Sep 232018
 

Call for Participants:

Do you feel your secondary school is inclusive?  Are there Accessibility Plans in place?  Tell us about your experiences.

By law, schools should make Accessibility Plans to enable Disabled children and young people to access school facilities and make the most of their education.

However, there have been no studies to find out if Accessibility Plans help Disabled pupils to feel included and part of their school communities.

ALLFIE (Alliance For Inclusive Education) has received funding from the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) grants programme to lead a project on the effectiveness of schools’ Accessibility Plans.

In October 2018, we will be holding focus groups in North East England for:

  • Disabled young people and children
  • Parents of Disabled learners
  • Educators and professionals

Further groups will be held in London, Bristol and Manchester at the end of October and in November.

We will use these discussion groups to find out about any gaps between what the law says and people’s real-life experiences in schools.

Dates and times (Leeds):

Parents – Monday 8th October, 11:00-13:00

Disabled children & young people – Wednesday 10th October, 16:00-18:00

Educators and professionals – Friday 12th October, 16:00-18:00

Location:

John Lewis Community Hub meeting room, Leeds City Centre

Victoria Gate, Harewood St, Leeds LS2 7AR

If you would like to be kept informed about further discussion groups to be held in London, Bristol and Manchester, please email me and I will send you up-to-date information.

Even if you don’t feel well-informed about Accessibility Plans, why not get involved and share your experiences with us?  Help us help you to get Accessibility Plans which really work.

If you would like more information about the project, please contact the project researcher, Dr Armineh Soorenian, at: Armineh.Soorenian@allfie.org.uk.

https://www.allfie.org.uk/news/blog/is-your-school-inclusive/

 

Many thanks for considering taking part in our project.

 Posted by at 21:50
Sep 222018
 

Badge saying "STOP & SCRAP Universal credit"A twitterstorm has been organised for #StopAndScrap Universal Credit, 7-9 pm this evening 22nd September. DPAC are supporting this and we’re inviting our supporters to join in too.

We’ve prepared a gallery of memes made by the fantabulous Prim McLordy, and are shown below using our spanking new Gallery feature.

If you click on a meme, you will see it full size, go on to the next meme by clicking the left or right arrows on either side of the page. To use each meme on twitter or facebook, right click on the image and save the file, then at it to your tweet or post. Use the hashtag #StopAndScrap

Or you can download the whole set of memes as a zipfile here UC Memes (Please credit Prim McLordy if you use her work elsewhere)

 Posted by at 16:09
Sep 212018
 

Reading Borough Council is proposing cuts to concessionary fares for disabled people

It would leave 6,000 Access Pass holders in Reading having to pay to board a bus before 9.30 am and after 11pm

Another proposal is scrapping the companion bus pass scheme which allows carers of Access Pass holders to travel free of charge

Access Pass holders will also have to pay to use Readibus services if the proposals are approved.

Contact Berkshire DPAC for information or support at berksdpac@gmail.com

The protest will be outside Reading Borough Council, The Civic Office, Bridge Street, RG1 2LU at 6pm Monday 24 September.

If you can’t get to the protest, you can tweet to Reading Borough Council on @ReadingCouncil to let them know what you think of this.

 Posted by at 22:02
Sep 172018
 

Its Libdem party conference today and tomorrow (17th 18th Sept), lets send them a message over twitter that we haven’t forgotten what they did to disabled people as part of the Tory Libdem coalition that blighted so many disabled people’s lives

Use the hashtag #LDConf2018 and send them your message to say we haven’t forgotten what they did and we haven’t forgiven them

You are welcome to download (right click and save) and send this meme with your tweet

We won’t forget We won’t forgive We won’t forget and we won’t forgive that the Libdems enabled the Tory party’s vicious assault on disabled people in the coalition years 2010 – 2015 We hold the Liberal Democrats jointly responsible with the Tories for: Austerity, Welfare Reform, Remploy Closures, Closure of the Independent Living Fund, the tightening of Employment and Support Allowance rules, the Work Capability Assessment, Bedroom Tax, Personal Independence Payments, Universal Credit, Sanctions, cuts to Legal Aid and the whole hostile environment benefits regime enacted by the coalition, and the avoidable deaths and suicides of benefit claimants during the coalition years. Our message to the Liberal Democrats is – you don’t get to walk away from your actions in those years – disabled people will remember.

 Posted by at 15:29
Sep 022018
 

Since our first march against Tory austerity cuts in 2010 thousands of disabled people have been killed by the Tory’s policies and mindless cruelty. Thousands more have lost vital funding for independent living support and are either trapped in care homes or their own homes. Continent disabled people have been refused the human support they need to go to the toilet and instead been left with packs of incontinence pads.Others are being charged into further poverty as local authorities hike up their charges for social care.

This year on our 8th anniversary we’re going back to the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham to make sure we are not forgotten and to highlight once more the grave and systematic violations of our human rights which we have endured for 8 long years.

Join us on Wednesday October 3rd in Birmingham.

Meet for 11.30 am outside Birmingham Council House, Victoria Square or if raining heavily in Starbucks on Colmore Row just to the right of it.

Bring things to make noise with and earplugs.Some funding available for travel costs priority will go to full members of DPAC but if you need help email mail@dpac.uk.net

https://www.facebook.com/events/1979819842315656/

 Posted by at 18:10
Aug 282018
 

Mental Health in the Social Security System
Credit to John Grahl at https://peg.primeeconomics.org/policybriefs/mental-health-in-the-social-security-system

August 2018
As the number of unemployed social security claimants has declined, the government’s drive for reductions in the benefits bill has focussed increasingly on the chronic sick and the disabled. The government’s aim is not to improve the well-being of these claimants but rather to classify as many of them as possible as fit for work and to push them into whatever jobs are available by cutting their benefits and, very frequently, imposing sanctions upon them. This strategy is backed up by a simplistic account of the mental health problems which, today, account for most sickness claims.
The key problem today is that mentally distressed claimants are being offered simplistic and ineffective remedies and are being pressurised by the social security system to seek employment of any kind, including in poor quality jobs which can aggravate their mental health conditions.
How should a progressive government respond to the plight of mentally distressed social security claimants?
Analysis
Over the last two decades mental health problems have become a key issue in social security policy. This is because, first, straightforward unemployment is much lower and state-provided unemployment indemnities are now a very small fraction of social security expenditures so that long-term illness and incapacity, which affect many more people, dominate in terms both of case-loads and spending. Second, long-term illness itself now predominantly takes the form of mental distress, with anxiety and depression more frequent than the physiological problems, such as back pain, which used to account for most sickness-related social security claims.
In Britain and in many other advanced economies social security claims related to illness increased rapidly in the wake of the deindustrialisation of the 1980s. One can trace these increases to labour market conditions and interpret them as a form of disguised unemployment in that they would not have been as severe if labour markets for industrial workers had remained buoyant. The geography of sickness benefits confirms the interpretation: For example, Merthyr Tydfil, devastated by the decline in Welsh heavy industry, was a notorious sickness benefit black spot.
In the 1980s policy-makers tended to accept the increased sickness benefit bill as the lesser of two evils, as preferable to much higher levels of open unemployment and as providing a certain compensation to some of the most vulnerable victims of structural change. However, as high numbers of sickness claims persisted and began to affect more recent generations governments became less passive and started to search for ways to limit the problem. One sign of this switch
was a reformulation of labour market objectives: an increase in employment rates was seen as a better target than a reduction in unemployment as such in that high rates of inactivity (either through sickness or for other reasons) were now seen as in general undesirable. Women were adversely affected by this shift because, in the drive to maximise employment, social security systems became much less supportive of women claimants who were full-time mothers and housewives. From the 1990s on, governments also started to make less use of early retirement as a palliative for long-term unemployment.
These changes should not disguise the continuity both in labour market conditions and in the nature of incapacity. There is certainly an alarming rise in mental health problems across western countries but the musculoskeletal disorders which prevailed in the past were not necessarily a completely distinct phenomenon: in an economy where most jobs were manual they could act as a sickness-induced disqualification from employment in general; in today’s service-dominated economy psychological malfunctions can, in a similar way, indicate an inability to meet the typical constraints of existing labour market conditions.
Thus the changing forms of sickness in no way undermine the notion of “disguised unemployment” or, in less tendentious terms, adverse labour market conditions, as a principal source of incapacity. Recent British policy, however, completely inverts this widely accepted causal relationship: current policy is based on the view that the labour market is not the cause of, but rather the remedy for, sickness-related inactivity. This view has led to the imposition of policies towards claimants which needlessly aggravate their distress while leaving untouched the labour market structures and practices which actually disqualify so many people from employment.
Two main developments have led to the policy impasse: the degeneration of the universal credit (UC) social security reforms and the drive within the NHS to address mental health problems through “Improved Access to Psychiatric Therapies” (IAPT).
The original objectives of the UC reforms were to simplify the benefit system, by bringing together six of the most important benefits under a single means-test, and consequently to strengthen employment incentives by reducing the rate at which benefits were withdrawn as claimants re-entered employment or took on more hours of paid work. Because these goals were seen as moving social security in the right direction, UC was widely welcomed by both researchers and organisations concerned with poverty, such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Child Poverty Action Group.
Gradually the welcome gave way to critical concern. After the election of 2015 the Conservative government stated its intention to reduce expenditures on working-age social security benefits by £12 billion, more than 10%, that is, to claw back some £12 billion per annum from the three largest claimant groups, the unemployed, the chronic sick and the low-paid. It is an indication of social attitudes towards social security claimants, even though many are in employment, that the Labour opposition did not at that time condemn these cuts but decided to abstain when they were debated in Parliament, though some, including many now in leadership positions in Labour, did vote against them.
While positive incentives to seek and retain employment were reduced, an increasingly harsh and oppressive treatment of claimants was substituted. The conditions for benefit payments were tightened continually, while breaches of these conditions were increasingly met with frequent and severe sanctions. Claimants with health problems were subjected to repeated
assessments of their capacity to work – often crudely administered by unqualified staff in the service of revenue-hungry corporations. It was clearly intended to re-designate as many sickness-related claimants as possible as actually or potentially fit for work.
Unemployed claimants had to sign contracts committing them to often futile hours of job search and to participation in often badly-designed “work experience” and training schemes – both of these outsourced to corporations more concerned with profit than either high quality services or accurate reporting of their own performance. The explosion in the numbers resorting to food banks and the arbitrary benefit reductions following from the “bedroom tax” (the so-called “spare room subsidy” removal) can both stand as emblems of the increased pressures on claimants.
Meanwhile, actual conditions on the labour markets towards which claimants were being impelled continued to deteriorate in terms of both wage rates and job security. Indeed the increasingly harsh regime imposed on those without employment may be leading people to accept worse pay and conditions rather than become claimants. The roll-out of UC in place of previous benefits became in itself a source of concern as new and renewed claims now attracted substantially lower levels of benefit.
Now the epidemic of mental distress became ever more central to the drive for social security spending cuts since, with falling rates of open unemployment, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the corresponding sickness-related benefits under UC became a key item in social security spending and, at the same time, mental health problems increasingly predominated in these claims. The resulting policy difficulties could seem complex and intractable; they also called into question the punitive treatment of claimants which had in practice emerged from the UC reforms. If claimants are suffering from anxiety and/or depression it is hard to see how suspending their benefits can improve their situation and growing awareness of the severe consequences of sanctions – including suicides – may well have been a factor behind the unannounced but rapid and clearly policy-driven reduction in the use of sanctions after the peak they reached in 2014.
In this conjuncture the programme “Improving Access to Psychiatric Therapies” (IAPT) seemed to offer a silver bullet. Mental health problems could be easily overcome because:
1. They were individual and not socio-economic in origin (after all, there are lots of people who cope);
2. Thus the undeniable correlation between mental distress and socio-economic disadvantage should be interpreted as showing that mental health problems lead to disadvantage and not the other way round (the social security agenda does not require structural change in the sphere of employment);
3. Most psychological problems can be easily dealt with by brief “talking therapies”;
4. The essence of such “behavioural therapy” is not to improve the socio-economic situation of the sufferer but simply to alter their patterns of thought so that they cease to dwell on alarming or depressing features of their experience and so that they become – such is the hope – more likely to seek or retain employment;
5. No great level of skill or knowledge is required to administer such therapy;
6. Thus it can be provided cheaply;
7. There will be a big pay-off in terms of employment and fewer claims for benefit since employment as such promotes psychological well-being and mental health.
One sign that this approach was completely unrealistic has been the failure to deal with many cases of depression and anxiety among claimants at the level of the least qualified mental health workers – the only group of workers in the field who have seen recruitment increase. Nor has the rolling out of IAPT led to any fall in the incidence of mental illness nor any slowdown in the increasing prescription of psychotropic drugs in response to it.
Policy Framework
There is mounting evidence that current policies are aggravating the material and mental problems of many of the most vulnerable social security claimants. Social security reforms in the future must take fully into account their impact on mental health.
A complete refocus of policy on the well-being of the long-term sick and disabled is needed in the context of strategies which address the socio-economic determinants of poor mental health. Meanwhile, resources could be released by curtailing the frequently dysfunctional “assessments” and “work preparation” programmes to which mentally disturbed claimants are subjected, and by ceasing to contest large numbers of perfectly valid claims for sickness benefits.
John Grahl is Emeritus Professor of European Economics at Middlesex University.

