Police and council face questions over second murder of disabled refugee

Public bodies in Bristol are facing allegations of institutional disablism and racism, after the second case in four years in which a man has been convicted of the brutal murder of a disabled refugee.

Friends say that Kamil Ahmad had repeatedly told police officers that he was being threatened and racially abused by Jeffrey Barry, who lived in the same supported accommodation for people with mental health conditions in the Knowle area of Bristol.

Ahmad was stabbed to death in the early hours of 7 July last year, just hours after Barry had been released from a hospital where he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Barry, 56, was convicted of murder this week, following a trial at Bristol Crown Court. He had denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He will be sentenced on 10 November.

But Disability News Service (DNS) has been told that the Kurdish asylum-seeker made repeated calls to police officers in the months and years leading up to his death, telling them that Barry was threatening him and that he did not feel safe.

Friends of Kamil Ahmad have also told DNS that Bristol social services – which he had also told about his fears for his safety – was about to evict him and leave him homeless and destitute on the streets, and only announced that this decision had been reversed after he had been killed.

The revelations come four years after the death of Bijan Ebrahimi, a disabled refugee who was also brutally killed by a neighbour in Bristol – little more than a mile away, in the neighbouring Brislington area of the city – and who had also made repeated pleas for the police and other agencies to protect him.

A review of alleged failures by Bristol City Council and other local agencies in that case has not yet been published, more than four years after Ebrahimi’s death.

Kamil Ahmad had made repeated calls to Avon and Somerset police, which included reporting two assaults by Barry in October and December 2013, and another incident in April 2016.

Police said this week that the two assaults in 2013 were not taken any further because of a lack of corroborating evidence, and that Barry had claimed that he himself had been the victim, although he was detained under the Mental Health Act after the second incident.

Avon and Somerset police claims that Kamil Ahmad reported just four incidents to them between 2013 and 2016, but DNS has been told that he made many more reports that Barry had threatened and racially abused him, and that he repeatedly told the authorities that he did not feel safe.

Three months before he was killed, on 5 April 2016, Ahmad told police that Jeffrey Barry had again threatened him.

Despite insisting that he wanted the police to press charges, no further action was taken.

A police officer who had arranged to visit Ahmad and his interpreter Adil Jaifar in May 2016 to discuss the case never turned up for the appointment.

Avon and Somerset police admitted this week that officers had faced disciplinary action over the way they dealt with this incident.

A police spokesman told DNS: “There was one allegation of assault made by Mr Ahmad in April 2016 [following] which we did identify performance issues and these were dealt with locally in the form of words of advice given to the officers involved.”

He said Ahmad had reported that Barry had “blocked his path and searched him”, although “no injuries were sustained in the incident”.

He said the “performance issues” related to “a misunderstanding Mr Ahmad did not want to take the complaint further after speaking to officers on a number of occasions”, and he added: “After the words of advice were given we again made contact with Mr Ahmad who at that stage confirmed he did not want to pursue a criminal complaint.”

He said police records showed only four complaints made by Ahmad about Barry, and added: “It doesn’t appear that we recorded any allegations of threats other than those four.”

But Adil Jaifar has told DNS that his friend had made it very clear that he wanted Barry taken to court, and that Ahmad had made repeated complaints about Barry to the police.

He said he could not imagine him dropping the case, as he remembers Ahmad telling him: “I want to bring the matter to a court. It’s useless to speak or warn Jeff anymore.”

The following month, Barry – who has paranoid schizophrenia, and previously spent time in the high-security psychiatric hospitals Rampton and Broadmoor, and has a long criminal record – was finally arrested, and then sectioned, on 13 June, after displaying sexualised behaviour and making threats to kill people, and telling staff that “Kamil would be top of my list”.

But the Mental Health Tribunal later decided that he should be released, and soon afterwards, on 6 July, he returned to the house in Wells Road where they both lived.

The court heard that Barry had stopped taking the medication that was controlling his aggression, which the tribunal had been unaware of.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust failed to inform police that Barry had been released and would be returning to Wells Road, the court had heard.

The court also heard that the trust had failed to put in place a plan to support and monitor Barry after his release.

