New evidence suggests DWP covered up coroner’s WCA warning
Damning new evidence suggests that senior figures in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) covered up a coroner’s warning about the grave dangers posed by a new disability assessment.
Disability News Service (DNS) has seen a series of letters that suggest the department was given all the information it needed to carry out an urgent review of the safety of aspects of the work capability assessment (WCA) in 2010.
But that review – ordered by coroner Tom Osborne through a process known as a Rule 43 letter – appears never to have been carried out.
Osborne wrote to the department on 30 March 2010 – originally addressing his concerns to Labour work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper – just a few days before the start of the general election campaign.
His letter followed an inquest he had carried out into the death of 41-year-old Stephen Carre, from Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, who had taken his own life in January 2010*.
On 4 May, Osborne received an initial response from the DWP’s most senior civil servant, its permanent secretary, Sir Leigh Lewis.
When DNS first revealed the existence of the Rule 43 letter last month, DWP claimed in a statement that it had responded to the coroner on 4 May 2010.
But DNS has now seen the 4 May letter, and it merely outlines departmental procedures on the WCA, provides brief details from Stephen Carre’s assessment, and asks the coroner for medical information about the case.
Sir Leigh promises that this further information will allow him to “complete our investigation and review our existing procedures, as you have asked, to determine the need for any changes to our current medical evidence gathering process”.
Three further letters written by the coroner show that he provided the information requested by Sir Leigh, but never received a response from DWP to his Rule 43 report.
On 12 May 2010, Osborne advised Sir Leigh that DWP did not need to investigate the circumstances surrounding Stephen Carre’s death, as that had already taken place at the inquest.
He said DWP needed instead to look at the “use of medical evidence when determining entitlement of benefit of those patients who are suffering from a psychiatric illness”, but he still offered to send Sir Leigh a transcript of the inquest evidence.
On 3 August, Osborne sent him the inquest transcript, apparently in response to a request from the department.
Two months later, on 6 October 2010, Osborne wrote to Peter Carre, Stephen’s father, to tell him that he had yet to receive a “substantive response” to his Rule 43 letter, and promising to contact him if he did.
Peter Carre did not hear from the coroner again until after he was contacted by DNS last month, more than five years after Osborne’s last letter.
Carre told DNS that he believed the lives of other people with mental health conditions like his son could have been saved if DWP had acted on the coroner’s Rule 43 letter in 2010.
He said Osborne told him in 2010 that DWP should have replied to the Rule 43 letter, but there was nothing he could do if they failed to do so.
Carre said: “It was an opportunity to do something, and it was missed. They should be held accountable for their action, or lack of it.
“That would be the one thing I would say: that the people who were there and are still there should still be accountable for their lack of action.”
The letters are important because at the time they were being exchanged, the newly-appointed Conservative work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and his employment minister Chris Grayling, were finalising plans to roll out the WCA the following year to hundreds of thousands of existing claimants of incapacity benefit (IB), many of them with mental health conditions.
And in the summer of 2010, Grayling appointed Professor Malcolm Harrington to carry out an independent review of the “fairness and effectiveness” of the WCA, and later told him that he wanted to go ahead with plans to roll out the assessment, despite Harrington suggesting that this should be delayed by a year.
Harrington has told DNS that he believes he was never shown the coroner’s Rule 43 letter.
More than three years later, another coroner wrote an almost identical letter warning of similar concerns about the safety of the WCA, this time after the death of a north London man, Michael O’Sullivan, who also took his own life after being found fit for work after a WCA.
Last month, new research concluded that the programme to reassess people claiming IB using the WCA could have caused 590 suicides in just three years.
And last week, a former government adviser told DNS how ministers and civil servants were “ruthless” and “reckless” in forcing through their new “fitness for work” test and refusing to abandon it even after they were told of the harm it was causing.
Even before the emergence of the latest letters, disabled activists had called for Duncan Smith and Grayling to face a criminal investigation over the alleged cover-up.
This week, more than five weeks after the existence of the Rule 43 letter was first brought to DWP’s attention, a spokeswoman for the department said in response to a series of questions from DNS that “because this issue happened more than five years ago we simply don’t have access to the information you’re seeking”.
