Abrahams asks watchdog to investigate DWP benefit deaths cover-up

An MP has asked the equality and human rights watchdog to investigate why ministers hid documents from their own independent reviewer when they knew the information would link their “fitness for work” test to the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, a former shadow work and pensions secretary, has told the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of her “grave concerns” about how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) investigates deaths linked to DWP activity.

In a letter sent this week to EHRC’s chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, she explains her concerns that DWP failed to send crucial evidence about deaths linked to the work capability assessment (WCA) to the independent expert ministers had commissioned to review the test.

Disability News Service (DNS) revealed last month that DWP had finally admitted that two letters written by coroners, and a series of secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants who had gone through the WCA process, were hidden from Dr Paul Litchfield.

Since DNS revealed the existence of the documents in the years after Litchfield’s final report was published, concerns have grown that DWP deliberately covered-up evidence showing the fatal impact of the assessment on many disabled people.

In her letter, Abrahams also says she is “extremely concerned” about the lack of official scrutiny of the treatment of disabled people by DWP and its private sector contractors, Maximus, Capita and Atos, which carry out the assessments.

She says: “As you will be aware, there are a large number of social security claimants who have died after being found fit for work or having their PIP [personal independence payment] refused or reduced.”

Abrahams asks Hilsenrath to launch an investigation into deaths linked to the WCA and PIP assessment processes.

She also raises concerns about DWP’s failure to tell her how many secret internal reviews have been carried out into claimant deaths over the last four years, and provide statistics showing how many claimants died shortly after being found fit for work or having their PIP claims refused or their payments reduced.

She tells Hilsenrath: “I am particularly concerned that disabled people are being specifically discriminated against by the Government-commissioned assessments for Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit.”

Abrahams, the MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has previously backed calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the government’s social security reforms, and for any evidence of criminal misconduct in public office by ministers and senior civil servants to be passed to the police, two of the key demands of the Justice for Jodey Whiting parliamentary petition*.

An EHRC spokesperson said: “We have received the letter from Debbie Abrahams and we are assessing it.”

DWP insists that it “co-operated fully with the Litchfield reviews, and shared all relevant information which was requested by Dr Litchfield and his team” and has told DNS that it “was not asked by Dr Litchfield or his review for information on the specific cases you refer to”.

But DWP has been unable to explain how Litchfield’s team could have requested information – the secret peer reviews and coroners’ letters – if they did not know they existed.

To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, click on this link. If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

6 June 2019

 

Two government departments ‘are breaking the law over PIP recording failure’

Two government departments are breaching equality laws and their human rights obligations by failing to ensure that disabled people can record their face-to-face benefit assessments and appeal tribunals, legal researchers have concluded.

They say the delay by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in ensuring that all disabled people can record their assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) is causing them “significant and predictable harm”.

And they say the failure of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to ensure that all PIP appeal tribunals can be recorded is also causing “significant and predictable harm” to disabled people.

MoJ’s failure to assess or even acknowledge the harm caused by the absence of recording equipment at many tribunal venues means its actions are unlawful, say researchers from the International Disability Law Clinic (IDLC) at the University of Leeds.

They say both DWP and MoJ are breaching the Equality Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Convention on Human Rights.

And they say the government’s policies are unjustified and have an “adverse impact” on disabled people.

An IDLC report says there is “widespread and well-documented evidence of dissatisfaction” with the PIP assessment process.

It points out that many disabled claimants cannot take their own notes at their assessments or appeal tribunals and so – unless the government takes steps to compensate for this – their right to justice is “undermined”.

IDLC’s research has been carried out by undergraduate and postgraduate researchers working with members of the academic team at the university’s School of Law.

PIP assessments can be recorded, but only at the claimant’s expense, using expensive equipment capable of making two identical copies on audio cassette or CD, while the claimant must also sign an agreement about how the recording will be used.

DWP agreed last year to pilot video-recording of PIP assessments, but the report says that, despite this pledge, “the recording of each PIP assessment is still not part of the process”.

The report, For The Record, adds: “The current regime is clearly inappropriate and ineffective: requiring disabled persons to fund their own equipment is impractical and unaffordable for many claimants.”

And it says its researchers have been “unable to identify any evidence that the [DWP and MoJ have] sought to assess the impact of these policies”.

