Secret PIP files show one in three assessments by Capita had significant flaws
More than a third of disability assessment reports completed by a government contractor have been found to be significantly flawed, according to secret government files.
The proportion of substandard personal independence payment (PIP) reports completed by outsourcing giant Capita has risen to 37 per cent in the two years since 2016, when nearly 33 per cent of reports were found to be defective.
The figures, secured from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) under the Freedom of Information Act by campaigner John Slater, are likely to add fuel to concerns about Capita’s performance in delivering the contract.
And they are also likely to strengthen calls for DWP to be declared “not fit for purpose” and institutionally disablist, as demanded by the Justice for Jodey Whiting parliamentary petition*.
The figures show the results of government audits of nearly 6,000 assessment reports carried out by Capita during 2018.
They show that nearly four per cent of the reports (3.92 per cent) were of such poor quality that they were categorised as “unacceptable”.
With another 17 per cent of assessments, DWP concluded the report was so flawed that there was “learning required” by the healthcare professional who wrote it, although the report was of an “acceptable” standard.
And in a further 16 per cent of cases, the report needed to be amended because of even more serious flaws, although again the report was still said to be of an “acceptable” standard.
In all, nearly 37 per cent of assessment reports audited during 2018 were found to be of an unacceptable standard, to need changes, or demonstrated that the assessor had failed to carry out their role properly.
The newly-released data provides details of the “management information” (MI) that Capita and fellow outsourcing giant Atos are contractually obliged to provide every month to DWP, so it can check on their performance and take action when they need to improve.
It was obtained as part of Slater’s continuing efforts to secure information from DWP that he believes will expose the widespread failings of Capita and Atos, and DWP’s failure to manage the contracts properly.
He is still appealing against DWP’s failure to release data showing the results of audits of Atos assessment reports.
The data that was released raises continuing and multiple concerns about the way the two private sector companies are carrying out their contractual duties.
It also shows that the many reports of dishonest and distressing assessment experiences by individual disabled people are not isolated occurrences.
One of the concerns highlighted by the data is the proportion of assessments cleared by Capita within 40 days, which nearly fell as low as 50 per cent at one stage during 2018.
Another concern is over the number of Atos and Capita healthcare professionals who have been the subject of multiple complaints within a three-month period.
Last year, DNS revealed that 161 assessors working for Atos and 19 Capita assessors had had at least four complaints made against them in a three-month period in 2016.
But the figures for 2018 show that, although the number of Atos assessors who faced multiple complaints fell from 161 to 129, the number of Capita assessors who were subjected to at least four complaints in just three months leapt from 19 to 84 between 2016 and 2018.
Capita carried out about 220,000 face-to-face assessments in 2018, compared with more than 730,000 by Atos.
Another key concern is that Capita is still requesting vital further evidence from GPs and social workers in less than 30 per cent of assessments.
This is an improvement on the figures from 2016, when at one stage, in June and July 2016, Capita was seeking further information from GPs, consultants or social workers in fewer than one in every 50 PIP claims (less than two per cent of cases).
But DWP documents drawn up in May 2012, before the award of the contracts to deliver PIP assessments, show the department expected its contractors would need to request further evidence (also known as further medical evidence) in about half of all cases (50 per cent).
A Capita spokesperson refused to say if the data obtained by Slater showed there were still serious concerns about its performance, and that this was deteriorating.
She also refused to comment on the audit results, or explain why they had worsened in the last two years.
And she refused to explain why so many assessors had been subjected to multiple complaints within a three-month period, and why that number had increased so sharply in the last two years.
But she said in a statement: “Capita is the first PIP provider to consistently meet the ambitious quality targets set by the DWP and we are committed to continually delivering against this target. On average, cases are completed within 38 days.
“We are focused on delivering the best service to individuals coming through the assessment process.
“This is evidenced in our independent monthly satisfaction rating from customers, which in 2018 was more than 95 per cent.”
An Atos** spokesperson refused to comment on the number of its assessors subject to multiple complaints.
But he said in a statement: “As part of our commitment to provide a high quality service we have invested in our continuous professional development training for all health professionals.”
A DWP spokesperson refused to say if the figures showed there were still serious concerns about its management of the PIP contracts and the performance of the two companies.
She also refused to say if DWP was concerned by the Capita audit results and the number of Atos and Capita assessors subjected to multiple complaints within three-month periods.
She refused to say why DWP had not released the Atos audit results to John Slater.
And she refused to say if DWP had taken any action to address these concerns.