Ahmad, who had spent the evening of 6 July with his cousin, had no idea that his neighbour had been released from hospital.

In the early hours of the next morning, Barry attacked Ahmad in his room, after he had opened the door to him.

An hour before, Barry had phoned a mental health helpline to say that he was not in control of his actions and wanted to punch someone.

The police were told about the call, but only a few minutes before Barry phoned 999 to confess to murdering Ahmad.

Kamil’s brother, Kamaran Ahmad Ali, said he wanted to know why Kamil had not been protected, and why he had been failed by the mental health services and the police.

He told DNS: “That should not happen. They should have protected him. They should have looked after him.

“When they sectioned him, he threatened to kill [Kamil] and they didn’t do anything about it.

“I want to get to the bottom of it and find out why it happened and how it happened.”

Friends of Kamil Ahmad also believe he would still be alive if the police had listened to his concerns.

They say their friend was a quietly-spoken, funny, peaceful and generous man, who only wanted a safe place to live.

They say that the way he was let down by the police, social services, and other authorities, including the mental health trust, and the Home Office – which had rejected his asylum claim – shows how Britain treats most asylum-seekers like criminals.

Avon and Somerset police insists that there are no similarities to the case of Bijan Ebrahimi, and added: “We certainly don’t believe this case suggests an issue with institutional racism or disablism”.

But Rebecca Yeo, a friend of Kamil Ahmad, who worked with him on a UK Disabled People’s Council project to create a mural in Bristol that examined the experiences of disabled asylum-seekers, said: “Kamil was failed in getting the support he needed, both from the police and social services.

“He was threatened with street homelessness. He had years of being abused and he didn’t get the help he needed.”

Adil Jaifar added: “In Bijan’s case, he raised the alarm several times and he wasn’t listened to until this terrible thing happened, and the same with Kamil. It’s the same.”

Asylum-seekers are treated with “total disrespect”, he said. “You are vulnerable and you don’t have any power.

“The majority of asylum-seekers, they are viewed as criminals.

“If the system treats you as a criminal, what can you expect from the rest of society, and that is what is happening.”

Bristol City Council said that the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board had commissioned a safeguarding adults review, and that it would “respond to any issues raised by the review”.

A spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately we cannot completely remove risk to the most vulnerable members of our society, but we are committed to protecting them whilst helping maintain their independence and we are continually improving practices wherever necessary to help prevent tragic incidents like this from happening.

“We do not wait for recommendations from reviews to make changes to help us do all we can to keep people safe.”

The council has refused to answer questions about the case, although it did say that it recognised “cosmetic similarities” with the death of Bijan Ebrahimi.

But a spokeswoman said that it was “vital in terms of challenging and improving our processes that all of the issues are carefully, methodically and independently examined”, and so the council would not be able to comment in depth until the reviews into the two deaths were completed.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said it had “reviewed and strengthened our ways of working with other service providers, including the police, to improve our sharing of clinical and additional relevant information”, but refused to answer any questions.

Milestones Trust, the charity which runs the supported living accommodation where Kamil Ahmad and Barry lived, said it was carrying out an internal review, but also refused to answer any questions.

19 October 2017

 

 

Kamil Ahmad: Discrimination led to murder of disabled refugee, say friends

Friends of a disabled Kurdish asylum-seeker have spoken of the institutionalised discrimination that they believe led to his murder at the hands of a racist neighbour.

Kamil Ahmad wanted nothing more than a safe place that he could call home, after seeking asylum in the UK.

He came to England from Iraq in 2011, where he had been bullied and abused as a child and tortured in an Iraqi prison after refusing to serve in the army in the late 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war.

But he was refused asylum when he came to the UK, despite his high support needs.

After being left destitute, he was given a room in a hostel run by the charity Bristol Hospitality Network (BHN), which is funded by the local community.

But his mental health support needs became so severe that the charity told Bristol City Council that he needed more support than it could provide.

Rachael Bee, manager of BHN, said: “Most people who are destitute asylum-seekers have no right to any public support at all.

