How a single word shows DWP has finally owned up on benefit deaths

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has finally admitted that it could be partly responsible for the deaths of some benefit claimants.

The admission came – quietly – after its release of heavily-redacted versions of 49 secret “peer reviews” into benefit-related deaths, following the loss of a 21-month battle with Disability News Service (DNS) to keep them secret.

Although the circumstances of each death are redacted, analysis of the recommendations for local and national improvements suggests strongly that the DWP civil servants who carried out the reviews believed that the way the benefit claimants had been treated had been partly responsible for many of the deaths.

One peer review author says: “The risk associated with disregarding the possibility that some of these claimants need more support or a different form of engagement is that we fail to recognise more cases like [REDACTED NAME OF BENEFIT CLAIMANT WHO DIED], with consequent potential impact on the claimant.”

“Processes… have been revised to ensure it does not happen again, to make sure we provide adequate support for vulnerable customers,” says the author of another review into a claimant’s death.

But it is in comparing DWP’s response to the publication of the 49 reviews and its response to previous media reports of benefit-related deaths that demonstrate that it has now admitted it can no longer deny all links between its actions and the deaths of benefit claimants.

Since DNS first revealed the existence of the 49 reviews, DWP has repeatedly insisted that it was “wrong” and “misleading” to link the deaths of disabled people to their benefit claims.

In October last year, after the sister of a disabled man who died just three months after being found fit for work and then having his benefits sanctioned said the discredited work capability assessment (WCA) system was partly responsible for her brother’s death, a DWP spokeswoman said it was “wrong to suggest a link between a benefit decision and someone’s death”.

The following month, after the father of a man who took his own life after being found “fit for work” said he believed his son would still be alive if he had not been failed by the benefits system, a DWP spokesman said: “Suicide is a tragic and complex issue and there are often many reasons why someone takes their life, so to link it to one event is misleading.”

And in response to hearing that a disabled man had died of a heart attack, just an hour after being told that DWP was threatening to stop paying his out-of-work disability benefits, a DWP spokeswoman again insisted that it was “misleading to link a death to someone’s benefit claim”.

DWP has delivered similar responses to other news organisations.

In February this year, after Scotland’s Daily Record described how a disabled man took his own life after his ESA was mistakenly stopped, a DWP spokesman told the newspaper: “Suicide is a tragic and complex issue, so to link a death to someone’s benefit claim is misleading.”

But now, following the publication of the 49 reviews, its position has changed.

In response to a story in The Guardian about the publication of the peer reviews – co-authored by DNS editor John Pring – a DWP spokesperson said: “Any suicide is a tragedy and the reasons for them are complex, however it would be inaccurate and misleading to link it solely to a person’s benefit claim.”

To show this was no accident, the same comment appeared in an article in The Independent the following day: “Any suicide is a tragedy and the reasons for them are complex, however it would be inaccurate and misleading to link it solely to a person’s benefit claim.”

The use of the word “solely” means that ministers have now accepted that the actions of their department can be partly responsible for benefit claimants taking their own lives, and for other benefit-related deaths.

19 May 2016

 

 

Ministers refuse to say if they implemented 10 measures to save lives

Ministers have refused to say if they implemented 10 measures – recommended by their own civil servants – that would have made it less likely that “vulnerable” benefit claimants would lose their lives.

The 10 recommendations were taken from some of the 49 heavily-redacted, secret “peer reviews” that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) finally published this week after losing a 21-month legal battle with Disability News Service (DNS).

Although key parts of the peer reviews are missing, DNS has found 10 key recommendations for national action to improve the way the department treats vulnerable benefit claimants, many of whom will have mental health conditions or learning difficulties.

Many of the 49 reviews relate to the process of applying for the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA)*, through the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA) process.

And many of the reviews – 40 of which refer to suicides – relate to the ongoing process to reassess long-term claimants of incapacity benefit (IB) through the WCA.

The question of whether the recommendations were acted on could provide crucial evidence for calls – led by the Scottish-based grassroots group Black Triangle, and backed by many other disabled activists – for former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith to face a criminal investigation for misconduct in public office following his refusal to address a coroner’s concerns about the safety of the WCA.