But she said in a statement: “We are committed to ensuring that the PIP assessment providers give our claimants the highest quality service.
“That’s why we set the providers challenging targets and monitor their performance closely, and the latest figures show that complaints make up just one per cent of all the assessments carried out.”
Meanwhile, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd today (Thursday) announced an in-depth review of how terminally-ill people and those with “severe conditions” are treated by the benefits system.
The announcement came days after a report compiled by the charity Marie Curie and published by the all party parliamentary group for terminal illness saw people with terminal illness calling on ministers to end the “arbitrary and outdated” rules that force many of them through a “demeaning” and “insensitive” benefit assessment process.
*Sign the Jodey Whiting petition here. If you sign the petition, please note you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee
**Atos delivers its PIP assessment contracts through Independent Assessment Services, a trading name of Atos IT Services UK
11 July 2019
New EU figures demolish government claims of ‘world-leading generosity’ on disability
New figures obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) have demolished ministerial claims that the UK is one of the most generous countries in the world in its support for disabled people.
Rather than being one of the most generous, the UK’s spending on disability is actually below average for the 28 member states in the European Union (EU).
The figures also show that the proportion of the UK’s economic activity (GDP) spent by the UK government on disabled people fell from 2.6 per cent in 2015 to 2.5 per cent in 2016 and 2017.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its ministers have repeatedly defended themselves against criticisms of government cuts to disabled people’s support over the last decade by attempting to argue that the UK’s spending levels compare favourably with other countries.
When the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities told the UK government in 2017 that its cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe” – and recommended more than 80 improvements to how its laws and policies affected disability rights – it responded by stressing how much it spent supporting disabled people and how well that compared with other major economies.
But the new figures show the UK is only the 12th most generous country in the EU, when its disability spending is taken as a proportion of GDP.
Last month, DNS reported figures for 2015 which showed the UK’s spending was only 23rd highest of the 36 major world economies in the OECD* as a proportion of GDP.
But DNS has now obtained figures for 2016 and 2017 from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, which bases its statistics on data provided by the UK and other EU governments, and which is the organisation that OECD uses to produce its figures for EU countries.
The Eurostat figures show the UK was only the 12th most generous spender in the EU in 2015, 2016 and 2017, behind Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, Luxembourg and even Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary, if disability spending is taken as a proportion of a country’s GDP.
The figures show spending on sickness and disability, which for the UK includes benefits like personal independence payment and employment and support allowance, as well as spending on social care and other social protection for disabled people.
The claim that the UK is one of the world’s most generous countries when it comes to disability has been used repeatedly by work and pensions ministers such as Iain Duncan Smith, who claimed in 2014 that “[we] probably spend more than almost any other country in the developed world” and “nearly double what Germany spends”.
Esther McVey made similar claims when she was minister for disabled people, and again last month when she was running – unsuccessfully – to be the next prime minister.
Ministers have also repeatedly claimed that the UK spends more on disability than France, one of the seven major economies that make up the G7, and DWP repeated that claim yesterday (Wednesday).
The Eurostat figures also demolish those claims, as they show that Frances spends about 2.9 per cent of its GDP on sickness and disability, compared to 2.5 per cent in the UK.
A DWP spokesperson refused to say if the minister for disabled people now accepted that the UK spends below the average for the 28 EU countries on disability and is not even one of the most generous countries in the EU, let alone the world.
Instead she said in a statement: “We’re spending £55 billion this year on benefits to support disabled people and those with health conditions, more than ever before.
“And as a share of GDP, the UK’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany.”**
*OECD is an organisation of 36 countries, all of which are major world economies
**The Eurostat figures show the UK also spends less than France
11 July 2019
Ministerial group on disability met just three times in a year, DWP admits
A cross-government group of ministers set up to drive forward action to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people has met just three times in more than a year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted.
The group of 11 ministers, chaired by work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, was set up in May 2018.
It was set up following a period of nearly four years when there was no cross-departmental group of ministers working to improve the lives of disabled people.
But now a response from DWP to a freedom of information request by Disability News Service (DNS) has revealed that the new Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society met just three times between May 2018 and June 2019.
The group of ministers met first on 7 July 2018, and again on 31 October 2018, and then did not meet again until 25 March this year, nearly five months later.
Only last month, prime minister Theresa May – supported by non-user-led charities like Scope and Sense – announced what she said were “new measures to break down barriers faced by disabled people, whether in employment, housing or elsewhere”.