“But those who have significant additional needs do, so you need to prove significant additional needs, so social services had to assess him and see if he met their criteria for support.”

The charity eventually persuaded the council to move him to supported living accommodation run by the charity Milestones Trust in Wells Road, in the Knowle area of Bristol.

Bee said: “It was for the best really that he moved to more appropriate accommodation. It is just really upsetting that they were not able to protect him.

“He was within a mental health supported accommodation unit so one would expect issues around mental health to be understood by the staff and managed and for him to be able to be safe. That was our expectation when he moved on.”

She said it was “totally devastating” when they heard what happened to him at Wells Road.

Ahmad’s friend and interpreter, Adil Jaifar, told Disability News Service (DNS): “His needs were really basic. He never exaggerated.

“What he needed was a safe place, a clean, tiny place. Safety really, that’s what he wanted.”

He loved his room, but was tormented by the continual harassment, racist abuse and even violence he suffered at the hands of another resident of the house in Wells Road, Jeffrey Barry.

The abuse started soon after he moved in. They argued, and Barry went to his room and beat him up.

Jaifar said: “He mentioned this problem on a weekly basis. He was really scared, troubled by it.

“The problems with this man, it really troubled him and he was scared and he was worried.”

Ahmad was so scared that he bought himself a small paper knife to defend himself, and told staff in Wells Road that that was what he had done.

“He told people in the house that he was scared that one night this man would come to attack him… and he was right,” said Jaifar. “He was scared that this man would beat him up or come to kill him.”

Ahmad was first assaulted by Barry in October and December 2013, soon after moving to Wells Road.

Jaifar says that over the next three years Ahmad would repeatedly tell local police how Barry was threatening him, and how he would wait by the front door for him to return so he could shout racist abuse at him.

Jaifar said: “He said once: ‘He is a big man and I am a tiny man, he can hurt me.’

“On a weekly basis he was talking about this. It became too much. He wasn’t exaggerating, he was just so frightened about it.”

Avon and Somerset police has told DNS that Ahmad lodged just four criminal complaints about Barry over the three years that he lived in Wells Road.

But Jaifar, who is Kurdish himself and has supported refugees in the UK for more than 25 years, said that Ahmad said he reported many threats to the police.

He said: “For a while (in 2016) he used to go nearly every week. Police officers went to see him regularly, maybe twice a month at least.

“Always he trusted the police. Anytime he had a problem, he said, ‘I am going to the police.’”

But despite the repeated complaints about Barry, no action was taken.

On 5 April 2016, Ahmad reported to police that Barry had blocked his path and searched him, although he was not hurt.

It is unclear exactly what happened with the complaint, although a police spokesman told DNS yesterday (Wednesday) that there had been a “misunderstanding” over whether Ahmad wanted to take the matter any further.

At one stage, a local police officer arranged to visit Ahmad and Jaifar in Wells Road, but failed to turn up to the appointment.

As a result of the “misunderstanding”, officers involved were given “words of advice”, said the spokesman, and the police “again made contact with Mr Ahmad who at that stage confirmed he did not want to pursue a criminal complaint”.

But Jaifar insists that Ahmad wanted charges to be brought.

He said: “Kamil was categorical and he said, ‘I don’t want any warning anymore because this man will not change.

“’I want to bring the matter to a court. It’s useless to speak or warn Jeff anymore.’”

Meanwhile, Bristol City Council’s social services department was attempting to have Ahmad evicted from his home, by arguing that his needs were not high enough to qualify for support.

Ahmad was told: “You have a community, they can support you. We cannot carry on supporting you because you don’t need our support.”

But Jaifar said that there were psychiatric reports that proved his need for mental health support, and that his friend was seeing a counsellor on a weekly basis.

He said: “I told them, ‘Why don’t you just say, ‘We cannot support you because you are an asylum-seeker?’’”

If they had succeeded in evicting him, he would have been left destitute and street homeless.

Jaifar found his friend a solicitor from Avon and Somerset Law Centre, who lodged an appeal against the eviction.

The eviction had been due to take place on 7 July, the day Ahmad was stabbed to death in his room by Jeffrey Barry, but because of the appeal against the eviction his stay in Wells Road had been extended temporarily.

