

Diane said: “This case is truly representative of how broken the PIP system is all across the UK, with so many cases getting overturned at appeal.

It is totally unfair to discriminate in this way against disabled people, who also may not be as able to stand up for their rights.

The DWP are making disabled people even more ill and in quite a few tragic cases killing disabled people.

I very nearly became one of the statistics in December 2018.

The stress of PIP has added to an already huge burden of pressures. I was admitted to hospital again in January suicidal.

The wider cost to society of these PIP appeals is far more than any cost savings projected by the government.”

*Not her real name

**To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, visit parliament’s petitions website . If you sign it, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing

28 March 2019



Jack Carroll: ‘I was treated with derision and suspicion in my PIP assessment’

Disabled stand-up comic and actor Jack Carroll has blamed the government for creating a “hostile environment” that led to him being treated with “derision and suspicion” during a routine disability benefit assessment.

Carroll, whose new film Eaten by Lions is released tomorrow (Friday), said he was shocked by the “semi-dehumanising” tone used by the assessor last August.

He declined to say where the assessment took place because he believes his treatment was due to “learned behaviour” taught by the government, but he told Disability News Service (DNS) that his personal independence payment (PIP) assessment was a “strange and Orwellian experience”.

He said: “I felt like I was being treated with derision and suspicion.”

Carroll, who uses a walking-frame and had turned up five minutes late because he had trouble finding a parking space, was at first told that the assessment would not now go ahead.

Imagine if someone was a lot more disabled than I am,” he said. “I could not believe that. That really just brought home the system as a whole.”

He told DNS that his experiences as a disabled person have been “generally positive”, and that he has found most people “decent and relatively compassionate”, adding later: “I try not to get too outraged about things.”

He is, he said, naturally “quite a gregarious, affable person”, but even he became “a bit angry” after the initial confrontation.

Carroll said he found it shocking to be confronted with “a semi-dehumanising tone which I don’t really come up against in my day-to-day life”.

He added: “At the time I got annoyed with the person but… then I took a step back and I thought that was just learned behaviour from a government policy that is trying to marginalise and destroy, for a lot of people, any hope.”

He eventually received the level of benefits he feels he was entitled to, but he said: “The former system [disability living allowance] was an awful lot easier and more human.”

He said the PIP system must change.

The behaviour he came across at his assessment, and the failure to “weigh up the emotional impact on the person” was, he said, “systemic rather than individuals being knowingly horrendous, so you’ve got to change the system.

I’d brought a paper copy of my ID, which the assessor wasn’t for accepting, so that’s another hurdle, and then general questions about how far I could walk, how far I could lift my leg up, things that I don’t think about, and hate really to put the microscope on in that minute detail, at whatever level is some level of a humiliating experience.

I don’t think there is any care to make people feel human in that environment.”

He said he blamed the government for the “inhumanity” of the system, because it “created the climate for it”, and he added: “I think the government creates a hostile environment for most people who aren’t Jacob Rees-Mogg.

If you want to change that you have got to change the system. That’s what it will take.”

He also believes that the “constant hammering of Brexit” acts as a “mass hypnosis technique” to distract people from “the things that are really going on in the world”, such as the way disabled people are treated, the PIP assessment system and the Windrush scandal.

Fans of his stand-up – he has become a regular on the comedy circuit in the years following his breakthrough as a 14-year-old in 2013, when he was runner-up on Britain’s Got Talent – can expect a routine based on the PIP assessment process to appear in his act soon, he said.

Eaten By Lions is his first film, but it follows television appearances in shows such as the Sky sitcom Trollied, CBBC’s The Ministry Of Curious Stuff and BBC1’s Big School, as well as stand-up slots on ITV1’s Sunday Night At The Palladium and BBC2’s Live At The Apollo.

He said his role in the film – a “classic road movie” about two half-brothers, one white, Pete, and one Asian, Omar, who go to Blackpool in search of Omar’s dad – gave him greater freedom to improvise and “play around” than his work on Trollied, with its “tight scripts”.

He enjoyed the filming process, which took place two years ago, and said it felt like going “on a journey” with a “good group of people”.

One of the things he likes about the film, he said, is that although it deals with issues of diversity, it doesn’t do so in a self-conscious way. He looks forward to a future where disability is just an everyday fact of life on television.

In five or 10 years it would be nice to see disabled characters on TV and presenters and things just be existing and people referencing it in a less overt manner,” he said.

Asked whether his generally positive view of how disabled people are usually treated came as a result of his own experiences – he was discovered at the age of just 12 by comedian Jason Manford and opened for him at three of his shows in 2010 – he said: “You can make that argument.”

But he also puts it down to his family, and the attitude they “instilled” in him about his impairment.

Obviously a compassionate one, first and foremost, but also a belief that anything you put your mind to, with the help of others, you can achieve. That has played a part in my outlook as well.”

He also believes that growing up as a disabled child helped his development as a comedian.

He said: “I probably wouldn’t have developed the sense of humour or the ability with language that I’ve developed if I didn’t have a disability, because as a kid I couldn’t necessarily move around as quickly, I had to get good at talking and being able to communicate things to people.

I’d like to think that played a part in the development of being able to do what I do for a living.”

His interview with DNS came a few weeks after the latest controversy over “cripping up” – the issue of non-disabled actors playing disabled characters – this time following Bryan Cranston’s role as a wheelchair-user in The Upside.

Carroll said he understood why the film’s producers chose Cranston instead of an unknown disabled actor.

I know there are issues of representation and not everyone getting a foot in the door, but for any actor if you had a choice between Bryan Cranston and an actor without a profile they are always going to go for Bryan Cranston.”

He said the solution was to improve representation of disabled actors at the grassroots level and build from there.

It’s about giving disabled actors a platform where they can compete with Bryan Cranston,” he said, “but that begins at a grassroots level.”

Now 20 and no longer a teenage prodigy, he is writing a sitcom, as well as continuing with his stand-up and enjoying acting jobs when they come along.

I enjoy it all,” he said. “I would like to keep doing a little bit of everything.

I have got goals and things I would like to accomplish but the best stuff in my career has come from leaving a gap to let the thing happen and let whatever it is do its work.”

28 March 2019



Tory council set to force disabled people into residential care to cut costs

Disabled people are to be forced into residential homes against their will by a Conservative council’s new cost-cutting adult social care policy, campaigners have warned.

Barnet council wants to save more than £400,000 in 2019-20 by creating more “cost effective support plans”, such as using residential care rather than funding support packages that allow disabled people to live in their own homes.

The north London council says it wants to consider “the full range of care options to meet eligible needs (eg residential care), rather than offering community-based placements (eg supported living) by default”.

This means a new “assumption that new clients are placed in cheaper accommodation settings where appropriate”.

Michael Nolan, a trustee of the disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Barnet, told Disability News Service yesterday (Wednesday): “The Inclusion Barnet board are extremely concerned about these proposals, which we fear could leave some disabled people confined to residential care when they might otherwise have been able to live independently.

We believe that this could impact people least able to self-advocate, and is also against the spirit of the Care Act.”

Inclusion Barnet wrote to the council in January to warn that the “misconceived” plans risked “disabled people with high support needs being confined to residential placements against their will” and breached article 19 (on independent living) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The council has failed to reply to the letter.

A council document [PDF] also shows that it has not consulted on the plan and will only discuss it with disabled people as part of the “assessment and support planning process”.

It admits that “some clients” and their families “may consider this change unfavourable if they have a preference for a community placement”, which it says “could have an impact on customer satisfaction”.

The council – long seen as a flagship Tory local authority – has carried out an equality impact assessment of the new policy, which concludes that “it is possible that not having the option of a council-funded community placement will be seen as negative”, but claims that the negative impact on “some equality strands” will be “minimal”.

Cllr Reema Patel, who leads on adult social care for the Labour opposition in Barnet, and is a former member of the executive committee of Disability Labour, said: “Due to austerity, there is more incentive for councils to offer people with high support needs residential placements because it is cheaper.

However, this runs counter to established principles around disabled people’s rights, principles that support the right to independent living, choice, agency and control.”

Fleur Perry, a disabled campaigner who raised concerns about similar policies in NHS clinical commissioning groups two years ago, said: “This policy seems to be designed to push disabled people into residential care, putting financial pressures above people’s own choices about where and who they live with.

They highlight that people may consider this ‘unfavourable’; I’d be livid!

Placing somebody into residential care against their wishes without exploring how they could be supported to stay in their own home may be unlawful under the Human Rights Act 1998 (article eight: private and family life).

I’d ask Barnet council not to put themselves in a position where they could be legally challenged, and instead follow a policy that respects the right to independent living and for people to have choice and control over their own lives.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission claimed it had “concerns about the erosion of services and support to enable disabled people to choose where they live and who they live with” but has so far declined to look at what is happening in Barnet.

Barnet council refused to say how it justified putting people in institutional care when they wanted to live independently in the community; and refused to say how many extra disabled people were likely to end up in residential care in 2019-20 as a result of its policy.

It even refused to confirm that the new measure was now council policy.

But Cllr Sachin Rajput, chair of the council’s adults and safeguarding committee, claimed in a statement that his local authority remained “firmly committed to delivering high standards of care and support for those in need across Barnet, particularly our most vulnerable residents”.

He said: “We will carefully consider the range of accommodation options available to meet the particular needs of our residents, whilst also considering the limited resources that will be available to us as a council.

Every person will be assessed individually, with their views and the impact on their wellbeing carefully considered.

For the small number of people that will be offered a residential care placement, satisfaction levels and outcomes will be carefully monitored.

Barnet council will continue to comply with all of its duties under the Care Act (2014).

28 March 2019



Jodey Whiting petition: Lib Dems back petition, but doubts over Labour

A petition calling for an inquiry into deaths linked to the actions of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has secured the support of more than 20,000 people in less than two weeks.

By this morning (Thursday), more than 22,000 people had signed the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, more than a fifth of the way to the target of 100,000 which should ensure it is debated in the House of Commons.

The Liberal Democrats added their support this week, with their disabled president, Baroness [Sal] Brinton, signing the petition and confirming that she backed each of its key demands, following similar support last week from the Green party.

But there is still a lingering question over the commitment of the Labour party to the petition.

Despite backing it on Twitter, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, has yet to make a statement on its demands, 10 days after Disability News Service first asked her to comment.

The petition wants to see any evidence of criminal misconduct by ministers or civil servants that is produced by the inquiry to be passed to police.

It also calls for MPs to recognise DWP as “institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose”, and to push DWP to introduce urgent changes to make the safety of all claimants a priority.

Jodey Whiting, who had a long history of mental distress, had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a work capability assessment when she was seriously ill, and took her own life just 15 days later.

DWP failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to her suicide in February 2017, an independent investigation found last month.

Baroness Brinton said: “What happened to Jodey Whiting was incredibly tragic and should never have happened.

However, we are continually hearing of other worrying tales of how disabled people are being treated by the Department for Work and Pensions and we must see action taken by the Conservatives to guarantee wholescale reform of the system.

They must act to ensure that a tragedy such as Jodey’s never happens again.”

Meanwhile, fresh evidence has emerged this week that DWP is not fit purpose.

A report from the Demos think tank has concluded that disabled people have lost all faith in DWP, with only 19 per cent trusting jobcentre staff to treat them fairly.

And a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) concluded today (Thursday) that DWP still has “limited evidence of what works when it comes to supporting disabled people to work”.

Christine Jardine, DWP spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said the NAO findings “simply add to the mounting stack of evidence showing that the DWP is not fit for purpose” while de Cordova said the government had “bitterly failed to support disabled people into employment”.

28 March 2019



Tomlinson silent after ‘lying’ to MPs about benefits freeze

A minister has failed to apologise after he was caught misleading an influential committee of MPs about the impact of his government’s cuts on disabled people.

Justin Tomlinson, a former minister for disabled people, was being questioned by the Commons work and pensions committee about the impact of his government’s benefits freeze, which is due to last until next year.

He told the committee (10.21am on the recording) that “disability benefits were exempt from the benefits freeze”.

But that is not true, a fact repeatedly pointed out to Tory ministers and his party.

Last summer, the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, who resigned earlier this month, made the same inaccurate claim in a House of Commons debate.

Disability living allowance, personal independence payment and the employment and support allowance (ESA) support group top-up are exempt from the benefits freeze, which is set to last to 2020 and was first introduced in 2016.

But there is no exemption for the main component of ESA or the top-up paid to those in the ESA work-related activity group, which continue to be frozen.

This means that every disabled person receiving ESA, the main out-of-work disability benefit, has been and will be hit financially by the freeze until at least next year.

A spokesperson in Tomlinson’s Commons office said it was a “matter for his ministerial portfolio” and so any comment should come from DWP.

DWP had not responded to requests for a comment by noon today (Thursday).

Earlier in the evidence session, the committee’s chair, the independent MP Frank Field, said that he and fellow committee member Heidi Allen, another independent, had been in Chester recently and were told by an advice worker: “We now do not meet anybody who is not hungry and cold.”

Field said the country now had a social security system which “is not providing a safety net” but is designed to “push people into destitution: hungry and cold”.

He asked Tomlinson how many people were receiving no universal credit at all because of deductions made in their monthly payments due to being sanctioned or having to pay back debts, for example to utility companies.

He told Tomlinson that he wanted to know the numbers because he would be “haunted” by them if he was a minister required to put the government’s policies into effect.

Neil Couling, director general of the universal credit programme, said no-one should have more than 40 per cent of their payments deducted.

But Field told him: “So those constituents coming to us saying they are getting nothing under universal credit are mistaken?”

Tomlinson appeared to accept that some people were receiving nothing through universal credit because of sanctions and debt repayments, but he said this was probably due to “a breakdown in their relationship with their individual [jobcentre] work coach”.

He said: “It is clear that in some cases, for whatever reason, that claimant doesn’t feel in the position to have that conversation, and that’s where more work needs to be done.”

But Field told him he was living in a “fantasy world”, and added: “If I was a claimant I wouldn’t know the hell what your rules are.”

Tomlinson suggested that the situation should improve through guidance for work coaches, the “universal support” scheme that will be provided by Citizens Advice to universal credit claimants on behalf of DWP from next month, and stronger partnerships with local organisations such as food banks.

Couling eventually admitted that if a single claimant had 40 per cent of their payment deducted, they would be left with about £42 a week to live on.

But Labour MP Steve McCabe said some claimants could face a shortfall in their rent if it was not being covered by the housing costs element of universal credit, “so leaving them with almost nothing” if they had to use much of their £42 to cover that gap.

Field said the committee was considering asking every MP how many people were turning up to their constituency surgeries saying they were receiving nothing through universal credit.

Tomlinson said: “We have got to make sure everybody, particularly vulnerable people, are getting the money that they are entitled to as quick as possible and that is where we have got to focus a huge amount of work.”

28 March 2019



Disabled peer criticises Lib Dem leader over support for ‘discriminatory threat’

A disabled peer has criticised Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable for backing the “discriminatory” campaign to legalise assisted suicide.

Cable had spoken out after the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) decided to move to a position of “neutrality” on the issue, even though half of its fellows and members still oppose legalisation.

RCP’s policy-making council had decided ahead of the survey results being published that it would move to a neutral position unless those calling for it to support or oppose a change in the law secured 60 per cent of the vote.

Neither side achieved that figure, although those calling on RCP to oppose a change in the law easily outnumber those who think it should support legalisation.

The results of the RCP survey show that 43 per cent of nearly 6,900 RCP fellows and members said RCP should be opposed to a change in the law, just one percentage point lower than when the survey was last conducted five years ago.

The proportion of those saying it should support a law change increased, from 25 per cent to 32 per cent, while just one in four said RCP should take a neutral stance.

But after the survey results were published, Cable said the vote was “reassuring” and that legislation was now “overdue”.

He backed legalisation last month, in an article in the Daily Mail, in which he said that he had changed his position, despite previously being persuaded that legalisation was unsafe by the deaths of his first wife from breast cancer, and his mother, who had had dementia.

Despite his backing, legalisation is not party policy as it has not been approved by members, while Cable has announced that he will soon step down as party leader.

Cable welcomed the RCP survey results, and said in a Liberal Democrat press release: “As someone who has recently been persuaded of the merits of allowing properly regulated assisted dying with safeguards, it is reassuring that many medical professionals are also making the same journey.

Opinion is changing and it is now overdue that legislation should come forward to address this important social issue.”

But the crossbench disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, co-founder of Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK), criticised his comments.

She said: “For Vincent Cable to referred to the Royal College of Physicians as the reason why this should now be looked at again is very weak as we all know that the way the poll was conducted was highly flawed.”

She pointed out that there were fewer people supporting a position of neutrality than there were the other two options, which makes RCP’s position “dishonest”.

She said: “It’s so depressing that disabled people, who have so many other battles to fight for support to live with dignity and respect, have now got to fight this discriminatory threat again.

It feels like a relentless battle to stay safe and alive.”

Asked to respond to Baroness Campbell’s concerns, Cable’s spokesperson declined to do so, but said in a statement: “Vince Cable has recently expressed support for a change in legislation based on the principles and safeguards established in recent years after previous attempts to change the law.

These include offering assisted dying only to those who are medically certified as having a terminal illness, certified as being mentally capable, and where a judge and two doctors are satisfied that the request is voluntary.”