Earlier this year, the law clinic published research based on freedom of information responses that showed that of 161 social security tribunal venues in England, Wales and Scotland, only 91 had recording equipment.

The cost of installing recording equipment in a single tribunal venue is about £1,000 and the annual maintenance cost is about £15, says the report.

Daniel Burden, head of public affairs for the Spinal Injuries Association, said: “With so many appeals against eligibility decisions for PIP, the ability to record assessments is essential for those people who cannot keep their own accurate notes.

“The fact that the two departments concerned in this research have either delayed honouring their commitments or failed to acknowledge the harm that they are causing demonstrates the lack of seriousness with which they are addressing the issue.

“Government ministries must face up to both their domestic and international legal obligations to meet the needs of disabled people.”

In response to the report, a DWP spokesperson said: “We take fulfilling our legal obligations seriously and do not consider the current process is unlawful.

“Claimants are already able to audio record their assessment if they want to and, as part of our commitment to improving trust in the assessment process, we are undertaking a video recording trial.

“There has not been a delay to the video recording trial. We will announce the next steps in due course.”

An HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) spokesperson said: “We already ask disabled users to tell us if they have any particular requirements for the hearing and will consider any request for a reasonable adjustment so that they can participate.

“We are looking at increasing the number of tribunals with recording facilities as part of our wider £1 billion reform programme.”

Another HMCTS spokesperson said that “each request for reasonable adjustments will be dealt with individually as is appropriate so we cannot give a blanket answer for what will happen that covers all scenarios”.

But he refused to say why so few tribunal centres had the capacity to record hearings, including none in London; and why no equality impact assessment appears to have been carried out on the failure to provide this equipment.

He also refused to say if HMCTS accepted that it had discriminated against disabled people under the Equality Act and breached the UN disability convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

6 June 2019

 

Inquiry encourages Deaf survivors to share childhood sexual abuse experiences

Deaf survivors of sexual abuse are being encouraged to share their childhood experiences as part of a major independent inquiry.

The Truth Project, one of the three parts of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, this week launched new measures to make it easier for d/Deaf people who were sexually abused as children to come forward and tell their stories.

The project, which allows survivors to share their experiences in writing, on the telephone or in person, has announced a partnership with the charity SignHealth that will make the process more accessible to d/Deaf people.

More than 3,000 people have already taken part in the Truth Project, launched in 2015 as part of the inquiry into how institutions and organisations have failed to protect children in England and Wales from sexual abuse.

Those taking part in The Truth Project “are listened to without judgement or challenge” and their accounts will help the inquiry make its recommendations to government and other organisations on how to improve child protection across England and Wales.

The Truth Project is now partnering with the charity SignHealth, which will provide information and support for d/Deaf survivors through WhatsApp, text messages, video calls and email.

There are also BSL videos and other information on the inquiry’s website.

Those who want to share their experiences of childhood sexual abuse can attend a free private session with Deaf facilitators at any of the inquiry’s offices, with their transport costs paid for.

Jackie Driver, SignHealth’s chair, said: “This new, confidential service offers direct communication and support in British Sign Language on a sensitive subject that can affect anyone, regardless of their background.

“As a national charity, with more than 30 years’ experience of improving the mental health of Deaf people, we know that communication barriers and a lack of Deaf awareness often prevent Deaf people from having a voice.

“Today, we break down those barriers for any Deaf adult who may have experienced sexual abuse as a child.

“Today, we enable and empower Deaf adults to come forward in a safe and supported environment to tell their Truth.”

Among those who have already come forward is Peter*, who has described how he was sexually abused by a housemaster at a boarding school for d/Deaf children.

The abuse continued for years until another boy told a member of staff what was happening, and the housemaster was arrested, convicted and jailed.

Peter told the Truth Project that he believes the school “brushed the abuse that went on under the carpet”, and he added: “They wouldn’t accept there was anything wrong and the reputation of the school was more important.”

Veronica*, who is Deaf, was placed in a children’s home run by nuns, after her father died and her mother became terminally ill.

No-one in the home could sign, and Veronica was sexually and physically abused by one of the nuns.

Many years later, seeing reports of the Jimmy Savile case caused her to experience flashbacks to her childhood, and she sought help from a psychotherapist, and then reported the abuse to the police.