Ahmad had returned to his room on 6 July after spending the evening with his cousin. He insisted to his cousin that he would be safe in Wells Road.

He knew that Barry had recently been detained in a psychiatric hospital after being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, following displays of disturbing behaviour which included threatening to kill him, and others.

But the Mental Health Tribunal had ordered that Barry should be released, and he had returned to Wells Road after a heavy night’s drinking.

The court heard that Barry had stopped taking the medication that was controlling his aggression, which the tribunal had been unaware of.

Ahmad had no idea that he had been released, and neither did the police, while Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust had apparently failed to put in place a plan to support and monitor Barry after his release, even though the decision to release him had been taken several days earlier.

In the early hours of 7 July, Barry knocked on Ahmad’s door. He entered the room and the door closed behind him. Three-quarters of an hour later, CCTV footage shows him leaving the room covered in blood.

An hour before he entered Ahmad’s room, Barry had phoned a mental health helpline to say that he was not in control of his actions and wanted to punch someone.

The police were told about the call, but only a few minutes before Barry phoned 999 to confess to murdering Ahmad.

The next day, Jaifar received a phone call telling him that his friend had been murdered.

Minutes after hanging up the phone, still in shock, he received another call, this time from social services, saying they had reconsidered the decision to evict Kamil Ahmad.

Jaifar said he “felt it was a strange coincidence that I immediately received a phone call from the social services”.

Barry, 56, was convicted of murder this week, following a trial at Bristol Crown Court. He had denied murder but admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility. He will be sentenced next month.

Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board has commissioned a safeguarding adults review, while the city council has promised to “respond to any issues raised by the review”.

A council spokeswoman said in a statement: “Unfortunately we cannot completely remove risk to the most vulnerable members of our society, but we are committed to protecting them whilst helping maintain their independence and we are continually improving practices wherever necessary to help prevent tragic incidents like this from happening.

“We do not wait for recommendations from reviews to make changes to help us do all we can to keep people safe.”

The council has refused to answer questions about the case.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said it had “reviewed and strengthened our ways of working with other service providers, including the police, to improve our sharing of clinical and additional relevant information”, but also refused to answer any questions.

Milestones Trust, the charity which runs the supported living accommodation where Kamil Ahmad and Barry lived, said it was carrying out an internal review, and also refused to answer any questions.

Adil Jaifar remembers Kamil Ahmad as a funny, quiet and generous man.

All he needed was “safety and comfort”, he said. “He was a very proud man. Very funny and extremely generous.”

Rachael Bee, from BHN, said: “He was such a lovely man, he really was. Very generous and sweet.

“Quite small, he wasn’t very big or tall. He was just a very sweet, gentle, middle-aged man. He was making a life, and then it was cut short.”

She said that most asylum-seekers whose appeals are exhausted are not returned to their country of origin but are forced instead into destitution in the UK.

“I think the government believes that they will be able to encourage people to leave voluntarily by that method, but that doesn’t normally happen because those that are still here are normally from countries like Kamil was, where the routes to return don’t exist properly,” she said.

“He wasn’t in a position to return, he couldn’t have gone back to Iraq, so he was forced into destitution for as long as it took him to make a fresh claim for asylum.”

His mental health condition made that even more difficult for him, she said.

Rebecca Yeo worked with Ahmad on a UK Disabled People’s Council project to create a series of murals that showed the experiences of different groups of disabled people, one of which focused on disabled asylum-seekers and was installed in a subway in the centre of Bristol.

He joined Yeo as part of a small group that visited parliament to present the murals project to peers and MPs in 2013.

Kamil can be seen in a short film about the mural, and at the opening of the Bristol mural he said: “[In Iraq] people smashed my head by stones, they laughed at me.

“In this country they don’t hit you… but they do mentally.

“Is it the human right if somebody is a disabled person to be treated in this way?”

The mural shows Ahmad with his head in his hands. But he also drew a picture for the murals project that showed himself being stabbed, which was what he believed the Home Office was doing to him.