 Posted by at 21:12
Aug 182018
 

As usual Disability News Service exposes shocking information and continues to be a thorn in the side of DWP and others.

Disability charity’s appointment of Unum boss as new chair ‘is truly disgraceful’

A disability charity’s decision to choose as its new chair the head of a company closely linked with the government’s hated “fitness for work” test has been branded “a betrayal” of disabled people and “a truly disgraceful appointment”.

United Response, which provides a range of support services to about 3,000 disabled people across England and Wales, this week announced the appointment of management consultant Malcolm McCaig.

McCaig has been a non-executive director of Unum UK since July 2009 and was appointed to chair the company’s board last year.

But Unum has spent decades attempting to influence UK government policy on welfare reform and is blamed by many disabled researchers and activists for pushing successive governments to make the process of applying for out-of-work disability benefits harsher and more stressful.

Those policies have been closely linked to the deaths of countless benefit claimants and with causing significant harm to the physical and mental health of many others.

Campaigners argue that Unum has spent years trying to undermine the social security system to boost the market for its own income protection insurance (IPI) policies.

In 2011, Unum launched a major UK marketing campaign to promote the need for IPI policies, just as the coalition began its three-year programme to reassess about 1.5 million existing claimants of old-style incapacity benefit through the new work capability assessment (WCA).

United Response this week celebrated the appointment of its new chair, describing him as “a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion” who would be “a major asset to the organisation”.

But Mo Stewart, the disabled researcher who has done most to raise concerns about Unum’s influence on welfare reform*, described McCaig’s appointment as “an insult to the chronically ill and disabled people being coerced and intimidated by the DWP, who used Unum as advisers for welfare reforms that have caused death, despair and destitution for those in greatest need in the UK”.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) described the appointment as “a betrayal of all the disabled people and their families who have suffered under the work capability assessment”.

A DPAC spokesperson added: “More than that, though, we consider it active collusion in Unum’s interest in replacing the UK social security net with an insurance system from which they will profit and disabled people will be harmed.

“Given Unum’s history in the US of denying disability in order to avoid pay-outs this is a truly disgraceful appointment.”

Rick Burgess, another leading disabled activist, said: “Given Unum’s reputation in being a ‘disability denial factory’ and its role in abusive disability welfare changes, this appointment is completely inappropriate, unless of course United Response plans on replicating Unum’s approach to disabled people.”

It is also not the first time Unum has courted links with the disability sector.

Two years ago, the Mental Health Foundation was heavily criticised for launching a partnership with Unum that aimed to tackle the stigma of mental health in the workplace and encourage employers to safeguard the mental health of their employees.

Unum’s links with the UK government date back to the 1990s, when Peter Lilley, social security secretary in John Major’s Conservative government, hired senior Unum executive John LoCascio to offer advice on how to cut the number of claimants of long-term sickness benefits.

A detailed memo submitted to the Commons work and pensions committee in 2002 by a director of Unum – then known as UnumProvident – called on the Labour government to “ensure both that work always pays more than benefits, and more importantly that it is clearly seen to do so”.

And in 2005, Unum bragged in a document that it had “always been at the leading edge of disability assessment and management”, and that government policy was now “moving in the same direction” as “our views and understanding” and was “to a large extent being driven by our thinking and that of our close associates”.

Three years later, in 2008, the Labour government introduced the WCA.

Stewart said McCaig’s appointment “disregards the history of this American corporate giant, the fact that they were official government advisers from 1992 regarding ‘welfare claims management’ which influenced the introduction of employment and support allowance and the notorious WCA”.

She also pointed out that Unum was accused of operating a “disability denial” agenda by a professor at Yale Law School and was identified by the American Association for Justice as being the second worst insurance company in America.

In 2005, California’s insurance commissioner, John Garamendi, described Unum Provident as “an outlaw company” that had “engaged in a strategy to increase its bottom line at the expense of its customers”.

The company has previously admitted widespread criticism of its past actions in the US, mainly over its refusal to pay out on large numbers of genuine insurance claims by disabled people, a record also mentioned five years ago in a Commons debate on the WCA.

Unum also sponsored Cardiff University’s Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research for four years.

That research, said Stewart, led to the fatally flawed biopsychosocial (BPS) model of assessment on which the WCA is based.

Unum has repeatedly dismissed claims that it pushed the government to introduce the WCA system, and two years ago even claimed that it “never has lobbied on the topic of welfare reform or related matters”.

United Response failed to respond to the concerns about Unum.

But Tim Cooper, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Malcolm is an outstanding individual whose background and vast experience will prove invaluable in leading United Response and helping it achieve its vision.

“We undertook an extensive recruitment process resulting in an incredibly strong shortlist of candidates, and Malcolm’s skill set and demonstrable understanding of the charity led to his appointment.”

*Stewart’s book, Cash Not Care, details Unum’s influence over successive UK governments, and how it led to the introduction of the WCA

16 August 2018

 

 

Union backs claims of widespread discrimination by ‘hostile’ university

A “Disability Confident” university is facing claims that it forced a disabled member of staff to scour the campus for accessible rooms in which she could deliver her lectures.

The University of Liverpool also told Dr Kay Inckle that it might be considered “reasonable” for her to go down stairs on her bottom in some circumstances rather than be timetabled into ground floor or fully accessible rooms.

And it told the wheelchair-user that she would have to wait in the wings for the end of the annual procession of academic staff through the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall before she was allowed to join them on stage at the end-of year conferment ceremony in which students receive their degrees.

After she protested about her treatment, she says, she was eventually allowed to join the procession.

The university has even claimed that it cannot afford to pay for an access consultant to ensure plans for a £30 million refurbishment of the building where the school of law and social justice and her office will be located are accessible.

Instead of paying for a professional consultant, the university has asked Inckle, and possibly other disabled staff, to offer advice on access requirements for the refurbished building.

The university will also not commit to putting a fire evacuation lift in the building to ensure that disabled people can escape in an emergency, says Inckle.

And one of the two lifts in the main student union building has been out of action for nearly a year, which means that wheelchair-users have not been able to reach the upper floors.

Despite the claims, the university is one of about 7,000 employers that have signed up to the government’s discredited Disability Confident employment scheme.

It claims to be a Disability Confident Employer – the second of the scheme’s three levels – as an organisation that is “recognised as going the extra mile to make sure disabled people get a fair chance”.

Critics have previously argued that it is easy for employers to sign up to the Disability Confident scheme and then continue to discriminate against disabled people.

Inckle, a sociology lecturer who specialises in work on disability, self-harm and mental distress, told Disability News Service that she has been treated with “absolute contempt” by the university.

And she said it was “sickening and laughable” that the university saw itself as a Disability Confident employer.

Now the local branch of her union, the University and College Union, has passed a motion condemning the university’s treatment of her and other disabled staff and students, and is calling for support from disability rights groups.

Its motion says: “The branch is concerned with how the University is discriminating against disabled staff and students in a variety of direct ways from failing to provide accessible rooms and hold accurate information of the accessibility of rooms, to ensuring new buildings are fully compliant with the Equality Act 2010.

“There are also frequent failures to make reasonable adjustments in an effective and timely manner and a hostile and obstructive response towards those who request such adjustments.”

It adds: “A request for an accessible room is not discretionary; it is a legally binding, non-optional and reasonable adjustment.”

The union branch has concluded that the university is breaching the Equality Act 2010 and that its discriminatory actions are “heavily impacting staff and students”.

Inckle described how she has repeatedly been allocated rooms for her lectures that were accessible for disabled students but inaccessible for her because the lecturer’s area could only be reached via steps.

When she complained, she was told to search the campus herself for accessible rooms that would be suitable for her to lecture in.

She has even been allocated rooms that she would not be able to evacuate from in the event of a fire, and she says it took 10 months for the university to provide an accessible toilet for her to use in her own department.

She said: “I was told by one member of university staff that the university might think it was reasonable for me to go down stairs on my bum in some situations rather than provide me with fully accessible rooms.”

On another occasion, a member of university staff demanded that she demonstrate to him how she could be evacuated down stairs in her wheelchair before he would give her permission to use the fire evacuation lift.

Her pleas to address the shortage of accessible parking spaces near her office have also been dismissed.

She said: “As a disabled woman, I am seen as useless and worthless and as an annoyance.

“I am treated with absolute contempt. They see me as a nuisance who needs to shut up and go away.”

A University of Liverpool spokeswoman said: “The University of Liverpool is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Equality Act and to supporting students and staff with disabilities to flourish.

“Colleagues at the University and College Union have recently raised a number of points with the university regarding the experiences of disabled staff and students and we are actively looking into these.

“We are eager to work with the trade unions and have agreed to meet with them to discuss this further as soon as possible.”

16 August 2018

 

 

DWP repeatedly breaches FoI laws ‘in bid to hide secret jobcentre reports’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has repeatedly breached freedom of information laws in an apparent attempt to prevent the release of secret reports written by disabled people recruited to work within its jobcentres.

Two years ago, DWP published a work, health and disability green paper, Improving Lives, in which it revealed plans to recruit about 200 new “community partners”.

Ministers said these community partners would have “personal and professional experience of disability” and would support work coaches in jobcentres.

The aim was for them to “provide valuable first-hand insight” into the issues faced by disabled people in “securing and sustaining employment”, with work coaches able to draw on their local knowledge.

The community partners, many of whom were to be seconded from disability organisations, would also help map local provision of peer support and service-user groups.

But Disability News Service (DNS) has since learned that these community partners submit regular reports on their work, often based on their experiences of visiting jobcentres.

For years, DNS has been reporting on the alleged failure of DWP jobcentres to safeguard disabled people left in vulnerable situations because of flaws in the benefits system.

Many of these failings have led to the deaths of benefit claimants and have subsequently been reported on in secret DWP peer reviews (now renamed internal process reviews).

The deaths of disabled people such as Lawrence Bond, David Clapson and Alan McArdle – and many others – have been linked to alleged failings of policy or practice within jobcentres.

DNS therefore submitted a freedom of information request to DWP in May, asking to see any of the reports written by community partners working in London Jobcentre Plus districts in 2017 and 2018, in case any of them included concerns raised by Community Partners about such failings.