Those personally supporting a change in the law in the RCP poll increased from 32 to 41 per cent, while those opposing it fell from 58 to 49 per cent, compared with 2014.

But there was only a small change in the proportion of those who would be prepared to participate in assisted suicide if the law changed, with those saying they would rising from 21 to 25 per cent, and those saying they would not falling from 58 to 55 per cent.

Professor Andrew Goddard, RCP’s president, said that adopting a neutral position would allow the body to “reflect the differing opinions among our membership”.

He said RCP would not be focusing on the issue in its work but would instead “continue championing high-quality palliative care services”.

Last year, the latest legal bid to change the law – this time taken by Noel Conway, who is terminally-ill with motor neurone disease – was rejected by the court of appeal.

NDY UK had intervened in the case, raising concerns such as the danger that disabled people might be at risk of coercion if it was legalised.

In a witness statement, Baroness Campbell had told the court that a ruling in favour of Conway would “damage beyond repair the way in which society views the elderly, sick and disabled to the point where the Equality Act itself and the protection which it provides becomes fundamentally defective”.

Three senior court of appeal justices had highlighted this concern and also pointed in their judgment to a report by the Royal College of General Practitioners which expressed fears that a “right to die” could very easily become a “duty to die”, particularly “when financial considerations were a factor and the individual felt like a burden to their family”.  

They concluded that there could be “no doubt that Parliament is a far better body for determining the difficult policy issue in relation to assisted suicide” than the courts because of the “conflicting, and highly contested, views within our society on the ethical and moral issues and the risks and potential consequences of a change in the law”.

Parliament has repeatedly rejected attempts to change the law on assisted suicide, including the latest effort by Labour MP Rob Marris, in 2015.

28 March 2019



Angel’ investor seeks entrepreneurs to transform life for disabled people

Disabled entrepreneurs with technology-based business ideas that could transform life for other disabled people have a chance to secure up to £100,000 of funding through an “angel” investment programme.

Entrepreneur and investor Rohan Silva, a former senior policy adviser to Conservative prime minister David Cameron, is one of 12 successful entrepreneurs who have each been handed £100,000 by technology investment fund Atomico to invest in early-stage technology companies.

After discussions with disabled journalist Steve O’Hear, Silva decided to invest all the money he has been given in one or two technology start-ups with the potential to improve the lives of disabled people.

Silva, co-founder of Second Home, a social business that supports job creation and entrepreneurship, is particularly keen to see ideas from tech start-ups founded or co-founded by disabled people*.

O’Hear, a technology and business journalist who reports on tech start-ups for the website TechCrunch, will act as a volunteer “sounding board” for Silva.

He said that Silva’s idea to focus on disability “had come partly from conversations he and I have had in the past around the lack of diversity in the tech industry, including disability, and the stink I’d made with regards to [chancellor] Philip Hammond’s idiotic comments attempting to link the UK’s low productivity with high rates of employment of disabled people”.

He said: “I immediately thought that angel investing in disabled entrepreneurs was a good idea but told him that if he wanted to have more impact he should also consider businesses that explicitly target the disabled consumer, since disabled people are being ripped off on a whole range of products or services.”

The start-ups could, for example, offer a mobile app, other types of software, a tech-enabled service or new types of hardware.

O’Hear said: “My investment thesis was that unlike other sectors, tech hasn’t yet delivered the same level of service, convenience and innovation to the disabled consumer that we see more generally, and that there are many disability markets ripe for disruption.”

He added: “From insurance, financing, travel and accommodation, to specialist products such as wheelchair accessories, disabled clothing and fashion, or mobility devices, there are countless disability markets which feel dominated by legacy players that don’t utilise tech very well or are outright monopolies or predatory in nature.

Depending on how big the market is for any one product or service, broadly speaking this is exactly the type of opportunity smart investors look for.” 

He said that many disabled people have the “instincts, aptitude and life experience to make great entrepreneurs” because they are often “driven by having something to prove”.

And he said he was particularly interested in businesses that would help disabled people “level up” in their personal or work lives, by saving money, using their time more efficiently, or achieving greater independence and autonomy.

He said: “So much of my time and money is wasted on being disabled, which, when you think about it, is a collective waste of society’s resources.

Disabled people have so much to contribute as a whole, both in spending power and through what we are capable of achieving via individual endeavours, but this is being siphoned off by companies delivering poor consumer experiences whilst ripping off the disabled consumer wholesale.”

O’Hear said there are usually huge mark-ups on products that target disabled consumers, who can expect to pay up to 10 times the price, “with no direct correlation to the cost of providing those products or services”.

He said he wanted to see applications for funding from start-ups that want to fix some of these “broken markets”, in areas such as disability insurance or personalised wheelchair accessories.

He said: “I recently bought a new adapted vehicle and had to find new car insurance and the experience took me back to 2003, which was the last time I bought a car.

Literally nothing had changed and it felt incredibly uncompetitive and lacking in choice.”

*To submit a pitch deck – a power-point presentation describing the business idea and plan – to Rohan Silva, email him at

28 March 2019



User-led advice centre set to close its doors after NHS funding blow

A disabled people’s organisation is set to have to close the doors of its advice centre, which has provided vital support with benefit claims to thousands of disabled people, after nearly all its funding was suddenly withdrawn by a local NHS body.

Possability People has been running the advice centre for 30 years, but it was told by Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that it was going to stop all its annual funding from next month.

The CCG told Possability People* that it needed to focus its “limited resources on essential priority areas, and services which are not already provided by either statutory or voluntary sector organisations”.

But local MPs have described the decision as “hugely counterproductive” and “unconscionable”.

As a result of the cut – which will see the centre lose 85 per cent of its funding – the service will have to stop offering face-to-face advice and will only be able to offer a restricted telephone helpline run by volunteers.

In 2018, the centre supported more than 2,200 people, with a total of nearly 4,500 enquiries, at a cost to the CCG of just £29,000.

It is the only accessible pan-disability advice service in the city, and as well as benefits, offers help with issues including equipment grants, blue badges, bus passes, housing, social care support and food bank referrals.

It is run by three part-time staff and volunteers, most of whom are disabled people.

Today (Thursday), Possability People and some of its clients are due to attend a meeting of Brighton and Hove council to share their concerns and ask the local authority if it can fill the gap left by the withdrawal of the CCG’s funding.

Brighton and Hove CCG has so far declined to release the “robust” equality impact assessment it says it carried out into the decision to cut the centre’s funding.

It has also refused to say whether it checked if other organisations in Brighton had the spare capacity to cope if the centre had to withdraw its services.

Geraldine Des Moulins, Possability People’s chief executive, said disabled people were again “bearing the brunt of funding decisions made without any real understanding of the impact they will have.

We are keenly aware of the financial pressures health and social care services are under, but we can’t see how this will be a real saving as the first thing most people do in a crisis with nowhere else to turn is go to their GP.”

She added: “We know that advice services are already over-subscribed because advice services in the city work closely together in partnership.

The CCG has not been in touch with them prior to making a decision to ask if they have any extra capacity because the messages we are getting from them is of shock and concern.”

She said the CCG had argued that its funding duplicated services, but the Possability People advice centre “is specialist and pan impairment and is not replicated anywhere in the city”.

She added: “The advice centre is often the last port of call for people who find themselves in desperate situations – to have this lifeline taken away seems particularly cruel.

We will be doing all we can to fund the centre in the longer term, and our volunteers will help as much as they can by answering phone calls, but in the short term, the outlook for desperate disabled people is very grim.”

The council funds several other Possability People services, and contributes about £6,000 towards the advice centre.

A council spokesperson said: “We are keen to speak to Possability People as soon as possible about how the funding we have given them towards the advice service could be utilised in the future.”

But he confirmed that the council “will not be providing replacement funding for the money the CCG has withdrawn”.

Calls on the CCG to reverse its decision have been backed by two local MPs, the Green party’s Caroline Lucas, and Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

Lucas said: “Possability People’s advice centre is a vital service that has supported many of my constituents to successfully challenge incorrect disability benefit decisions, and helped them to get the support they need.

For NHS commissioners to pretend that there isn’t a link between health and wellbeing, and accessing timely disability benefits advice when people are in crisis and struggling to cope, is hugely short-sighted and counterproductive, as I have made clear to the CCG. 

I struggle to believe that other advice agencies in the city have the capacity to fill the gap left by the closure of Possability People’s advice service.”

Russell-Moyle said: I am shocked by the CCG’s handling of this matter, giving only a few weeks notice on a decision which will affect hundreds of my constituents.

There are no other services in the city able to meet the needs of our disabled and vulnerable residents and I fully support the calls for the CCG to reverse this unconscionable decision.”

A spokesperson for Brighton and Hove CCG said: “Over 80 per cent of contacts for this service are related to benefits help and Brighton and Hove has a wide range of other community and voluntary sector services that support people with these needs.

There are also a number of both local and national services that offer benefits advice and help in accessible ways.

With this in mind, we took the difficult decision to reinvest the money that would have been spent for this service into other services that will bring direct benefits to more people’s health needs. 

This was not a decision we took lightly but we feel it is necessary to ensure we are able to continue to use public money in the most effective way and do not spend more money than we have available.”

*Possability People is a DNS subscriber

28 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 16:50
Mar 252019

So this woman who I have huge respect for asked me to write about my experience of Universal Credit. I said yes because I’m a people pleaser but my immediate thought afterwards was shit, I’m going to have to admit to being a workshy layabout, possibly bring down the wrath of the DWP and try to be politically correct which isn’t my strong suit. I apologise in advance for any words or thoughts that aren’t in keeping with polite society. And there will probably be some.

Oh and I’m not going to do any research whatsoever this is just my experience but as I already mentioned I’m a workshy layabout so that’s hardly a shock.

Apologies and disclaimers over here we go.

Universal Credit – what a shower of shit. Fortunately I know someone who can keep me calm and knows benefits inside out which most people don’t have because advice services have been torn apart since 2010 in the Tories ideological war on the poor and disabled people. Or austerity as the press like to call it, which apparently is over. It’s not, wake up and smell the Tory beans – if you can afford beans. Our government are proud of foodbanks because they show that ‘Dunkirk spirit’. For some reason Dunkirk is seen as a great British victory but it was a massive running away and foodbanks are not a thing to celebrate.

Anyway back to the plot. You have to apply online which lots of people can’t do for many different reasons none of which are rocket science to understand as barriers. For instance not being able to read or write, dyslexia, not having internet access, not having English as a first language (although there is an option for Welsh). BEING BLIND. I’LL SAY THAT AGAIN: BEING BLIND. Their advice to blind people is to get a sighted person to help but you can only get that advice if you can read the fucking screen because there’s no one to phone. There is a well established phenomenon called brown envelope syndrome when people are too anxious or scared to open brown envelopes so they fall into debt and have legal problems they didn’t see coming. The DWP I believe make their letters unnecessarily complex on purpose. You can get four letters a day which contradict each other – Universal Credit takes that to a whole new level – and as Americans like to say ‘that’s your tax dollars at work’. Millions and millions and millions of your tax dollars that could be much better used providing a safety net for people.

So you fill in the online form online, if you have capacity to, which gives you no space to explain your situation and then a few weeks later you get a work coach. Mine is called Ronaldo at Walthamstow job centre but outside of appointments it’s Gary Lineker in Basildon (names changed to protect the guilty).

So you go to see your work coach after being warned if you don’t turn up on time you’ll be sanctioned, then they keep you waiting for an hour because your work coach is at lunch but still booking appointments during his lunchtime. Some work coach and he’s getting me a job? And then he’s more interested in training another member of staff who is grinning and nodding like one of those car ornaments that were popular on the back shelves of 1980’s Ford Cortinas than speaking to me. I’m sat there while he talks to the car ornament and the computer screen. Car ornament, computer screen, car ornament, computer screen and I end up wondering if I should wave ‘oh hi just my life you’re discussing while you’re teaching someone to press enter when you want to send something’. AND IT’S A COMPUTER BASED ONLINE SYSTEM. Good luck I hope she goes onto great things at job centre plus (what is the plus about, are there job centres non plus?)

So eventually he notices I’m there and I’ve got every piece of ID I have, far more than requested, but my statement about rent was wrong by 4p because my tenancy agreement is apparently out of date so I have to go back the next week.

Next week the car ornament has gone but my work coach is still on his lunch break so I wait for him to dine again.
Note about work coach: I’ve worked most of my life when I haven’t been unwell, I’ve run my own business, successfully. I broke several child laws working for my mum who put me down on tax returns as a variety of Disney characters and wouldn’t be able to deny I was 12 because she was my mum. I know how to fill in a CV or job application and have done many times. What’s he going to coach me on?

I present the same paperwork as before and this week it’s fine so I now have a journal and a to do list. Before I get home I’m getting emails to enter my journal for agreeing to stuff. I didn’t sign anything and one of my things is seeing my counsellor and GP which I kind of thought were secret and confidential unless I chose to disclose. My GP, Ray Clemence, can give me medication and sicknotes and is a really nice understanding guy but my counsellor, George Graham, who is also a really nice understanding guy can’t really do anything except listen to me bleat on.

So then I start getting messages to read my journal and it’s telling me my Universal Credit will be affected because I’m on ESA. No I’m not, I was previously six months ago but I’ve had a job since then. There’s nowhere to reply to this claim so you have to phone ESA which is a whole other level of hell. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons anyone? Someone earned a lot of money deciding that classical music would be calming but after 40 minutes of listening to the same segment, not even the whole piece, it’s anything but calming. Then I got to speak to someone and I explain the situation patiently and finally she goes dunno why not phone universal credit? Err because you can’t phone universal credit. Oh that’s odd she says. Can you contact them I say? No it’s a different system so I can’t contact them on your behalf. Hang up the phone totally frustrated and two minutes later my phone pings to tell me to read my journal. Surprise surprise it’s telling me I’m on ESA.

Fortunately I’ve got my pet benefit advisor to talk me down from the hills of anxiety when all I’m trying to do is the right things. I won’t give her a football pseudonym because she hates football but she said this happens all the time. All I want is my rent paid and a roof over my head and my landlord’s agent to stop sending threatening letters. I’ve been homeless and obviously survived, but I was much younger then and don’t want to do it again. And I’d have nowhere to charge my iPod or Kindle and I’m easily bored – I need music and trashy crime novels to stop my mind racing especially since I’m on the dole and have nothing better to do with my time.

Where was I? Oh yeah endless claims that I’m on ESA when my bank statement and DWP letters say I’m not and I know I’m not because I wouldn’t have applied for universal credit if I was. I’d most definitely rather be employed which isn’t an option at the moment because my last boss was a nightmare and screwed up my mental health and my self esteem is at zero. Imagine going to work scared for the rest of your life, which was my life, but universal credit is worse.

So Ronaldo my work coach promises my rent will be paid on February 5th , I’m still panicking and my landlord is still in a strop so I phone up my landlord again and again. No payment. 6th 7th 8th go by and I’m starting to stockpile weapons by the front door to fight off bailiffs. People are telling me to calm down which is easier said than done. Long story short this goes on and on. My life. Remember that. But I had support which other people don’t have but still my reaction is to put on the loudest punk music, make death threats and smash my head against the wall (none of which impress my neighbours at 4am).

Finally the rent is paid and I’ve been given some money. My landlord is still in a strop and there’s no explanation of what I’ve been paid or how long it’s for so my mental health is still screwed up and there’s still no one to get clarification from and if payments will continue.

I’m going to finish with a random snoring analogy. Several of my previous partners have said I snore and I always denied it with no proof to back myself up because I was asleep when the alleged snoring happened. But eventually I had to except I probably snore. Everyone is telling the government that universal credit is deeply flawed, and they have evidence, and the government are still saying it’s not. I sleep on my own so snoring is no longer a problem but I haven’t solved the problem. The government are doing similar by having a committee looking into it, the results of which are very probably pre-decided, but they haven’t solved the problem.

To paraphrase the words of the band Killdren: get the Tories out before they kill you.

By Peter Rogers.

Mar 212019

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, 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.

But he also told the accessible transport conference that in the last week he had travelled successfully to 10 locations across the city using public transport run or managed by Transport for London (TfL).

Among improvements made by TfL, he highlighted the Please Offer Me A Seat scheme, which provides disabled people with a badge to let other passengers know they need a seat.

But he said he believed its most “transformative” scheme was a training programme provided to TfL managers by Transport for All (TfA) and Inclusion London, another pan-London user-led organisation.

He said: “Disabled people, many of whom are here today, are teaching the people who commission and run the services just what impact their choices have.

The results are transformative, both now and for the future. No-one else in the British transport sector is doing this.”

He told the conference: “Public transport is vital for disabled and older people to contribute to society, but most importantly we know that access to public transport is our right.

Don’t give up. We are where we are today because, to quote Newton, we stand on the shoulders of giants. We are those shoulders for those that come after us.

But mostly don’t give up because you have rights, the right to live the life you want to. And when your journey does go wrong, tell TfL. They do listen.”

He also said that passengers and transport operators should “challenge the status quo” so as to produce new ideas and “turn conventional thinking on its head”.

Benson said the transport industry needed to take more risks and not be so “resistant to change”, and he suggested that TfL should allow disabled passengers who were happy to take such risks to do so.