They want to hold Duncan Smith and his former employment minister Chris Grayling to account for their failure to improve the safety of the WCA, even though they were warned that it risked causing further deaths.

Last November, government-funded research concluded that the programme to reassess people claiming IB using the WCA could have caused 590 suicides in just three years.

Any evidence that ministers ignored peer review recommendations for national action to improve the safety of vulnerable claimants will add weight to the calls for a criminal investigation.

One of the 10 “vulnerability” recommendations in the peer reviews is for DWP to carry out a review of “the ESA process to aid identification of Vulnerable Customers”.

Another calls for a review of “DWP’s ongoing Duty of Care in relation to the identification and support of claimants required to participate in the [incapacity benefit reassessment process], who as a result of a [REDACTED} may be vulnerable and have different support needs”.

It also calls for this duty of care to be “brought to the attention of all colleagues including those from Atos who are involved in the [incapacity benefit reassessment process], and that their responsibilities for the identification and support of claimants with a [REDACTED] are written into role descriptors and included as specific process steps.”

A third peer review calls for DWP to carry out “a re-launch to staff of the importance of identifying vulnerable claimants and taking their needs in to account throughout the whole process via updated bulletins, Comms discussions and any other practical means”.

Another peer review recommends that “the guidance for handling vulnerable customers is reviewed and that staff are reminded of the correct process”.

Each of the peer reviews that led to these recommendations had investigated the circumstances that led to the death of a benefit claimant.

The peer reviews stretch from February 2012 to August 2014, and many of them appear to show that ministers, through their senior civil servants, were warned repeatedly that their policies and procedures were risking the lives of benefit claimants, and that action needed to be taken.

But when approached this week about the recommendations, the DWP press office first tried to claim – wrongly – that the recommendations made in the 49 peer reviews related only to calls for action to improve procedures in the local area where the death occurred.

When the press officer was challenged on this claim, she admitted that many of the recommendations included in the peer reviews – including the 10 highlighted by DNS – had been for national improvements.

But she claimed that it was impossible to say whether the 10 recommendations were implemented, or ignored, by ministers.

She said the department provided “extensive guidance to all staff to help them best support vulnerable claimants, and this has since been reviewed”.

She added: “National recommendations were fed into the relevant ‘Customer Journey’.

“These are considered by colleagues across the department along with other suggestions for change.

“I’m sure you can appreciate, our ways of working have changed over the years as a result of our learnings from many sources – including peer reviews and independent reviews etc – and therefore it is not possible to link these changes to specific Peer Review recommendations.”

*Freedom of information responses secured by journalist and campaigner Natalie Leal have revealed that, at the time of death, 22 of the 49 claimants were receiving ESA, as well as 18 of the 40 claimants who took their own lives, although DWP has not been able to say in many of the other cases which benefits the person was claiming.

19 May 2016

 

 

Ministry of Justice failure may have exposed hundreds to fraudster’s activities

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) appears to have exposed hundreds of disabled people to the activities of a fraudster and convicted paedophile who posed as a lawyer to steal the money they were owed from discrimination claims.

The Claims Management Regulator (CMR), part of the MoJ, failed to make basic checks on Karl Lindon, and his company Disability Claims Management (DCM), and dismissed complaints about his activities, because it was deceived into thinking DCM was a charity.

Instead of shutting DCM down, CMR passed the complaints to the Charity Commission and Lambeth council, the local authority for the area of south London where Lindon’s business was based.

This week, enquiries by Disability News Service (DNS) have begun to produce evidence of confusion, incompetence and apathy among the organisations – including CMR – that should have been protecting Lindon’s disabled victims.

Those enquiries follow information provided by some of those defrauded by Lindon, and others who have supported and fought for his victims over the last seven years.

Some of the regulators could now face legal action for failing to act on complaints made by disabled people who were defrauded by Lindon.

A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesman said that because DCM had been “operating as a charity”, its activities fell “outside the scope of the claims regulator”, and so CMR referred it to the Charity Commission and the local authority.

He added later: “We investigated DCM but could not prove it was being run other than in accordance with its charitable purposes, as was set out to us.

“We referred concerns about Disability Claims Management to the Charities (sic) Commission and local trading standards.”