Such requests are supposed to be answered within 20 working days, but there has so far been no written response from the department’s freedom of information department.

On 5 July, DNS emailed DWP’s freedom of information team to ask why it had failed to respond to the request, and followed that up with another email on 19 July, warning that the failure to respond was a clear breach of the Freedom of Information Act.

DNS has since spoken to a civil servant in DWP’s freedom of information team, who promised to try to find out why no response had been sent.

She told DNS this week that she had repeatedly attempted to secure a response from the jobcentre operations team and had warned them that they had breached their legal duties under the act.

She said she did not know why they had failed to respond to the request.

She told DNS: “I chased it again this morning and I don’t know why it has taken so long. I have reminded them of their duty to reply in time and that is where I am with it.

“You have every right to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office [to lodge a complaint].

“I have tried. I don’t know why they are digging their heels. I am sorry.”

A DWP spokeswoman refused to explain the reason for the repeated breach of the Freedom of Information Act.

But she said in a statement: “Any issues relating to FOI requests can be dealt with by writing to freedom-of-information-request@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

“If you are unhappy with the handling of an FOI request please contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“The latest statistics show that DWP answered 95 per cent of FOI requests within 20 working days, exceeding the information commissioner’s compliance threshold of 90 per cent.

“As you know, DWP spokesperson statements must come from the DWP press office, and we regularly provide you with statements, as we are doing so in this instance.

“Please can you therefore use the above wording in your story instead of quoting from phone calls with DWP employees.”

16 August 2018

 

 

Deaths and hospital admissions follow short-notice closure of Leonard Cheshire home

At least two disabled people have died while others have been admitted to hospital following the short-notice closure of a residential home by a disability charity.

Leonard Cheshire faced allegations of “insensitive and abusive” behaviour in May over the way its executives told disabled residents that they were about to close their care home because they could not afford to keep it open.

About 20 residents and other service-users were given less than three months’ notice of the charity’s plans to close Greathouse, near Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Leonard Cheshire blamed staffing problems, a drop in the demand for places and the cost of repairs for its decision to close the home on 27 July.

But the charity confirmed this week that two former residents of Greathouse have died soon after being forced to leave the home.

One had been a resident for 15 years and died soon after moving out, while the other had moved to Greathouse more recently and was said to have had a stroke after having trouble settling at his new home.

A third former service-user, a disabled woman who used the home’s respite service and was said to have been deeply upset at not being able to visit Greathouse, is also believed to have died, and other former residents have had to be admitted for hospital treatment.

Anne Keat, whose son Richard was a resident at Greathouse and has now been moved to another home nearby, said she and other relatives were convinced that the deaths and other health problems were connected to the closure.

In addition to the deaths, she said, as many as five or six former Greathouse residents had been hospitalised, including Richard.

He lost more than 20 kilogrammes – more than a quarter of his bodyweight – after learning of the closure and had to be admitted to hospital for three days.

She said: “He literally disappeared before our eyes. It was a pure grieving process, it was horrible to see.”

She said the Greathouse chef had commented several times on how much less food he was cooking in the weeks leading up to the closure, because residents had lost their appetites.

She said: “Leonard Cheshire have a lot to answer for. I just think they have behaved appallingly.”

Earlier this month, Leonard Cheshire was also criticised over its decision to sell 17 residential homes to other care providers and was accused of making “a complete mockery” of its supposed commitment to service-user involvement.

Disability News Service has heard from three separate sources that three former Greathouse residents have now moved to Leonard Cheshire homes that are among the 17 listed for sale next year and so are likely to go through a further period of uncertainty and upheaval.

One source, who has friends among ex-staff and relatives of former residents, said the deaths were “so distressing”, and added: “This is a scandal, but no-one cares.”

Doug Paulley, who lives in a Leonard Cheshire home in Wetherby and has publicly criticised the way the charity is run, said the deaths were “very sad” but predictable.

He said: “Leonard Cheshire knows that people die if they are forced to move from their care homes, but they did it anyway.

“These actions that devastate disabled people who live in their homes – it is disgusting.

“It is difficult to prove but I have no doubt that people being moved forcibly against their will when they have severe impairments has caused deaths.”

He said the charity had given the residents of Greathouse the minimum possible notice – three months – of its intention to close the home.

Although it is impossible to prove that the deaths and health problems were caused by the sudden closure of Greathouse and residents being forced to move to new homes, some research has suggested a link between involuntary relocation from residential homes and a negative impact on residents’ health.

A Leonard Cheshire spokeswoman said: “We are aware that two former residents of Greathouse have sadly passed away.

“Our heartfelt thoughts are with the families at this difficult time.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this point until the facts are established.

“Care was taken in supporting all residents of Greathouse with their individual moves, including health checks and the transfer of records around complex conditions so that continuity of care was properly managed.

“Continuity and quality of support, and the welfare of all residents is our top priority during the coming months as we look to secure a new provider for the services that we have taken the difficult decision to sell.

“Any sale is unlikely to occur before the end of March 2019 and could take longer. We will support residents and their families throughout this process.”

She said the charity was not aware of the death of the woman who used the respite service.

She added: “With regard to the other residents you refer to we will not comment on the health of individual residents beyond our statement.

“If residents have transferred to other providers, any queries about the care and wellbeing of residents who transferred to other providers need to be addressed to them.”

She declined to comment further.

16 August 2018

 

 

Concerns over green paper’s ‘chilling’ failure to address accessible housing crisis

The government has been criticised by disabled campaigners and the equality watchdog after its new social housing green paper failed to include a single mention of the accessible housing crisis.

Only three months ago, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned that more than 350,000 disabled people in England had unmet housing needs, with one-third of those in private rented accommodation and one-fifth of those in social housing living in unsuitable properties.

EHRC called in its report for the government to draw up a national strategy to ensure an adequate supply of new homes built to inclusive design standards.

But this week’s social housing green paper, described by communities secretary James Brokenshire as a “new deal” for social housing residents – those who pay rent at below market levels – does not mention accessible housing once.

The word “accessible” only appears in the 78-page document four times, on each occasion relating to the need for accessible information or complaints procedures.

The green paper does refer to supported housing, which it explains has a “key role to play” in supporting minority groups including people with mental ill-health, learning difficulties and other disabled people.

But there are no proposals to improve supported housing, other than referring to a U-turn announced last week, in which ministers said that it would continue to be funded through the social security system rather than being devolved to local authorities as originally planned.

The green paper also mentions an ongoing review of the disabled facilities grant (DFG), which provides funding to make disabled people’s homes more accessible, for example by widening doorways or installing ramps, and which will see spending increase from £220 million in 2015-16 to £505 million in 2019-20.

But there are no new proposals for increasing the supply of accessible housing, or even requests for ideas on how the accessible housing crisis could be addressed.

Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, said that reading the green paper and realising its failure to mention the crisis in accessible housing – despite the conclusions reached in the EHRC report – had been a “chilling” experience.

She said: “Despite the fact that disabled people are twice as likely as non-disabled people to live in social housing, that over half of all households in the social housing sector have disabled members and that according to the EHRC report there are around 365,000 disabled people in England with unmet housing needs, with one in five disabled people in social housing living in unsuitable accommodation, the new green paper on social housing fails to mention the crisis in accessible housing at all or offer any solutions to it.”

She added: “The paper refers a number of times to the Grenfell tragedy but fails to mention the numbers of disabled tenants housed there, a number on upper floors who were unable to escape, due to the chronic lack of accessible housing that is a problem across Britain.

“The chilling part is that the only mention of meeting disabled people’s housing needs or of accessibility comes through the government’s commitment to invest in supported housing.

“The recent government announcement on increased funding for supported housing states that a unit within such housing will ‘have its own front door’, as if to detract from what this represents, which is ghetto-isation and re-segregation of disabled people.”

EHRC told Disability News Service that it was concerned and disappointed by the green paper’s failure to address the “chronic shortage” of accessible housing.

An EHRC spokeswoman said in a statement: “Almost half of social housing is occupied by disabled tenants or those with a long-term illness and their needs must be specifically reflected in the green paper.

“The ambition to empower tenants is welcome, but we are disappointed that specific initiatives for disabled people and the need to address the chronic shortage of accessible housing are not mentioned.

“We will be responding to the consultation and discussing the proposals directly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to raise our concerns.”

The green paper offers five “core principles”: a “safe and decent home”; “swift and effective resolution” of concerns about the safety or standard of a home; “empowering residents” and ensuring landlords are held to account; tackling the stigma of living in social housing; and “building the social homes that we need and ensure that those homes can act as a springboard to home ownership”.

But although prime minister Theresa May says in a foreword that the government is “committed to getting more of the right homes built in the right places, sold or rented at prices local people can afford”, the green paper provides few if any firm proposals.

Instead, it includes a series of questions to be answered through a public consultation – which closes on 6 November – although none of them relate to accessible housing.

Although it was not mentioned in the green paper, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced this week that it was extending funding for its Care and Support Specialised Housing Fund (CSSHF) for another three years.

CSSHF received £315 million in its first five years (£63 million a year) and produced about 3,300 accessible “supported or specialised” properties suitable for disabled and older people.

Funding will now rise to £76 million a year for the next three years, with DHSC expecting “thousands” more homes to be built.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) failed to explain the failure to mention accessible housing in the green paper.

Instead, she pointed to the reference to the DFG review, and added: “We realise many disabled people face challenges in their daily lives, but we’re clear that their homes should not cause them problems.

“Our green paper sets out our plan to tackle stigma and ensure social housing can be a stable base that supports people when they need it.

“Our new planning rulebook also makes clear that councils must take the needs of the elderly and disabled people into account when planning new properties.”

MHCLG also said that as design of homes was at the heart of the green paper, that would include making sure properties were suitably accessible.

And it said that disabled people were among nearly 1,000 residents who took part in 14 engagement events around the country leading up to the green paper.

16 August 2018

 

 

User-led alliance set to raise concerns for second time with Mental Health Act Review

User-led groups and service-users are set to raise grave concerns about the work of the team reviewing mental health laws on behalf of the government, including its refusal to take a “full human rights-based approach” to reform.

An alliance of user-led organisations, mental health service-users and survivors, and their allies, are to write for a second time to the Mental Health Act Review (MHAR), which is examining the Mental Health Act 1983, which covers England and Wales.

More than 120 organisations and individuals – led by the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) – wrote to the review in May raising alarm about its reluctance to recommend full rights that comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The letter called on the review to address the concerns raised by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, after it investigated the UK’s implementation of the UN disability convention last year.

The UN committee said in the “concluding observations” to its examination of the UK that the government should “repeal legislation and practices that authorise non-consensual involuntary, compulsory treatment” and the detention of disabled people “on the basis of actual or perceived impairment”.

Two NSUN representatives met the review team last month to discuss their letter, but they said they did not think their concerns were taken seriously, while the response from the review’s chair – Professor Sir Simon Wessely – and his three vice-chairs “fell well short of what we might have hoped”.

Wessely made it clear that he and his vice-chairs would not recommend full implementation of the UN convention.

Now NSUN is set to write to the review for a second time next month, in response to the views expressed by Wessely and his vice-chairs at the meeting.

The follow-up letter is likely to stress again the importance of a human rights-based approach to reform which gives mental health service-users the same rights as everyone else, and express strong dissatisfaction with the review’s dismissal of the concerns.

The letter is again expected to secure significant support from user-led organisations, mental health service-users and survivors, and allies.

Among the other concerns raised by the NSUN alliance in the first letter are that service-users, survivors and user-led organisations have been outnumbered in key parts of the review structure, leading to a “tokenistic” approach.

And they say the review has been “incredibly rushed”, with the review brief being to produce recommendations this autumn, ahead of NHS England’s 10-year funding plan, which is expected later this year.