He said: “I know, for example, that there are some wheelchair-users who are perfectly comfortable using an escalator and I know of one who regularly does it, but it is definitely not widely known or it’s not [something] that staff are very comfortable supporting.”

Gareth Powell, TfL’s managing director of surface transport, told the conference that 84 per cent of disabled Londoners “say transport is affecting their ability to get around and live their lives”, which he said was “not good enough”.

He said: “We want to try harder and listen to what suggestions you have and make that better.”

Powell admitted that there were too many examples of TfL infrastructure projects that, even if they provided step-free access, still failed to be fully inclusive, for example by ignoring the access needs of autistic people.

He welcomed the TfA and Inclusion London training programme and said: “I have colleagues in design teams right across TfL who are being trained in how to design projects better so that right at the start of these projects we make them as inclusive as possible and see that all the way through to the end of those projects.”

But he warned that there were significant “challenges” with funding, with TfL “struggling to get our voice heard with central government”.

He said TfL had had its annual operational grant from the government cut from £700 million to zero, while there was no long-term certainty over funding for capital investment.

Powell said the government’s imminent three-year spending review would be “a critical moment for us to make sure that all of our infrastructure needs are on their agenda”.

TfL says 95 per cent of its bus stops are now accessible, while there are more than 200 step-free stations across its network, including 78 London Underground (LU) stations, 58 overground stations, six TfL-run rail stations and all Docklands Light Railway stations and tram stops.

Eight more LU stations are set to be step-free by March 2020, with work underway at a further seven.

The Access All Areas event also included workshops and an exhibition of accessibility innovations, including an electric bus and taxi, a driverless car, and a new Station Real Time Information App.

The app allows LU station staff to report station incidents that may affect passenger journeys, such as a lift going out of service, and also allows LU staff to record disabled passengers who wish to use TfL’s Turn Up and Go service, which provides assistance to disabled passengers who have not booked help in advance.

21 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 16:11
Mar 212019

Shared space schemes must be halted, mayor’s commissioner told

A disabled campaigner has told London’s walking and cycling commissioner that all shared space street developments should be halted because they are too dangerous for disabled and older people.

Dr Tom Pey, chief executive of the Royal Society for Blind Children and a leading opponent of shared space developments, said such schemes were based on “flawed” principles and caused a minority of drivers to become “more angry and reckless”.

He said: “Why would we want… reckless drivers driving around in places where there are no footpaths?”

Shared space schemes often remove kerbs and controlled crossings from a street, encouraging vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists to share the same space, posing greater risks for partially-sighted and blind people, as well as other disabled people, including many of those who are neuro-diverse, or have mobility impairments, learning difficulties or are deaf.

Pey was speaking at the Access All Areas event on accessible transport, organised by Transport for London (TfL), and was sharing a stage with the mayor of London’s walking and cycling commissioner, Dr Will Norman.

Norman stressed that the priorities of the mayor’s transport strategy for the capital’s roads were the needs and safety of pedestrians, cyclists, users of mobility aids and public transport, and a key target was to reduce unnecessary car journeys.

But he repeatedly declined to comment on the mayor’s policy on shared spaces.

Pey said Norman should not try to “conflate” the issue of encouraging pedestrians and cyclists with shared spaces.

He said it was a “research fact” that shared spaces created a less safe environment.

He said: “Shared space started in Holland, in continental Europe, where they are [now] being abandoned because they do not work for disabled people.

Research shows that where there is a shared space, disabled people just don’t go there anymore because it isn’t safe.”

Norman said cities like London “always need new solutions” and new types of infrastructure.

He said: “Do we always get them right all the time? No. Will we sit down and work with people? Yes, and we’ve got a track record of doing that.”

But Norman then gave an example of how TfL had installed zebra crossings across bus stop bypass schemes – where the bus stop is placed on an island, with pedestrians forced to cross a cycle lane to reach it – a solution heavily criticised last month by National Federation of the Blind of the UK.

In January, NFB UK filmed a succession of cyclists riding through a zebra crossing introduced as part of a bus stop bypass scheme in Manchester, even though a blind man with a white cane was waiting with his cane on the crossing.

Pey told Norman: “I don’t want to sound hyper-critical of TfL but I think what would be really helpful would be if we took this shared space, a bit like a No Deal Brexit, if we took it off the table and then everybody can sit down and sign up… to a city that is safer.

It’s not just disabled people who find it difficult to navigate in London, it’s older people, it’s visitors, it’s lots of people, and we have got to find an integrated solution for this.

We all have to learn how to do things differently, including the regulators of this city.”

TfL had not responded by noon today (Thursday) to a request from Disability News Service for clarification on its policy on shared space developments.

But it says 95 per cent of its bus stops are now accessible, while there are more than 200 step-free stations across its network, including 78 London Underground (LU) stations, 58 overground stations, six TfL-run rail stations and all Docklands Light Railway stations and tram stops.

Eight more underground stations are set to be step-free by March 2020, with work underway at a further seven.

The Access All Areas event also included workshops and an exhibition of accessibility innovations, including an electric bus and taxi, a driverless car, and a new Station Real Time Information App.

The app allows LU station staff to report station incidents that may affect passenger journeys, such as a lift going out of service, and also allows LU staff to record disabled passengers who wish to use TfL’s Turn Up and Go service, which provides assistance to disabled passengers who have not booked help in advance.

21 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 16:11
Mar 212019

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”.

The committee heard from seven disabled young people on Tuesday as part of its inquiry into the impact of the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) reforms introduced by the government through its Children and Families Act 2014*.

Three of them – Jordan, Ben and Eva – were part of the RIP: STARS research team, a project led by disabled young people and researchers at Coventry University, which also included support from The Alliance for Inclusive Education, and looked at the quality of EHCPs and whether they met disabled children and young people’s rights.

Jordan said some of their findings had been “stunning”, and that he and many other disabled young people “feel we were cheated out of the education system and treated poorly by them”.

He said they made the “atrocious” discovery that disabled children “weren’t actually being involved in the process of their EHCPs”, with the main discussions taking place “without talking to the child themselves”.

He said plans were “either being delayed, mistaken, poorly done and they are not meeting the needs of the child”, and he called for something to be done to ensure that plans “are being carried out correctly by staff” and “not just ignored and forgotten”.

Eva, another member of RIP: STARS, said: “We found out that what was written in the plan was not being followed through, so many children aren’t receiving the support and the correct education that they need and they are missing out on their education and childhood.”

She said the plans were not preparing disabled children and young people for independence and adulthood.

Eva said the plans should use the language of the social model of disability “so children are not defined by labels and they are not seen as a problem”.

She added: “Disabled children have a right to mainstream education, so they should achieve support to achieve this and be in mainstream education if they choose to do so.”

Ben, a third disabled young person from RIP: STARS, said EHCPs were “too educational focused and not life focused, so children are not receiving the support they need in other important areas such as developing independence, having choice and control, achieving aspirations, life goals, friends, access in the community.”

He said it was not right that disabled pupils who do not fit in with the “norms and roles and rules of education” were often “shipped off, excluded, offloaded, or hidden in other places” and “forgotten about”.

Francesca, one of two deaf pupils on the National Deaf Children’s Society’s (NDCS) young people’s advisory board who gave evidence, told the committee that a lack of support at school meant she missed out on social situations and on learning “how to be confident and empowered”.

She said she had even been encouraged to use a separate “SEND room” at lunch, which also made it harder to build friendships with non-disabled pupils.

She said: “It’s showing to the other students that these people need to be kept separate, which I feel is the wrong attitude completely.

It should be about inclusivity and empowering those people.”

Francesca said that meetings about EHCPs sometimes happened without the disabled young person being present.

She said: “It’s really frustrating because you feel you can make your own decisions because it is your own support.”

Another member of the NDCS advisory board, Ella, said she was “really struggling” to secure the support she needed through the EHCP process, with the local council currently refusing to provide her with a plan because it did not think she was deaf enough.

As a result, she said, her grades were “far below what they should be”.

And she said the only people the council would listen to were her parents, and not her.

Simran, who is studying accountancy and management at Queen Mary University of London and was with the charity my AFK, said: “As a disabled woman, I have to work harder than everyone else to achieve anything.

I think it’s a great shame that young people with SEND are left unsupported and their achievements are unappreciated.

I’m a 21-year-old studying accountancy and I want to be an accountant, I want to work, I want to contribute to the economy and society, but I feel like there’s not very many opportunities for me to do so.”

Kashifa, who is studying at college and was also with my AFK, said she had received “a lot more support” when she was at school.

She said: “Even though we had meetings about me going to college, I’m not sure they really understood my needs when I got there.

I think people make a judgement about what you’re capable of based on your appearance.

I know people mean well and they know you get anxious in certain situations, and they want to try to protect you, but this just means you won’t be able to try anything because people think you won’t be able to cope, so the opportunities stop.”

She added: “I don’t need people to tell me I need to be realistic, either.

I want to work things out for myself and then be able to make the choice.

I don’t need to be protected all the time, I just need the chance to try different things and then I can decide.”

*Under government reforms which came into effect in September 2014, local authorities in England had until April 2018 to move all disabled children and young people eligible for support from SEN statements to new EHCPs. The plans last from birth to the age of 25 and set out all the support they should receive across education, health and social care.

21 March 2019

News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 16:10
Mar 212019

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.

The report, A Refuge for All, was published this week after two years of research led by disabled women with experience of violence and abuse.

It compares the situation with the findings of the Making the Links report published 10 years ago by Women’s Aid, which found that although disabled women were twice as likely to experience domestic violence and abuse as non-disabled women, they faced significant barriers in accessing services.

SOL’s report concludes that little has changed in the last 10 years and in some cases provision has worsened.

Because of cuts to services, disabled women have often not been able to secure local support, and they have faced lengthy waiting-times and have had to travel long distances to secure support.

Just as there was 10 years ago, there is a lack of accessible information; refuges and other buildings providing services are still inaccessible; and there is still a lack of knowledge and understanding by professionals.

Disabled women also still face the risk of having their children removed by social services if they escape an abusive or violent partner.

Research suggests that the number of disabled women experiencing violence and abuse has been increasing, says the report, while disabled victims of domestic abuse “suffer more severe and frequent abuse over longer periods of time than non-disabled victims”.

The project worked in two areas, Bexley in south-east London, and Birmingham, to examine how local services could be made more inclusive for disabled women.

The report concludes: “The pilot site interventions demonstrate that training and advice from disabled women and user-led organisations can have an enormous impact on services’ readiness to work confidently with disabled women and that a number of small inexpensive adaptations can improve the accessibility of the service delivery.”

SOL’s Becki Meakin, the project manager and author of the report, said: “It was very worrying to hear about the experiences of disabled women seeking support from violence and abuse.

I expected to see progress in the last 10 years, but instead access to services has worsened and sometimes was non-existent in a woman’s local area.”

She added: “The regressive funding policies for violence and abuse services has reduced provision for all women, but it has disproportionately affected access for disabled women who in turn are almost three times more likely to experience violence and abuse.”

The report was funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Tampon Tax Fund.

Among its recommendations for improvements, the report calls for a central resource of information for disabled women; investment in more accessible refuge spaces; disability equality training for staff; access action plans for each service; and co-production of services with disabled women.

Meakin said: “I believe that only by listening to and working equally with disabled women experiencing violence and abuse will we be able to increase their sense of self-worth and remove the practical, prejudicial and systemic barriers that exclude them from using violence and abuse services.”

The project has also published a toolkit which can be used by services to assess themselves against best practice and devise a plan of action for improvement, often at low cost.

Ashley Stephen, co-founder of Disabled Survivors Unite, who helped with the project, said: “This project is vitally important and showcases the unique barriers that disabled women face in accessing domestic abuse services.

One disabled woman being turned away due to an inaccessible refuge is too many.”

Disability Labour also said the report was of vital importance.

Fran Springfield, co-chair of Disability Labour, said: “As someone who is a survivor of domestic violence, I know how inaccessible refuges can be.

It is important that women fleeing domestic violence have a safe space, not only in terms of physical and emotional safety, but also that it meets their accessibility needs.

We know that domestic violence services are receiving far less money than they need to be able to provide these crucial services, which undoubtedly save lives.

We would encourage councils to ringfence such funding and look to supporting refuges to enable much-needed adaptations to be made.”

21 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at

 Posted by at 16:07
Mar 212019

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.”

As the appointment of a new minister will be a political decision, he suggested that Disability News Service (DNS) contact the prime minister’s press secretary, Paul Harrison, but he had not responded by noon today (Thursday).

Newton was the seventh Conservative minister for disabled people since the 2010 general election, following Maria Miller, Esther McVey, Mike Penning, Mark Harper, Justin Tomlinson and Penny Mordaunt.

Only last month, she was forced to apologise to MPs after DNS caught her misleading MPs about support for disabled people for the fourth time in less than a year.

In December, Newton was unable to explain why she had failed to make any public statement to support disabled people’s battle for rights on the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

It was the second year in a row – following her appointment in November 2017 – that she had demonstrated a lack of interest in domestic and international efforts to further disabled people’s rights on the UN day.

And in October, she appeared to breach the ministerial code of conduct after refusing to answer questions from DNS at her party’s annual conference and then suggesting that civil servants could answer them for her instead, even though it was a political event.

21 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 16:07
Mar 212019

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).

But there is also anger that CQC decided earlier this month not to prosecute the charity, and instead fined it just £4,000 for financial abuse by staff, despite the regime of “taunting, mistreatment and humiliation of residents”.

After a whistleblower came forward three years ago, a council investigation revealed [PDF] widespread abuse at the home.

CQC had failed to uncover and halt the abuse through its inspection regime, and had not inspected the home for more than two years by the time it was contacted by the whistleblower.

It then carried out an urgent inspection in May 2016 and began civil enforcement action to close Mendip House.

A council investigation discovered that staff had thrown cake at autistic service-users, taunted them with food, and used their money to pay for staff meals on outings, with nearly £10,000 later having to be repaid.

One resident was sent to his room because he refused to eat an onion, another was made to crawl on the floor on all fours, and a resident “absconded” from the home without staff realising.

Medication went missing, and one resident was said to be “known to flinch in the presence of particular employees”.

Newspaper reports also suggest that one resident was “slapped, forced to eat chillies and repeatedly thrown into a swimming pool”.

One report suggests that one service-user was forced to eat a pizza covered in mustard, and yogurt mixed with mustard, and when they were sick, had to drink their vomit in a glass of water.

An audit by NAS in October 2015 identified “43 areas for improvement”, but the charity failed to report this to CQC.

And although five members of staff – including the manager and deputy manager – were sacked, and Mendip House was closed in August 2016 before CQC could take any further regulatory action, concerns have also been raised about six other services on NAS’s large Somerset Court site, which remain open.

A safeguarding review commissioned by the council revealed that “critical information” about the wider Somerset Court site, including “poor staff conduct, alleged assaults and drug use or sale”, had not been shared beyond senior managers at Somerset Court, who took no action.

The council’s own inquiry concluded that NAS was “a large provider where the risks of them not investigating and managing safeguarding incidents effectively in their services remains high”.

It also highlighted concerns about the charity’s “staff recruitment, incident reporting, decision-making, disciplinary procedures and the attitude of the senior management”.

Emma Dalmayne, chief executive of AIM, said CQC’s decision to fine NAS only £4,000, and not to prosecute the charity, was “disgusting”.

She said: “We need to say this can’t happen again. We can’t take this lying down, we can’t just say nothing.”

She added: “I can’t understand as an autistic adult, as an owner of an autistic organisation, how this could happen.

There’s no justice for the victims, no justice for their families.

The NAS is worth millions, £4,000 is what it costs approximately to keep someone of highly complex needs in care for two weeks and that’s all they were fined, that’s all they were worth: £4,000. I’m devastated.”

Errol Kerr, chair of Autistic UK, said: “The entire situation surrounding Mendip House is abhorrent.

Not only have the NAS attempted to suppress knowledge about the abuse, but they have refused to take moral responsibility even in the face of a CQC investigation.

What is worse, however, is that the body that is supposed to enforce codes of good practice, the CQC, has let us down on every level.

Ruling that a fine of £4,000 was all that was needed in this situation clearly shows that the CQC has no regard for the years of inflicted trauma, manipulation and exploitation of at-risk, vulnerable autistic people.”

He said it was “of paramount importance” to defend the autistic people who were affected.

NAS apologised for the abuse, which it said was “appalling”, and the failure of local managers to take action when abuse was reported to them.

An NAS spokesperson said the charity “should not have allowed this mistreatment and abuse to happen” and that it had introduced a “range of improvements” since 2016.

He said it was still running the other services at Somerset Court because “there is a need”.

Asked how NAS could speak on behalf of autistic people on rights issues after what had happened, he said: “We will never stop campaigning with and for autistic people and their families.

We don’t believe that withdrawing from active campaigning would benefit anyone.”

Asked whether its long-serving chief executive, Mark Lever, should consider his own position, the spokesperson said he had already announced – last month – that he would be leaving the charity.

The spokesperson added: “We want to make sure that any protest runs as smoothly as possible and are of course ready to cooperate in any way we can.

As at last year’s protest, we will be ready to hear their concerns and welcome the opportunity to discuss the changes we’ve made to our systems and practices since 2016.”