Rudd said at the time that disabled people “encounter too many challenges in life” and the government wanted to “change the landscape for disabled people and to make sure there is always a level playing field for them”.
But many user-led organisations questioned why May had left it until the last days of her time in office to launch what she said was a “new drive to tackle barriers faced by disabled people”.
The admission that the inter-ministerial group set up by May’s government last year, under Rudd’s leadership, has met just three times in more than a year will cast further doubt on what the prime minister claimed was her “determination to identify and tackle injustices”.
DWP has so far refused to say which ministers attended each meeting, even though similar information was eventually released following a complaint to the information commissioner about the actions of the previous inter-ministerial group, which met just three times in 2014 before it was scrapped.
A DWP spokesperson declined to say why the inter-ministerial group had only met three times in more than a year.
But she said in a statement: “Empowering disabled people in all aspects of their lives has always been and will continue to be a priority for this government.
“That is why the Office for Disability Issues continues to drive forward work to increase disabled people’s participation in society, including through the Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society, which is just one of the many ways in which we’re driving progress on the issues that matter to disabled people.”
11 July 2019
DWP’s ‘universal credit Metro lies’ backfire by sparking new campaign network
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advertising campaign that is now being investigated by a watchdog has backfired by helping to create a national network of campaigners opposed to its new universal credit benefit system, say disabled activists.
The advertising watchdog this week launched an investigation into what critics say are “misleading” DWP adverts that have attempted to “whitewash” the truth about universal credit (UC).
Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that UC – which combines six income-related benefits into one – is “toxic” and “rotten to the core”, with “soaring” rates of foodbank use, and repeated warnings about its impact on disabled people.
The Sheffield branch of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said it was “encouraged” to hear that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had confirmed it was investigating concerns about the DWP adverts, which appear every week in the Metro free newspaper.
But Sheffield DPAC said there were now hundreds of activists around the country who were “actively dumping the Metro newspaper”, and praised a Labour city councillor in Sheffield, Francyne Johnson, who supported the campaign yesterday (Wednesday).
Sheffield DPAC claimed that hundreds of thousands of copies of the free newspaper have been removed from distribution points around the country and sent for recycling.
It was Sheffield DPAC which first raised the alarm about DWP’s plans to launch a nine-week series of advertising features in the Metro.
Senior DWP civil servants had said in an internal memo, first leaked to the Guardian and then to Disability News Service (DNS), that the adverts would “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC” and “explain what UC is and how it works in reality”.
A Sheffield DPAC spokesperson said transport workers were now alerting activists to let them know when and where Metros were being delivered so they could be removed and recycled.
She said: “The campaign has grown from a small protest in Sheffield to a well coordinated and incredibly effective national campaign that has seen hundreds of thousands of copies of the Metro now removed from stands and sent for recycling in just a matter of weeks.
“Initially we were removing them by hand, which was exhausting. Now we’ve got hired vans and large numbers of people removing huge amounts relatively effortlessly.
“Although we’re obviously very angry and upset that these ads are still appearing (they were in Metro today) we’re confident that we can now achieve more and reach farther than ever before as we have such excellent communication between a huge number of unions and groups now, thanks to this campaign.
“The DWP, through releasing this propaganda, have unwittingly created a huge national anti universal credit campaign network. That backfired a bit, didn’t it!”
The latest advertorials appeared in the Metro yesterday, even though ASA announced this week that it has launched a formal investigation into the DWP adverts.
ASA said it has received more than 40 complaints about the adverts.
One of the concerns it will investigate is whether some of the adverts were “obviously identifiable as ads”, rather than being disguised as an investigation carried out by the Metro.
Last month, DNS sent ASA an image of the Metro website’s home page which showed a series of images and claims about universal credit which failed to state that they were actually DWP adverts.
The leaked DWP documents revealed that these adverts were always designed to be misleading and not to “look or feel like DWP or UC”.
ASA will also investigate whether three key claims made in the adverts were misleading and if they could be substantiated by DWP.
These claims relate to criticisms of UC that have been made by welfare rights experts, claimants and activists, based on years of evidence, but which DWP has branded as “myths” in its adverts.
A DWP spokesperson claimed that all the advertising contains the words “Advertising Feature from the Department for Work and Pensions”, even though DNS pointed out that the adverts on the Metro website home page had not done so.
She confirmed that ASA had been in touch with the department and that DWP was “working with them to respond to the points raised”.
She said: “It is important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise universal credit.”