This has caused “significant barriers to service user and carer involvement” in the review.

And they want to see a greater effort to reach those with lived experience of detention and compulsory treatment, with an adequate focus on those from particularly disadvantaged groups, including those from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, people from disadvantaged socio-economic groups, people with learning difficulties and people with physical impairments.

They also want the review to place more of a focus on social models of mental distress, and to examine alternatives to clinical services and provision of resources for these alternatives.

They also have major concerns about the quality of the interim review report, which was published in May, because of the reporting and reliability of the data it used, and the lack of clarity on the evidence for its findings.

Dorothy Gould, freelance researcher, trainer and consultant for NSUN, said: “It is utterly wrong that the 21st century has been reached without people with mental health diagnoses/in mental distress having the same human rights as everyone else – and now, to compound this, the review chair and vice chairs are not willing to recommend that we do even now.”

Sarah Yiannoullou, NSUN’s managing director, said the review team had made it “quite clear” that that they were not going to recommend any move towards mental health legislation which was fully compliant with UNCRPD.

Yiannoullou said the review was incredibly important because it was likely to be the basis for the last major reform for the next decade.

She said: “Whatever recommendations there are, that’s it for the next 10 years.”

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the key points made by NSUN, as the review was ongoing, but said in a statement: “We’re determined to ensure the Mental Health Act works better for patients and their families, which is why we commissioned a review of the act and will be considering the final recommendations of the review when it reports later this year.”

But DHSC also said that a service users’ and carers’ group was embedded in the governance of the review, and that every working group established by the review had at least one service-user or carer as a full member.

DHSC said that more than 2,000 people and organisations had provided views for the review through a call-for-evidence, a survey and face-to-face meetings.

The department also said that 30 small focus groups had been held with service-users and carers, with participants including those with experience of low, medium, high security and forensic services, autistic people and those with learning difficulties, and those from BAME communities.

A further two workshops with service-users, carers and professionals have just been held, while at least 15 more focus groups will be re-run in early autumn to test the review’s thinking.

For more information about NSUN’s campaign, or to offer support, contact Dorothy Gould (gould.dorothy@gmail.com), NSUN’s lead on the review, or Sarah Yiannoullou (sarah.yiannoullou@nsun.org.uk)

16 August 2018

 

 

Legal ruling secures new protection for autistic pupils

Thousands of disabled children have won new protection from being unfairly excluded from school after a judge ruled that the government’s equality laws were unlawful.

The upper tribunal ruled last week that a 13-year-old pupil, known as “L” for legal reasons, should not have been excluded from his school because his behaviour was linked to his autism.

Now campaigners are calling on the education secretary to change the law to take account of the appeal victory.

L had originally been excluded from school for one-and-a-half days, when he was 11, because of his aggressive behaviour.

The way that Equality Act regulations have been interpreted has meant that children like L who were defined as having “a tendency to physical abuse” were often not treated as “disabled” and were therefore not protected by the Equality Act.

This lack of protection meant schools did not have to justify how a decision to exclude a disabled child in these circumstances was proportionate or explain how they had made reasonable adjustments to support the pupil so the behaviour could be prevented or reduced.

But Judge Rowley, sitting in the upper tribunal, has now found that this rule comes “nowhere near striking a fair balance between the rights of children such as L on the one side and the interests of the community on the other” and was a breach of the Human Rights Act.

He said that “aggressive behaviour is not a choice for children with autism” and that the education secretary had “failed to justify maintaining in force a provision which excludes from the ambit of the protection of the Equality Act children whose behaviour in school is a manifestation of the very condition which calls for special education provision to be made for them”.

He added: “In that context, to my mind it is repugnant to define as ‘criminal or anti-social’ the effect of the behaviour of children whose condition (through no fault of their own) manifests itself in particular ways so as to justify treating them differently from children whose condition has other manifestations.”

He said he believed that his decision was “in harmony with” both the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Statistics show that almost half of all school exclusions involve children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), who are almost seven times more likely to be permanently excluded than other pupils.

L’s parents said in a statement: “We have always believed passionately that our son and other children in his position should have equal rights to be able to go to school and receive the support they need to achieve the best possible outcomes.

“School should be somewhere he can go without fear of discrimination or exclusion for actions which he has no control over.

“Knowing that one of the key rules that prevented that has now been found to be unlawful is of great comfort to us, and we hope, many other families.”

Michelle Daley, interim director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said: “ALLFIE has continuously expressed our deep concerns about the increase in the level of exclusion of disabled children and children with SEND and also the increase in the number of children in segregated provision.

“All credit to L and his parents for pursuing the case and in helping to bring about this ruling to get the state to recognise the human rights of disabled children.

“This is an encouraging move forward, ensuring that children will be protected under the law.

“We now hope that further changes will be made to properly implement article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to end segregated education.”

Polly Sweeney, human rights partner at lawyers Irwin Mitchell, who represented L’s family, said: “We are delighted with this outcome and pleased that the upper tribunal has recognised in strong terms that the profound and severe discriminatory impact that these rules have on vulnerable children such as L when accessing education is unlawful.

“As has been made clear in the judgment, this decision does not mean that schools are prevented from excluding children where it is necessary and proportionate to do so.

“However, it will ensure all disabled children are afforded the same safeguards, protections and rights under the law regardless of whether their disability gives rise to challenging behaviour.”

Barrister Steve Broach, who argued L’s case at the tribunal, said on Twitter that the successful appeal “shows the power of the Human Rights Act”, as rules made under the Equality Act were found to have breached L’s human rights.

Melanie Field, executive director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which funded the case, said: “We are delighted with this judgment which will require schools to make reasonable adjustments to try to prevent or manage challenging behaviour and justify that any exclusion in these circumstances is proportionate.

“This is a positive step towards ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential through education and increasing the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream education.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “The government is fully committed to protecting the rights of children with disabilities, as well as making sure schools are safe environments for all pupils.

“We will be carefully considering the judgment and its implications before deciding the next steps.”

The government launched a review of exclusions earlier this year, led by former Tory education minister Edward Timpson, which is examining how schools use exclusions and why some groups are disproportionately excluded.

16 August 2018

 

 

Retailers back UK’s first ‘accessible shopping day’

Major retailers have backed the launch of the UK’s first “accessible shopping day”, which will see businesses promise to introduce new measures to benefit their disabled customers.

Purple Tuesday, to be held on 13 November, is being led by Purple, the social enterprise formerly known as Essex Coalition of Disabled People.

It has secured backing from businesses and organisations including Asda, Barclays, Argos, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, The Crown Estate, the British Retail Consortium, and Hammerson, which owns Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre, and has been endorsed by the government.

As well as endorsing and promoting Purple Tuesday, every organisation that signs up must make at least one long-term commitment aimed at improving the experience for their disabled customers, such as introducing regular “quiet hours” for neurodiverse shoppers.

Purple will provide retailers that sign up with a training kit to help staff feel confident in assisting disabled shoppers.

It believes there are a “vast array” of adjustments that can be made by retailers that will have a “significant impact”, and many – like the training kit – can be introduced quickly.

Any business or organisation that interacts with disabled customers can sign up to Purple Tuesday, which will also promote the need for accessible retail websites.

Mike Adams, chief executive of Purple, said: “Less than 10 per cent of companies have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers.

“Fundamentally, Purple Tuesday isn’t about a single day in the year but encouraging lasting change that creates a virtuous circle between businesses and disabled consumers.”

Earlier this year, a report co-authored by Adams, Leading From The Front, found the estimated value of the “purple pound” – the collective spending power of disabled people in the UK and their families – to be £249 billion a year.

The report said that three-quarters of disabled people had walked away from a business because of poor disability awareness – costing businesses £420 million a week – while inaccessible websites and apps cost £11.75 billion in lost revenue in the UK in 2016.

It also pointed out that fewer than one in 10 businesses have a defined strategy for targeting disabled consumers.

Purple Tuesday has evolved from a campaign launched by Purple last year, Help Me Spend My Money, which encouraged retail and hospitality businesses to provide disability equality training to their in-store staff and take other measures such as providing an accessible website.

Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, said: “Shopping should be a pleasant experience, but for many disabled people it can often be the cause of distress and frustration.

“By failing to cater to their disabled customers, many businesses are missing out on billions of pounds and denying disabled people the opportunity to enjoy something which many people take for granted.

“I look forward to working alongside Purple and members of my Disability Retail Forum on this hugely important agenda, highlighting examples of best practice in the retail sector and encouraging others to make small changes which can make a massive difference to their customers.”

16 August 2018

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 Posted by at 21:02
Aug 142018
 

The Social Market Foundation is currently undertaking a major research project looking at benefit sanctions in the United Kingdom, updating and expanding the Independent Review of Sanctions that they undertook for Government in 2014. More information on the project is available at:http://www.smf.co.uk/making-sense-of-sanctions/

As part of this they want to ensure we gather the full range of views, perspectives, and evidence on sanctioning and the sanctions system. They have opened a call for evidence into these issues, which are available at: http://www.smf.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Call-for-evidence-questions.pdf

 Posted by at 17:42
Aug 082018
 

Campaign Bootcamp has recently opened applications for its October residential campaign training, which supports new activists to develop the confidence, tools and community they need to run effective campaigns that challenge injustice. The six-day training is a space where activists from across the UK, across identities, ages and experiences, come together to learn from each other, strategise, gain new skills and find new allies. Campaign Bootcamp offers many scholarships that cover up to the full cost of the training, including scholarships for policing and criminal justice activists, environmental activists, disabled activists, migrants, activists tacking systemic issues such as housing and health, BME activists and more. You can get more information here: https://campaignbootcamp.org/bootcamps/bootcamp-14/
Key information:

  • Campaign Bootcamp is a year-long programme designed to give campaigners the skills, confidence and community they need to succeed

  • The year starts with a six-day residential training at an accessible venue, Gilwell Park (Epping Forest) just outside London
  • You’ll learn about strategy, tactics, messaging, working with the media, creating persuasive social media content, building allies and much more
  • Dates for the training are Sunday 7th October – Friday 12th October 2018

  • Applications are now open now and will close at 9am on Tuesday 21st August

  • Apply online here: www.campaignbootcamp.org/apply
  • There’s a lot of scholarships available, which cover up to the full cost of the programme. Learn more and apply for one here: https://campaignbootcamp.org/bootcamps/bootcamp-14/

—-

Campaign Bootcamp is a trading name of Campaign Academy Ltd, a charitable company limited by guarantee. We are registered in England and Wales under charity number 1169639 and company number 08390873. Our registered office is 115 Mare St, London E8 4RU, United Kingdom. The Campaign Bootcamp name and logo are registered trademarks.

 Posted by at 17:36
Jul 312018
 

Inclusion London is sending written evidence to the Social Security Advisory Committee’s consultation on proposals to move all people claiming working age income-related benefits to Universal Credit (UC).

Please send us your experience to inform our evidence.  For instance let us know:

  • How you found applying for Universal Credit, including whether you found the process accessible or not.
  • How long you had to wait for the first payment of UC and whether you could manage financially while you waited.
  • Are you receiving the same amount of money or not?
  • Let us know any problems that occurred and also if UC has any advantages for you over the old system.

Please send your information to  Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk preferably by 6 August but by 15 August at the latest.

You may wish to respond to the consultation directly to the inquiry. The deadline is 10am on Monday 20 August.

More information about inquiry is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-proposal-to-move-claimants-on-legacy-benefits-to-universal-credit-consultation-announced

 Posted by at 12:10
Jul 292018
 

Representatives of national disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in Bolivia, Greece, Malaysia and Uganda have described to UK activists how they have fought oppression and discrimination in their own countries.

They were speaking at an International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit in east London, organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) to highlight the hypocrisy of the UK government’s decision to co-host a major “global disability summit” on the Olympic Park in east London this week.