MoJ has so far been unable to explain how this was allowed to happen when DCM was never registered as a charity with the Charity Commission.

And because Disability Claims Management had its application for charitable status turned down by the Charity Commission, Lindon’s actions fell outside its “jurisdiction as charity regulator”, a commission spokesman said.

The commission has refused to say what action it took to alert other regulators and organisations to Lindon’s activities.

Lambeth council admitted that its trading standards department had investigated “a number of complaints” about Lindon over “several years”.

A Lambeth council spokesman said: “The fact that Lindon was able to set up in business posing as a legal expert and prey on vulnerable people, causing great distress and financial hardship despite his previous conviction and prison sentence, raises a number of questions about the gap between regulatory bodies that meant our powers as a local authority were limited.

“We are now seeking to work with colleagues across those bodies to identify ways of improving co-ordination and partnership.

“We are pleased he has been convicted and have every sympathy with his victims.”

But Lambeth council also has outstanding questions to answer, and has so far been unable to explain why it failed to bring a halt to Lindon’s activities, and has refused to say how many complaints it received and which regulatory bodies it is referring to in its statement.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) was also approached with concerns about Lindon on at least three occasions, but claims it was unable to act because it was shown no evidence that he was claiming to be a solicitor, which would have been a criminal offence and could have led to it taking a private prosecution against him.

But in cases where it has no evidence of such activity, SRA does not have the powers to investigate, a spokesman said.

Several police forces around the country are also believed to have been asked to investigate Lindon, but refused to do so, until Surrey police finally stepped in and brought him to justice.

Last week, DNS reported how Lindon was jailed for three years after being found guilty by a jury at Guildford Crown Court of five counts of theft from disabled people, worth more than £50,000 in total.

Surrey police said Lindon, 35, from Louvaine Road, Wandsworth, south-west London, had scammed “numerous” people out of money. But it has refused to say whether Lindon had a previous conviction for fraud.

Lindon, a former Ministry of Defence press officer, had already been jailed for three years in 2007 and placed on the sex offenders register for life, after admitting distributing child pornography to an online network of paedophiles.

After his release from prison, probably in 2009, he set up DCM, and began targeting disabled people who had suffered discrimination in provision of services and in the workplace.

Disabled campaigners who fought for seven years to bring Lindon to justice believe he stole money from hundreds of disabled people across the country, through Disability Claims Management and other online organisations he set up.

But they are furious that regulators such as the Charity Commission, SRA and CMR, as well as Lambeth trading standards, and many other local councils, failed to stop Lindon’s activities, despite being told he was a dangerous and manipulative conman.

They are also critical of the police forces that refused to launch criminal investigations into his activities, and the charities whose names Lindon used to provide credibility and respectability for his company.

Disabled activist Adam Lotun, who has fought for justice for himself and other victims of Lindon since 2010, said the Charity Commission only acted after repeated complaints and pressure exerted by himself and fellow disabled campaigner Mark White.

He said it was only when he defended himself from a civil court action brought by Lindon, that – with the help of solicitors at legal firm Unity Law and barrister Andrew Hogan – he was able to “produce the irrefutable proof that Lindon was not qualified or regulated in any way to carry out any work in this area”.

This information helped him win his case against Lindon, but he says the criminal justice system failed to use this information to warn regulatory bodies about the fraudster, although he spread it as widely as he could himself, including via social media.

Lotun said: “This left Lindon to carry out his nefarious activities and continue to cause misery and distress to a great many people, until he was finally brought to book by Surrey police.”

He said he believed the government should launch a public inquiry to discover how many people were defrauded by Lindon and DCM and “how many regulatory and statutory bodies failed to take action”.

He said: “Everybody seemed to wait for somebody else to do something, but in the end nobody did anything, despite two particular individuals busting a gut and battling against their own disabling conditions to try to get anybody to listen to them and take action.”

There are also concerns about how Lindon used well-known charities to provide a veneer of respectability for his company.

Lindon suggested on his websites that his company donated significant sums of money to charities such as Guide Dogs and Middlesex Association for the Blind, while he claimed that he had received support from The Prince’s Trust.