She added: “Therefore, I think the best route for your line of inquiry is an FOI [request under the Freedom of Information Act]. And we’ll be happy to provide a formal statement once that FOI process is complete.”
*Osborne ruled that the trigger for Stephen Carre’s suicide had been DWP’s rejection of his appeal against being found “fit for work”, and he called in his Rule 43 letter for a review of the policy not to seek medical evidence from a GP or psychiatrist if the claimant has a mental health condition.
Neither the Atos assessor who assessed Carre, nor the DWP decision-maker who subsequently decided that he was fit for work and therefore ineligible for the new employment and support allowance, had sought information from his GP, his community psychiatric nurse or his psychiatrist.
17 December 2015
Government’s new PIP proposals ‘will drive more into poverty and despair’
The government looks set to tighten eligibility for its new disability benefit, just two years after it was introduced.
Activists this week described the move as another government attack that would lead to more disabled people being driven into poverty and despair.
A consultation document issued by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last week examines possible changes to how the use of independent living aids and appliances by a claimant is “accounted for” during assessments for personal independence payment (PIP).
The changes would affect those trying to claim for the daily living component of PIP in England, Wales and Scotland, but would not affect mobility component of PIP, which is gradually replacing working-age disability living allowance (DLA).
Government documents have estimated that the number of working-age claimants would be cut by as much as 28 per cent by 2018, with 900,000 fewer people receiving PIP than if DLA had not been replaced.
PIP currently takes into account claimants’ need to use aids and appliances to complete the assessed activities, with two points – the lowest level – scored for most questions, such as “needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to dress or undress” and “needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to speak or hear”.
The government’s independent reviewer of PIP, Paul Gray, suggested last December that DWP should review how aids and appliances were taken into account in assessments, as some concerns had been raised by DWP managers.
A subsequent review of about 100 cases by DWP doctors concluded that “significant numbers of people who are likely to have low or minimal additional costs are being awarded the daily living component of the benefit solely because they may benefit from aids and appliances across a number of the activities”.
DWP concludes in its consultation document that this, and recent judicial decisions that had “broadened the scope of aids and appliances”, were “inconsistent with the original policy intent of awarding the benefit to claimants with the greatest need”.
It lays out five possible options for change: giving claimants who score all their assessment points from aids and appliances a single lump sum instead of a regular weekly payment; awarding such claimants a lower regular payment; removing their eligibility altogether; changing the definition of aids and appliances; or reducing the points awarded for the use of aids and appliances.
Disabled campaigners said the government’s move was simply a bid to tighten the criteria and cut spending on PIP.
Caroline Richardson, a member of the Spartacus Network of online disabled campaigners, said: “This is a clear attempt to further restrict benefits following the dramatic cuts set in place during the last parliament, and flies in the face of the stated reasoning behind the design of PIP.
“Spartacus Network will be seeking input from other disabled people and preparing a response to the consultation.”
Spartacus has launched a survey asking for views on the government proposals, which will feed into its response.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the proposals could take “very significant amounts of money away from people”, as they would lose not only PIP but entitlement to carer’s allowance and other passported benefits, while the changes would “significantly increase the number of disabled people affected by the benefit cap”.
She said: “Overall it is yet another cut that will push more disabled people into deeper poverty and despair.”
Ian Jones, co-founder of the WOWcampaign and petition, said: “When the Labour and LibDem peers voted against George Osborne’s tax credit proposals they must have realized he would have turned to his favourite target, disabled people, to deliver the saving he needs.
“We trust the peers will fight just as hard and effectively to defeat this new attack on hard-working disabled taxpayers.”
Disabled campaigner John Brennand said in a blog: “They clearly want to reduce the amount of money they are spending on PIP, and the easiest way to do this, and the least likely to have a massive amount of backlash, is to target people on the boundary of qualifying for the benefit.”
Nick Dilworth, co-founder of the New Approach campaign group and welfare benefits specialist for the website ilegal, said in a blog that the consultation was “all part of the Tories’ hideous and purely ideological plan to take a look at disabled people and say ‘you are not disabled at all’ and thus alleviate any responsibility for doing anything to help them”.