Feliza Ali Ramos and Alex Marcelo Vazquez Bracamonte, both wheelchair-users, from the Bolivian DPO New Hope, described how – two years ago – they and fellow disabled activists marched 300 miles through the Andes to the capital La Paz to confront president Evo Morales about the conditions facing disabled people in Bolivia and to seek an increase in disability benefits.

Conditions facing disabled people in Bolivia were harsh, they told the summit.

Many were dying from treatable conditions, some because doctors refused to give them oxygen, with families often welcoming their early deaths “because they were suffering anyway”.

Many disabled people were excluded from education, despite the government’s insistence that disabled people had access to education and to healthcare, the summit heard.

Local campaigns had called for the monthly disability benefit payment to rise from about £10 to about £50 a month, which led to the march on La Paz.

Ramos said: “We sent letter after letter to the president, but the president never received us.”

They marched through the mountains for 35 days and often had nowhere to sleep, while their only food was what they were given by people from the towns they passed through.

When they arrived in the capital, they found the government had put up metal barriers to prevent them reaching the central square where the government offices were located.

The square was guarded by police with water cannons and riot shields, and they were sprayed with pepper spray and water cannons, beaten and pushed out of their wheelchairs.

Refused a meeting with the president, they pitched tents and took part in a vigil that lasted more than three months.

The government tried to infiltrate the movement, and threatened activists with 10 years in prison.

Morales eventually backed down and agreed to some of their demands.

Ramos told fellow activists at Sunday’s summit how they lost two of their colleagues in a traffic accident during the march while another four had died because their health deteriorated during the protest.

She cried as she told the summit: “Because these comrades had given their lives we fought on and we too were prepared to give our lives.

“We remember what we went through and every day it moves me.

“All of a sudden we have made ourselves visible in Bolivia and have got coverage in its media.”

Last week, she said, there was national media coverage of a case in which a young man with cerebral palsy was found severely malnourished.

She said: “Before, it would have been ignored. Now it is a national scandal because of what we did.

“We have shown the whole of society we are strong and are not prepared to shut up and do whatever the government tells us to do.”

New Hope was founded in 1999 to fight for an independent life for all disabled people in Bolivia, and its members try to empower disabled people with physical impairments through their Independent Life programme.

Antonios Rellas, from the Greek DPO Zero Tolerance, told Sunday’s summit how he was the only disabled activist who gave evidence in the long-running trial of MPs and members of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party.

He said: “As disabled activists, we know very well the story behind the fascist danger.

“Golden Dawn followed exactly what Hitler and the Third Reich believed. Some of the first victims of the Third Reich were disabled people who were killed, 275,00 of them, as unworthy to live.”

He also described his organisation’s ongoing fight against the institutionalisation of disabled people in Greece, which saw Zero Tolerance fight for the freedom of disabled residents who were being over-medicated and chained to cages in a state-run institution in Lechaina.

He has directed a documentary which exposes the conditions, with Rellas and other disabled activists occupying the institution for four days and demanding that they were released.

Now those disabled people who have been released from Lechaina have been found homes “in places where they can lead regular lives”, he said.

But he said that more than 900 disabled people were still living in similar conditions in state-run institutions in Greece.

He said: “The institutions that we are talking about are public institutions. We don’t know what is happening in private and church facilities.

“This has nothing to do with the financial crisis that Greece is under. This was happening before this happened and if we are not there to resist and provoke it will stay like this forever.”

Naziaty Yaacob, from Harapan OKU (Hope for Persons with Disabilities), speaking via Skype, told of her organisation’s battle to fight systematic discrimination against disabled people in her country following the election in May of the first new government in Malaysia in 60 years.

They wrote an open letter to the new prime minister, with support from more than 100 charities, telling him that disabled people were “still struggling to achieve independence” and were “still facing barriers and discrimination”, with disabled people the most marginalised group in society.

They highlighted the “toothless” nature of the existing disability discrimination act and the need for a new act and an independent commission to deal with grievances and systemic discrimination.

Rose Achayo, from the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda, described the wide-ranging discrimination faced by disabled women and girls in her country.

She told the summit that her organisation had formed in 1999 to be a voice for disabled women and girls and to push for “a society where girls and women with disabilities lead a dignified life”.

She pointed to barriers faced by disabled women in Uganda, such as violence in the home and in the community, the abuse inflicted on disabled people with high support needs who are placed in isolated settings, the lack of access to reproductive health, and the lack of access to justice.

She also pointed to the stigma and “invisibility” faced by disabled women and girls in mainstream society, and their lack of access to the main source of income: land.

But she said that, unlike the UK government, the Ugandan government had acknowledged issues raised by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities and had come up with a plan for how they could be addressed.

The committee examined Uganda’s progress in 2016, a process her organisation took part in.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:46
Jul 292018
 

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has defended the decision to co-host a major international summit on disability rights with Kenya, a country where it is illegal to be gay.

The UK government was co-hosting the Global Disability Summit in east London this week with Kenya and the International Disability Alliance, with Ukur Yatani Kanacho, the Kenyan government’s cabinet secretary for labour and social protection addressing the event.

Although the intersectional discrimination facing disabled women and girls and the barriers faced by disabled young people were both covered extensively by the summit, the double discrimination faced by disabled lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people appears to have been almost completely ignored during the summit.

Regard, a national organisation of disabled lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and queer people (LGBTQ), said it was “hard to imagine a less suitable partner” to co-host the summit than Kenya, apart from its neighbour, Uganda.

In a statement, Regard said: “LGBTQI+ people in Kenya are routinely banished from their families, denied work and accommodation, imprisoned and persecuted.”

The barriers they face to forming and maintaining relationships “results in widespread damage to their mental and physical health, creating impairments where none previously existed.”

Regard said this was reflected in the high level of asylum applications from LGBTQI+ asylum-seekers from African countries, and added: “Despite their experiences, the majority are then refused asylum in the UK and forcibly returned home, where many disappear or are murdered.

“The involvement of the government of Kenya discredits any debate that takes place at the summit.

“Whatever the political reasons for involving Kenya in co-hosting the summit, the rights and welfare of disabled people seem to have had very little to do with it.”

In April, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that LGBT rights were “not important” to him.

He said: “I won’t engage in a subject that is of no importance to the people of Kenya.

“This is not an issue of human rights, this is an issue of our own base as a culture, as a people regardless of which community you come from.”

Disabled People Against Cuts has supported Regard’s concerns, and included them in an open letter to some of the most high-profile participants in the summit.

But when asked by Disability News Service how the UK government justified asking Kenya to co-host the summit, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, defended the move.

She said: “We work with many organisations that don’t have the same values as we do. In part, that’s why we work with them.”

She said the UK government chose Kenya as a co-host because of its legislative record on disability; its early signing of the UN disability convention; and “thirdly and perhaps most importantly they are one of the best nations for their relationship and strength of civil society disabled people’s organisations”.

When asked whether the UK government also recognised Kenya’s appalling record on LGBT rights, she said: “We don’t work with perfect nations. That’s why we work with them.”

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:43
Jul 292018
 

The disabled president of Ecuador has given a stirring speech in praise of the social model of disability, at a summit co-hosted in east London by the UK government.

President Lenin Moreno was one of the key-note speakers at the conference on the Olympic Park, which was hosted by the UK government, the International Disability Alliance and the Kenyan government.

Although he was described as the world’s only head of state with a disability – which is highly unlikely – Moreno is thought to be the only one who uses a wheelchair.

The former UN special envoy told the Global Disability Summit in east London that he saw disability as “obstacles created by the environment” and coming from “structures and social conditioning”, and said it was “essential to place disability within the discourse of rights”.

Moreno became disabled after being shot in a robbery in 1998 and was elected president of Ecuador last year.

He told the summit how, after he became vice-president of Ecuador in 2007, he led on a sweeping series of policies – Ecuador Without Barriers – that aimed to transform life for disabled people in Ecuador.

This included the Solidarity Mission Manuela Espejo, an 18-month project to identify every disabled person in Ecuador – they found nearly 300,000 people with significant impairments and high support needs – and assess their needs.

They went, he said, “to the fullest reaches of the forest, the highest points of the mountains and the furthest points of the islands of Ecuador” to carry out the survey.

The government reportedly increased the country’s spending on disability from about $100,000 a year to $65 million (another report described the increase as $2 million to $150 million) and reserved four per cent of jobs with significant employers for disabled people.

There were programmes to provide healthcare, assistive technology such as wheelchairs, canes, prosthetic limbs and hearings aids, and funding for local authorities to improve access to public buildings.

He spoke when he was vice-president of how on his visits around the country he had seen disabled people being hidden from view by their families in chicken coops and sheds.

He told the summit this week that disabled people had “been waiting for too long and they should not keep waiting, suffering abandonment, mistreatment and being hidden” and that Ecuador had needed a “cultural change” in the way it treated disabled people.

Moreno left government in 2013 at the end of his term as vice-president and was appointed as the special envoy on disability and accessibility by the UN’s secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, with the UN describing him then as “a globally acclaimed advocate for persons with disabilities and inclusive society”.

He told the summit that he had tried as the special envoy “to be a voice for millions of persons with disabilities” and to persuade every country to ratify – and then implement – the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

When he returned to government last year, he said, he found that much of his previous work on disability as vice-president “had been forgotten” and “all the things we had been fighting for and had built had been dismantled, forgotten or changed”.

This meant he had had to start again “nearly from scratch” after he was elected president.

Some opponents in Ecuador have accused him of turning his back on his socialist roots since his election.

In April, the Financial Times reported how Moreno had “announced a package of economic measures that aims to pare back the country’s bloated state apparatus and promote private enterprise, in a further departure from his socialist roots” and that he had “promised significant cuts to central government”.

A small group of protesters were outside the summit in east London to protest at his appearance at the summit.

One of the protesters, Mayra Crean, said Moreno had changed his policies since his election and was now applying a “neoliberal agenda”, cutting taxes for the rich and cutting spending.

She said: “He is cutting the budget for everybody – health, education, social care.”

And she said it was “an embarrassment” and “ironic” that he was appearing at the summit as a representative of disabled people.

The right to employment for disabled people is still central, Moreno told the summit, as most disabled people in his country live in poverty, do not have their own homes and do not work.

He said: “Our objective now is all persons with disabilities who can and want to work should be able to do it. They have the right to work.”

He added: “Our objective is to become a society promoting full inclusion of persons with disabilities, where they can train, study, work, enjoy life, have fun.”

But he also pledged his commitment to working with disabled people on policies affecting them, telling the summit: “The historic model of those who drafted the [UN] convention, ‘nothing about us without us’, is at the heart of the principles of my government.”

And he reaffirmed his commitment to the social model of disability, telling the summit that his government’s objective was a “human rights-based policy and not medical based”.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:40
Jul 292018
 

Labour’s shadow chancellor has described the UK government’s decision to co-host a Global Disability Summit – less than a year after its record on disability rights was dismantled by the United Nations – as “the height of hypocrisy”.

John McDonnell, a long-standing supporter of the disabled people’s anti-cuts movement, was speaking to Disability News Service (DNS) after addressing a rival grassroots summit organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) in Stratford, east London.

He said the government’s summit was an attempt to show that they were world leaders in disability rights “when they are clearly not”, but also “trying to argue that they could somehow influence or teach other countries how to treat fairly and equally disabled people”, which was “just outrageous.”

McDonnell said disabled people and their allies had worked hard to ensure that the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities had “the fullest information to be able to assess the government’s performance on its policies towards disabled people”.

The result, last September, was “an outright condemnation of the role that the government has played”.

He added: “It was the height of hypocrisy then for them to host this event.”