She added: “We have consulted the Advertising Standards Authority throughout the partnership and our advertorials reflect their advice.”
11 July 2019
Protests force council climbdown over inaccessible Peterloo memorial
Disabled activists and their allies have forced a council into a significant climbdown over its “discriminatory” plans for a memorial to victims of the Peterloo massacre.
Manchester City Council (MCC) said this week that it had asked artist Jeremy Deller to examine how the memorial he designed can now be made “fully accessible”.
The council-funded memorial was set to be completely inaccessible to many disabled people, even though Deller wanted it to be used as a platform for speakers and demonstrators, mirroring those who spoke during the protest in 1819 that led to the massacre*.
The council had previously told Disability News Service (DNS) that it was unlikely that any “fundamental changes” would be made to the memorial, which is due to be unveiled to the public on 16 August, the 200th anniversary of the massacre.
But there has now been an apparent climbdown following weeks of protests led by disabled activists.
The council’s announcement follows a meeting between city councillors Luthfur Rahman (executive member for skills, culture and leisure) and Tracey Rawlins (lead member for disabled people), and representatives of disabled people’s groups.
Mark Todd, a disabled access expert who started a Facebook page to protest at the design of the memorial – and has called it “a monument to discrimination” – said he was “really pleased” at the council’s apparent change of approach.
He said that the “breadth and determination” of the campaign and the willingness to work with the council appeared to have paid off.
And he said the campaign had built an “amazing coalition” that included disabled people, artists, celebrities, and citizens of Manchester “who all want a Peterloo Memorial that is accessible to everyone”.
Among those who have supported the campaign are the musician and activist Billy Bragg, who said: “Surely something that symbolises the struggle for universal rights should be accessible to all.”
Disabled comedian and activist Francesca Martinez said it was “extraordinary” that the memorial design had not been inclusive, while there has also been criticism from disabled actor-campaigners Cherylee Houston and Ali Briggs.
Briggs said: “We all want a memorial, yes that’s true. We just don’t want one like this, that we can’t be proud of.”
Todd said this week that he was “cautiously optimistic” following the council’s statement, but until there was a “fitting and accessible Peterloo Memorial”, the campaign and a weekly vigil near the site would continue.
He said: “We are not ready to put away our placards just yet.”
Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), which has played a key role in the protests, also welcomed the announcement.
But it warned that the council had not yet met its three demands – to stop work on the memorial while it was still low enough to include a ramp; to ensure the memorial was accessible; and to make sure there was no repeat of the council’s failure with future projects – and pointed out that building work on the inaccessible memorial was now nearly finished.
Campaigners will meet next week with the council, Deller and the architect working on the project, and will then decide whether to review their demands.
A GMCDP spokesperson said: “MCC’s decision to build the memorial to its full height and then explore access solutions afterwards, limits considerably what can be done to make it a platform everyone can use.
“We do not know what MCC have in mind, if anything, and we acknowledge that a perfect solution may not be arrived at immediately.
“What is needed most at this stage is the commitment to find a genuine accessible long-term solution, properly considered, fully consulted on and backed up with some teeth and a budget.”
The council has faced weeks of anger from disabled people and allies that a memorial designed to remember those who marched for liberty and equality in the 19th century should apparently have been “designed and built with discrimination and inequality at its heart”.
Now the council has said that it regrets that the design of the memorial “did not give enough consideration to access issues”.
Cllr Rahman said: “Manchester City Council has a long and proud record around access issues, something which disabled access campaigners have acknowledged.
“However, we recognise that the interpretation of the brief for the Peterloo Memorial, with an imaginative design involving a more interactive element than originally envisaged for a public artwork, did not give enough consideration to access issues and we regret this.
“We recently met with representatives of disabled people’s groups to further discuss this issue and we have asked the artist and architect to look at how the monument in its current form can be modified to make it fully accessible.
“We will share more details about where we are up to and the proposed way forward as soon as we are in a position to do so.
“We are listening and doing all we can to resolve this satisfactorily.”
Deller told DNS last night (Wednesday) that he was optimistic that a solution could be found to make the memorial accessible.
*On 16 August 1819, paramilitary and military forces attacked more than 60,000 peaceful, pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters in Manchester, which led to 18 deaths and an estimated 700 serious injuries, in what became known as the Peterloo Massacre
11 July 2019
UN rapporteur hears of disabled asylum-seekers evicted by social services
A UN human rights expert has been told that disabled asylum-seekers in Bristol have been evicted by social services, and have even been told that being made “street homeless” will make them more independent.