Some of his disabled victims were disappointed by the actions of disability charity Disablement Association Hillingdon (DASH), which directed them to Lindon when they asked for advice and support in dealing with disability discrimination.

Angela Wegener, chief officer of DASH, said the charity had acted in “good faith at the time”.

She said: “We wouldn’t recommend [Lindon]. We would say, ‘This is somebody who provides that sort of information.’

“We wouldn’t recommend as such, we would suggest. ‘They are working in this field and seem to have the requisite qualifications.’”

She added: “He seemed to have quite a good reputation from various people he had said he was working with. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“It is very difficult if somebody is talking a good game. It is very difficult to know how to stop that happening.

“Obviously we would be very, very careful before we even advised anyone that there was someone working in this field.

“Certainly following [what happened with Lindon] we would be even more careful.”

But one of Lindon’s victims, who was passed his details by DASH, said: “I do think DASH are accountable for a number of victims’ pain as we had never heard of Lindon until they provided us with his details without carrying out proper checks.”

DASH was among those organisations and individuals that Lindon later threatened with legal action – including defamation – when they tried to raise concerns about his activities.

Guide Dogs said it had received “a very small donation” from Lindon in 2010.

A spokeswoman said: “Our immediate thoughts are with the people affected by his actions.”

The charity has so far failed to answer further questions about how Lindon used his connection with the charity.

Middlesex Association for the Blind has so far failed to respond to requests for a comment, as has The Prince’s Trust.

Solicitor Chris Fry, of discrimination law experts Unity Law, who acted for Lotun in his case against Lindon, is now hoping to build a case against the regulators that failed Lindon’s victims.

He is keen to hear from anyone who incurred a financial loss as a result of instructing Karl Lindon or Disability Claims Management to act for them, and who also has evidence that they lodged a complaint with any of the following organisations: the Law Society, SRA, the Ministry of Justice, the Claims Management Regulator, the Charity Commission, any individual charity, a trading standards department, or a police force.

Fry can be contacted by email at Chris.Fry@unity-law.co.uk or by contacting Unity Law.

19 May 2016

 

 

PIP system crashes again… twice… but DWP still blames ‘technical glitches’

The computer system used for new personal independence payment (PIP) claims has crashed twice in a week, just days after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted it was “working as it should”.

On both occasions, last Wednesday (11 May) and Monday this week (16 May), the system – designed and maintained by IT giant Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) – was down for more than 24 hours.

The system has now crashed twice just as DWP has been sending out 16,000 letters telling existing claimants of disability living allowance (DLA) that they need to apply for PIP.

The 11 May crash was apparently due to the CAMlite software used across DWP as part of the move towards universal credit – although DWP’s press office has so far failed to confirm any details about CAMlite – while this week’s malfunction seems to have been caused by problems with the PIP CS software designed specifically to deal with PIP claims.

DWP has been unable so far to say whether HPE is responsible for designing both CAMlite and PIP CS.

Despite the system crashing twice in less than a week, at a crucial moment in the reassessment process, Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, has invited ridicule by instructing his spokesman to continue to describe the problems as “technical glitches”.

Two weeks ago, a whistleblower working for Serco, the company that runs the telephone helpline that deals with all new PIP claims, described the PIP CS software as “appallingly bad”, and so poor that at least once a month Serco staff were unable to process claims coming through on the helpline and had to tell callers to ring again, because of problems with the system.

When those claims were put to HPE, it denied there were any problems, as did DWP, even after Serco confirmed the problems.

Now the whistleblower has got back in touch – twice – with Disability News Service (DNS) to say that the system has crashed two further times, on both occasions for an entire day.

She said the system first went down just after 8am last Wednesday (11 May), and was down all day. As a result, 6,300 callers had to be told to “ring back in an hour”.

In response, Tomlinson’s spokesman originally claimed that this problem affected “less than a third of users over the course of the morning and they were able to regain access to the system by logging back in”, while the problem was “resolved by lunchtime of the same day”.

He added: “As with any IT system of this size, it is inevitable that from time to time there will be technical glitches.

“We work hard to fix any issues as soon as they arise and all claims are processed with the minimum delay possible – in fact PIP claims are now being cleared three times faster than they were in January 2014.”