CQC has declined to say whether its failure to inspect Mendip House for more than two years before the whistleblower came forward had helped the abusers avoid exposure.

It has also declined to say why it allowed the other Somerset Court services to stay open and why it failed to expose the abusive regime through its regular inspection process, rather than having to be alerted by a whistle-blower.

But Debbie Westhead, CQC’s interim chief inspector of adult social care, said in a statement: “The people who lived in Mendip House were very badly failed by those whose responsibility it was to care for them.

When CQC inspected in May 2016 we rated Mendip House as inadequate, and began action to cancel the registration of Mendip House.

This action was overtaken by the National Autistic Society decision to close the service; a decision that we supported.

We also investigated whether we could prosecute the National Autistic Society for failing to keep people safe, but were not able to do so due to insufficient evidence.

The descriptions of abuse at Mendip House are extremely distressing and the final decision not to proceed with the prosecution was a complex and difficult one.

Separately, the police explored the possibility of criminal prosecutions against individuals but were also unable to proceed due to lack of corroborating evidence.

The action that we were able to take was a fixed penalty notice against the provider for failing to protect people from financial abuse, resulting in a fine of £4,000, which is the maximum amount allowed in law.”

21 March 2019

News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 16:06
Mar 212019

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 (see separate story).

The new FoIA figures show that 4,859 adult social care services have not been inspected by CQC in more than two years, out of 25,590 services in total (19 per cent).

Many of the 25,590 are new services that are still awaiting a first CQC rating, so the proportion of services that have been open for at least two years and have not been inspected for at least two years will be even higher than 19 per cent.

But the figures also reveal other concerns about the commission and its work.

They show striking falls in the number of inspections carried out by the watchdog over the last couple of years; a significant increase in the number of inspections cancelled or rescheduled; and a sizeable drop over the last three years in the number of adult social care inspectors working for CQC.

A CQC spokesperson said that some of this was due to a new method of regulation, adopted in 2014, which was based on “ratings and risk”.

She claimed the commission was now “even better at identifying risk, meaning that we can prioritise our activity to where the need is greatest”.

The FoIA response showed the number of CQC’s “full-time equivalent” adult social care inspectors fell from 881 in December 2015 to 812 in December 2018.

The number of adult social care inspections that were cancelled or rescheduled rose from 6,498 in 2017 to 8,296 in 2018.

And the number of adult social care inspections carried out by CQC fell from 15,271 in 2016 to 13,106 in 2017, and again to 11,618 in 2018.

Statistics provided by the regulator to its latest public board meeting (PDF) in February raise further concerns.

They show that only three-fifths of planned inspections of adult social care services that had been branded “inadequate” or “requiring improvement” were carried out on time.

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow minister for social care, said: “It is highly concerning that nearly one in five social care establishments have not been inspected for over two years.

We saw in the recent Mendip House case how quickly a care home can deteriorate – often in a matter of months.

As government cuts to social care budgets force providers to cut corners, infrequent inspections are putting disabled and older people at risk.

We cannot allow providers to provide poor quality care due to a lack of oversight: that is why Labour’s plans for ethical commissioning would require local authorities and the CQC to better monitor care providers.”

CQC said that its decision to inspect services seen as good or outstanding only every 30 months helped explain a “significant” number of re-scheduled inspections, and many of the services that had not been inspected in more than two years.

By February 2017, it said, it had finished inspecting all adult social care services registered with CQC in October 2014 and had then moved to the next phase of its new ratings- and risk-based model of regulation, with “increased focus on using information and intelligence to form a better picture of what is happening in the delivery of people’s care to assess and prioritise risk”.

It also said it had introduced new roles to “complement the inspection workforce”, such as assistant inspectors.

CQC has so far failed to say if it believes the figures show it is a failing organisation; whether it needs an injection of funding; and whether it is putting the safety of disabled and older people at risk and is therefore likely to be exposing them to serious breaches of their human rights.

It has also failed to say whether the Mendip House abuse scandal showed that its risk-based system was putting the safety of disabled people at risk, and that it therefore needed to introduce annual, unannounced inspections of all adult social care services.

But it did say: “CQC has a healthy budget, a strong and hardworking workforce and we continually review all of the resources at our disposal in order to be as efficient as possible in ensuring care providers are living up to their legal responsibilities.”

Debbie Westhead, CQC’s interim chief inspector for adult social care, said in a statement: “In 2014 we completely overhauled the way we regulate adult social care, moving to a ratings and risk based model.

We are now even better at identifying risk, meaning that we can prioritise our activity to where the need is greatest.

We know from our latest State of Care report that most people are getting good care; over four-fifths of adult social care services are rated as good or outstanding, a testimony to the hard work of thousands of frontline staff.

In 2018 we moved the frequency of inspections for good and outstanding services to 30 months.

However, if during this time we get any information of concern we will prioritise our activity to ensure that we are protecting people from risk.

We are now taking more enforcement action than ever before because we are using the information and analysis at our disposal more effectively in order to target our inspection activities to those services where there is the greatest risk to the quality and safety of people’s care.

Since April 2017 to January 2019 we’ve taken around 2,000 enforcement actions against all adult social care providers and we will continue to take action wherever necessary to make sure that all people are getting the good, quality care they need.”

21 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at

 Posted by at 16:05
Mar 212019

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.

It needs to reach 100,000 signatures by 15 September to be eligible for debate by MPs in the House of Commons.

Among those who have supported it are the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson and the disabled comedian and writer Francesca Martinez.

The petition now has the support of the relatives of seven disabled people whose deaths are linked to DWP failings.

Since last week, the daughter of Susan Roberts has backed the petition (see separate story), telling Disability News Service (DNS) that she would feel a sense of “justice” if she saw former DWP ministers facing charges in a criminal court.

The petition was launched following the death of Jodey Whiting and is set up in her name, with the backing of Black TriangleDisabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and WOWcampaign, as well as DNS.

DWP failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to her suicide in February 2017, an independent investigation found last month.

Whiting, who had a long history of mental distress, had had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a work capability assessment when she was seriously ill and took her own life just 15 days later.

As well as an inquiry, the petition says that evidence of misconduct by civil servants and ministers should be handed to police for a possible criminal investigation into misconduct in public office.

It also says that DWP should be branded “institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose” and calls for urgent steps to ensure that the safety of all benefit claimants is a priority for the department.

Two years ago, the Green party issued its own call for an inquiry into deaths linked to DWP’s actions.

A letter sent in February 2017 to the then work and pensions secretary Damian Green, co-signed by Bartley, said: “The more time passes without an inquiry, the longer concerns will remain and questions will hang over the procedures used by your department to handle benefits.”

The party compiled a dossier of 50 deaths of benefit claimants where the party said it had “good reason to believe” their treatment at the hands of DWP had been a factor in their deaths.

This week, Bartley told DNS: “The DWP clearly has blood on its hands.

The evidence of the department’s failings is now overwhelming and there must be an independent inquiry with those responsible held to account. 

This should include turning over the findings to the police for criminal charges to be brought, where appropriate.”

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, also said this week that the campaign and petition had her “full support”.

Asked to comment on the petition, a DWP spokesperson said: “We are committed to safeguarding vulnerable claimants and, in the tragic case where someone dies, ensuring that we respond swiftly and sensitively.

We have changed guidance so that our staff update a claim where someone has died within 48 hours, making sure we stop all unnecessary contact as quickly as possible.

And we have robust safeguarding in place to protect and support vulnerable people, including the resource to carry out safeguarding visits.”

*If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

21 March 2019


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 Posted by at 16:04
Mar 212019

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.

Within five days, the petition had secured more than 6,000 signatures. It needs to reach 100,000 within six months to be eligible for a debate in parliament.

The relatives of Susan Roberts this week became the seventh family to back the petition, in addition to support from four grassroots groups of disabled activists – Black TriangleDisabled People Against CutsMental Health Resistance Network and WOWcampaign – and DNS.

Storrow-Servranckx told DNS that she would feel a sense of “justice” if she saw former DWP ministers facing charges in a criminal court.

She said: “It would be some form of justice for those people who are not here anymore and have not got a voice.

That’s all we have ever wanted, the families, we just want justice, because without [DWP’s actions] our family members would still be here, no question about it.

To have somebody in front of a judge and jury and to be sentenced for crimes that made somebody kill themselves is exactly what needs to be done and needed to be done a long time ago.”

Storrow-Servranckx said she believed there should be a police investigation just as there would be if she was responsible for causing someone’s death by suicide.

The body of her mother was discovered in May 2016 by a care worker at her warden-assisted flat near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the day after she had received a letter saying her appeal against losing her personal independence payment (PIP) had been turned down.

An inquest into the 68-year-old’s death did not record a verdict of suicide, but her daughter is convinced that she took her own life, because of the way she died, and because her body was discovered surrounded by her PIP paperwork and a “do not resuscitate” notice.

She had previously received an indefinite award of disability living allowance, at the higher rate of mobility and the low rate of care, but she was told she was not entitled to PIP.

DWP had taken just six days to reject her mandatory reconsideration, before she had even had a chance to send a letter explaining why she disagreed with the initial decision, with a civil servant telling her that “it was not felt any further evidence we received would change the findings based on your assessment”.

In her letter, which she left beside her body, she described the impact of ME on her daily life, which she said provided a window of just two or three hours every day in which she was free of symptoms such as exhaustion, dizziness and inability to concentrate.

She said she had chronic, progressive ischaemic heart disease, and was experiencing “excruciating pain” from a gall bladder that could not be removed because of her heart condition.

Her letter also described how a care worker visited her every day to provide painful rectal irrigation and then give her a shower, how she was deeply depressed and had been so “for a long time”, and that her doctor knew that she wanted to die.

She did not attend her tribunal appeal, which was decided only on written documents and again found her ineligible for PIP.

DWP has previously insisted that there was “no evidence to suggest any link” between the death of Susan Roberts and her benefit claim, and that neither the department nor Atos – the much-criticised outsourcing company which assessed her – believed they had made any mistakes in her case, pointing out that the tribunal had “upheld the original decision”.

But Storrow-Servranckx said her mum had made it clear in her original PIP claim form that she had suicidal thoughts, and DWP had made no effort to protect her.

She said her mum had written on her PIP form that she had contemplated suicide and had told her doctor how much she wanted to die, but could not take her own life because of her Christian faith.

Storrow-Servranckx, who herself has been assessed for both PIP and employment and support allowance, said the thousands of deaths linked to the actions of DWP had been “swept under the carpet” and needed to be “brought up and discussed in the House of Commons”.

She said: “It’s not just my mum. There are thousands and thousands of other people – including other members of my own family – who are affected.

The benefits system has clearly failed. It is not working. It is dangerous.

They clearly must hold their hands up and say, ‘Our failing system has caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people.’”

She said she now hoped the petition – and the support from the other six families – would encourage other relatives to come forward and speak out.

*If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing

21 March 2019

 Posted by at 16:03
Mar 212019

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.

DNS had asked in the freedom of information request how many of the complaints submitted to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) about DWP involved a claimant of a disability-related benefit who had died before that complaint was submitted.

The request followed an ICE report into the death of Jodey Whiting, who had a long history of mental distress and took her own life 15 days after her disability benefits were stopped for missing a work capability assessment when she was seriously ill.

The ICE report concluded that DWP had failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to her death, and that it had been guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling her case.

ICE reviews complaints about government departments that deal with benefits, work and financial support, but can only investigate concerns after that department has delivered its own “final response” to a complaint.

Responding to the freedom of information request, DWP said that ICE did not record “the category of information you have requested” because the department itself “uses high level corporate complaint categories to record customer complaints” and these do not include whether a claimant has died.

The only categories DWP offers are: “DWP staff don’t treat me with respect”; “you take too long”; “you’ve got it wrong”; “you haven’t given me the information that suits my needs”; “I can’t access the system”; and “DWP policy is unfair”.

Previous freedom of information admissions by DWP have shown that it has carried out scores of secret peer reviews (later renamed internal process reviews) into the deaths of benefit claimants.

And government-funded research concluded three years ago that DWP’s programme to reassess people on incapacity benefit through the work capability assessment was linked to 590 suicides in just three years.

DWP had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).

DNS had asked whether DWP agreed that it was seriously negligent to fail to analyse how many complaints it was receiving in which a claimant had died, particularly those linked to the non-payment or withdrawal of vital benefits.

DNS had also asked how DWP would be able to respond to serious flaws in the system that were leading to loss of life if it did not know how many such complaints were being received about various aspects of its service.

And DNS asked whether Joanna Wallace, the independent case examiner, had any concerns about the failure to record this category of information.

*If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing

21 March 2019

News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 16:00
Mar 192019

DPAC sends solidarity to ME campaigners subject to recent attacks from researchers whose work they have fairly criticised and journalists repeating accusations with no interest in the real story.
A story run by Reuters and picked up by the Daily Mail and Rod Liddle writing for The Times claimed that researchers are leaving the study of treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome because of abuse and harassment from campaigners. There was no mention of the harm that their so-called “treatment” trials had caused or the significant scientific flaws in their research, as covered in an entire special issue of the Journal of Health Psychology. (Available at:

ME activist Catherine Hale explains: “It’s the usual pattern: a spurious story about CFS researchers getting online harassment and having to quit their ‘vital’ research. In reality Professor Sharpe is quitting because so many other scientists have trashed his work and exposed PACE as bogus. Professor Wessely’s hand in this is as always because he controls the Science Media Centre which puts out these high profile press releases and all the usual suspects among health journalists lap it up. Rod Liddle spews his usual hate and contempt for people with ME as he does for other oppressed groups. It’s a regular pattern they use to deflect from negative news about PACE or the parliamentary debate that happened for example. We have no pundits in the mainstream media to tell our side of the story. All the public ever hears about is the “ME militant standing in the way of science” narrative.”

The battle that people with ME have to go through to be taken seriously and to receive the support they need is an injustice. It is also part of a wider issue of disability denial that affects all disabled people. The bogus research into CFS “treatment” was central to the development of a model of disability denial behind the design of benefit assessments for ESA and PIP.

The media accusations represent an attack against speaking out by patients against mistreatment. They are an attempt to silence those already suffering oppression and a massive imbalance of power. But they also show that the campaigning is working. Power never cedes graciously and we can’t expect that those losing it will give in without a fight. It is important we show solidarity to those campaigners who are currently under attack and to congratulate them for how far they have come in exposing and challenging injustice.

Messages of solidarity can be sent using the hashtags #millionsmissing #pwme #PACEgate.

For more information on the issues:
ME Action UK have written this letter to the editor of Reuters:
Articles on why the media are waging war on people with chronic illness by Steve Topple:
Campaigner Nathalie Wright’s article on the struggle to be taken seriously by doctors:
A condensed briefing about the PACE trial:
The links between the PACE trial and “welfare reform” by Simon Duffy:

 Posted by at 15:33
Mar 152019

Relatives of six disabled people who died due to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failings have backed a new petition to MPs that calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the department’s actions.

The petition – backed by four leading grassroots groups of disabled activists, and Disability News Service (DNS) – says such an inquiry should also investigate potential misconduct by ministers and civil servants.

And it says that any evidence of misconduct contributing to serious harm or deaths of benefit claimants should be passed to the police for a possible criminal investigation.

The petition* – Justice for Jodey Whiting. Independent inquiry into deaths linked to the DWP – brands DWP “institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose”.

And it calls on DWP to “urgently change its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority”.

The petition has been set up on parliament’s petitions website.

If it reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate by MPs in the House of Commons.

The petition was launched following the death of Jodey Whiting and is set up in her name, with the backing of Black Triangle, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), WOWcampaign and DNS.

DWP failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to Jodey Whiting’s suicide in February 2017, an independent investigation found last month.

She had 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 Independent Case Examiner (ICE) concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling her case.

Her case was mentioned in this week’s prime minister’s questions, after a question from her mother’s MP, Dr Paul Williams.

Her mother, Joy Dove, is supporting the petition.

She said she hoped the ICE findings would “open the floodgates for everyone to stand up and get this issue sorted through parliament”.

Relatives of other families who have lost loved ones as a result of DWP failings are also backing the petition.

Peter Carré, whose son Stephen took his own life in January 2010 after being found fit for work following a WCA – with DWP failing to ask his GP or psychiatrist for further medical evidence that would have proved his eligibility – has backed the petition and the need for a criminal investigation and an independent inquiry.

His son’s death led to a coroner writing to DWP, just before the 2010 general election, warning that the “trigger” for Stephen’s decision to take his own life had been the decision to find him fit for work, and telling DWP to take action to prevent any further such deaths.

The coroner called for a review by DWP of “the decision not to seek medical advice from the claimant’s own GP or psychiatrist” if they have a mental health condition.

Tory ministers failed to act on the coroner’s letter – or to produce a proper reply, despite their legal duty to do so – and instead pushed ahead with plans to reassess hundreds of thousands of people on old-style incapacity benefit through the WCA.

Research would later show that this use of the WCA to reassess claimants of incapacity benefit was “associated with” hundreds of suicides.

Carré said he believed the law had “consistently been ignored”, and he added: “Failure to take note of and act on the coroner’s recommendations has undoubtedly resulted in many deaths since that time.”