In a eulogy written for Bristol Disability Equality Forum’s newsletter last year, after Ahmad’s death, Rebecca Yeo and Adil Jaifar said: “Kamil had a strong sense of justice, objected to any wrongdoings, and highly valued every individual’s need for respect and dignity.

“He was well-known in his own community for his soft speaking manner and his witty sense of humour.”

Yeo said this week: “Like so many asylum-seekers, his application had been refused.”

She said his mental health conditions – post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder –  made it difficult for him to provide the necessary details from his past experience.

“The suffering he had been through was not enough to persuade the Home Office that he deserved sanctuary.

“Being disabled and an asylum-seeker and having your application refused are not just labels. As Kamil put it: ‘Everywhere is closed for me.’

“Kamil was failed in getting the support he needed. He was threatened with street homelessness. He had years of being abused and didn’t get the help he needed.

“The police didn’t take him seriously and social services tried to evict him rather than giving him the support he needed.”

Jaifar believes there are stark and worrying similarities with the case of Bijan Ebrahimi, another disabled refugee who was brutally murdered after repeatedly asking the authorities to protect him.

Ebrahimi had made 73 phone calls reporting crimes such as racial abuse, criminal damage and death threats, but police failed to record a crime on at least 40 of those occasions.

The street where Ebrahimi lived – before he was beaten to death by Lee James, who then set his body on fire – is just a mile or so from the house where Kamil Ahmad was stabbed to death and then mutilated, again after repeatedly asking the authorities for protection and support.

The council has told DNS that it recognises “cosmetic similarities” with the death of Bijan Ebrahimi, but a spokeswoman said that it was “vital in terms of challenging and improving our processes that all of the issues are carefully, methodically and independently examined”, and so she said the council would not be able to comment in depth until the reviews into the two deaths were completed.

Kamil’s brother, Kamaran Ahmad Ali, who lives in Derby, said he wanted to know why Kamil had not been protected, and why he had been failed by mental health services and the police.

He told DNS: “That should not happen. They should have protected him. They should have looked after him.

“When they sectioned him, he threatened to kill [Kamil] and they didn’t do anything about it.

“I want to get to the bottom of it and find out why it happened and how it happened.”

Jaifar said: “In Bijan’s case, he raised the alarm several times and he wasn’t listened to until this terrible thing happened, and the same with Kamil. It’s the same.

“In the world we are living in, many people suffer in the hands of incompetent people who are in very important places in society.”

Asylum-seekers are treated with “total disrespect”, he said. “You are vulnerable and you don’t have any power.

“The majority of asylum-seekers, they are viewed as criminals.

“If the system treats you as a criminal, what can you expect from the rest of society, and that is what is happening.

“I am working with thousands of destitute asylum-seekers. They have a lot to give, humanly and professionally, and it is all wasted [because they are not allowed to work] and so they live in stress and depression.”

19 October 2017

 

 

Advisor says 30 local claimants with terminal cancer had PIP rejections overturned

A welfare rights advisor has described how at least 30 local benefit claimants with terminal cancer have had their claims rejected in the last year, with every one of the decisions later overturned by an appeal tribunal.

In every case, the claimant has been terminally-ill with cancer but has been told by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that they were completely ineligible for support from personal independence payment (PIP), before later being awarded the highest rate of PIP by a tribunal.

The evidence provided by welfare rights expert Duncan Walker, who works in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire area, appears to be further proof of the dishonesty at the heart of the PIP assessment system.

Disability News Service (DNS) has so far heard from more than 250 PIP claimants who say that healthcare professionals from government contractors Atos and Capita wrote dishonest reports for DWP after carrying out face-to-face assessments of their eligibility for the extra-costs benefit.

Walker, secretary of the Stoke and North Staffordshire branch of the Unite Community union, told DNS this week that he was “ashamed” that the money he pays in taxes is being used to support such a dishonest assessment system.

He has dealt with at least 30 cases over the last year in which a claimant with terminal cancer has been found ineligible for PIP, but has later been awarded the enhanced rates of the benefit (for both daily living and mobility) by an appeal tribunal.

In one case, a man with stage four lung cancer was assessed in his own home, and was awarded no points (a claimant needs at least eight just to qualify for the standard rate of PIP).