But when challenged on this, he admitted that DNS was correct and said there had been “some confusion”, and the system had not been restored until “the start of work on the next day”.

Just hours after that statement arrived, the whistleblower got back in touch to say that the system had crashed again on Monday this week, and did not start to work again until 2pm the following day (Tuesday).

At one stage on Tuesday, staff were forced to process new claims by typing details into PDF forms on screen and then e-mailing them, avoiding HPE’s computer system completely.

By the time the system was working again, there were 300 callers in the telephone helpline queue and waiting times of 20 minutes, which later rose to more than 30 minutes.

After DNS passed on details of the latest system crash, a DWP spokeswoman said, despite being aware that the whistleblower had previously described major problems happening at least once a month: “I don’t think the two examples below which relate to two separate issues and two separate systems can be construed as the whole system repeatedly crashing.”

HPE again refused to comment on the details of the latest failure of its system, but said that “with any IT system of such a size, it is inevitable that there will be glitches from time to time”.

Its spokesman then repeated part of a statement he issued two weeks ago, saying: “We always work closely with our clients to ensure that the services we provide support their policy requirements and respond quickly to any incidents raised.”

Yesterday (Wednesday), callers were still reporting having to wait more than 30 minutes to get through on the helpline, while staff were being offered overtime to input claims that originally had to be typed into pdf files, and to call new PIP claimants back on Saturdays.

PIP, which is gradually replacing working-age DLA, has been mired in controversy, delays and backlogs ever since its launch in April 2013.

And in February, new DWP figures revealed that only two-thirds (68 per cent) of PIP claimants were satisfied with the service they received from DWP, compared with an average of 82 per cent across all 10 benefits surveyed.

19 May 2016

 

 

Outrage over ‘horrifying’ and ‘miserable’ plans to scrap Human Rights Act

A string of user-led organisations have warned that the government’s “horrifying” plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British bill of rights will lead to a loss of vital legal protection for disabled people.

Proposals to bring forward a “British bill of rights” were announced by the government in yesterday’s Queen’s speech, but had been widely predicted after being included in last year’s Conservative general election manifesto and last year’s Queen’s speech.

The bill appears in the “strengthening our national security” section of the Queen’s speech background notes, which say that its main benefits will be to “continue protecting fundamental human rights”.

But – in wording likely to alarm disability rights campaigners distrustful of the government’s motives – the notes also say that the bill of rights would “better protect against abuse of the system and misuse of human rights laws” and would “restore common sense to their application”.

An MoJ spokesman declined to say when the bill was expected to be published, but said: “Make no mistake, the Human Rights Act will be repealed and replaced by a bill which will protect our fundamental human rights, but also prevent their abuse and restore common sense to the system.”

The Human Rights Act incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law.

Professor Anna Lawson, the disabled law expert who heads the new Disability Law Hub at the University of Leeds, said that a British bill of rights would detach the UK from a joint European commitment to human rights and would “weaken the machinery for holding governments to account for what happens to disabled people in the UK and also to the millions of other disabled people in Europe”.

She added: “If only the time, energy and money spent on discussing this bill could instead be spent on tackling the root causes of human rights violations.”

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “The Human Rights Act enshrines fundamental freedoms into UK law and allows disabled people and others to challenge abuse, neglect or mistreatment.

“Its introduction in 2000 led to positive changes in legislation and public policy UK-wide.

“All government plans published to date suggest the ‘British Bill of Rights’ would not only water down but potentially remove rights protections for everyone in the UK and some groups in particular.

“Having already witnessed the ways in which disabled people’s rights are being systematically abolished, the thought of losing the protection within the Human Rights Act is horrifying.”

Another DPAC co-founder, Debbie Jolly, added: “The full title of this is ‘The British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities’, which is scary enough alone.

“But remember that this is the same Tory set that destroyed legal aid in 2013, tried to prevent judicial review in 2014 and attempted to charge for and limit freedom of information requests.

“It doesn’t take any imagination to predict that rights will be further diluted and responsibilities will have little to do with holding governments to account.”

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “It is totally unacceptable that the government plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with what will be a weakened version.