He said the summit could have been so much more successful if there had been an “honest discussion about what’s happened to disabled people across the globe but also learning the lessons of what’s gone wrong in this country, and the lessons of what’s gone wrong are that disabled people have born the brunt of austerity”.

He added: “If what came out of this summit was the admission by the UK government of their mistakes, at least something would come out of it. I doubt that that would happen.”

He also said – as he has stressed previously – that he wants DPAC and other disabled people’s groups “to set the agenda for Labour when we go into power”.

He told DPAC’s International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit that a Labour government’s policies would be based on the motto of the disabled people’s movement: “nothing about us without us”.

He said: “This is not just an open door. It is a solid invitation: when we go into government, you all go into government.”

The DPAC summit had heard from representatives of disabled people’s organisations in four countries – Bolivia, Greece, Malaysia and Uganda – each of whom described how they had fought oppression and discrimination (see separate story).

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:38
Jul 292018
 

A leading disabled activist has exposed the UK’s record on disability rights in front of an audience of disabled people from across the global south who had been invited to take part in the government’s Global Disability Summit.

Simone Aspis drew repeated loud applause from the audience at the Civil Society Forum as she highlighted the attacks on disabled people’s rights by the “arrogant” UK government.

She underlined the “hypocrisy” of the UK asking other countries to sign up to a new Charter for Change, which calls for governments to be held to account for their progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

She said: “Today the UK government is asking other countries to sign up to a charter which talks about the importance of holding governments to account under the CRPD and yet our government stands in breach of it. Hypocrisy.”

Last autumn, the chair of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities said the government’s cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.

Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator for The Alliance for Inclusive Education, a member of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, said the committee had made more than 80 recommendations for improvements and that it had never been as concerned about a country as it was about the UK.

She also highlighted how the same committee had found the UK government guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of the convention in 2016 because its austerity cuts had been “fundamentally breaching disabled people’s human rights to independent living and a decent standard of living and work”.

But she said the government had dismissed the findings of both CRPD reports.

Aspis was speaking at the Civil Society Forum, a sister event to the Global Disability Summit, headed by the International Disability Alliance and intended to “amplify” the voice of disabled people from across the global south the day before the summit was held in the same venue on the Olympic Park.

Aspis told the forum that UK disabled people’s organisations “absolutely welcome the giving of aid and support to our disabled brothers and sisters in other countries but we must also not let the UK government get away with its deliberate dismissal of its obligations under the [UN convention], because if one government should get away with it then others can follow.”

She said ROFA was calling for the government to implement CRPD’s recommendations, including the need for a cumulative assessment of the impact of its welfare and tax reforms; to reverse its welfare reforms; to introduce a national independent living support service; to reverse the reinstitutionalisation of disabled people; and to fully implement disabled people’s right to inclusive education.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:33
Jul 292018
 

Disabled people and their organisations from the global south have called for a “new beginning” in the way that the UN disability convention is implemented and monitored.

They were speaking at the Global Disability Summit, a major international disability rights conference co-hosted by the UK government in east London this week.

Speaking at the Civil Society Forum, an event held alongside the summit to “amplify the voice and participation” of disabled people, Dr Samuel Kabue, chair of the Kenya Disability Caucus, said that ratification by countries of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) by governments was not enough in itself.

Kabue, a member of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), said that the participation of disabled people’s organisations was “crucial” in the implementation of the convention.

He said: “‘This summit is telling us that we need to have a new beginning where persons with disabilities are given the opportunity, the right and the capacity to work with the government in many places.”

Laura Kanushu, executive director of Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities Uganda, told the forum that taking “strategic” legal cases was “a big strategy” in creating awareness of the convention.

She said: “In implementing [UNCRPD] effectively we need [legal] precedents on different issues in our different countries.”

Another CRPD member, Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, from Ghana, said disabled people and their organisations “have a great contribution to give” if there is to be “full meaning” of the implementation of UNCRPD because of their “authentic experience and relevant information of the situation of persons with disabilities”.

She said disabled people and their organisations were not consulted when decisions were made on their behalf.

She said: “We have to demand accountability at all levels and ensure and demand that persons with disabilities and their organisations are actively involved in the development and implementation of legislation and policies.”

Ana Lucia Arellano, chair of the International Disability Alliance, which co-hosted the summit, said the event was “an opportunity for meaningful change”.

She said there was an “urgent” need to “move from principals to procedures, from words to action”.

More than 600 representatives of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), charities, governments and private sector organisations who attended the forum agreed a “collaborative” statement, which calls for “measurable, ambitious and lasting commitments” to implementing UNCRPD and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The statement, which was presented the next day to the Global Disability Summit by Arellano, says: “It is time to implement the [UNCRPD] in every corner of the world: in every city, in every train station, in every village, in every mountain and valley, in every refugee camp and in every school.”

Among its calls is for increased investment in DPOs and support for the disability rights movement “to grow from the grassroots” and for the introduction of “CRPD compliant policies and legislation” and an increase in the “meaningful consultation and involvement” of disabled people and their organisations.

The forum and summit also saw concerns about a new 10-point Charter for Change, which laid out 10 commitments to achieve full inclusion for disabled people, with the UK government apparently its driving force.

The charter includes pledges on inclusive education (see separate story), to promote the leadership of disabled people, to eliminate discrimination, and to “revolutionise the availability and affordability of appropriate assistive technology”.

By the end of the summit, more than 300 governments, disability organisations, international agencies and private sector companies had signed up to it.

But Simone Aspis, from The Alliance for Inclusive Education, told the Civil Society Forum: “We must all make sure that the charter we introduce at the summit does not become a substitute for proper implementation of the [UNCRPD] and a way to water down our rights and ability to hold our governments to account.”

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said the UK was itself violating eight of the 10 commitments in the charter (see separate story).

And Sally Witcher, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, said: “Rather than urging others to sign a Charter for Change, they might like to consider implementing UNCRPD and accept the verdict of the UN committee on their woeful performance.

“The UK government should stop lecturing to the world and start sorting out its own backyard. Its credibility on disabled people’s human rights is non-existent.”

The European Disability Forum (EDF) endorsed the charter but also warned that it could not be a “substitute” for the UN convention.

Nadia Hadad, an EDF board member, said: “We hope the outcomes of the Global Disability Summit will also provide a strong push at the national level towards full implementation of the [UNCRPD].

“This push is needed everywhere: not only in low and middle-income countries, but also in OECD countries.”

EDF pointed out that the UK government was heavily criticised last autumn by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities for “failing to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities, including through a string of austerity policies which disproportionately affected persons with disabilities”.

The UK government reported a string of pledges from other governments, international agencies and other organisations by the end of the Global Disability Summit.

It said that nine national governments had promised to pass or draw up new or revised laws to give disabled people greater rights; 18 governments and other organisations said they were producing new action plans on disability inclusion; and 33 governments and other organisations had pledged to support more disabled people affected by humanitarian crises.

Seven UN agencies that attended the summit committed to change the way they include disabled people in their work, including UNICEF, which pledged to help an extra 30 million disabled children gain a high-quality education by 2030 through programmes in more than 140 countries.

It was not clear, though, how many of the commitments and promises were simply policies that governments and organisations had already been planning and would have been introduced without the Global Disability Summit.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:25
Jul 292018
 

Disabled activists have held a “festival of resistance” outside an international disability rights event to highlight the “hypocrisy” of it being co-hosted by the UK government.

Members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and allies were outside the Here East centre on the Olympic Park in the east London borough of Newham, as hundreds of delegates from across the UK and the global south took part in the Global Disability Summit.

Among those speaking at DPAC’s protest were disabled activists from Greece, Bolivia and Uganda, and an anti-poverty activist from Canada, who had all spoken at DPAC’s own International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit in nearby Stratford two days earlier.

Paula Peters, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said: “It is important to be outside the Global Disability Summit to show the true nature of what the UK government are doing to disabled people with their austerity agenda.”

She pointed to the two reports from the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), in 2016 and 2017, which had exposed the impact of the cuts on disabled people.

The first of the reports, in November 2016, found the government had committed “grave and systematic violations” of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through its policies on independent living, social security and employment.

The second, last autumn, assessed the government’s overall record on implementing the convention, produced an unprecedented number of recommendations for improvements, and led the committee’s chair to tell the UK government that its cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.

Ellen Clifford, who helped organise DPAC’s International Deaf and Disabled People’s Solidarity Summit, which took place two days before the government’s summit (see separate stories), had said that holding the Global Disability Summit so soon after the UN report was like the UK government “sticking two fingers up to the UN”.

But she said she welcomed anything positive that came out of the summit and was “particularly in favour of deaf and disabled people and our organisations making direct links internationally to support each other in our shared struggles.”

She said this could only be done “from the grassroots up”, which was why DPAC had hosted its own summit.

Clifford said that the Department for International Development, which had co-hosted the summit, had said DPAC activists could come inside the summit but would only be allowed in “if you don’t mention the UK government”.

DPAC rejected the invitation, and instead, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), an alliance of disabled people’s organisations which co-hosted the summit, supported DPAC in ensuring that its leaflets were distributed inside the summit.

The leaflets told delegates that the UK government had shown “contempt” for disabled people and the UN convention, had driven its “disabled citizens into degrading and inhumane conditions” and that it appeared to be “attempting to use this event to whitewash its appalling record on disability at home”.

Peters said the UK government was not talking about the two UN reports in its summit, and added: “The sun never sets on their hypocrisy. They are abusing our human rights at home.

“They are in there celebrating disabled people and how fantastic disabled are but their policies are harming disabled people, pushing us further into poverty, further marginalising us and excluding us from society.

“The cuts are killing us. We had to be here to show that, to show the truth.”

Marsha de Cordova, the disabled shadow minister for disabled people, also attended the DPAC protest, along with her Labour colleague Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary.

De Cordova pointed out that the Global Disability Summit was being hosted by Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, who had been minister for disabled people when CRPD produced its two reports in 2016 and 2017.

She said she was at the DPAC protest because ministers were “portraying themselves as being global leaders on disability rights”.

She said: “We know that is not the case. Their policies have been condemned by the UN.”

She said the government’s policies over the last eight years had “disproportionately hit disabled people, particularly on social security”.

De Cordova also pointed to the Charter for Change, the summit’s “principal legacy document”, which the UK was asking other governments and organisations to sign up to.

She said the UK was violating eight of the charter’s 10 commitments, including the pledge to “gather and use better data and evidence to understand and address the scale, and nature, of challenges faced by persons with disabilities”.

The UK government has persistently refused to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of its social security and tax cuts and reforms since 2010, even though the Equality and Human Rights Commission published its own version in March.

The disabled Kenyan MP Isaac Mwaura also expressed his solidarity with the DPAC protest.

He told them: “If there are any cuts to social welfare, how come they start with the most vulnerable, people with disabilities?”

Mwaura, a former student at the University of Leeds, said that disability was about “rights, respect and dignity”.

He said: “I tell you in solidarity, demand for your rights, let the UK government also implement the recommendations of the UN report for the CRPD.

“That way, the UK government will be providing leadership, the way it is purporting to do together with my government on the conditions of people with disability.

“Disability is about rights, it is about respect, it is about dignity, we will stand in solidarity with you, we refuse to accept the north and south divide, where some countries are seen to be better than others, yet the problems of disabled people are universal and common to all of us.

“We have to stand up and demand our rights: nothing about us without us.”

Dr Ju Gosling, artistic director of Together! 2012, a social enterprise led by Newham-based disabled artists, was one of several disabled artists who performed at the protest.

She said that Newham was the main London 2012 host borough and has one of the highest proportions of disabled residents in the UK, but that the promised “legacy” benefits of London 2012 to disabled people in Newham had yet to appear.

Instead, she said, “we have the highest percentage of homeless residents in the country, the vast majority of whom have an impairment or a long-term health condition, and the lowest level of cultural engagement.