Another campaigner, on her blog The Poor Side of Life, said the plans were “unfair” and another attack on disabled people, adding: “I’ve yet to meet a disabled person claiming DLA or PIP that have been wealthy enough to be able to pay for all the aids that they need.
“On the contrary they often have to fight hard with social services or other organisations to get these aids that provide the essential support that they need.”
Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, defended the consultation.
He said: “The criteria for aids and appliances has expanded to, in some cases, include items we would expect people to have in their homes already, have only a one-off cost associated with them, or are already available free of charge on the NHS.
“With 35 per cent of claimants for daily living allowance doing so solely on the basis of their use of aids and appliances, we think it is important to consult widely on this issue to ensure we’re getting it right, and we look forward to hearing the responses.”
The consultation ends on 29 January 2016.
17 December 2015
Discredited Maximus adds care inspections to DWP portfolio
The care watchdog has been criticised for awarding a discredited outsourcing giant new contracts to manage the use of service-users as expert advisers in care homes and hospitals.
Two-thirds of the new contracts to run Experts by Experience – which pays people with experience of using care services to take part in Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections – have been awarded to Remploy.
Remploy will recruit, support and manage the involvement of Experts by Experience in CQC’s north, south and London regions, while the contract for the central region has been handed to a consortium run by the charity Choice Support, which is one of five providers currently running the programme across the country.
Disability News Service has also learned that Remploy is offering disabled people who work as Experts by Experience under its contract about half the hourly rate they are currently earning under the programme.
Remploy, which will start delivering the Experts by Experience programme on 1 February 2016, was formerly controlled by the UK government but is now mostly owned by the US outsourcing company Maximus, which already has a huge chunk of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contracts to provide employment support and assessment services for disabled people.
Since Maximus was awarded the DWP contract to take over provision of its controversial “fitness for work” tests from Atos, activists have repeatedly drawn attention to its troubling history in other countries.
The company has a lengthy record of discrimination, incompetence and alleged fraud in the US and has also been linked with allegations of exploitation and manipulation of government contracts within the Australian welfare-to-work industry.
The sheltered factories that Remploy previously ran have now all been sold off or shut down, so it currently focuses on its employment services division, which supports disabled people and those with complex barriers into work.
Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the service-user network Shaping Our Lives, said he was deeply concerned by the award of the contract to Remploy.
He said: “There was a time when the predecessor of the Care Quality Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, was a national innovator when it came to involving service-users in its inspections and other activities.
“Its chief, Dame Denise Platt, was an enthusiastic pioneer of such involvement, taking it to new levels in a public body.
“Sadly it now looks as though the CQC, which made headlines for its appalling treatment of its mental health service-user board member Kay Sheldon, has hit a new low, in its efforts to recruit so-called ‘experts by experience’.
“Who have most effectively pioneered user involvement and developed some of the most exciting initiatives? User-led and disabled people’s organisations, of course.
“So has the CQC gone to them? No, of course it hasn’t. Instead it has gone mostly to Remploy which is now owned by Maximus, a DWP partner in ‘welfare reform’ with a heavily tarnished reputation.
“Effective involvement relies on the development of trust and the eradication of tokenism. Who will be betting on that happening with this problematic combo?”
A Remploy spokesman claimed that user-led organisations would deliver “the majority of the contract, supported by Remploy”.
He said: “Service-users are at the heart of the programme and will be involved continuously in the development and improvement of the programme.
“We are confident that we will be able to engage with sufficient numbers of Experts by Experience to successfully deliver the contract.
“Remploy is the prime contractor and although Maximus has a majority shareholding in the company it is not involved in the delivery of the contract.”
He added: “The level of payments to the experts will be set through the implementation of the contract, in discussion with user-led partners.”
But Beresford added: “Who are these user-led organisations Maximus is talking about? They certainly aren’t Remploy.
“Shaping Our Lives certainly hasn’t been contacted by Remploy – despite being a major national network of user-led organisations. There needs to be a lot more transparency about this development.”