Eventually they tracked down the nun who had abused her, who was by now in her 90s and insisted that she had never met or known a Deaf child, even though Veronica showed the police a picture of the two of them together. The case was closed.

Although she has now met with representatives of the Catholic diocese’s child protection unit, she was unhappy with how they treated her.

She told the Truth Project that she believes there have been clear failures by the Church, and a cover-up, and she would like someone to apologise for what was done to her and to acknowledge that it was wrong.

She particularly wants to see communication barriers removed for d/Deaf children and adults.

The inquiry has already launched an investigation into residential schools, including residential special schools, with two weeks of public hearings scheduled for September and October.

The chair, Professor Alexis Jay, and her panel have said they “consider it necessary to consider in some detail the residential special school sector”.

The inquiry said last year [PDF]: “Some children with special educational needs are in residential special schools for 52 weeks of the year and have little contact with their families/their community.

“Some children are unable to tell people about abuse due to sensory impairments or learning difficulties; others have behavioural problems which can obscure signs of abuse and which can act as a barrier to being believed.”

The inquiry will take evidence from 10 residential special schools across England, although it says that evidence from some of these schools “will focus on the measures they currently have in place for protecting children from child sexual abuse, including peer on peer abuse, rather than evidence of failures to protect children”.

To share your experience with the Truth Project, visit www.iicsa.org.uk/victims-and-survivors/services-deaf-users or email contact@iicsa.org.uk

*Not their real names

6 June 2019

 

 

Jodey Whiting: Mum to demand truth from DWP in face-to-face meeting

The mother of a disabled woman who took her own life after repeated safeguarding failings by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is to demand the truth about her daughter’s death in a meeting with a senior civil servant.

Emma Haddad, DWP’s director general for service excellence, will travel to Teesside on Monday (10 June) to apologise in person to Joy Dove for the government’s failings in the case of her daughter, Jodey Whiting.

The meeting, which will also be attended by Colin Stewart, DWP’s work and health director for the north of England, will take place in the offices of Dove’s MP, Dr Paul Williams.

Haddad said, in a letter confirming the meeting, that they wanted to hear “personally” from Dove and explain “what happened with Jodey’s claim and changes we have put in place as a result of the lessons we have learned”.

Dove said: “They say they want to speak to me, to hear what I think about it all.

“It will never bring my daughter back. I don’t want apologies, I just want the truth.

“It’s their fault she’s in the ground and they shouldn’t have done that to her.”

She said she hoped the meeting would help “change the system for good”.

The number of people who have signed a petition in her daughter’s name, calling for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP failings, and for evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants or government ministers to be passed to the police, has passed 41,000.

But that is less than halfway to the target of 100,000 needed to secure a House of Commons debate on the petition.

The petition also calls for recognition that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose, and for urgent changes by DWP to make the safety of all social security claimants a priority.

Dove is hoping to ask Haddad at the meeting about DWP’s admission that it failed to pass documents linking the work capability assessment (WCA) with the deaths of benefit claimants from the expert ministers commissioned to review the test (see separate story).

Following intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), DWP has admitted that two letters written by coroners – and a series of secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants who went through the assessment – were hidden from the team set up to review the WCA in 2013 and 2014.

Dove’s legal team are also planning to push for a second inquest, which they hope would force a public examination of the DWP failings that contributed to Jodey Whiting taking her own life in February 2017.

None of these failings were discussed at the original inquest, although the Independent Case Examiner later concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling her case, and failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading to her suicide.

To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, click on this link. If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee

6 June 2019

 

Manchester council leader snubs Peterloo memorial protesters

The leader of Manchester City Council (MCC) has been bombarded with emails from disabled people and their allies over his plans to push ahead with a “discriminatory” memorial to victims of the Peterloo massacre.

Many of them told Labour’s Sir Richard Leese that they were “angry and shocked” that a memorial designed to remember those who marched for liberty and equality should be “designed and built with discrimination and inequality at its heart”.

The council has told Disability News Service (DNS) it is unlikely that any “fundamental changes” will be made to the memorial, which is due to be unveiled to the public on 16 August, the 200th anniversary of the massacre.

But in a further sign of Leese’s dismissal of the concerns, he has refused to comment personally on the emails, and has even refused to provide an estimate of how many he has received.