“There is no funded disabled people’s organisation or centre for independent living; in fact, there is almost no advice and support available of any kind.”

Gosling pointed out that the Global Disability Summit organisers did not appear to have invited any local organisation of disabled people to the summit, including Together! 2012.

And she said there had also been no attempt to facilitate meetings between disabled people from the global south visiting the summit and Together! 2012.

She said: “In Newham, we have disabled people from all over the world and they would love to have had a discussion and could have really enriched the understanding of the visitors about what it is like to be disabled in the UK.

“Presumably that’s why we were not invited.”

Representatives of IDA attended the DPAC protest and said they were there “in solidarity”.

An IDA representative said: “IDA agreed to co-host because we wanted DPOs, including UK DPOs, to be a central part of the summit.

“And we have achieved this. DPOs from across the global, and including UK DPOs, have been key to the success of this summit.”

But she added: “We cannot ignore the findings of the CRPD committee.”

She said IDA was hoping to set up a meeting between DPOs including DPAC, the Department for Work and Pensions and Mordaunt’s Department for International Development.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:23
Jul 292018
 

A national disabled people’s organisation is facing accusations that it “betrayed” the UK disability movement after its deputy chief executive failed to condemn the government’s record on rights at a major international gathering of disabled people.

Sue Bott was sharing the stage with a senior government civil servant less than a year after the chair of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) said the UK government’s cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.

They were appearing at the Civil Society Forum, an event headed by the International Disability Alliance and intended to “amplify” the voice of disabled people the day before the UK government’s sister event, the Global Disability Forum, was held in the same venue on the Olympic Park in east London.

Bott was asked on Monday by the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of disabled people, Catalina Aguilar, what she would like to ask the UK government to do.

But in front of an audience containing disabled people from organisations across the global south and the UK, Bott failed to criticise the UK government.

Instead, she laughed, and said DR UK wanted to “collaborate” and “learn from disabled people around the world”.

Hours earlier, Simone Aspis, from The Alliance for Inclusive Education, had won loud applause and even one or two cheers from the international audience after delivering a devastating attack on the government’s record on disability rights and its “hypocrisy” in holding the summit (see separate story).

CRPD told the UK government last September to make more than 80 improvements to how its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights, the highest number of recommendations it had ever produced in reviewing a country’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Aspis had told the forum, which was organised by the UK government, the International Disability Alliance and the government of Kenya: “Today the UK government is asking other countries to sign up to a charter which talks about the importance of holding governments to account under the [UN convention] and yet our government stands in breach of it. Hypocrisy.”

And she said that UK disabled people’s organisations “absolutely welcome the giving of aid and support to our disabled brothers and sisters in other countries but we must also not let the UK government get away with its deliberate dismissal of its obligations under the [UN convention], because if one government should get away with it then others can follow.”

But instead of supporting Aspis by telling disabled delegates from across the world about the UK government’s serious breaches of the UN convention, Bott said: “We do want to work with government.

“As you heard this morning, we have some challenges in the UK but I believe that it’s essential that we keep that dialogue going with government and that we try to influence.”

She then said that DR UK’s request of the UK government was to “listen to us, talk to us, work with us and together if we work together we can create a society that is much better and inclusive for disabled people.

“It is a difficult process and sometimes unfortunately we end up going backwards sometimes but we need to engage and we need to find ways of going forwards and continuously improving our society for the benefit of disabled people.”

DR UK* has been repeatedly criticised for being too close to the government, but it appeared to have reclaimed some credibility with the disabled people’s movement through its part in a delegation of UK DPOs that visited Geneva last year, where its chief executive Kamran Mallick helped brief CRPD members on the UK’s breaches.

Last week, DR UK published a statement on its website criticising the government’s progress on disability rights, which it said had not just stalled but “reversed”, and adding: “We hope the summit will strengthen the ability of civic society in all the participating countries to hold their governments to account against the pledges they make.”

But when Bott took to the stage, sitting two seats down from Gerard Howe, head of inclusive societies in the policy division of the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), she failed to repeat that criticism.

The next day, Mallick spoke at the summit and also failed to criticise the government, noting only that he wanted the government to “see the UNCRPD report from 2017 as an opportunity to work through the issues raised and for the UK to reclaim its reputation as one of the leaders in disability equality”.

Eleanor Lisney, a leading disabled activist and member of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance network of disabled people and their organisations, said she was “astounded” by Bott’s speech.

She said: “Given that it was such a strong examination by the CRPD she didn’t mention it at all.

“It is not something that is hearsay. This is the UN.”

She said that one of the UN’s key conclusions last year was that one of the strongest elements in the UK was its disabled activists and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

Lisney said: “She didn’t mention that, she didn’t give credit to DPOs in her own country, she said she wants to learn from the countries the UK government is giving help to.

“She’s not there for DR UK, she’s there for DPOs in the UK.

“It’s a betrayal, that’s what I call it.”

There was also strong criticism on social media, with DPAC activist Rick Burgess saying on Twitter: “It is not acceptable for her to make no comment on UN report and to want to work with ongoing human rights abusers. Disgusting.”

Richard Rieser, who was at the forum and heard Bott’s speech, said it was “too weak” and that she had failed to challenge the UK government from the stage.

Rieser, a leading disabled consultant, who has played a key role in representing UK disabled people on international bodies such as the European Disability Forum and at the UN, said it had been “very difficult” to persuade DfID to let anyone from the UK disabled people’s movement to speak at the event.

And he praised Aspis for her speech, which had challenged the government.

He added: “People who were speaking were not just speaking for themselves and their own organisations but the whole UK disability movement and [DR UK] could have done more justice to the case against the British government domestically.”

He said Mallick had failed to explain to delegates what concerns the UN had raised “or in any way embarrass the government”.

Rieser said: “We have to be slightly stronger than that if we want to move them.

“We should really have held them to account more at this event. When you have the chance, you have to.”

Mallick and Bott refused to respond to requests from Disability News Service (DNS) to explain their failure to be more critical of the government from the stage.

Mallick said only in a statement: “Sue and I were asked to contribute to specific topics and questions, these were the basis of what we said.

“The panel that I was on was cut short significantly, due to the previous speech by the president of Ecuador running over time.”

He also referred DNS to a blog he wrote in advance of the summit, which was mildly critical of the government, a link to his speech to the summit, and to last week’s statement.

*DR UK is a Disability News Service subscriber

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:18
Jul 292018
 

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has been labelled a hypocrite and an embarrassment after attempting to redefine inclusive education at the international disability summit she was hosting in east London.

Penny Mordaunt’s government was already facing criticism from across the UK disabled people’s movement for its “blatant attempt to divert attention from its own disastrous record on human rights” by co-hosting the Global Disability Summit in east London.

But Mordaunt was then asked during the summit – a major international disability rights conference focused on the global south – what inclusive education meant to her, and she replied: “Inclusive education means that everyone has an education and it is done in a way to reach their full potential.”

The UN has made it clear that inclusive education means that all disabled children and young people are educated in mainstream settings and that the right for disabled students not to be discriminated against “includes the right not to be segregated” into special schools.

The UK government’s opposition to an inclusive education system dates back to the Conservative party’s 2010 election manifesto, in which it said its policy would be to “end the bias towards inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools”.

Five years later, its general election manifesto boasted of how it had “created 2,200 more special schools places through our free schools programme”.

And last autumn, the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities was highly critical of the UK government’s approach to inclusive education, 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”, to include raising awareness of – and support for – inclusive education among parents of disabled children.

The day before Mordaunt’s comments, Laura Kanushu, executive director of Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities Uganda, told the Civil Society Forum – a sister event held the day before the Global Disability Summit, in the same venue – of the “challenges of governments still investing so much in special needs schools”.

She said: “Why don’t you make the mainstream schools inclusive rather than investing in building special needs schools? For us that has been a challenge.”

The UK government’s refusal to support inclusive education – at least in its own country – was always likely to be exposed during the summit after the Department for International Development decided that one of its four main themes would be “inclusion in education”.

The prime minister, Theresa May, in a video played to the summit, even called for “truly inclusive” education as a way of helping disabled people “play a full role in their communities”, although she was apparently only referring to disabled young people living in developing countries.

And in her closing speech, Mordaunt announced a new Inclusive Education Initiative – led by the UK – a “multi-donor partnership to support developing countries realise the promise of truly inclusive schools, teaching and learning”.

Michelle Daley and Simone Aspis, interim director and policy and campaigns coordinator for The Alliance for Inclusive Education, said that Mordaunt’s comments were embarrassing and hypocritical.

Daley and Aspis said in a statement: “It is not just an embarrassment but also an hypocrisy for our government to tell the Global Disability Summit anything about inclusive education, especially when we are terribly failing many of our disabled children.”

They said it was “very concerning” that Mordaunt appeared to have redefined the definition of inclusive education in a way that did not comply with the UN’s definition.

They said: “The convention comes with an obligation to develop and implement an inclusive education system.

“However, our government continues to have a dual education system, refusing to make inclusive education a right, with an increase in the number of children being forced into segregated schools.

“It is time that our government starts to properly implement inclusive education as a human right.”

Richard Rieser, a leading inclusive education and international disability rights expert, who chaired a session at the summit, said the government was “clearly finding this an embarrassment”.

He said: “It is well-established under article 24 [of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] that inclusion is education in the local school in your community.

“What the minister [Mordaunt] said leaves the door open to segregated special schools.”

He pointed out that the UK maintained a reservation against article 24 of the convention, reserving the right for disabled children to be educated outside their local community, and an “interpretive declaration”*, which explains that the UK believes that the convention allows it to continue to operate both mainstream and special schools.

Only two other countries – Suriname and Mauritius – have placed reservations against article 24.

Rieser said: “This is the problem and the fear about the Department for International Development leading this [event] when they don’t understand the things we are arguing for as a world disability movement.”

*Both the reservation and interpretive declaration were placed by the Labour government in 2009 when it ratified the convention and have been maintained by subsequent coalition and Conservative governments

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:14
Jul 292018
 

The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, has been forced to retreat from her government’s repeated claims that the UK is a “global leader in disability rights”.

Her government has faced anger from the UK disabled people’s movement at its decision to co-host a Global Disability Summit in east London less than a year after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) found that its cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.

The committee told the UK government last September – when Mordaunt herself was minister for disabled people – to make more than 80 improvements to how its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights.

It was the highest number of recommendations CRPD had ever produced in reviewing a country’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The committee also made it clear to the government that the UK was no longer considered a world leader on disability rights.

But the government has repeatedly disagreed with the UN’s conclusion.

Last November, the new minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, said that the UK “continues to be a global leader in disability rights”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said last October – in responding to CRPD’s findings – that the UK was “a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality”.

And last October, Mordaunt herself said the government wanted to “establish the UK as a global leader” in disability and development and that she was “keen to promote what we are doing [on the domestic agenda] because it is a catalyst for change elsewhere in the world”.

But in an interview with Disability News Service (DNS) this week at the summit – a major international disability rights conference focused on the global south – Mordaunt distanced herself from those claims.

When asked if it was hypocritical for her government to hold itself up as a world leader on disability rights while co-hosting the summit, she said: “I think you’re putting words into my mouth, we are not holding ourselves up saying that we’re perfect or we have all the answers and I’ve been very clear in all my communications about this summit that that is the case.

“But I tell you this, we are well placed to help other nations get where we all want to be.”

She added: “This is not about the UK either preaching to other nations or not including ourselves in the list of nations that need to do better.

“We do need to do better. I’ve got a big long list, you’ve got a big long list, the Office for Disability Issues has a big long list of things that it wants to get done.”