Eleanor Donnachie, who herself has experienced suicidal thoughts and tried to take her own life as a result of the WCA process, lost her brother Paul to suicide after his employment and support allowance was removed because he failed to turn up for a WCA.

It is believed that DWP failed to contact Paul’s GP to ask for detailed information about his mental health, and – as in Jodey Whiting’s case – ignored its own safeguarding guidance by failing to talk to him face-to-face about his support needs.

She said she wanted to see a criminal investigation and an inquiry.

She said: “It’s as if they can do what they like and nothing applies to them.

If I go anywhere to do with DWP that brings it all back and I can feel myself getting angry, really angry, and I want to shout at them, ‘Look, you have killed my brother and now you’re trying to kill me.’”

Jill Gant, whose son Mark Wood starved to death after he was found “fit for work” and lost his out-of-work disability benefits, said she felt she had to support the petition.

Her key concern is DWP’s refusal to ensure that its decision-makers have access to the necessary medical evidence when someone applying for ESA (or universal credit) has not provided evidence of their own.

She told DNS: “I’m glad you’re doing it on behalf of people like Mark.

It’s very important that something is done. I support the cause and I certainly put my name to it.”

Another relative, David Barr, said he wanted to see former work and pensions ministers Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling held accountable for the death of his son, also called David, who had a long-standing mental health condition.

He took his own life in August 2013 after a physiotherapist took just 35 minutes to carry out a face-to-face assessment that led to him being found fit for work.

It is believed that neither the assessor, nor the DWP decision-maker who rubber-stamped that decision, made any attempt to secure further medical evidence from his GP, his psychiatric nurse or his psychiatrist.

His father said: “It’s got to come to an end. They have got to start looking after people. In this day and age we should be doing more.”

A sixth relative supporting the petition is Gill Thompson.

Her brother, David Clapson, died in July 2013 as a result of an acute lack of insulin, three weeks after having his jobseeker’s allowance sanctioned.

Because he had no money, he couldn’t afford to pay for electricity that would have kept the fridge where he kept his insulin working, in the height of summer, and he had also run out of food.

She said: “They have to stop this. I would like to see a legal case whether David’s name was mentioned or not.

They have to be held accountable. I can’t change what has happened to me, but this should not be happening.

These are avoidable deaths. I still feel that now as strongly as ever.”

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said he and fellow campaigners “did our utmost” to persuade the criminal justice system in Scotland to open an investigation into work and pensions ministers but had been given no reason for its refusal to do so.

He said: “It’s clear that the dereliction of duty on the part of ministers is still leading to the deaths of claimants, as we said at the time.

Until this matter is addressed, people will continue to suffer catastrophic avoidable harm.

We call upon the police service to take our allegations seriously and to make a thorough investigation into the facts of the case.”

Bob Ellard, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “DPAC fully supports this petition. We believe that these are vital issues that must be debated in parliament.

The reign of terror brought about by this government’s hostile environment towards claimants is causing distress and severe hardship to millions of innocent people, and has resulted in the deaths of too many claimants.”

He added: “The DWP itself is a failing organisation which is chaotic and error-prone in its operation. It is currently not fit for purpose and needs a complete overhaul.”

Denise McKenna, co-founder of MHRN, said: “Survivors of the DWP are acutely aware that some lives do not matter and some institutions are deemed to be above accountability.

Ministers and civil servants responsible for the DWP have known for years that their practices are implicated in numerous deaths yet they continue with the same practices, seemingly safe in the knowledge that they can get away with any level of cruelty and incompetence.

The deaths will only stop if there is rigorous implementation of safeguarding practices which the DWP has shown time and again that it cannot be trusted to put in place or to observe.

MHRN supports this petition; it is surely right that safeguarding is enshrined in DWP practices and that ministers and civil servants are brought to book for the lives they have destroyed, just as anyone else implicated in numerous deaths would be held to account.”  

A WOWcampaign spokesperson said: “WOWcampaign has been fighting for seven years to get this government to show a duty of care to disabled children and adults in the UK by assessing the impact of all disability cuts, as called for by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the UN.

We are keen to support this petition demanding justice for Jodey Whiting as her treatment and the many voices giving testimony to the despair, poverty and humiliation caused by government welfare reforms, published on, reinforce the devastating impact of these policies, and the urgent need for something to change.

We would like to see an independent enquiry into the effect of government welfare policy and a police enquiry into alleged misconduct in public office.

There has to be Justice for Jodey and the countless others whose lives have been devastated by government policy.”

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing

*If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the committee

15 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 16:18
Mar 142019

Disabled people had rights breached before and after Grenfell fire, says watchdog

Disabled people who died in the Grenfell Tower tragedy had their human rights breached by public bodies that failed to plan how they would evacuate their homes in the event of a fire, a report by the equality and human rights watchdog has concluded.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report says the safety of wheelchair-users and other disabled and older people was overlooked when they were housed on the top floors of the high-rise building.

It says that disabled people and other residents of Grenfell Tower and other nearby housing experienced a series of breaches of their human rights before the fire, including through the failure to ban the combustible cladding that was wrapped around the building, or at least strengthen rules for its use.

But it also says that disabled people’s rights were repeatedly breached in the days and months after the fire.

Disabled people, children, migrants and older people were among the 72 people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire that began in the early hours of 14 June 2017, in homes managed by the state in west London.

The EHRC research, carried out with the social policy think-tank Race on the Agenda, suggests that the right to life of disabled people, older people and families with children was not properly considered in fire safety arrangements, with “particular concerns” about the lack of appropriate planning for evacuating disabled people and other residents.

There is also evidence that the safety notice given to Grenfell residents was only available in English, a language not spoken by many of them.

The report also highlights a continued lack of support after the fire, amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment, particularly in “the inconsistent, and sometimes absent, immediate and long-term support such as medical treatment, counselling, mental health care and adequate housing”.

The report suggests there were breaches of the right to life; the right to safe, adequate housing; and the right to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; while disabled people and other groups also faced discrimination in how they were treated after the tragedy.

The report says: “The fact that people with limited mobility were living high up in Grenfell Tower, and faced greater difficulties escaping the fire, raises important questions about discrimination against certain groups, accessibility standards, and whether authorities assessed the impact on disabled people of allocating housing in Grenfell Tower.”

The report includes a series of examples of how disabled people had their rights breached in the days, weeks and months after the fire.

One disabled woman, who had been left traumatised by losing five members of her family in the fire, had her out-of-work disability benefits cut after being assessed by a government contractor just five days later.

The woman, who lost her brother, his wife, and their three children in the fire, had been assessed for her fitness for work on 19 June 2017, five days after the fire.

Her husband, her full-time carer, told researchers that when they told the healthcare professional carrying out the work capability assessment that she had lost her five relatives in the fire, “she didn’t care” and “didn’t consider the suffering” that his wife had been through.

His wife had previously been in the support group for employment and support allowance, for those not expected to carry out any work-related activity, but after the assessment she was placed by the Department for Work and Pensions in the work-related activity group.

The report’s researchers were told that she had since been told to attend a work training scheme, even though her health had worsened since the fire.

One disabled older person, who lives on the 14th floor of a block of flats near Grenfell Tower, told the researchers that he told his children “every day” that if there was a similar fire to the one that devastated Grenfell, they should leave him to struggle down the stairs on his own.

He said: “There are five floors above me… So, if I go down and I stop in the middle, the people behind me will not be able to pass. So, we discussed all these issues.”

The report found that none of the local residents they had spoken to who had been forced to leave their homes after the fire had accepted permanent accommodation, but some said they had felt pressured to return home or take unsuitable offers.

One wheelchair-user was pressured to accept the offer of a permanent flat, even though it was not wheelchair-accessible and she could not access some of the rooms.

She was told: “Oh don’t worry, we’ll get a carer in to look after you, help you out with the kids.”

She was then told that if she did not agree to move into the flat, she would be viewed as making herself intentionally homeless.

The report also describes a wheelchair-user with young children – believed to be the same woman – who was left in emergency housing with just one room and no cooking facilities and had to visit the local swimming pool if she wanted a shower.

The report, Grenfell Residents’ Access to Public Services and Support – part of the commission’s Following Grenfell project – describes the lived experience of people who had been “displaced, traumatised and distressed” by the fire.

It shows the “ongoing difficulties and uncertainty they have faced in accessing a range of advice and support services such as housing, immigration, welfare support and healthcare”.

Among its conclusions, the report says: “There was poor recognition of additional needs and reasonable adjustments when making housing decisions, particularly for disabled people, older people, women and Muslim families.

Residents described the dire state of both emergency and temporary accommodation when being rehoused, posing a threat to their physical and mental health.”

EHRC’s Following Grenfell project aims to influence the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, other public bodies and the public about the equality and human rights issues raised by the fire and its aftermath.

David Isaac, EHRC’s chair, said: “Everyone has the right to life and the right to safe, adequate housing, but the residents of Grenfell Tower were tragically let down by public bodies that had a duty to protect them.

It is our hope that the Grenfell Inquiry finds this information relevant and useful as they continue with their work, but we also need to see action taken by public bodies so we never see a repeat of this tragedy.”

14 March 2019



NHS call for government action on link between mental distress and benefit cuts

The organisation representing NHS service-providers has called on the government to act on the links between mental distress and cuts to benefits, after producing new evidence showing that social security reform has increased demand for mental health services.

NHS Providers spoke out after publishing research showing that more than nine out of ten (92 per cent) mental health trusts that took part in a survey said changes to benefits were increasing demand for mental health services.

And more than six in 10 (63 per cent) said this impact was high, making it the most significant economic and social factor in increasing demand for mental health services.

The NHS Providers report includes a detailed case study of a disabled woman who describes how the process of applying for employment and support allowance (ESA) was so stressful that it caused a relapse in her mental health.

The former mental health nurse told NHS Providers that the ESA process and its repeated assessments were “cruel” and left her feeling powerless, while the work capability assessment process was “the biggest source of worry in my life”.

The report, Addressing the Care Deficit, adds to evidence that shows ESA recipients are at particularly high risk of suicide attempts.

Disability News Service (DNS) has repeatedly drawn the attention of government departments and other public bodies to the findings of NHS Digital’s Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, which showed that more than 43 per cent of ESA claimants had said (when asked in 2014) that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives, compared with about seven per cent of non-ESA claimants.

Despite that evidence, the Cross-Government Suicide Prevention Workplan does not mention DWP, benefits, ESA or universal credit, while ESA and universal credit claimants are not included among the high-risk groups mentioned in the workplan.

The government has also refused to name ESA claimants as a high-risk group in its cross-government suicide prevention strategy.

Public Health England is another organisation that has resisted making this link. In the latest update of its Suicide Prevention Profile, there are 25 risk factors for suicide but they do not include the proportion of the population in local areas that claims ESA.

NHS Providers has now called on the government and its arms-length bodies to act.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, told DNS: “Our report… revealed deep disquiet among mental health trust leaders about the impact of benefits cuts and universal credit on demand for mental health services.

The government and its arms-length bodies should examine the evidence behind this link, and act on it.

We need a benefits system that offers the right support for people who need it, rather than compounding or aggravating mental health problems.”

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing

14 March 2019



DWP silent on figures suggesting ‘fit for work’ deaths may have fallen

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggest that the proportion of disabled people dying soon after being found fit for work may have fallen since the early years of the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA).

DWP has refused this week to comment on the figures or even to check on their significance with its own statisticians.

But the figures seem to show a difference between the proportion of people dying after being found fit for work in the first five-and-a-half years of the test, and those dying after being found fit for work between 2014 and 2017.

In one set of figures released this week under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), DWP told campaigner Frank Zola that a total of 1,358,000 people were found fit for work after a WCA between the test’s introduction in October 2008 and July 2017.

Of these, 5,690 people died within six months of being found fit for work, a proportion of 0.419 per cent.

In the second set of figures (PDF), this time released under the FoIA to independent researcher Mo Stewart, DWP said that 548,620 people were found fit for work between 1 March 2014 and 28 February 2017, with 1,560 (or 0.284 per cent) of them dying within six months of this decision.

This suggests – although further research must be carried out to show exactly how and why the figures changed – that the proportion of people dying within six months of being found fit for work reduced when comparing the period October 2008 to March 2014 with March 2014 to February 2017.

The figures could show – although there may be other explanations – that improvements in the assessment recommended by the first three independent reviews of the WCA, carried out by Professor Malcom Harrington in 2010, 2011 and 2012, may have made it less likely that someone would be found fit for work if they were very unwell.

Even if that was true, the figures would not show that the assessment process was now fit for purpose, as shown by deaths such as that of Jodey Whiting in February 2017.

And Labour MP Ruth George told a Commons debate on disability assessment services yesterday (Wednesday) that a constituent of hers had died on his first day back at work after being found fit for work because DWP had refused to take evidence from his doctors.

But the figures could at least suggest that years of campaigning by disabled activists to highlight the unfairness of the test did have some impact.

Because of the severe impact of being found unfairly fit for work, demonstrated by years of research by activists that have shown links to many deaths, it may also be that these improvements led to fewer lives being lost as a result of the WCA process.

Both FoIA requests were made last year but were only answered by DWP this week. Stewart’s request was made in early November and Zola’s in August. FoIA requests are supposed to be answered within 20 working days.

Stewart said: “If these figures do suggest fewer people are dying within six months after being wrongly found ‘fit for work’ by the WCA then that must be something to celebrate.

However, given the thousands who still live in fear of the arrival of yet another brown envelope from the DWP, let’s hope there will be some improvement in the decisions for chronically ill people who didn’t die following the WCA, but who have suffered following this totally discredited and fatally flawed assessment.”

A DWP spokesperson refused to say if its figures showed that fewer very ill people were now being found fit for work, or to comment on what appeared to be a continuing unacceptably high number of very ill people dying after being wrongly found fit for work.

But she said in a statement: “This data corresponds to two different and overlapping time periods and cannot be directly compared.

Additionally, the figures are from unpublished information which hasn’t been quality assured to National Statistics or Official Statistics publication standards – they should therefore be treated with caution.”

She added later: “As I explained, the data set you’ve provided cannot be compared so it would not be accurate to draw conclusions from them.”

14 March 2019



Chancellor ignores calls to act on impact of austerity, as Newton quits over Brexit

The chancellor has ignored repeated calls for the government to take urgent steps to ease the social care funding crisis and other impacts of austerity on disabled people, as he delivered his spring statement.

Hammond’s statement yesterday (Wednesday) was overshadowed by the continuing parliamentary Brexit fiasco, which led to the resignation of disabled people’s minister Sarah Newton.

Hammond made no mention of disabled people in his speech, and his only mention of social care was to say that future spending would be addressed in the budget, which is not expected until October or November.

Although the spring statement was low-key, Hammond still made a series of announcements across areas such as science and technology, immigration, knife crime, the digital advertising market, affordable homes, Brexit, apprenticeships, period poverty in schools, late payments to small businesses, the minimum wage, biodiversity and climate change.

In his response to the statement, the shadow chancellor, Labour’s John McDonnell, told Hammond that he was “implicated in every cut, every closure, and every preventable death of someone waiting for hospital treatment or social care”.

In November 2017, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published research which linked government cuts in adult social care and health spending to nearly 120,000 “excess” deaths in England since 2010.

The research warned that the cuts could continue to be responsible for an additional death toll of up to 100 deaths a day if significant extra funding was not found.

One prominent disabled activist, Mary-Ellen, had a leading role in a short film released on the day of the spring statement by the Labour party, and she referred to the BMJ research.

She said in the film: “It’s hard work trying to get the world to recognise that something terrible is happening here in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world.”

She said: “Councils across the country are forcing disabled people to use nappies instead of giving us the support to go to the toilet when we need it.

For me personally it has affected my mental health. It’s broken me, basically.”

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said the spring statement “seems like an irrelevance” while the government “ties itself in knots trying to save itself” over Brexit.

He said: “Social care is one of the policies that is most about ensuring the quality of people’s lives, especially people who need some help.

This government’s priorities and preoccupation with self-preservation bear no relation to ordinary people’s lives, concerns and growing fears and uncertainty.

Hardly surprising then if disabled and older people don’t feature at all in government statements, just one more reason why we should all be very afraid about the state they have got us into.”

Philip Connolly, policy manager for Disability Rights UK, said the failure to mention disabled people in the spring statement should be “a wake up call to the disability sector”.

He questioned why disability organisations have failed to lobby the Treasury directly when all individual government departments had to do so, and when “the Treasury’s own website permits direct dialogue”.

Connolly called for a sector-wide campaign for an inclusive economy, focused upon the next spending review.

Hammond said in his spring statement that he would launch a three-year spending review before the summer recess, with the results to be announced alongside this autumn’s budget.

14 March 2019



Broken promises have shattered hopes of right to independent living, says Morris

One of the architects of the last Labour government’s “life chances” strategy has described how “broken promises” by successive governments have shattered disabled people’s hopes of a genuine right to independent living.

Dr Jenny Morris, who led the independent living section of Labour’s Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People strategy, said its publication in 2005 had been a “moment of hope”.

But she described how that sense of optimism “seemed to disappear almost overnight”, following the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the 2010 election, which led to a Tory-led coalition government.