Meanwhile, disabled people and their allies are set to protest this evening (Thursday) at the site of the memorial, outside the Manchester Central Convention Centre.

The council-funded memorial will be a series of concentric circles, with members of the public encouraged to climb the steps to a flat top.

It will be completely inaccessible to many disabled people, even though it has been designed by artist Jeremy Deller to allow it to be used as a platform for speakers and demonstrators, mirroring those who spoke during the protest in 1819.

On 16 August 1819, paramilitary and military forces attacked more than 60,000 peaceful, pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters in Manchester, which led to 18 deaths and an estimated 700 serious injuries.

Deller himself has said he wants people “to be able to sit on it and have their lunch”, while the council’s own access statement said: “The artist’s intention is that the memorial will become the meeting point for the annual gathering of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign, as well as for other events related to the issue of human rights around the world.

“At these events, people will stand on it and around it.”

Deller said last week that he hoped that “once the memorial is built there might be a way to adapt it for wheelchairs”, but by noon today (Thursday) he had failed to comment on the council’s position that it was probably too late for further major changes.

Although some changes have been made as a result of concerns about access, including the addition of a handrail, it appears that wheelchair-users will still only be able to reach the height of the lowest of the circles via a ramp.

The Peterloo Memorial Campaign, which campaigned for years for a memorial to be built, has said that disabled people are “right to be frustrated and angry about the lack of access to the monument”, which “has been designed as a platform for speakers and demonstrators”.

Among those who sent letters to Leese was the disabled artist-activist Liz Crow, who told him she was “heartbroken” at his council’s decision to continue with its plans despite knowing that the memorial would be inaccessible to many residents and visitors.

She told him: “I am so shocked that this could ever have been allowed to get to this point, but to find that – even now you are fully aware of the discrimination inherent in these plans – you are going ahead regardless beggars belief.”

She called on him to halt the project immediately and “re-work the proposal to ensure that it is a memorial to democracy and not to MCC’s ineptitude and hypocrisy”.

Tony Baldwinson, who worked for the council for more than 10 years from 1991, appealed to Leese to admit he had made a mistake, and told him: “It is totally designed to be ascended, and disabled people would be excluded from a monument to democracy.”

Many of the others who wrote to Leese told him the memorial was “a fine example of inequality and discrimination embedded in design” and was set to be “a glaring metaphor for inequality and segregation” and an “act of exclusion that denies disabled people a voice, a blatant act of discrimination”.

One campaigner, Jane Angel, asked Leese in her email: “How did this happen in this day and age?

“A brand new memorial, in development for years, and we are building something that is not accessible to people to whom steps are a barrier.”

Another, Joan Rutherford, who campaigns for an inclusive built environment, told Leese in her email: “Manchester has waited 200 years for a fitting memorial to this appalling massacre.

“The requirements for the memorial were that it should be Respectful, Informative and Permanent (RIP).

“In my view this design is not inclusive and therefore is not respectful.

“If the monument is built as designed it will be an opportunity lost to celebrate and truly promote the aspiration for which people gave their lives… Equality.”

A council spokesperson said Leese had been “made aware” of questions from DNS about the emails.

The spokesperson said in a statement on behalf of the council, rather than Leese himself: “Our position remains that we have made significant changes to the original design of this public artwork to improve accessibility and that, while the memorial is not intended to be viewed exclusively from the top, the elements which provide information about Peterloo are all accessible.

“It is a misunderstanding of this memorial artwork to suggest that its sole or even primary purposes involves ascending it and that it cannot be properly viewed, appreciated or engaged with otherwise.

“While we totally respect the views of those who disagree and we are keen to continue constructive dialogue with them, it should be remembered that this is a memorial piece of art rather than a building or similar structure and is being created both in time for the 200th anniversary of Peterloo this summer and within the limitations of the site, the only one available within the St Peter’s Field area where the tragic events of 1819 took place.”

6 June 2019

 

DWP defends first Work and Health Programme job figures

Only about one in five of the disabled and other unemployed people receiving support from the government’s new work programme have so far secured a “job outcome”, according to official statistics.

It is the first time the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released figures showing how successful its new Work and Health Programme (WHP) has been in securing paid jobs for disabled people and others seeking work.