“That is why Inclusion London has signed up alongside the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR), Liberty, Amnesty International and other organisations to fight the proposals.

“At a time when things are getting worse for disabled people, when even Iain Duncan Smith describes us as being unfairly targeted with ‘indefensible’ and ideologically-driven cuts, we need every right at our disposal to challenge injustice.”

Eleanor Lisney, founder of the disabled women’s organisation Sisters of Frida, said: “The Human Rights Act is fundamental to us living in the UK right now.

“It’s part of our protection to be able to function as citizens in a democratic country.”

She said the move to a bill of rights was “worrying”, given the government’s “disregard” of the impact of cuts on disadvantaged people and groups such as young people, unemployed people, single mothers, older people and those from black and minority ethnic communities.

Andrew Lee, director of policy and campaigns at People First Self-Advocacy, said he feared the government was “trying to take 40 years-plus off progress on human rights in one bill”.

More than 135 UK organisations – including DPAC and the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) – have joined Inclusion London in opposing any attempt to scrap the Human Rights Act.

The groups include charities supporting children, older people, carers, victims of trafficking and slavery, and asylum-seekers and refugees, as well as national groups representing psychiatrists, teachers, football supporters and students.

Their pledge states: “We believe in fundamental human rights and freedoms – shared values that protect every member of the human family and the society we seek to build together.

“Human rights underpin our democracy, hold governments to account and require that everyone’s dignity is equally respected.

“We pledge to oppose any government plans to repeal our Human Rights Act – in so doing we stand firm on guaranteeing universal human rights protections for generations to come.”

Stephen Bowen, BIHR’s director, urged the government to “scrap these miserable plans”.

He said that those who signed the pledge “recognise that the hallmark of a genuine bill of rights is its ability to protect everyone when the government doesn’t play by the rules, which the Human Rights Act does very well”.

19 May 2016

 

 

Northants police ‘fail again on hate crime’, after autistic man is attacked again

A police force already under investigation for disability hate crime failures when dealing with a young autistic man is now facing another complaint after officers ignored his family’s plea to investigate a second brutal attack.

Daniel Smith was only finally able to clear his name last month after a six-month ordeal which saw him dragged through the criminal justice system by Northamptonshire police.

He had been left bloodied and bruised after being subjected to a vicious hate crime in a local park while visiting his family in Rushden, Northamptonshire, but ended up being prosecuted for assault after Northants police refused to investigate the hate crime and charged him instead after he admitted striking the other man to try and defend himself.

Smith spent nine hours in a police cell, without medical treatment for his injuries, even though he told officers he had just been defending himself against “the bullies”.

He only managed to clear his name when he was cleared last month of the assault charges by magistrates.

His treatment by Northants police is now being investigated by the force’s professional standards department.

But just two weeks after he was cleared, Smith was attacked again, this time while out with his family at a bar in Rushden.

As they were about to leave the Cheers Bar, a man ran across the room and head-butted him, forcing him against the wall by pulling his hair.

His dad, Owen, believes Daniel may have been attacked after making some innocent remarks to the man’s girlfriend, a similar situation that led to the previous attack.

He said: “Dan didn’t do anything [to defend himself] because he’s so petrified of being charged by the police again.

“Dan just let it happen and put his hands down. He didn’t want to appear violent because obviously the police have messed it up before.

“He kept saying, ‘I didn’t do anything, I didn’t do anything, dad.’ He thinks when he is attacked now that he can’t do anything because the police are against him.”

But although several police officers arrived and took Owen Smith’s details, the force twice failed to contact him to take further details, despite promising to do so, while an email to the force also went unanswered.

Even though friends who were at the bar on Saturday night have identified the attacker, and the bar’s owner has saved the CCTV footage, neither the Smiths nor any of the other witnesses – including the landlord – have yet been contacted by the police.

The owner of the bar has watched the CCTV footage and has told Owen Smith that “the guy flew at Dan like a bolt through a group of people”.

Owen Smith said: “People have come forward and have named him but we have heard nothing [from the police]. I am doing all the chasing.

“Dan feels let down and keeps messaging me to ask if the police have phoned yet. He asked me, ‘What did I do wrong?’