CQC has so far not been able to respond to questions about the award of the contract to Maximus.
17 December 2015
PIP applicant takes legal action over DWP’s inaccessible claim process
A disabled campaigner who has been refused permission to apply for a vital disability benefit in a way that is accessible to him has begun legal proceedings against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Graham Kirwan has been told that he is unable to communicate via email as he attempts to claim personal independence payment (PIP).
Kirwan had previously been a long-term claimant of disability living allowance (DLA), but had his payments suspended when he failed to respond to letters asking him to apply for PIP, letters that he says he never received and that would not have been accessible to him anyway.
Kirwan, who is partially-sighted, has computer software that can magnify text, but it does not generally work with scanned or PDF documents.
He has been told by DWP to use the charity Citizens Advice to help with his application for PIP – which is gradually replacing working-age DLA – but he wants to fill in the form himself, so he can take responsibility for the accuracy of the answers.
And he points to DWP guidance that states that email is an acceptable alternative for communication for people with his access needs.
Kirwan says that while most people can fill in their PIP claim form with a pen costing just 10 pence (DWP provides a free envelope and postage), he has spent £1,200 equipping himself with the necessary technology to communicate effectively, as well as facing annual costs of about another £700.
He said: “In this instance the disability is being deliberately created by the DWP. I have no communication disability when allowed to use email and assistive software.
“Email is cost effective and creates independence, choice and control.
“Using Citizens Advice when I can do something for myself is using up their valuable resources and my limited time.
“Although they may be experts in the field of compiling forms, it only takes one mistake (by a first-time volunteer) on their part for me to fail to be awarded PIP.
“The responsibility would be mine, as I am forced to sign a piece of paper which I cannot be 100 per cent sure is correct.”
Kirwan has told DWP that completing forms over the telephone or through a home visit from a civil servant places him at a substantial disadvantage to other disabled people, while he has been told that forms completed over the telephone would still need to be sent to him to be read and signed.
He has told DWP in a legal letter that “the DWP system for sending and receiving information to blind and partially sighted people is at best ad hoc and prone to consistent failure”.
Kirwan, who represents Dudley Centre for Inclusive Living on accessible information issues, has already secured one legal victory over a government department, after a threatened judicial review led to the Department of Health publishing its first accessible information standard earlier this year.
A DWP spokeswoman confirmed that the department had received Kirwan’s email, but she said she was unable to comment further because of the legal nature of the complaint.
17 December 2015
Tomlinson fails six times to reveal identity of ‘minister for ILF’
The minister for disabled people has failed six times to explain which minister and government department campaigners should approach to lobby about the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
Justin Tomlinson was asked by the disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell to tell disabled people which minister had responsibility for ILF, and “over-arching decision-making power” on the fallout from the fund’s closure.
Tomlinson and two other ministers were giving evidence to the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee, which is conducting an inquiry for the House of Lords into the impact of the act on disabled people.
Tomlinson appeared to accept her suggestion that one department ought to have “ultimate responsibility” but he then told Baroness Campbell that it “depends on which angle you come from” if someone wanted to know which minister was responsible for the issue.
He said the Department for Communities and Local Government was responsible for the local authorities that deliver social care; the Department of Health was responsible for policy relating to the Care Act 2014; his department, work and pensions, was responsible for former ILF-users and for keeping “a watching brief” and meeting with stakeholders; while the Treasury decided “ongoing funding”.
ILF was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and when it closed on 30 June it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.
But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.
In her fourth attempt to secure an answer to her question, Baroness Campbell said: “Who do disabled people go to when they want to collaborate and to help with the reforms in this area?
“Do you not think that this leaves disabled people confused and very much torn between departments?”
In her fifth attempt to seek clarity, Baroness Campbell told Tomlinson: “We all know the UN committee has come over here because it was brought to their attention that the ILF and the [closure] decision was a possible contravention of article 19 [of the UN disability convention].
“Obviously it is an incredibly important issue, so who is the minister responsible who makes the final decision on this?”