But the figures show that, for the 1,360 people who began to receive support through the programme in January 2018, after 13 months only 270 of them (or 19.9 per cent) had secured a job outcome (defined in most areas as 16 hours per week for 26 weeks at minimum wage, or six months in self-employment).

Of the 2,840 people who started in February 2018, 470 have a job outcome after 12 months’ support (16.6 per cent).

Despite the release of the “job outcome” statistics, the publication does not show how many disabled people have secured work through the programme.

Under the Work and Health Programme, people are referred by jobcentres to receive support from organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors, which are paid extra when that person achieves a job outcome.

About four-fifths of those receiving support through the programme have been disabled people, since its roll-out across England and Wales began in November 2017.

The other groups receiving support are those who are long-term unemployed – the only participants whose involvement is mandatory – and those DWP calls the “early access” group, which includes care leavers, carers, refugees, homeless people, survivors of domestic violence and ex-members of the armed services.

In all, there have been 51,490 starts on the programme, with 3,140 job outcomes (a proportion of just 6.1 per cent), although this will rise as many participants have not been on the programme long enough to qualify as a successful employment outcome.

Ken Butler, welfare rights and policy adviser for Disability Rights UK, said the job outcome rate did not appear to be “a notable success”.

He added: “Given that the WHP is only accessible by three groups of claimants – the ‘disability group’, the ‘long-term unemployed group’ and the ‘early access group’ – it would seem daft for the DWP not to monitor how many from each group achieve job outcomes.

“How else will it be able to see how well the WHP is performing for any or all of these groups?”

The Work and Health Programme is part of the government’s Improving Lives work, health and disability strategy, which has been criticised for its “cruel and disastrous” emphasis on “work as a cure”, the placement of employment advisers in health services, and the continued use of benefit sanctions to “punish” disabled claimants.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our Work and Health Programme is part of our wider commitment to ensuring every disabled person who wants to work can do so.

“The Work and Health Programme is targeted at individuals who face significant barriers to gaining employment – and need longer-term support – and therefore it is not surprising that at this stage in the programme the numbers achieving a job outcome are low.

“Those starting the Work and Health Programme more recently have had a shorter time to achieve a job outcome and therefore it is not meaningful to divide job outcomes by the number of starts.

“For example, the cohort of starts from December 2017 have only completed 14 of a possible 21 months of the programme.

“As we investigate and quality assure our data we will release further breakdowns of our statistics where possible.”

6 June 2019

 

Appeal to hundreds across Wales to seek independent assessments of support needs

A disabled campaigner is encouraging hundreds of recipients of support through the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme to consider taking up the government’s offer of an independent re-assessment of their care package.

The Welsh government announced in February that it was pausing the closure of the WILG scheme – and its replacement with a system of council-funded support – following a campaign by disabled activists and allies.

Julie Morgan, the Welsh government’s deputy minister for health and social services, then wrote last month to all WILG recipients to tell them they could ask for a reassessment of their care package if they were unhappy with the outcome of their local authority’s assessment of their post-WILG needs or if that assessment had not yet taken place.

And she assured them that the Welsh government would pay for the independent assessment and any extra care and support they might need as a result.

Morgan has now written to Nathan Lee Davies, the WILG recipient who led the campaign to halt the closure of the scheme, updating him on the government’s progress.

She told him that only 26 WILG recipients had so far requested a re-assessment, across 10 local authorities.

Morgan said in her letter: “It is important that those people who wish to have an independent assessment are able to access it, but this is also in the context of the large number of people who we know are content with their new arrangements.”

Davies believes about 1,300 disabled people are eligible for a re-assessment, and fears that many WILG recipients are being held back from requesting a re-assessment.

He is now calling on all those WILG recipients who are not happy with their care and support package to ask for an independent assessment.

Davies, who has himself requested an independent assessment, said: “I started this campaign four years ago, after a social worker warned me that without the WILG my hours of support would be reduced from 86.5 hours a week to just 31 hours per week.

“I would be unable to maintain any quality of life without a substantial increase in my support and any reduction would leave me struggling to exist rather than living the life that I choose.

“The use of an independent social worker allows me to be assessed purely on my physical and mental needs.