“People are coming to us saying, ‘Why aren’t they doing anything? Why are the police being so slow?’

“The guy who owns the bar has contacted me twice. He said, ‘Where are they?’ He’s got the CCTV all ready for us.”

In a letter to a senior Northants police officer, Owen Smith said: “There was a bar full of witnesses.

“All this evidence is waiting for you on a plate – but the police have not done anything yet.

“We are just sick to death of my disabled son being attacked and the police doing nothing about it.

“Give my autistic son (and us) some reassurance here. If the Northants police are not going to do anything again, then please inform us why.”

After receiving his letter, and being contacted by DNS and the Disability Hate Crime Network, the force told Owen that two officers would be visiting him today (19 May) and would contact local police in Daniel’s home city of Exeter to take a statement from him.

Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said the two incidents showed that some police forces and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) areas were “lagging behind others in the process of engagement in disability hate crime”.

He said the incidents showed the need for all police forces and CPS areas to “reconsider their processes… particularly in terms of timely intervention in cases where disabled people are involved either as victims or even as potential perpetrators”.

He added: “We urgently call on national police and CPS training programmes to deliver a more consistent policy than we are currently experiencing.”

Superintendent Chris Hillery, local policing commander for Northants police, said in a statement: “I am aware of the incident in Cheers Bar, Rushden, in the early hours of Sunday (15 May) and will ensure an officer makes contact with the victim as soon as possible.

“Officers attended the incident at the time. However, a complaint has been received in relation to the service the victim has received since and we are unable to comment on this further at this time.”

19 May 2016

 

 

Campaigners fear Crabb has abandoned target to halve employment gap

The government may have abandoned its target to halve the disability employment gap, according to a leading disabled people’s organisation.

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said it feared comments made last week by the new work and pensions secretary, Stephen Crabb, suggested he had abandoned his party’s general election manifesto commitment to halve the gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people.

Crabb told the Commons work and pensions committee last week that he wanted to “take a step back” from previous government plans to publish a white paper that would include “firm legislative proposals” on supporting disabled people into work.

Instead, he said, there would be a “much more discursive green paper that starts to reframe the issue and points the way towards more meaningful long-term reform”.

Sue Bott, DR UK’s deputy chief executive, said: “The government has an ambition to halve the employment gap between disabled people and everyone else. Are they abandoning this ambition?

“They had planned to produce a white paper on ways to reverse this gap; but now we are only to have a green paper, which is merely a discussion piece rather than concrete proposals. Effectively kicking the issue in to the long grass for months, if not years.”

She said that many Conservative MPs had only been persuaded to vote for a £30-a-week cut in the rate of employment and support allowance (ESA) paid to new claimants placed in the work-related activity group because of the promise of a white paper this summer.

Bott said: “It is bad enough that the government spends so much of its time and resources on finding ways to deny us benefits and support but then not to put measures in place that would increase employment opportunities really is a double whammy for disabled people.

“The fact is that it is only when we see a government seriously committed to equality will we get progress.

“We call upon the secretary of state to urgently confirm if he remains committed to halving the disability employment gap.”

Meanwhile, new analysis published by the TUC suggests that at current rates of progress, the government will not meet its pledge to halve the disability employment gap until 2030.

The findings, published ahead of the TUC’s annual disabled workers’ conference (taking place in London on 19 and 20 May), forecast that by 2020 just over half (52 per cent) of disabled people will be in work – 11 percentage points lower than the government promised.

The analysis also reveals that disabled people face significantly lower wages than non-disabled people.

Full-time disabled workers earned 13 per cent (£75 a week) less than full-time non-disabled people in 2015, while disabled people working part-time earned 14 per cent (£30 a week) less than part-time non-disabled workers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government is years behind schedule in achieving its employment target for disabled people.

“While ministers are right to prioritise getting more disabled people into work, they are going about things the wrong way.

“Cutting vital benefits and employment programmes will succeed only in locking disabled people out of the workplace.

“Unless we do more to break down the barriers disabled people face applying for jobs and staying in work then progress will remain painfully slow.”

Among its recommendations, TUC called on the government to expand, protect and promote schemes like Access to Work; reverse the cuts to ESA; and amend the government’s Work Programme to provide separate streams tailored for disabled people.