She said she wanted the UK to do better on welfare, accessibility, building regulations and disabled people as consumers, and she said: “There is a lot of room for improvement, but there is more to do, but us as a wealthy nation not supporting, encouraging and enabling others to make the progress as well, I think it would be a dereliction of our duty.”

When told that the disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland had described the summit as a “blatant attempt [by the government] to divert attention from its own disastrous record on human rights and the damage its own policies have inflicted on UK disabled people”, Mordaunt said: “Well, if that were the case, holding a Global Disability Summit in the UK would be a pretty poor strategy. It’s not about that.”

This week, Mordaunt and her fellow ministers have been encouraging other countries and organisations to sign up to a new Charter for Change, calling on them to “hold ourselves and others to account for the promises we have made here today” and to “strive for real change through the convention’s implementation”.

But Mordaunt has now criticised the UN for its attempts to do just that.

In 2016, the UN’s CRPD told the UK government that it was guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights through its policies on independent living, social security and employment.

There has been anger and disbelief that the UK was asking other countries at the summit to sign up to a new charter that calls for governments to be held to account for their progress in implementing the convention, when it had not accepted the CRPD recommendations last September, or in 2016.

Last year, DWP said it was “disappointed” that the UN report “fails to recognise all the progress we’ve made to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives”.

And the previous year, DWP said that it “strongly disagrees” with CRPD’s conclusions that it had caused “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights and that the CRPD report “presents an inaccurate picture of life for disabled people in the UK”.

Mordaunt insisted this week that the government had not dismissed last year’s report on the overall implementation of the convention in the UK, and that Newton was now “working through” the recommendations, with announcements expected nest month.

But when asked four times whether she accepted the 2016 “grave and systematic violations” report, Mordaunt declined to do so.

She eventually said that the government had “issues with some of the aspects of the UN process”.

She said: “We think that we have been in some instances unfairly dealt with, but we will continue to engage in that process and I am confident that you will see progress.”

Mordaunt made a series of announcements at the summit to demonstrate the government’s commitment to supporting disabled people in the developing world, funded through the UK’s continuing legally binding agreement to spend 0.7 per cent of national income a year on foreign aid (about £14 billion in 2017).

She committed the UK government to a new global partnership – AT Scale – to “transform access to and affordability of” assistive technology, such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids and glasses, with the aim of reaching 500 million people globally by 2030.

She also announced a new UK Aid Connect programme, led by disability charities Sightsavers and Leonard Cheshire, which will work with organisations within small communities in the developing world to support disabled people into jobs.

There will be a six-year programme to design ways to help 100,000 disabled people to access health services, 10,000 disabled children to access education, and up to 45,000 disabled people to increase their incomes.

And Mordaunt said that her Department for International Development would work with businesses to support disabled people as employers, employees and consumers.

26 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 Posted by at 20:11
Jul 242018
 

The vigil is cancelled as we are informed the hearing is likely not to go ahead due to developments. More news to follow as we get it.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/297358631005655/

 

The cruel DWP is forcing two disabled claimants (who won a legal challenge against losing benefit when they moved to a Universal Credit area), back to court. One is terminally ill, the other has mental distress. After the judgement in June, the DWP refused to settle out of court for what they suffered — from losing around £180 per month. This means they have to give statements again, and despite winning the case, are still under attack, as the DWP has sought permission from the Court of Appeal to appeal against the judgement we won. https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/News-2018/June-2018/First-legal-challenge-against-Universal-Credit-fin

This is a shocking and disgraceful waste of tax-payers money and a purely vindictive move by DWP.

WinVisible, Disabled People Against Cuts and others are holding a vigil at lunchtime on Jult 30th at the Royal Courts of Justice, WC2R 1 to support full compensation for the claimants and resist government moves to claw back what we win. The court case starts at 10.30, please come to court in the morning if you can, to show our support in the public gallery. Find the court listing here, case of TP v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/court-lists/list-rcj
Case may continue Tuesday 31 July, please check listings before setting out.

 Posted by at 20:44
Jul 052018
 

Meme - caption - Esther (look you in the eye and lie) McVey - Sack Esther McVey for misleading Parliament

We don’t normally do petitions – but if there is a chance of getting McVey sacked – even a slim chance – we’ll take it – so here goes

Please sign, share on social media, your email address book, with your friends, family, neighbours, ex-partners, loose acquaintances, in the post office, round the railway station, the bowls club, with next doors cat, anywhere – just share, share, share, share

We need to get this going big time and we need a big effort from everyone who sees this post

So here it is (just click “Read More” to go to the petition page, or click this link) …..

Plus here’s a catchy tune to play while you are doing all that sharing

Sack Esther McVey, by Alun Parry

 Posted by at 21:58
Jun 302018
 

Join past tense for
“Disturbance of the Publick Peace”

a FREE past tense radical history walk…

around Holborn & Bloomsbury

Sunday 8th July 2018

Meet 4.15pm, outside Conway Hall,
25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

a wander through some of the riotous and radical history of Central
London: Gordon Rioters, anti-fascists, suffragettes, Chartist
plotters… and spycops, lots of spycops…

For more info email: pasttense@riseup.net

Part of the
50 Years of Resistance events
7th-8th July
Commemorating campaigns that continue to fight for social change,
despite being targeted by undercover police units  since 1968.

http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/50-years-resistance/

 Posted by at 15:26
Jun 282018
 

https://bristolsafeguarding.org/adults/safeguarding-adult-reviews/bristol-sars/kamil-ahmad-and-mr-x-june-2018/

We are organisers of an event in honour of Kamil Ahmad and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees. Some of us knew Kamil, some of us did not know him but have been motivated to attempt to address the root causes of Kamil’s tragic experiences. We would like to respond to the Safeguarding Review for Kamil Ahmad.
We are pleased that the safeguarding review has recognised that Kamil faced ongoing racism, that he was failed by many agencies and that his search for justice was impeded by (perhaps unconscious) disregard for the rights of refused asylum seekers.

However, beyond that we are disappointed by this review and response by the Bristol safeguarding board. This was a chance to expose the catalogue of injustice that Kamil experienced and to provide a sense that action is being taken to address the racism and ableism which Kamil experienced.

We are puzzled by the repeated references to the lack of interpreters as if this were an excuse rather a fundamental failing on the part of the agencies concerned. If a person is reporting a crime and does not speak English, then it is the police responsibility to provide interpreters. We are aware of at least one occasion when Kamil organised his own interpreter but the police officer did not appear and did not ring to rearrange. We are aware that the police have suggested that Kamil’s interpreter cancelled the appointment. We ask for any plausible explanation as to why he would have done this, given that he and Kamil were waiting. We also ask why it was necessary for Kamil to rely on voluntary support of interpreters. We are disappointed in the lack of attention paid to the police failure to turn up, pay for interpreters or to press charges.

The assertion that Kamil did not wish to make a statement to the police in April 2016 does not convince us. Might this apparent ‘misunderstanding’ have been the result of the numerous times when no interpreter was provided or the failure of police to turn up for the appointment when Kamil had arranged his own interpreter?

There could have been deeper investigation into potentially racist attitudes towards Kamil as an asylum seeker by services that should have been providing support – this is implied where it talks about attitudes towards people with “failed” applications but is not explored in any meaningful depth. We ask what prevented the ‘attempts’ to contact Kamil and to warn him about the increased risk posed to him (paragraph 10.11). We assume that action is being taken to prevent this in future.

The report stresses that Kamil is not blamed, yet there is constant referencing to “dynamics” and “tensions” between the two men. This implies that the men were co-protagonists rather than that Kamil was the victim. We suggest that the structures and attitudes of a system that disempowers service users are so ingrained that even now, the report authors are not able to recognise the ways in which Kamil was failed. It appears that as a service user and as a refused asylum seeker, Kamil’s rights to live free from abuse, harassment and fear, were denied. Kamil had a strong sense of justice and because he did not passively submit to having his rights denied, he is referred to as if he were a co-protagonist. References to Kamil’s knife are hugely exaggerated. Given the repeated threats that he was receiving, it seems that the paper knife which he owned is rather minimal self-defence, yet it is referenced as if it were a sign of potential aggression.

We are surprised that agencies did not realise it would be traumatic when Kamil was threatened with eviction, given that this meant he would have been street homeless (paragraph 9.8). We are also puzzled at the manner in which the report refers to voluntary organisations. If Kamil had been evicted from the property, he would have lost his right to support from social services and would have had no support whatsoever, as is deliberate policy for refused asylum seekers.

It is deeply disappointing to see this safeguarding review used as an opportunity to promote the outsourcing of statuary responsibilities to the voluntary and charity sector. It is also It is insulting to the goodwill of volunteers to suggest that they could have taken up where statutory authorities failed. The reason that Kamil had originally been given an Care Act assessment was because of lobbying by the volunteers who had been supporting him. They were unable to support his mental health needs. And it is not their job. It is a misrepresentation, and indeed irresponsible, to suggest that volunteers can supply the level of mental health support that Kamil needed. The decision making, that led to a Disabled man with high support needs being assessed as ineligible for support from the local authority, is barely referred to, let alone questioned. The re-traumatising impact it had on Kamil as a person, and the potential breach of his human rights, is also further indication that the Care Act, and it’s implementation, is failing Disabled people and Disabled asylum seekers.

Frequent reference to Kamil cancelling appointments brings the implication that this was his failing. It should be noted that he never cancelled an appointment with the Trauma Foundation and his interpreter. Those agencies with whom he cancelled appointments need to ask themselves why he did so.

We are concerned at evidence in the report of the impact of the crisis in social care and mental health services, bed shortages and out-sourcing to private hospitals. We are aware that it is not uncommon for people to be sent many miles away from family and friends to private sector hospitals, such as Cygnet, owned by US giant Universal Health Services, and the added stress that this places on their mental health.

The repeated communication failures between the NHS, voluntary and private sector services which also contributed to Kamil’s murder are simply not a matter of ‘learning lessons’ or designing new ‘pathways.’ We believe these are a direct consequence of drastic funding cuts, unaccountable commissioning and the impact of service fragmentation on front-line staff.

We consider it wholly inappropriate that as part of the response from the safeguarding board, there is reference to the need for interpreters, refugees and asylum seekers to be trained. Kamil and his interpreter did all they possibly could have done to seek justice and to alert the authorities as to the danger that he was in. We ask what this training would include – the need to inform the police? Mental health services? Housing provider? All of which Kamil and his interpreter did on multiple occasions. Of course some people may need support in order to be as assertive as Kamil was but it is not him or his interpreter who needed training. Those who need training most urgently are those who did not listen to their pleas for action and those who have, what the report refers to as, ‘unconscious’ bias.

Despite reference to systemic issues, the report still attempts to shift the blame from the agencies to the individual. The report contains 15 references to Kamil and other disabled people as ‘vulnerable’. ALL humans are vulnerable. People become more vulnerable if barriers are faced getting their rights met. Kamil was failed by multiple agencies. He died because insufficient action was taken to prevent someone intent on killing him. This is not a sign of Kamil’s ‘vulnerability’ but of agency failures.

The response from the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board also refers to their intention to attend the event that we are organising designed to build a broader movement of solidarity. We welcome anybody who would like to play their part in building such a movement, however we stress this event is not designed for ‘professionals’ to share their ideas of best practice.

In other responses to the review, Kamil is referred to as a ‘vulnerable’ or a ‘tragic case’. To different people Kamil was a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a son, a friend. He was a human with rights and needs just like any other human. Those people from agencies who still consider humans as ‘vulnerable cases’ are not only doing an injustice to those people, but you are also missing out. Kamil was a wonderful, intelligent, funny, kind and articulate human being who was failed, and, judging from this review, continues to be failed.

We are aware that Kamil’s family have waited two years for apologies from all those who failed Kamil. We would like to see evidence that the lessons are being learned.