“I feel that social workers from local authorities are under pressure from their managers to reduce costs, whatever the consequences.

“Assessments are therefore skewed from the outset and I fear that a number of WILG recipients are not receiving the support they deserve.

“Let’s not forget that all WILG recipients are disabled people with high support needs.

“This means that many of us need a strong network of people around them to give them the confidence to press for improvements.

“The fact that only 26 people have asked for a reassessment suggests that many WILG recipients are being held back by a combination of inertia, lack of support and advice and a sense of ‘better the devil you know’.

“I feel that an independent service will provide people with disabilities with greater security for the future.”

He added: “The government have listened to campaigners, reviewed the evidence and acted accordingly to ensure people get the support they deserve to live independently within their local communities.

“WILG recipients and their families need to investigate the opportunity that is in front of them to help ensure they have piece of mind for the long term future.”

WILG was set up – with UK government funding – as an interim scheme following the UK government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund in June 2015.

The Welsh government is now closing WILG for good and transferring the funding to local councils, and by April the 22 local authorities were due to be solely responsible for meeting the support needs of all former ILF-recipients in Wales.

But Morgan announced the “change in direction” in February because a government review had shown a significant variation in how support packages were being cut by different councils.

6 June 2019

 

EHRC has become ‘more muscular’ on Equality Act enforcement, says chair

The equality watchdog has improved its performance in enforcing anti-discrimination laws and has become a “more muscular” regulator, it has told MPs.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said yesterday (Wednesday) that it had doubled the use of its formal legal powers over the last three years, despite a “backdrop of cuts”.

But it was also forced to defend its own performance as an employer, after one Conservative MP criticised its “lamentable record” on workplace discrimination.

EHRC’s chief executive, chair and legal director were giving evidence to the Commons women and equalities committee as part of its inquiry into EHRC and the enforcement of the Equality Act.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC’s chief executive, highlighted last year’s Supreme Court victory for Gary Smith, a disabled man who won the right to protection under the Equality Act for himself and many others working in the “gig economy” after taking a high-profile case – funded by the commission – against Pimlico Plumbers.

She said EHRC was successful in 83 per cent of “strategic” cases that were taken by EHRC through the court of appeal and Supreme Court, and that it also had two investigations and three inquiries underway, most of which would be completed by the end of the year.

But she said: “We completely acknowledge that we haven’t been as effective in the past as we are now.”

David Isaac, EHRC’s chair, told the committee that the watchdog was doing more “pre-enforcement” work, such as sending “threatening” letters to organisations it believed were breaching the Equality Act.

He said: “We’ve made huge progress in using our legal powers but actually we’ll be using them even more and I think you’ll see even more change and even more impact.”

Asked why the commission had not made more use of its formal enforcement powers, Isaac said later: “We’re not yet as muscular as I would like us to be but I think we’re more muscular than we were… enforcement is a major part of what we do but it’s not the only part.”

He said EHRC could do more work to enforce the Equality Act if it was given more resources through the government’s forthcoming spending review.

He added: “Like other regulators, we use the stick and the carrot, but I think we’re using the stick more than ever.”

But Tory MP Philip Davies said EHRC’s own record on workplace discrimination was “lamentable”.

He pointed to information sent to the committee by the commission which detailed cases of discrimination against EHRC staff since 2010 that had been settled, upheld or partially upheld, several of which had involved disability discrimination, although he accepted some of these were before Isaac became chair and Hilsenrath became chief executive.

He said: “That’s not making it as easy as possible for people to pursue their complaint, is it, forcing them to go to an employment tribunal, before you acknowledge that something went wrong and settle the case?”

He suggested this was not the kind of behaviour expected of a “best practice organisation” that was regulating other employers.

Isaac said recent cases were brought as a result of two EHRC reorganisations and that he was “confident we treated those people well” and “didn’t make it difficult for them to bring those claims”.

He told Davies: “Many of the matters you’ve referred to are very historical.

“On our watch, there were two reorganisations introduced as a result of cuts and us endeavouring to streamline the organisation to be more impactful.

“We can’t legislate for how our staff respond to those particular situations and they do unfortunately make assertions, and have made assertions, as part of the claims that they have brought.

“I’m not saying they weren’t valid… I’m confident that we have raised our game and that those are historical matters.”

6 June 2019

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com