It also called on employers and the government to work with unions to tackle the discrimination many disabled people face in the workplace, and for employers to work with unions to ensure disabled staff have the adjustments they need to stay in their jobs.

19 May 2016

 

 

Research will examine the ‘untold stories’ of LGBT service-users

By Raya Al Jadir

New research will investigate the “untold stories” of disabled lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the social care system.

The study will explore the experiences of LGBT disabled men and women who use direct payments or personal budgets to fund their social care.

It has been launched by the disabled LGBT organisation Regard, the gay rights charity Stonewall, the Norah Fry Research Centre at the University of Bristol and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

Dr Ju Gosling, co-chair of Regard, said: “We know almost nothing about the use and experiences of using social care support by LGBT disabled men and women, because to date no-one has asked.

“This is despite the fact that as many as one in three LGBT people are disabled.

“We are also disproportionately represented among social care-users, because we are less likely to live in the area we grew up, and less likely to have children and family members to support us, than other disabled people.

“Apart from initial decisions to ‘come out’, social care-users may well need support to access LGBT venues, take part in social activities with other LGBT people, facilitate other ‘ordinary’ daily aspects of being LGBT, and require physical support with sex (alone or with others).

“LGBT people with learning difficulties may need particular support to assert and/or explain their needs as they relate to sexual identity.”

She added: “The research findings will be used to influence the future delivery of social care and training of social care workers, as well as to raise awareness of the issues facing LGBT disabled people more generally.”

Gosling said that Regard continued to work with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and SCIE to raise awareness of the needs of LGBT people who use social care, and previously worked with CQC’s predecessor, the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), to draw up the first guidelines for care homes on LGBT equality, which remain in place.

Pete Fleischmann, SCIE’s head of co-production, said his organisation’s interest in the issue dated back to 2008 when research by CSCI found 45 per cent of LGBT people experienced discrimination when using social care services.

He said: “They also found that only six per cent of providers had carried out any sort of equality work around sexual orientation, when a third of the providers promoted race or disability equality.”

He said SCIE had a “long-standing interest in these issues because of the untold stories of LGBT people within the social care services”.

SCIE has produced six films covering the issues LGBT service-users face when using a range of social care services, and a briefing on LGBT issues and personalisation, and plans to launch two more films, one aimed at service-users and one at professionals, and briefings, as a result of the research.

Fleischmann said that social care service-users “don’t just come out once, it is a continual process because you are always encountering new professionals, new assessments, with various forms of support, with a big turnover of staff… that is really difficult for people.

“Personalisation is a real opportunity for LGBT people to commission their own services, feel comfortable and in control, and until we do the interviews we know nothing about this area at all.”

Professor David Abbott, head of the school for policy studies at Bristol University and associate director at the National Institute for Health Research’s school for social care research – which is funding the study – said that one of the main things that LGBT people with learning difficulties talked to him about for a study two years ago was “the difficulty they had in coming out to support staff”.

He said: “Some were anxious about the response of the [support worker or staff] and some felt they had to keep it a secret or hidden, anticipating only some of the support workers would be sympathetic.”

Regard has told him examples of support workers “being quite critical or homophobic, saying quite unpleasant things to disabled people when they came out or refusing to go to venues saying it is not part of their job description or it might not adhere to their belief system”.

He said he hoped the research would discover when sexuality was being raised during social care assessments and reviews.

He said: “Do people feel able to say, ‘Actually, one of the things I will need support with is going to Pride or gay bars to meet other people of my community.

“We don’t know if that actually comes up or not and we may find some really positive and nice examples of how support workers and PAs (personal assistants) and their employers work together to help the disabled person get their needs.

“We are not necessarily starting with the assumption that we are just going to find really poor practice examples; we are open to finding what are people doing and how are they managing these relationships and overcoming the difficulties.”

The study will involve a survey of more than 100 LGBT adults who use direct payments or personal budgets to fund their social care, followed by 30 anonymous, confidential, in-depth interviews.

There will also be two focus groups with PAs from Independent Living Alternatives, the agency founded by the late disabled activist David Morris.

The research findings are expected to be published in April 2017.

19 May 2016

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com