She said that she and others working on Life Chances had made a “fatal error” by not stressing the need for a nationally-funded independent living system “based on the principle of entitlement”, and had not paid enough attention to the growing focus within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on “getting people off benefits”.

Morris was delivering the first Lorraine Gradwell Memorial Lecture, in memory of one of the key figures in the disabled people’s movement, who died in September 2017. It is hoped the lecture will become an annual event.

She was unable to attend in person but a film of her delivering the lecture – which Morris called Broken Promises: Looking Back on “Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People” – was shown in Manchester on Friday (8 March), followed by a question and answer session.

Two disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) that Gradwell founded or co-founded, Breakthrough UK and Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, helped organise the lecture.

Morris described how DWP’s emphasis on cutting the number of benefit claimants had been demonstrated by the employment chapter in the 2005 Life Chances report, which spoke of work being “a component of good health” and emphasised the “beneficial health effects of work”.

In the same year, DWP released research that would form the basis of the work capability assessment (WCA), which she said focused on “getting people off benefits”, “scrutinising whether people are ‘fit for work’” and “people’s supposed attitudes and motivations”, instead of workplace barriers and equal opportunities for work.

Worse than that, she said, was “the denial of people’s own experiences of illness and/or impairment”.

In the last decade, the greatest challenges to the WCA and the introduction of personal independence payment, she said, had often come from people with chronic illness, such as members of the Spartacus network, and, more recently, the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project.

Morris said that she and others working on the Life Chances report had made a “fatal error” in their proposals by failing to recognise that the Independent Living Fund “had more potential to deliver a right to independent living than any reform to local authority social care”.  

Although they had “floated the idea” that independent living should be funded nationally and “taken away from local authorities”, they did not challenge the government’s insistence that this would undermine local accountability.

Instead, the Independent Living Fund was closed by the coalition government, and the “self-determination” promised by the introduction of personal budgets had mostly “failed to materialise”.

The current social care system, said Morris, was incapable of delivering the right to independent living set out in article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

What was needed, she said, as proposed by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, was “a national independent living service, funded from general taxation, free at the point of delivery, and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people”.

She also warned of the failure to realise one of the key proposals of Life Chances, for there to be a national network of user-led disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), modelled on centres for independent living.

This, she said, “was never fully realised” and since 2010 many local DPOs had had their funding cut and had “found it increasingly difficult to hold onto existing contracts to provide direct payments support services”.

She added: “Such local organisations are a vital part of any nationally-funded independent living service.”

And she said: “It’s at the local level and amongst disabled people ourselves that we will develop innovative ways to enable people to live ordinary lives.”

14 March 2019



Flood’s ‘bittersweet’ departure from ‘rock solid’ ALLFIE

A prominent disabled activist has spoken of her “bittersweet” feelings at leaving the organisation that leads the fight for inclusive education after nearly 13 years.

Tara Flood is to leave The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), where she has been director since 2006, for a new post leading strategy on co-production at a pioneering London council.

Her task as strategic head for co-production at Hammersmith and Fulham council will be to implement the recommendations of last year’s ground-breaking report on co-production, which had been commissioned by the London borough.

She will work with fellow disabled activist Kevin Caulfield, chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts, who works as a policy and strategy officer at the council.

Flood said she was leaving ALLFIE in a much stronger position than when she had arrived in 2006, when it had just seven months of funding left.

She said: “This organisation is much more confident about what it believes in. We have a much higher profile.

As an organisation, we are rock solid on our principles, even in the face of extreme anti-inclusive rhetoric.

It’s probably our absolute strength that this organisation never shies away from saying the difficult stuff, because it’s the stuff we know that people need to hear and need to understand.”

But she said she was leaving ALLFIE at a time when the environment on inclusive education was “far more hostile” than when she had arrived.

Although the “last knockings of New Labour” had seen the government place a reservation and an interpretive declaration against article 24 – on inclusive education – of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when it ratified the treaty in 2009, government policy had become far more hostile to inclusive education since 2010, she said.

She said: “From 2010 there has been a deliberate and consistent dismantling of any progress that has been made in this country towards a more inclusive education system.

That has been done publicly, it’s been done with real confidence by a government whose ideology is so opposed to equality and human rights.

They don’t try to dress it up as anything else.”

Although the “burn-out” she felt after years of tackling this “onslaught” led to a sabbatical last year, to Finland and Canada – two countries where there have been attempts to shift away from segregated education – she said that was not the reason she was leaving ALLFIE.

First, she said, she was ready for a new challenge after 13 years. But she also wanted to “finish the job” in Hammersmith and Fulham.

She chaired the Hammersmith and Fulham Disabled People’s Commission that produced last year’s report and co-wrote it with Caulfield.

She said: “Now is the opportunity to realise all of that change that we set out in that report. It’s too good an opportunity to miss.”

The report is wide-ranging, and it concentrates not just on areas such as social care and education that are usually associated with disabled people’s services, but on “everything the council does”.

And it is not just about council services, she said.

One of the report’s recommendations is about building the capacity of the community and supporting disabled people to be co-producers, and about supporting disabled people’s organisations in the borough to work with disabled residents to be ready to co-produce policy decisions and service delivery with the council.

Flood said her new role would be “a challenge”.

She said: “I think we will meet resistance, potentially at every stage. Very few people do not struggle with fundamental change, particularly in sectors where the traditional approach to disabled people has been very, very well-embedded.

But the change is already underway, and I wouldn’t have taken the job if I thought this was just a token gesture.”

One of the tasks she will face, she said, will be in education, where she said she would need to challenge the council to move towards inclusion.

But she has already been encouraged by the co-production role played by disabled people in the planning application to redevelop Hammersmith town hall and the surrounding area.

And she said she was encouraged by the council’s moves away from a focus on personal budgets and towards the adoption of an independent living strategy.

Flood said her thoughts about leaving ALLFIE were “bittersweet”, despite the excitement of her new role, because she felt the tide may finally be turning in the battle against the government’s anti-inclusion policies.

Not only is ALLFIE’s membership increasing, but there has been a string of judicial review cases taken by parents challenging attempts to have their disabled children thrown out of mainstream schools.

In the short-term, ALLFIE is set to make an interim appointment while its trustees choose a permanent replacement for Flood.

She believes ALLFIE will benefit from a fresh approach on income generation from a new director, particularly because it is campaigning for social change in an area opposed by the government, which she said was “a double whammy”.

She is also hopeful about Labour’s new shadow minister responsible for special educational needs, the disabled MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who visited ALLFIE last month for a discussion with Flood.

Flood said: “We were really honest with her about our disappointment about how lacking in detail Labour have been since they recommitted to inclusive education at the party conference last September.

We really hope that with Emma at the helm we will see a new approach to how Labour talk about inclusive education and putting some detail into their policy of a national education service.

It’s a relationship that we have started and we intend to build and she seems to really understand what it is we are trying to do and she is a disabled person herself and has her own story to tell about her own education.”

Flood will also leave as ALLFIE puts the finishing touches to a new version of its manifesto for inclusive education and is planning a private members’ bill that she hopes will act as “a vehicle to build political relationships and support”.

She said the thought of leaving later this month was “awful”.

She said: “I feel ALLFIE is so part of me and I hope that I am part of ALLFIE and I think I am, and I will be really sad to leave, but I think ALLFIE is in a very different, better, stronger place than when I started.

We have an amazing staff team, we are very clear about our vision, we can articulate it with well-evidenced examples, and we are never swayed from our commitment to inclusive education and the ending of segregation, and that’s an amazing achievement in such difficult times.

I hope that as its director I have helped that happen.”

14 March 2019



Anger over government’s plans for 37 new special schools

Inclusive education campaigners have condemned the government’s announcement that it is funding 37 new special free schools, with segregated institutions for disabled children set to be opened in every part of England.

The announcement by education secretary Damian Hinds means there will be nearly 3,500 more free school places in segregated settings.

There will also be two alternative provision free schools, for children who have been, or are at risk of being, excluded from mainstream education.

Hinds’ announcement comes 18 months after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities was highly critical of the UK government’s record on inclusive education.

When the committee published its “concluding observations” on the progress the UK had made in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in August 2017, it was highly critical of the UK government’s approach, and the “persistence of a dual education system” that segregates increasing numbers of disabled children in special schools.

It called instead for a “coherent strategy” on “increasing and improving inclusive education”, which would include raising awareness of – and support for – inclusive education among parents of disabled children.

But The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) said the government had instead continued its ideological drive towards more segregation.

It said it “condemns the government’s mass expansion of segregated education” while at the same time “cutting mainstream school budgets”.

Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s policy and campaigns co-ordinator, said: “This is no longer about austerity and cuts – this government’s ideological drive is towards the dogma of investing in more segregated provision despite its association with poorer educational, employment and emotional outcomes. 

The government continues to ignore the evidence that good mainstream education provision is more likely to produce better outcomes for disabled pupils and that mainstream schools are the first preference of parents. 

The establishment of special schools with poorer outcomes for disabled children is in breach of the government’s obligation to promote disabled children’s human right to inclusive education under UNCRPD article 24, which requires the development of a fully inclusive education system for all.”

Hinds said in a statement: “We want every school to be a school for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

That’s why we are investing significant funding into special education needs units attached to mainstream schools and in additional support so children with education, health and care plans can access mainstream education.

But we recognise some children require more specialist support.

These new special free schools and alternative provision schools will make sure that more complex needs can be provided to help support every child to have a quality education.”

The government’s announcement was welcomed by the Council for Disabled Children (CDC).

Dame Christine Lenehan, CDC’s director, said: “We are pleased to welcome the new wave of special free schools and the extra choice they will bring to the system for children with special educational needs.”

Flood criticised CDC’s support for the government’s announcement.

She said: “We are very, very disappointed about how the CDC have toed the government line over and above the human rights of disabled children and young people to be included in the mainstream.

Of course, when ALLFIE is talking about including in mainstream we do not mean tweaks to the current system.

This is about an education system that reflects the spirit and tone of article 24.

If only CDC had the same values.”

Applications for potential providers will now open in the 39 local authorities that bid successfully for a special or alternative provision school to be opened in their area.

Of the special schools, there will be three in the north-east, six in the north-west, five in Yorkshire and the Humber, one in the East Midlands, four in the West Midlands, four in the east of England, five in London, three in the south-east, and six in the south-west, while the two alternative provision schools will be opened in the West Midlands.

14 March 2019


DWP handed petition of 200,000 names on benefit assessment travel

A disabled woman has handed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) a petition of more than 200,000 names in a bid to stop companies forcing claimants to travel long distances to attend face-to-face benefit assessments.

Claudette Lawrence only launched the petition on the 38 Degrees website in November, but by yesterday (Wednesday) it had been signed by more than 213,000 people.

She started the campaign after becoming increasingly concerned about the distances disabled friends were being asked to travel to attend face-to-face assessments with disability assessment contractors Maximus, Atos and Capita.

But she is also concerned about disabled people being charged up to £40 by their GPs to write a letter explaining why they need a home assessment, rather than having to travel to an assessment centre for their eligibility tests for personal independence payment (PIP) or employment and support allowance (ESA).

Lawrence says in her petition: “People who are on benefits due to ill health, cannot afford to pay for private letters.

There is a risk that people who are entitled to PIP or ESA will lose out, causing hardship and suffering.”

Last week, Lawrence and Lorna Greenwood, campaigns manager for 38 Degrees, were at DWP’s headquarters in London to discuss the issues and hand the petition to civil servants and a special adviser to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd.

Lawrence told Disability News Service (DNS) that a friend of hers from Thamesmead in east London had been asked to attend a work capability assessment in Wembley, on the other side of the capital in north-west London.

Another friend, from Charlton, in south-east London, had been asked to attend an assessment in Southend, on the Essex coast.

Lawrence said: “It’s just not right. The whole process is unfit for purpose.”

She said she had been expecting a strong response to her petition but had been “absolutely shocked” by how many people had signed it.

One of the disabled people who signed the petition said: “I have a long term mental health disorder and I was expected to take a journey with my baby which would involve three buses and two trains.

When I rang to say I couldn’t cope with even walking out of the door, let alone figure out the details of a very expensive journey, they treated me with contempt and rudeness.

They ignored my doctor’s letter. Needless to say they decided in my absence that I was fit for work.

Luckily my local DEA [disability employment adviser] saw the truth and made up for their nastiness.”

Another said: “They make people travel a great distance then say if you can travel this far then you are fine.”

And a third said: “I have had to travel for an assessment be completely unable to move for a week afterwards [and was then] turned down.”

And one said simply: “I was asked to attend an assessment in Milton Keynes and I live in London!”

A DWP spokesperson declined to say what action the department would take in response to the petition.

But she said in a statement: “We want everyone to have a good experience at their PIP or work capability assessment.

Whenever we can we will make benefit decisions using paper evidence so that people don’t need to travel to an assessment.

Anyone we need to see in person who is not able to travel to an assessment centre can request a home assessment.

Wherever possible our assessment providers will use supporting evidence which does not incur a fee to claimants. 

No one is required to travel for more than 90 minutes by public transport to their assessment.”

Five years ago, MPs on the Commons public accounts committee used evidence collected in a lengthy investigation by DNS and the disabled journalist Richard Butchins to accuse Atos of lying in the document it used to win a £184 million contract to provide PIP assessments across London and the south of England.

Atos had won the contract by boasting of its “extensive” network of 16 NHS trusts, two private hospital chains, and four physiotherapy providers, all of which it said would provide sites where the PIP tests would take place.

But in the months after the contract was awarded, all but four of the NHS trusts and both of the private hospital chains dropped out.

Atos had stated in the tender that it had a network of 740 assessment sites across London and the south of England.

But after the contract was signed, it only managed to secure 96 assessment centres, including not a single one covering a vast sweep of north London, and only one in Suffolk and one in Cambridgeshire, although it has since improved these numbers.

14 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 15:53
Mar 072019

Please can we share the below far and wide!

As part of their inquiry into DSS Discrimination, the government’s Work and Pensions Committee has launched a survey aimed at HB claimants who have struggled to access housing in the private rented sector.

The survey consists of some short answer questions on whether claimants have faced difficulty in renting a property because they were in receipt of benefits. Based on the tick boxes selected the survey may then ask follow up questions such as when a claimant faced difficulty due to ‘no DSS polices’, what benefits the claimant was in receipt of and whether the landlord/letting agency explained why they could not rent the property and offered any alternatives.

The survey itself will help inform the oral evidence session on ‘no DSS’ clauses due to take place on 20 March and the inquiry as a whole.

The Committee would be very grateful if you could help promote the survey

Please find the link below.

 Posted by at 15:48
Mar 072019

Reaction to Rudd’s reforms: Tinkering, crumbs and fears of a Trojan horse for cuts

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have raised grave concerns about a series of reforms to the disability benefits assessment system announced by work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd.

Rudd secured broadly positive coverage of her reforms from the mainstream media this week, but disabled campaigners have told Disability News Service (DNS) of their concerns, particularly about her plans to simplify the system.

DPOs and grassroots disabled activists said the plans amounted to “minor tinkering” when the system was instead in need of a radical overhaul.

The most striking announcement by Rudd was that her Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) plans to test if it can assess eligibility for both the extra costs benefit personal independence payment (PIP) and the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA) through a single face-to-face assessment, at least for those disabled people who apply for the two benefits at the same time.

It plans to do this through an “integrated” service, supported by a new digital system, which will deal with both PIP and ESA (and universal credit) assessments, and will begin to go live from 2021.

It hopes this DWP-owned system will allow a greater number of assessment providers than the current three companies – Atos, Capita and Maximus – to come into the market and “compete” to provide assessments.

But the changes will also mean DWP extending the contract of Maximus – the unpopular and discredited provider of work capability assessments (WCAs) – by 17 months to the end of July 2021.

Rudd’s speech was delivered on Tuesday at the offices of the disability charity Scope on the Olympic Park in east London.

A DWP spokesperson later told Disability News Service (DNS) that there were no plans to move to a single set of eligibility criteria across the two benefits – one of the many concerns raised by campaigners – and that the announcement was not a step towards moving to a single disability benefit covering both extra costs and out-of-work payments.

She said the new digital platform would “enable much greater information sharing between the two assessments” and that it would be “rolled out carefully – learning as we go”.

But Catherine Hale, lead researcher and project manager of the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project (CIIP), told DNS: “In theory, the idea of a single digital platform could simplify the claimant experience.

But we’ve seen with universal credit how the idea of an ‘integrated’ digital system has been a Trojan horse for cuts to disability premiums.

We are worried that the proposed integration of PIP and ESA will be a way of further eroding the premiums that recognise the extra costs of long-term unemployment, by stealth.

And we’re concerned that linking PIP eligibility to work capability will take us further away from the principle that PIP is intended to compensate for the financial penalty of disability, which exists both in and out of work.”

Al Morrison, communications and media officer for Inclusion London, who was at the speech, said: “There’s a lot we could say about yesterday’s announcements, but our overwhelming feeling is that these are not solutions.

We feel this is minor tinkering of a system that is completely flawed and needs to be overhauled, with a social model-based approach to assessments.

Until that happens, the benefits system and assessments process will continue to be punitive and hostile.”

She added: “We can’t understand why the contract with Maximus has been extended either.

It’s brutally apparent that this private contractor works for profit and not in the interests of disabled people.”