Tomlinson said ministers “strongly contest the allegations that were made to the UN”, but he said the UN committee’s ongoing work was confidential.
And he claimed that there were “stronger protections” for former ILF-users since the closure than there had been under the fund, which had been “discretionary”, and he said that “local provision was far better to match those local needs”.
Two months ago, Disability News Service reported how more than a quarter of disabled people who previously received ILF support in one local authority area had had their social care packages cut by at least half since it closed.
Baroness Campbell pushed Tomlinson for a sixth time, and asked: “Who would you advise the disability lobby to go to when they want to negotiate on the ILF?
“Which minister, because it’s jolly well not fair to ask them to go to all four?”
Tomlinson then repeated his explanation of the different roles played by the four departments.
When she asked him if he was “monitoring” the ILF closure situation, he replied: “Very much.”
Baroness Campbell asked the minister for women and equalities, Nicky Morgan – who is also the education secretary – what role the Government Equalities Office had played in the decision to close ILF.
And she asked whether more “proactive” involvement by the GEO could have prevented the policy failures that led to the government losing the first judicial review of the closure decision in November 2013.
Morgan promised to find out whether any GEO officials were involved in giving advice to DWP.
But Tomlinson said DWP did not believe that greater involvement by GEO would have had an impact on the decision to close ILF.
17 December 2015
‘Fewer carrots and more sticks for employers, please, minister’
A disabled peer has called on the government to hand out fewer “carrots” to employers and do more to enforce existing equality law as it attempts to secure more jobs for disabled people.
The plea came after Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, had been explaining the merits of the government’s Disability Confident programme in persuading organisations to employ more disabled people, which now includes organising what he calls “reverse jobs fairs”.
Tomlinson was one of three ministers giving evidence to the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee, set up by the House of Lords to examine the impact of the act on disabled people over the last five years.
But the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell told Tomlinson: “I really don’t want to burst your bubble but as you were talking there I was transported back to my days at the Disability Rights Commission, where we were doing exactly the same things: we held jobs fairs, in fact it was like you were there beside me.
“I trained 120 trainers to go round the country to talk to employers about being disability confident when I was working in local government 25 years ago.
“What makes you think you will change people’s minds now, and don’t you think it is also time to ramp up the stick?”
Baroness Campbell said that disabled people who had given evidence to the committee had made it clear that the government’s carrot-based approach “will not change things substantially”.
She said: “We must enforce the law. I think that’s where they feel the government is letting them down.”
She added: “I feel there are too many carrots being handed around at the moment, so where are the sticks?”
Tomlinson said the government would make a substantial investment in Access to Work, and there were 339,000 more disabled people in work in the last two years, while ministers were reforming the Work Programme and Work Choice through the new work and health unit, with a white paper to be published in the new year on employment support for disabled people that was likely to include demands for “greater local flexibility”.
He said: “I accept the point that there has always been business engagement. I don’t think there has been enough with the small and medium-sized employers.”
When Baroness Campbell asked if enforcement of the Equality Act would be part of the white paper, Tomlinson said: “Yes.”
Nicky Morgan, the education secretary and minister for women and equalities, added: “The first thing we want to do is change cultures and behaviours.
“I am not always convinced that sticks and enforcement are the right way to do this. They are a necessary backstop.”
17 December 2015
Minister hints at further block to taxi access law, 20 years after MPs approved it
A government minister has told peers that it is “not necessary” for all taxis to be accessible to wheelchair-users.
Transport minister Andrew Jones said that such a policy would mean having to replace thousands of taxis across the country.
But members of the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee told the minister that powers to force all taxis to be wheelchair-accessible had been passed by parliament 20 years ago through the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, but had not been implemented by successive governments.
The Labour peer Lord Foster asked what evidence the government had for its claim that introducing these measures would be a “burden” on the industry, and how it balanced this against the burden caused to disabled people by an inaccessible taxi service.
Jones said that about 56 per cent of taxis in England and Wales were wheelchair-accessible, and so he was “not sure the problem actually exists”.
He said: “I don’t think we need to have every single taxi to be wheelchair-accessible. We need to have a significant number that are wheelchair-accessible so that people who require them can access them.”