Professor Felipe González, the UN’s special rapporteur for the human rights of migrants, was told that disabled asylum-seekers are routinely denied access to services and support in the UK.
He was in Bristol last week for an unofficial visit organised by the University of Bristol’s Migration Mobilities Bristol research centre.
The centre wanted to tell him about the challenges faced by the UK and Bristol – such as the government’s “hostile environment” for immigrants and the impact of Brexit – and about the centre’s research, and to hear about his UN role.
Among those presenting González with evidence was Rebecca Yeo, a disabled academic, and herself the daughter of a refugee.
She was speaking on behalf of Janet Karanja, a disabled asylum-seeker, who had explained that she was too “pressed down” by the system to give evidence herself.
Yeo told González: “She had planned to talk about her struggle to survive, how at times she’s relied on friends for basic food, how her operation was cancelled just before entering the operating theatre when the hospital had a call from the Home Office.
“How she can make no plans because she doesn’t know when or whether, as she puts it, ‘the Home Office will come for you’.
“These struggles are common to asylum seekers and have a heavy toll on people’s physical and mental health.”
Karanja had told Yeo that the asylum system “makes you feel you are worthless… like garbage”, she said.
Yeo told the rapporteur that there was now greater recognition of the existence of disabled people in the asylum system, but the “systematic denial” of the rights and needs of all asylum-seekers has increased, which means “the asylum system itself is disabling”.
Yeo also told González that local and national government were breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their treatment of disabled asylum-seekers, in Bristol and across the country.
She said: “I’m aware of disabled asylum seekers being evicted by social services, made street homeless, with no support, being told that this would make them more independent.”
She also told González that Bristol City Council had excluded disabled people from a task group set up to examine the barriers to accessing social care faced by asylum-seekers, with one councillor explaining: “People with lived experience know about their own lives, but don’t know about how the system works.”
The task group’s members are instead from the council and council-funded organisations.
The group was only set up by the council after a meeting organised by disabled people, including disabled asylum-seekers.
They had called for the meeting with the council and local charities and MPs following protests held last year in the wake of the deaths of two disabled refugees, and showed them a film in which disabled asylum-seekers spoke of the barriers they faced in accessing social care.
Yeo told González that excluding disabled people and their organisations from the task group breached the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and “cuts out a source of expertise”.
The rapporteur was visiting Bristol almost exactly a year after disabled asylum-seekers and activists came together to seek fundamental changes to systems and agencies after the brutal murders of the two disabled refugees.
The council was warned there would be a third death in the city unless there was urgent action to address the breaches of disabled asylum-seekers’ rights.
The council has failed so far to provide disabled activists with any information about what the task group has achieved or any minutes from its meetings, despite promising to do so by January this year.
A brief update on the task group’s progress was finally provided to Yeo yesterday (Wednesday), 24 hours after DNS had asked the council to comment on her evidence to the special rapporteur.
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said this morning in a statement: “As a City of Sanctuary our priority is to make Bristol a safe place for all people seeking sanctuary and to create an environment in which they can feel welcomed.
“Following the meeting with campaigners last year, a task group of key stakeholders that work with disabled asylum seekers was established to look at how their experience can be improved.
“The group is looking at a number of areas including a full audit of asylum related cases, improving education about completing a Care Act Assessment and arranging training sessions for operational staff to hear from disabled asylum seekers about their lived experiences.”
11 July 2019
Two-thirds of disabled passengers face at least one problem when travelling by rail
Two-thirds of disabled passengers experience at least one problem when travelling by rail, according to research commissioned by the government.
The research was carried out in 2017 but was only published this week when the Department for Transport (DfT) marked a year since the launch of its Inclusive Transport Strategy.
The research, commissioned for DfT by the Transport Focus watchdog, also showed that more than one in five disabled passengers find rail travel difficult.
Many of the more than 1,500 disabled passengers interviewed for the research said they had to plan their journeys in “meticulous detail” to ensure a successful trip.
And not one of the 50 disabled people who took part in in-depth interviews for the research said they were aware that they could use passenger assistance services without booking in advance – if staff are available – through the so-called “turn up and go” service.
Those who used the “passenger assist” service reported frequent failures, including being left on a train at a terminal; not being met at a station when they needed to exit the train; not being met at their departure station; and experiencing “rude and discriminatory” behaviour from staff.
Nearly a third of those surveyed (31 per cent) said they had experienced anti-social or discriminatory behaviour from other passengers.