Last month, it emerged that Maximus appeared to have no written policy on how to protect the safety of people claiming ESA, despite years of evidence linking the WCA with deaths and serious harm.

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said that “rolling both assessments together, risking people losing everything in one fell swoop, is a nightmare scenario.

The right way forward would be to end repeated reassessment and bring in lifetime awards for PIP until such time as both totally failing assessments are scrapped and replaced with something fit for purpose.”

Ken Butler, benefits policy advisor for Disability Rights UK (DR UK), was another who called for wholesale reform rather than the minor changes proposed by Rudd.

He said: “Assessments for both ESA and PIP are flawed and poorly administered. The current figures for successful appeals on both benefits make that quite clear. 

You can’t merge two badly constructed processes and expect to come up with one fit-for-purpose approach.

Without a wholesale change of design of the assessment process, huge numbers of disabled people will continue to be denied benefits they are entitled to – that’s the change we need.”

Rosa Morris, who has personal experience of the WCA and last year completed a PhD examining the assessment process and disability benefits, said Rudd had failed to acknowledge that “both assessment processes for PIP and ESA are unfit for purpose and create additional harm.

My personal experience of the WCA and my academic research, added to my current work supporting people with PIP and ESA claims, shows a system which views disabled people’s experiences of their bodies and lives as contentious, is not motivated by wishing to support them, and is instead focused on reducing claimant numbers.

It is currently unclear what any integration of the assessment processes will look like in practice, but there is a real danger of PIP ending up integrated into universal credit, where it could be at risk of conditionality and sanctions and no longer be a universal non-means tested benefit designed to address additional costs and unrelated to employment status.”

Caroline Richardson, a disabled researcher and member of the Spartacus Network of campaigners, said Rudd’s announcement suggested that the two very different benefits “have effectively been merged in the minds of the DWP”.

She said: “I have fought hard to keep the distinction, and that disabled people who are well can work, but sick people who have apparent functionality cannot work, and that the benefits are for different purposes and therefore should have very different testing criteria.

Repeatedly I have heard MPs, media and even disability organisation conflate and confuse the two benefits.

They are separate benefits for separate purposes and should remain that way.”

Jenny Morris, who helped write the Labour government’s Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People white paper, was another to raise fears that ministers could be moving towards merging the two very different benefits.

She said on Twitter that there had been no recognition from Rudd that PIP was an “extra costs benefit” and “nothing to do with ability to work”.

She said: “Are we on a journey to abolishing the whole idea of a benefit which is intended to fund the additional costs associated with impairment and illness?”

Another measure announced by Rudd, which again secured positive coverage in the mainstream media, was that DWP would no longer reassess PIP claimants who have reached the pension age – or at least would only give them a “light touch review” every 10 years – unless they tell the department their needs have changed.

Some campaigning organisations, like DR UK, said the measure showed a more “common sense approach” to assessments.

But Burnip told DNS: “Rudd has thrown a few crumbs to a few pensioners who are possibly WASPI women who have had years of pension entitlement stolen or have a partner under pension age who will lose thousands of pounds through universal credit rules.

This is nothing more than an insult to them.” 

Inclusion London said it could “find no rational explanation for ending frequent re-assessments of only state-pension-age disabled people” and called for an urgent review of the new policy.

Morrison pointed out that Rudd had failed to “properly address a press question asking why this change will not apply to younger disabled people too”.

Stef Benstead, another CIIP researcher and member of the Spartacus Network, said the move was “daft”.

She said: “They’re equating permanent severe illness with being over pension age… using an unreliable proxy for something that could be directly assessed. A bit like PIP itself, really.

They also think they can design a computer system for holding PIP and universal credit/ESA info by 2021, despite the universal credit debacle.”

In a ministerial statement issued before the speech, Rudd also said that ministers were hoping to improve the mandatory reconsideration process – reviews carried out by DWP before benefit claimants can appeal a decision on their claim – to ensure that further evidence was gathered from claimants at this stage and to “make more accurate decisions sooner”.

And she confirmed a previous announcement that DWP would test a new approach that should reduce the conditions – and potential sanctions – imposed on disabled people awaiting a WCA as part of a universal credit claim.

But Philip Connolly, Disability Rights UK’s policy manager, said: “Amber Rudd acknowledged how many disabled people experience her department when she said that for some it was akin to being on trial, but her announcements fell short of the legitimate expectations of disabled people for the wholesale suspension of sanctions or the need for evidence-based descriptors in the WCA.”

Rudd also said she would commission research to examine disabled claimants’ experience of the benefits system and how to meet their needs, and that she wanted to improve DWP’s engagement with “disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, and the charities that support disabled people”.

But Inclusion London said: “We welcome the mention of co-production with disabled people, but we have little evidence that the government is committed to such meaningful engagement.

After the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities made their concluding observations outlining their concerns with disability rights – stating that the government should work with disabled people’s representative organisations – it took 18 months for the minister for disabled people to meet with us.

We know the government has arranged a number of meetings discussing the issues disabled people face where we have been excluded.

They seem intent on engaging with charities, not disabled people’s organisations.”

Hale also welcomed Rudd’s comment on engagement, and said she looked forward to sharing with her CIIP’s forthcoming report based on research into the lived experience of chronic illness, social security and work.

She said: “We especially urge her to consider the needs of people with energy impairment.

Our research participants felt as though the WCA and PIP assessment are deliberately designed not to take account of fatigue and energy impairment and therefore to deny their lived experience of their health condition.

We will be making recommendations for a system that empowers people with energy-limiting chronic illness to live as fully as possible, rather than punishing them as the current system does. It must begin with listening, trust and respect.”

Rudd also announced that she wanted to set a “new and more ambitious goal” than the government’s current target of seeing one million more disabled people in work in the 10 years to 2027.

And she said she wanted to “significantly improve how DWP supports disabled people and those with health conditions”, admitting that some disabled people had told her that they “feel as though they are put on trial for seeking the state’s support”.

She insisted that her DWP colleagues were “in their jobs because they want to help people” and so DWP needed to “do more to close the gap between our intentions and your experiences”.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, was dismissive of the reforms, and said: “Rudd’s announcements today are totally inadequate.

The hostile environment that this government has created for disabled people is set to continue.

These reforms do not address the fundamental flaws in a system that has repeatedly failed ill and disabled people, who continue to face cruel and callous PIP reassessments and an unfit-for-purpose assessment framework.

Labour will scrap PIP and WCA assessments, which have caused unnecessary suffering to so many, and replace them with a system that treats disabled people with dignity and respect.”

Asked how Rudd responded to the claim that the changes would do nothing to address the fundamental flaws in the system, the DWP spokesperson said: “As the secretary of state said yesterday, she is committed to closing the gap between our intentions and disabled people’s experiences, and she will be guided by disabled people as we work together to provide the opportunities and support they deserve and expect.”

7 March 2019



Professor Mike Oliver: Outpouring of admiration for social model pioneer

The death of the disabled academic who first defined the “social model of disability” has led to an outpouring of admiration, affection and grief from leading figures in the disabled people’s movement.

Their responses highlighted the status of Professor Mike Oliver as one of the movement’s most influential figures.

After hearing of his death this week, many disabled friends and admirers explained on social media how his work had changed their lives.

Dr Sally Witcher, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, said his book, The Politics of Disablement, had “profoundly” changed her understanding of disability and of herself as a disabled person.

Tracey Proudlock, co-founder of the influential Campaign for Accessible Transport in the early 1990s, said his work had set her on a “personal journey transforming” her own politics.

Tara Flood, director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, said Oliver was “an absolute legend and a pioneer” and added: “His social model of disability thinking along with others of his generation are absolutely responsible for the lightbulb moment in my life.”

Agnes Fletcher, a former director of policy and communications at the Disability Rights Commission, added: “An intellectual giant with shoulders broad enough to set so many of us free.”

And Phil Friend, a former chair of Disability Rights UK, said Oliver was “a colossus and irreplaceable” and would “always be remembered as the one who set us all free”.

Other leading disabled activists and campaigners to recognise his contribution to the disabled people’s movement this week included Professor Peter Beresford, Michelle Daley, Jane Young, Dennis Queen, Liz Carr, Cllr Pam Thomas, Mik Scarlet, and Rhian Davies.

Many first heard the news from the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who had known Professor Oliver for more than 30 years, and described him as a “dear friend, mentor and all-round genius”.

They wrote a book together, Disability Politics: Understanding Our Past, Changing Our Future, and Baroness Campbell said his legacy was “central to how millions of disabled people now live their lives and see themselves”, as “empowered people with rights” rather than a medical diagnosis.

In an interview with PhD researcher Jonjo Brady, recorded last year for a documentary by the University of Kent’s Matt Wilson, which was shown as part of the university’s Disability History Month event in November, Oliver described how he left grammar school with three O-levels, before working as a clerk in an office for a year, where he discovered “that being at work was even more boring than being at school”.

But after he broke his neck diving into a swimming pool, he spent a year receiving rehabilitation in Stoke Mandeville Hospital’s renowned spinal injuries unit, and was then given a job teaching young offenders.

When a law change meant he could no longer teach without a degree or teaching qualification, he decided to study sociology, the first subject he had encountered that he felt was relevant to his own life.

He studied sociology and social anthropology at the University of Kent in the early 1970s, at a time when it was physically “unwelcoming” to a wheelchair-user, in contrast to the helpful attitude of the staff and fellow students who assisted him daily with the barriers he faced in the “generous times ushered in by the economic and cultural revolutions of the 1960s”.

His life, he said later, was changed by a booklet published in 1976 by the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS), The Fundamental Principles of Disability, which argued that “the root cause of our problems was the way society was organised and the disabling barriers we faced”.

UPIAS – and one of its key members, the father of the social model, Vic Finkelstein – argued that disabled people were oppressed by society, rather than seeing disability as “a personal tragedy”.

This meant, said Oliver, that he “no longer had to accept full responsibility” for his impairment and understood instead that his “personal troubles were also public issues”, an insight that led him to develop the UPIAS principles and define the social model as the key to understanding disabled people’s oppression.

Oliver stayed on after his degree to complete his PhD in Kent, and eventually to teach a masters course for social workers working with disabled people. It is believed to have been the first postgraduate course in what later became known as disability studies.

At the time, he would say later, most writing on disability “was dominated by assumptions that disability was a medical problem and the focus was on illness and impairment”, and any personal focus was on disabled people as “tragic victims”, with the stereotype reinforced in popular culture through the “triumph over tragedy” genre.

He had wanted his masters course instead to challenge the idea that professionals working with disabled people should focus solely on their “personal troubles and not how and why they were linked to public issues”.

He told Brady last year: “I did want to provide an alternative, more optimistic picture, which wasn’t simply about seeing disability as personal tragedy, disabled people as unemployable, and so on, and it was about having an optimistic view of what disabled people could achieve if many of the barriers that they faced were removed.”

Oliver’s first book, Social Work with Disabled People, published in 1983, incorporated this philosophy and introduced the social model of disability to a wider audience, and within five years, he said, “had become the mantra for many disabled people’s organisations and was beginning to make its way into official government documents”.

The book, now in its fourth edition, is still in print.

He also spoke in his interview with Brady about his second book, The Politics of Disablement, which was published in 1990 and brought together sociology and disability and became a key textbook just as disability studies “was about to take off”.

Oliver would later become the first professor of disability studies in the UK, at the University of Greenwich, and he was still, in retirement, emeritus professor of disability studies at the university.

He played a key role in the late 1980s and early 1990s in persuading the government to introduce disability discrimination legislation, partly he said later by pushing for research that was carried out on behalf of the British Council of Disabled People by another pioneering disabled academic, Colin Barnes, which showed the extent of discrimination faced by disabled people in Britain.

Oliver said it was that research by Barnes (now emeritus professor of disability studies at the University of Leeds), and direct action by the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network, that persuaded the government to introduce the first Disability Discrimination Act, which became law in 1995.

But he said the Conservative government “sold disabled people and our aims for that legislation down the river” by making the act ineffective and “almost unenforceable”.

In a statement following his death, the Centre for Disability Studies (CDS) at the University of Leeds described Oliver as “a pioneer of UK disability studies” who “will never be forgotten”, and said his work on the social model “became – and remains – essential for challenging social injustice”.

CDS said his ideas and commentary had helped to shape the “strategies, demands and activities” of the UK disabled people’s movement, while his writings were “highly regarded across the globe and were instrumental in the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

CDS added: “The clarity and accessibility of his writing has led to various arguments, including alternative theories, to emerge within disability studies and across activist networks.

This is to be welcomed as it will further debate and action to address the marginalisation of disabled people.

Yet his materialist account of disability – which explored the relationship between disability and capitalism – will remain significant to current and future research and action.”

His collaboration with disabled activists and disabled people’s organisations, said CDS, transformed disability “from a personal and private trouble to a public issue, one that remains a matter of social justice.

His extensive publications, which include journal articles, books, and keynote speeches, has challenged all of us to consider how disabled people’s historical and contemporary experiences are captured, articulated and used as a way to bring about emancipation.”

In recent years, Oliver emerged occasionally from retirement, either to campaign locally in Kent, where he still lived, or to deliver powerful speeches that were heavily critical of both the government and the large charities that claimed to speak for disabled people.

Last summer, Disability News Service (DNS) reported on his campaigning work in Kent to expose the failings in the company responsible for the NHS wheelchair services contract in the county.

He had been a user of wheelchair services in Kent for more than 50 years, and said he believed the service was worse than it had ever been throughout that time.

Allen Jones, honorary chair of Wheelchair Users Group for South and East Kent (WUG), knew Oliver for nearly 30 years and said it was thanks to his “tireless campaigning and badgering” that they had made progress in persuading the authorities to listen to their concerns.

He told DNS: “Hopefully it will be part of his legacy that we will have a wheelchair service in Kent that is fit for purpose.”

He added: “For disabled people he will be a massive loss, especially for those of us in Kent who knew him.”

They became friends when Jones was chair of Centre for Independent Living Kent (CILK), and Oliver helped them put together a successful lottery bid for a mobile centre for independent living.

Jones said: “He had a wonderful, dry sense of humour. He was always there as a friend and a campaigner when we needed it.”

He said Oliver had been “passionate” about the social model “right until the last”, delivering a five-minute summary in one of the meetings with the company that delivers the wheelchair services contract.

He said: “That was the essence of Mike: he would help anybody, but he wouldn’t mince his words. He would tell it how it is.

Unless you challenge and deal with it, it will never improve. That was his philosophy. He would never take no for an answer.

Hopefully the legacy of the social model and his campaigning and his advocacy will live on and hopefully many more disabled people will trawl the archives and find the papers he has written and take it up and hopefully we will get a new generation of campaigners.”

In 2013, Oliver had spoken in public about disability for the first time in 10 years, warning disabled people to beware of the “fakes” and “so-called friends” who tried to jump on the independent living “bandwagon”.

In a speech to mark the launch of UK Disability History Month, he said disabled people should never “forget where we came from” and should remember that “we were the ones who escaped from our isolation and segregation, whether we were in homes or our families”.

Describing some of the lessons from history that disabled people must learn in their continuing struggle for independence, he said they should remember that independent living did not mean “living on our own” or “doing everything for ourselves” but was about “having choice and control in our lives” and “autonomy and self-determination”.

And he warned them to beware of “the fakes who seek to jump on the independent living bandwagon”, such as the big charities who “claim to promote and support independent living and yet continue to run residential homes and even export the residential model to other parts of the world”.

Four years later, in another speech to mark Disability History Month, this time at the University of Kent, he said that many of the big charities were “parasitic on the lives of disabled people, and their attempts to reposition themselves as defenders of disability rights are an attempt to disguise this”.

He also warned that the government had positioned disabled people as “pathetic victims”, allowing ministers to launch “a massive attack on services and benefits for disabled people” while claiming that their “relentless assault on the living standards of disabled people is nothing of the kind but a heartfelt attempt to take public money away from scroungers and fraudsters and give it to the most severely disabled people who really need it”.

He concluded that disabled people needed to take responsibility themselves for “attacking the disabling barriers we face”, arguing: “What disability history teaches us is that we cannot rely on the bleeding hearts brigade and parasite people to do it for us.

We have to do it for ourselves. We have to insist that our personal troubles are public issues that need to be resolved.”

7 March 2019



Disabled DWP employee ‘attempted suicide over culture of workplace bullying’

A disabled employee of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says he attempted to take his own life and experienced life-threatening physical health complications because of a culture of workplace bullying and discrimination.

Paul* spoke out about his own experiences after reading a Disability News Service (DNS) report describing how DWP repeatedly failed to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people who were recruited into its Community Partners scheme.

His account of his own experiences working in a separate part of DWP adds to mounting evidence of disability discrimination within the department.

Only last week, DNS reported how the proportion of DWP staff who say they have been victims of disability discrimination at work in the previous 12 months has risen by about 50 per cent in just four years, according to Civil Service figures.

There was also a rise of more than 10 per cent in just 12 months in the number of DWP staff saying they had personally experienced disability discrimination at work, from 1,462 in 2017 to 1,612 in 2018.

These statistics, combined with other Civil Service figures, suggest that more than a third of disabled DWP staff experienced disability discrimination at work in 2018.