He said the burden on the industry would be the cost of replacing the 35,500 non-wheelchair-accessible taxis, when a new London taxi cost about £40,000.
But he pointed to another measure from the DDA 1995, which would force taxi-drivers to provide assistance to disabled people, and had also not been implemented.
He said he was “supportive” of this principle and that his department was hoping to make a decision on the measure “very shortly”.
But Lord Foster questioned his claim that the lack of accessible taxis was not a problem.
He said: “I am very surprised to hear that you don’t think the problem exists, because all the evidence we have had in front of our committee suggests that this is one of the biggest problems that disabled people have.”
And Baroness Deech, who chairs the committee, said: “It has been the will of parliament for 20 years that taxis be accessible. How many more decades is this going to take?”
When told that 100 per cent of London taxis were accessible, Jones admitted this meant that the proportion of accessible taxis was far lower in some parts of the country than 56 per cent, and in rural areas was just 13 per cent.
Baroness Deech said: “Unless you bring those regulations into force on a rolling basis, taxi-drivers will never get the cars that are big enough to take wheelchairs. The will of parliament should be carried out.”
Baroness Brinton, the disabled president of the Liberal Democrats, said a survey in Watford had shown that under 20 per cent of its taxis were accessible, and a very small percentage of those were wheelchair-accessible, with an even smaller percentage accessible to electric wheelchairs.
She asked if the government could make it compulsory for any wheelchair-accessible taxi to use one ramp, rather than two, as only those with one ramp were accessible to users of electric wheelchairs.
She said: “Many taxi-drivers hide behind the accessibility label and can’t deliver. It’s very easy to sort out, given the price of ramps these days.”
Jones said that was a “very fair point” and that he was “extremely happy to take that forward” with his department.
17 December 2015
Deaf children left stranded after 200-year-old school suddenly closes
More than 50 deaf children have been left without a school after the sudden announcement of the closure of the Royal School for Deaf Children Margate after more than 220 years.
The school was forced to close after the charity that ran it, the John Townsend Trust, entered administration after running out of funding.
The financial situation appears to have been triggered by a whistleblower who raised concerns about residential facilities at Westgate College for Deaf People, a further education college that was run by the same charity on the same site in the centre of Margate.
Following an inspection last month, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) took “urgent enforcement action” to close the residential part of the college, although its educational services were not affected.
In a statement issued on 20 November, Deborah Westhead, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of adult social care and registration, said: “This is not a decision the commission takes lightly and these powers are only used in the most serious of circumstances.”
The school was not involved in the CQC action, but parents were told it had been closed for good after their children had returned home on Friday 11 December.
Administrators had decided that the school and college would have to be closed immediately “following a detailed assessment of the financial and operational position”, with the loss already of more than 350 jobs.
A petition appealing to Kent County Council to save the school has so far secured more than 22,000 signatures, while the British Deaf Association (BDA) has joined parents in calling for the closure to be reversed.
The special school, and an associated children’s home, catered for young Deaf and hearing-impaired pupils, many of whom had additional impairments.
Yesterday, the BDA, parents and other organisations met with schools minister Nick Gibb and Sir Roger Gale, the Tory MP whose constituency includes Margate, to discuss what could be done to help the school’s former pupils.
Dr Terry Riley, chair of the BDA and a former governor of the school, said his organisation was “saddened” by the closure of what was the oldest Deaf school still operating in the UK.
He said: “We are very grateful to the minister of state for schools for meeting with us yesterday to hear our case.
“We are continuing to do everything we can to help these vulnerable children and their families, as time is of the essence.”
He added: “As an ex-school governor, I can ascertain to the wonderful work the school and the staff gives to the children, many of whom have severe disabilities.
“These are children who have been marginalised by society for being ‘unteachable’. Yet, through the perseverance and dedication of the staff, parents and family, they had hopes.
“It is an extremely worrying situation for pupils and their families to see these hopes shattered.”
He said BDA would continue to work with the trust and its directors “to discuss how we can work together with them to ensure that this vital heritage is not lost forever”.