This week, DfT invited the rail industry to nominate stations across Britain to benefit from a £20 million fund that will pay for small-scale access improvements such as tactile paving, handrails and Harrington Humps, which increase platform heights so passengers with mobility impairments can board trains more easily.
The £20 million was first announced by DfT in April and is part of the £300 million government funding to be spent on access improvements under the Access for All programme between 2019-20 and the end of March 2024.
Nusrat Ghani, the accessibility minister, said: “While many take for granted the ability to travel easily from A to B, access for the fifth of people who identify as disabled can be far from straightforward.
“We want disabled people to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost, which is why it is fantastic to be opening this fund today.
“I look forward to seeing what ideas the industry has for accessibility improvements as we work towards a more inclusive rail network.”
John Welsman, a guide dog owner and policy lead for travel and mobility at the charity Guide Dogs, said: “Guide Dogs welcomes the additional funding as independent train travel is a real challenge for people living with sight loss.
“Elements like tactile paving on platform edges and steps, better signage, improved lighting and colour contrast, will make stations easier to negotiate confidently and more safely.
“However, train travel is still a very complex environment for people with sight loss and we will continue to work to find solutions so that no one with sight loss is left out of life.”
The announcement in July 2018 that the government would spend £300 million over five years followed years of funding cuts to Access for All, originally introduced by the last Labour government in 2006.
Disability News Service secured figures last July through a freedom of information request that showed that spending on Access for All had fallen from as much as £81.1 million in 2013-14 to just £14.6 million in 2017-18.
Spending in 2009-10, the last year of the Labour government, was £53.9 million, with £41.2 million in 2010-11, £50.7 million in 2011-12, £39.7 million in 2012-13, and £81.1 million in 2013-14.
But spending then plunged over the next four years – in the first five-year planning period to begin under the coalition – with just £22.9 million in 2014-15, £24.6 million in 2015-16, £32.1 million in 2016-17 and only £14.6 million in 2017-18.
Although it is not yet clear how much was spent in 2018-19, the government is planning to spend £300 million over the next five years on Access for All, including £50 million that had been deferred from the last five years.
11 July 2019
Disabled governor’s anger over hospital’s parking charges sparks new campaign
A disabled governor of a leading London hospital has accused its executives of arrogance and a “disgraceful” lack of compassion after they decided to start charging holders of blue badges to use their carpark.
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust agreed at a meeting last week that holders of blue badges would no longer be allowed free parking at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Kush Kanodia, a patient governor of the trust, has been trying to persuade the trust for the last year not to introduce parking charges for patients with blue badges.
He is so frustrated at the decision that he is now planning to lead a campaign, alongside Disability Rights UK, to scrap all such charges at hospitals across England.
Kanodia, a social entrepreneur who advises organisations such as the Global Disability Innovation Hub and the Museum of Happiness on disability issues, and who was this week appointed as a DR UK ambassador, said it was a “disgraceful decision”.
He persuaded the trust’s council of governors last year to “strongly oppose” charging disabled patients to use the hospital’s carpark – arguing that there was a close correlation between disability and poverty – and he managed to fend off the plans until last week.
He said: “It’s a disgraceful decision. I’m shocked. It shows a complete lack of compassion.
“The truth is, they can’t be trusted to show compassion.”
He said it was accepted that 10 years of austerity had had a disproportionate impact on disabled people.
He added: “The rights of disabled people have been ebbing away for the last 10 years. If we don’t make a stand and say enough is enough it’s just going to go on and on.”
He said the trust’s take-over in 2015 of West Middlesex University Hospital Trust – which already charged disabled patients to use its carparks – may have had an impact on the decision to introduce charging at Chelsea and Westminster.
Kanodia said that denying disabled people access to basic healthcare would affect their access to employment and education and their ability to be full participants in society.
He said the trust’s decision had persuaded him to campaign for all hospitals in England to be banned from charging disabled patients to use their carparks.
He said: “We want to abolish all parking charges for disabled people for all NHS hospitals in England.”
He believes the trust should be making reasonable adjustments for disabled patients under the Equality Act.
And he pointed out that devolved governments in both Scotland and Wales have scrapped all hospital parking charges, not just those for disabled patients.
Kanodia also questioned whether the trust had carried out an assessment of the impact of the introduction of the charges on disabled people, which would have provided evidence on whether it was breaching its public sector equality duty under the Equality Act.
The trust had failed to comment by 11am today (Thursday).
11 July 2019
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com