The latest evidence of discrimination within the government department responsible for the much-criticised Disability Confident programme also further strains the scheme’s credibility.

DWP itself has secured the status of Disability Confident Leader, the highest of three levels within the scheme, which aims to work with employers to “challenge attitudes towards disability” and “ensure that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations”.

Paul attempted suicide as a result of the abuse and discrimination he experienced, while the increased stress levels led to significant, lasting and potentially fatal health complications.

He said he was still waiting for all the reasonable adjustments he needed to do his job, more than 18 months after he requested them.

He said he had received phone calls from fellow disabled employees who were in tears because of the failure of the department to make the reasonable adjustments they needed to do their job.

Paul said that when he and others pass on concerns about the impact of bullying and harassment on their mental health, they are told to take anti-depressants or seek counselling, while the staff and managers responsible are moved to other departments or rewarded with promotions.

His experiences with DWP have had, he said, “a devastating effect on my career prospects, a devastating effect on my potential earnings, and a devastating effect on my potential life expectancy and ability to live on my own”.

He added: “In fact, this has had a devastating effect on my life.”

DWP’s widespread failings call into question its fitness to judge disabled people’s eligibility for benefits, he added.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring all colleagues, including those with disabilities or health conditions, get the support they need to thrive.

The department has a duty of care to its colleagues and aims to lead by example as a Disability Confident employer, following best practice in recruiting, retaining and developing disabled staff.

This includes making workplace adjustments for staff who require them and providing a dedicated team to deliver this.

We have in place robust processes for colleagues and managers to follow in relation to diversity and inclusion and, while the number of staff reporting disability discrimination is very small, we treat any case extremely seriously.”

She said DWP takes “active steps” to promote equality, and that more than 10,500 employers have signed up to Disability Confident, while the department was modernising its recruitment practices to make them “fairer and more inclusive”.

She added: “Should any individual feel they or their circumstances have not been treated with respect; believe they have been treated unfairly; or not in line with our inclusive principles, our policies and procedures provide a route for escalation so it can be considered and addressed.”

*Not his real name. DNS has disguised his occupation within DWP and has not provided full details of the health problems caused by the discrimination he has experienced to avoid identifying him

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing

7 March 2019



Job losses at Disability Rights UK as user-led funding squeeze tightens

A national disabled people’s organisation has had to make cuts of nearly 20 per cent to its staff, in a further sign of the financial difficulties facing many user-led organisations across the country.

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) is making four of its 22 posts* redundant, although as two of the posts are vacant it will be losing two members of staff.

DR UK told Disability News Service yesterday (Wednesday) that it was set for an annual deficit of about £165,000 for 2018-19 against a backdrop of “particularly fierce” competition for funding.

DR UK’s chief executive, Kamran Mallick, said the charity was “facing bigger challenges than we had hoped” but that “the future of the organisation is not at risk”.

He said: “We planned for a small deficit but like many voluntary organisations, we are feeling the impact of a shortage of statutory and public sector funding and grants.”

He said DR UK had not generated as much income from activities such as training and consultancy as it had hoped, and would now be focusing more on its research, policy and campaigning work.

Mallick said: “This restructure will help us get on a sound financial footing and focus more on our research, policy and campaigning work.

This is all supported by plans for generating income.”

Last month, leading disability networks warned that user-led organisations were continuing to close across the country, with the sector even facing a “real threat of extinction”.

The news of the redundancies comes only two years after Mallick’s predecessor as chief executive, Liz Sayce, said DR UK was in a “sustainable financial position”, and was expecting to report a financial surplus, following past concerns about the charity’s pensions deficit.

That deficit arose unexpectedly following fluctuations in the financial markets, as a result of a final salary pension scheme which had been closed to new members years previously by RADAR, one of the three disability organisations that merged to form DR UK.

In 2014, DR UK staved off the threat of closure after reaching an agreement with the Pension Protection Fund to take over its defined benefits pension scheme, after developing an unsustainable pensions deficit of more than £3 million.

Mallick said he and colleagues had been working to make DR UK “more efficient” and trying to increase income, while it had halved its office rental costs by moving last January from Shoreditch to the Olympic Park in east London and had made savings by changing its IT and auditing service-providers.

He said: “We hope and expect the changes we have made will solve the immediate financial problems and put us on the path to surplus budgets for the year 2020-21.”

*Last year’s accounts showed an average of 22.2 full-time equivalent staff in 2017-18

7 March 2019



Inquiry to examine discrimination in legal system, and possible miscarriages of justice

Autistic rights campaigners have welcomed a new inquiry into the discrimination faced by disabled people in the criminal justice system.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) inquiry, which will cover England, Scotland and Wales, will look at whether the barriers in the system are exposing disabled people to potential miscarriages of justice.

It will focus on autistic and other neurodivergent people, people with learning difficulties and those with mental health conditions, concentrating on their experiences after they have been charged with a criminal offence and before they reach trial.

The inquiry will examine whether their needs are properly identified and if they receive the adjustments they need to allow them to understand the charges and the legal process and to participate “effectively and as fully as possible”.

Adjustments can include the use of intermediaries, allowing extra time and breaks, and providing accessible information.

The EHRC inquiry will also look at how modernisation of the court system, such as the use of video-link hearings and online processes, is affecting disabled defendants and accused (the Scottish criminal justice system uses the term “accused” instead of defendants).

And it will examine the legal duties of the government, public sector bodies and the judiciary to make adjustments under the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The inquiry was welcomed by Autistic UK, which is run by and for autistic people.

Kat Humble, Autistic UK’s communications officer, said: “Autistic UK welcome this investigation, as we have heard far too many stories from people going through the justice system unsupported and misunderstood.

There is little wonder that so many in the autistic community mistrust the justice system when they so often end up victims of miscommunication and overwhelming environments through lack of adequate support.

The time between a charge and a trial is fraught with panic and overwhelming decisions.

It is critical at this juncture to ensure that the person charged understands what is happening, understands any decisions made about them, and has the information to make any decisions they need to make for themselves.

Appropriate advocacy is imperative to ensure smooth communication, along with such reasonable adjustments such as a low stimulation environment and time allowed for the person to process all information.” 

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “The launch of this inquiry shows the level of concern of the treatment of disabled people by our criminal justice system.

It is disgraceful that some of the most marginalised in society are denied support and face miscarriages of justice.

Disabled people deserve a process in which they are able to fully participate. Labour will create a justice system that treats disabled people equally and fairly.”

David Isaac, EHRC’s chair, said: “The criminal justice system is complex and people with impairments such as autism and mental health conditions can find it especially difficult to navigate their way through the system.

It is essential that criminal justice works fairly for everyone and that anyone accused of a crime is not disadvantaged by virtue of having an impairment. 

Technology can often assist and empower disabled people, but we must also ensure it is used appropriately and doesn’t inadvertently end up isolating disabled people or jeopardising their ability to participate in person.

If disabled people’s needs aren’t properly identified from the outset they are at risk of not understanding the charges they face, the advice they receive or the legal process. 

In some cases, this can mean disabled people could be wrongly convicted or receive inappropriate sentences.”

7 March 2019



Jodey Whiting: DWP apologises, but no word on preventing future deaths

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has apologised for a series of failings made in the weeks leading to the death of a disabled mother-of-nine, but it has failed to explain how it will prevent further tragedies in the future.

A senior civil servant has written to the mother of Jodey Whiting, who took her own life in February 2017, 15 days after her out-of-work disability benefits were stopped for missing a work capability assessment (WCA).

Emma Haddad, DWP’s director of working age benefits, apologised in the letter both for safeguarding errors made by the department in the weeks before her death, and failings that took place afterwards.

But there was nothing in Haddad’s letter to suggest how DWP will prevent further deaths, despite years of 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.

Haddad’s letter was written following the completion of a report by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), which concluded that DWP had been guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case, and that it had failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to Whiting’s suicide.

Haddad told Whiting’s mother, Joy Dove, that when her daughter failed to attend her WCA appointment DWP “should have attempted further contact with Jodey before closing her claim”.

She added: “We do have guidelines in place to try and safeguard customers and regrettably our procedures were not followed.”

Haddad also apologised for failing to update the department’s IT systems following her death and for sending “unnecessary” letters and phone calls after being notified that she had died, which she said was “clearly unacceptable”.

She also apologised for DWP failing to respond to letters sent by Whiting and those acting on her behalf, and for failing to carry out a full investigation until Dove contacted ICE with a complaint.

Haddad said the department’s customer service standards were “clearly not achieved”.

Dove told DNS: “When I read the letter it upset me, thinking, ‘Yes, my daughter could have been alive if they have done everything they should have done.’”

And she said the letter failed to explain how DWP would prevent further deaths.

Asked why Haddad had not stated what measures the department would take to prevent further deaths, a DWP spokesperson said the department was “reviewing our procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen again”, but she declined to comment further.

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing

7 March 2019



Equality Act does not apply abroad, says British Council, after sacking disabled teacher

The government-funded body that promotes the UK’s culture and education abroad has sacked a disabled teacher, despite its own internal investigation concluding that it failed to provide her with the reasonable adjustments she needed to do her job.

The British Council, which proclaims itself a Disability Confident employer – under the discredited employment scheme run by the Department for Work and Pensions – was able to dodge its Equality Act duties by arguing that the legislation does not apply because Emily Frisby worked in Morocco and so was subject to local employment law.

Internal investigations upheld her complaint about the failure of managers to provide her with the reasonable adjustments she needed and even concluded that “management may have crossed a red line in terms of intimidation/bullying” of Frisby.

But although the British Council then agreed to provide the adjustments she needed, managers repeatedly refused to provide details of the provisions they would make, she said, and ignored her emails asking for clarification.

She had experienced months of disability discrimination at the hands of British Council managers after transferring to Morocco from Vietnam in 2017.

She was denied the reduced hours she had in her previous British Council job, which worsened her health condition, and was forced to take a “protracted and dehumanising” grievance procedure because of the refusal to provide her with the reasonable adjustments she needed.

Her condition affects her hearing and balance, and symptoms include vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus, all of which can be triggered by stress.

But when she tried to secure the reasonable adjustments she needed, managers refused to provide them and instead questioned her impairment, and, she said, bullied and harassed her.

As a result of her treatment, she was signed off work with stress and anxiety and an exacerbation of the symptoms of her condition.

She was forced to drop a legal claim for discrimination because the British Council argued that the Equality Act does not apply to its actions in Morocco, even though it is a UK charity, receives funding from the UK government, is sponsored by the Foreign Office, and has signed up to Disability Confident.

Now the British Council has given Frisby three months’ notice under the “Moroccan labor code”, blaming her for her failure to return to work and telling her they are treating this as a resignation, even though her GP and an occupational therapist advised her to make sure the adjustments were in place before she returned to work.

She has been off sick for more than a year and received sick pay only until August. She has not been paid since.

She said: “I haven’t had any indication of how the adjustments would work in practice… despite repeatedly asking for and obviously needing confirmation and clarification.

My GP and occupational health advised to have the adjustments in place before I returned to work to avoid further stress and delays and it seemed sensible considering it would be impossible for me to return to work without any discussion or knowledge of my working hours and classes.

All I wanted was to reduce or change my timetable and have a level of support and understanding about my health condition.”

She added: “My emails and sick notes are often ignored entirely, or they just repeat that adjustments will be made on my return to work, ignoring the other questions and concerns.

It’s hard not to see this as part of the same hostile environment for disabled people coming from the UK government, and as retaliation for speaking out and complaining.”

The British Council argues that it does not need to comply with the Equality Act because Frisby was employed in Morocco and was subject to local employment law. 

It also says that “the spirit” of the Equality Act is captured in its “equality policy, values and behaviours”, which apply to all staff globally. 

A British Council spokesperson refused to say whether it would provide Frisby with an apology and compensation for the treatment she has received.

She also failed to say why the British Council could not go beyond Moroccan law and treat disabled people as fairly as they would be treated in the UK, and she refused to say if the British Council believed it could continue as a Disability Confident Employer in the light of her treatment.

But the spokesperson said in a statement: “Our own internal investigation into this found that we didn’t handle some aspects of the adjustments required very well. 

Although the changes were later put in as requested, we are sorry for the upset this situation caused.

We had successfully made adjustments for Ms Frisby in a previous role, in a different country. 

We have now shared how we handled these requests with our Disability Facilitators –specially trained staff in global teams – so they can help assist employees and managers in these situations.

As an organisation, we fully recognise that people with disabilities face discrimination and barriers, and we are committed to identifying and removing those barriers so we can improve our practice.”

7 March 2019



Some claims that London 2012 changed the world are nonsense, says disabled peer

One of Britain’s greatest Paralympians has told a parliamentary meeting to beware of claims that London 2012 “changed the world” for disabled people.

Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson was speaking at a parliamentary meeting held to discuss the need for more to be done to enable disabled people to take part in physical activity.

The retired Paralympian – she won 11 Paralympic golds as a wheelchair athlete – and now crossbench peer said that some of the often-repeated claims that “2012 changed the world” were “nonsense”.

She told the meeting of the all-party parliamentary group for disability that London 2012 “did lots of incredible things for the Olympics and Paralympics, but it didn’t change disability hate crime, which is on the rise, especially against children, and it didn’t change many disabled people’s opportunity to be physically active.

It gave lots of young people aspirations and some people definitely came to activity because of it, but it hasn’t changed the entire world in terms of what we do.”

Baroness Grey-Thompson, who was speaking as both a crossbench peer and chair of ukactive, which promotes physical activity and represents large parts of the fitness and leisure industry, said the Paralympics were “great if you’re talented and want to spend all your life training and make it to the highest levels of sport”.

But she said that disabled people also need “the same opportunity to be fit and healthy” as non-disabled people and to just be “rubbish at sport”.

She said: “It’s not all about sport, it’s about physical activity and unless we make some changes we are not going to be giving those people the opportunity.”

She said physical activity “can make a huge difference to disabled people’s lives”.

She added: “Inactivity is really common for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, and this is the scary bit: disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people.

Unless we open doors and make things accessible and get governing bodies to think differently, and get everybody to think differently, and we get school sport to be genuinely open and inclusive, we are not going to bring about some of those changes.”

She told the meeting that families had written to her to tell her that their disabled children had been excluded from physical education at school for “all sorts of reasons” including “health and safety”.

Mike Diaper, director of children, young people and tackling inactivity for Sport England, said his organisation had invested £12 million in targeted funding to help promote physical activity for disabled people.

One of the charities it is working with is the disabled people’s organisation Disability Rights UK through the Get Yourself Active scheme, which brings together health, sport and social care, and helps disabled people use their personal budgets to take part in physical activity.

He said: “The learning that is coming out of that is the gulf between what youngsters want to do in terms of getting active and the knowledge of their social workers.”

Huw Edwards, public affairs and research director for ukactive, said his organisation worked with more than 4,000 members across the UK, with most of them from the fitness and leisure sector, but he admitted that the sector’s efforts to enable disabled people to engage in physical activity were “a work in progress” although it had “great ambition”.

He said they had access to data on more than 500 million visits to local authority leisure centres in the last five years, but there was no information on the involvement of disabled people in those trips.

Disabled people attending the meeting also raised their concerns about the barriers to accessing physical activity.

Chris Jeffery, chair of Mending the Gap, told the meeting that more should be done to improve the disability equality training of staff in gyms and leisure centres.

And Phil Shoebridge, chair of Centre of Excellence for Disability Archery in Kent, said it was becoming increasingly difficult for members of grassroots disability sports organisations to afford to hire venues run by schools and local authorities because they were so intent on maximising revenue.

7 March 2019


News provided by John Pring at


 Posted by at 15:45
Mar 052019
I am a freelance journalist working for Community Care, the online social work news site. 
I would like to speak to people who use social care services in England and have assessed eligible needs under the Care Act 2014 for support to access facilities in their local community and/or make friends and other relationships, to discuss how well they feel these needs are being met by local authorities. I am also looking to speak to people who have experienced a cut to their care package, which has left them unable to access their local community, take part in social activities or caused them to become socially isolated. 
The interviews will be used as case studies in an investigation I am working on into this type of support. You can read more about the research here: 
I may be able to travel to meet people in person or alternatively I can speak on the phone. Interviewees will be given a fake name in the final article to protect their identity. 
I can be contacted on – hope to hear from you soon. 
 Posted by at 23:08
Mar 032019

Banner reading: No More Deaths on Our Streets

Friday, 15 March 2019 from 18:00-21:00, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AT

Facebook Event Page

Hundreds of people have died homeless across the UK in the last year. Every single one is a death too many.

At least one person dies every day due to the very avoidable condition of a lack of suitable shelter, while swathes of luxurious buildings lie empty & unused..

This cannot continue! Enough is enough!

Join us to commemorate and honour those that have died and to fight back against swinging cuts to services leaving people vulnerable and the creeping criminalisation of those experiencing homelessness.

We will be meeting outside 10 Downing Street on 15 March at 6pm

This can be done anywhere & everywhere so the more cities together the better ♥

Bring your candles, banners, placards, names of those that have died. Let’s come together and demand NO MORE DEATHS ON OUR STREETS!

There ARE simple solutions.

Please spread the word and bring your friends and family.
If you are part of a group/union/anything please add your name to our call to action..

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 Posted by at 15:48