Riley said: “Importantly, we are still, even at this late stage, continuing to see if the decision can be reversed.
“We cannot let such an historic part of our heritage and culture be allowed to disappear from our lives.”
Tara Flood, director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, said: “I really hope that the closure will bring about a commitment from the local authorities involved to capacity-build their mainstream education settings to develop bilingual education.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We are closely monitoring the situation following the closure of the Royal School for the Deaf.
“Our priority is the wellbeing of the pupils and we are working with the local authority and administrators to ensure they are being found the best possible alternative placements.”
Geoff Rowley, one of the two joint administrators and a partner at FRP Advisory, said in a statement: “In reaching their conclusions about whether to continue with operations, the joint administrators have to look at the financial position while always ensuring that services only continue where they can be guaranteed to meet the requirements of the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted, aimed ultimately at keeping the right levels of care at the heart of the assessment.”
Patrick Leeson, Kent County Council’s (KCC) corporate director for education, said: “The closure of the Royal School for Deaf Children Margate is clearly a severe blow to the children at the school, their families and staff of the school and wider trust as well as the wider community in Thanet.
“KCC became aware in the summer that the trust was experiencing financial difficulty, and provided significant assurance at that point.
“In part, we supported the trust’s cash flow by ensuring that the payments for education were prompt.
“After a recent whistleblowing incident, CQC issued an immediate notice to close the residential accommodation on the Margate site on 19 November.
“The impact of the loss of revenue means the trust is no longer financially viable and KCC was notified on 7 December that it had gone into administration.
“It is clear that in its current state the trust, including the school, has significant pension liabilities as well as operational costs.”
He said the council had 20 students in the school and its sixth form, and had put in place arrangements to talk to all of those families, while it continued to “explore options for each child or young person”.
He said the council had been in contact with special schools in Kent, the local further education college, and social care colleagues, as well as “nationally known specialist schools”.
17 December 2015
Disabled peer chosen for prestigious Today guest editor slot
One of the country’s most influential disabled campaigners is to take control of BBC Radio’s flagship news programme for its first show of 2016.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell has been chosen as one of six guest editors who will each take over the Today programme on Radio Four for one day between 28 December and 2 January.
For her slot on New Year’s Day, the BBC has said she will examine reform of the House of Lords by asking a new SNP MP to “find out whether working peers can justify their existence”, while also going “head-to-head with Times columnist Matthew Parris on the right to die”.
In its announcement of her guest slot, the BBC referred to Baroness Campbell’s background of activism, which helped lead to the Disability Discrimination Act 20 years ago.
But Baroness Campbell is also a patron of the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive, and was a co-founder of the National Centre for Independent Living, and has campaigned on independent living issues for most of her adult life, so there are hopes that these subjects could also be aired in the programme.
Baroness Campbell told Disability News Service that being a Today guest editor was “a huge privilege and one that carries great responsibility because choosing five or six features, when I have so much to say about the world, was much harder than choosing my Desert Island discs”.
She said she could not comment on what issues she had chosen to cover, apart from the two mentioned by the BBC, but added: “I hope listeners (whoever is awake at that time, besides our Labrador, at 6am on New Year’s Day) will appreciate the mix.”
Parris has already been interviewed by Baroness Campbell for the 1 January programme about his views, originally expressed in a column in The Spectator, in which he put forward the “Darwinian” argument that “tribes that handicap themselves will not prosper”.
He argued in the column in September that “as medical science advances, the cost of prolonging human life way past human usefulness will impose an ever heavier burden on the community for an ever longer proportion of its members’ lives”, and that eventually it will be thought “selfish” to “want to carry on” when life is “fruitless”.
Parris wrote about his interview with Baroness Campbell in his Times column this week, admitting that when she asked him if “people like me should be exterminated” his defence was that “we can’t all be in the House of Lords and have vastly expensive help and technology to sustain us”.
Other guest editors chosen for the week are cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins; architect David Adjaye; Lord [John] Browne, former chief executive of BP; actor Michael Sheen; and lawyer Miriam González Durántez.
17 December 2015
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com