Walker had attended the assessment as a Unite Community volunteer, and witnessed the claimant using an oxygen supply and having to stop and breathe it in every few minutes.

But the assessor reported seeing “no signs of breathlessness”, marked “not applicable” in the respiratory section of the report, and said there was no need for a review of his case for at least another two years, even though he had three months to live.

The appeal tribunal took just five minutes to overturn the decision, and he was awarded the two enhanced rates of PIP. He died several weeks later.

In another case, a woman with a spinal tumour had to be brought to her appeal tribunal by the ambulance service, with paramedics wheeling her into the hearing.

Again, the tribunal took just five minutes to award her enhanced PIP rates for mobility and daily living.

A third case Walker has worked on saw a terminally-ill ex-miner with metastasized cancer denied any PIP following an assessment. Again, a tribunal took just five minutes to overturn the DWP decision and award him the highest rates of PIP.

It was Walker who persuaded Stoke-on-Trent City Council late last year to hold an inquiry into the PIP assessment system.

He had been trying to raise concerns about the dishonesty he was witnessing, but he said no-one had been paying any attention to what he was saying.

He said: “I was banging my head against a wall. Nobody was listening to me.”

But after he met with the council’s adults and neighbourhoods overview and scrutiny committee, and presented his evidence, the committee decided unanimously to launch an inquiry into his allegations.

The council’s review concluded last month that the PIP assessment process was “distressing, inconsistent and not fit for purpose”.

Walker told DNS this week that he could not understand the level of dishonesty he has been witnessing in the assessment reports he has read.

He said: “I look at the reports and I am thinking, ‘How can they write this? This can’t possibly be true.’

“For me personally as a tax-payer I am beyond ashamed that my money is being used in such a perverse way.

“I am ashamed of my own government treating the sick and terminally-ill in this way and using my money to do it, and private companies making a profit out of the terminally-ill and producing fictitious reports.

“Report after report is a work of fiction. It is 100 per cent dishonesty.”

Walker works as a welfare rights advisor for the disabled people’s organisation Disability Solutions West Midlands, but also voluntarily for Unite Community.

His Unite Community branch now plans to submit detailed evidence to an inquiry into the disability benefits assessment process being carried out by the Commons work and pensions select committee.

A DWP spokeswoman said in a statement: “Decisions for PIP are made based on all the information provided by the claimant, including any supporting information from their GP or medical specialist.

“We’re helping people with the most severe conditions to get the extra support that they need.

“This includes fast-tracking claims, and ensuring they can get the highest rates of benefit payments.

“Claims to PIP under the special rules for terminally-ill people are currently taking on average six working days*.

“As we’ve previously said, we do not accept that there is dishonesty among PIP assessors.”

She added: “Since PIP was introduced, 2.4 million decisions have been made, and of these eight per cent have been appealed and four per cent have been overturned.

“In the vast majority of cases where a decision is overturned, further evidence has been provided.

“As you know, we constantly review our processes to make sure they are working in the best way possible and, to date, there have been two independent reviews of PIP.”

A Capita spokeswoman said: “Our assessors are healthcare professionals who are committed to delivering high quality and accurate reports in line with Department for Work and Pensions guidance.

“If someone has questions about the assessment service we have provided, they can contact us by phone, text phone, email or post.”

*For those not expected to live more than six months

19 October 2017

 

 

Remploy refuses to carry out basic background checks for care inspection roles

The company employed by the care watchdog to find service-users to help inspect residential homes and hospitals is failing to make the most basic background checks on its recruits, undercover journalists have discovered.

The two reporters had been told of concerns about sloppy recruitment methods used by Remploy, the former government-run company now mostly owned by the discredited US outsourcing giant Maximus.

To investigate those concerns, they applied to Remploy to become Experts by Experience (ExE), disabled people and others who have previously used care or health services and are paid to accompany Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors on their inspections of hospitals, health centres, nursing homes, day centres and homecare providers.

In 2015, Remploy won three of four regional contracts to run the programme, covering the south and north of England, and London. CQC has recently begun the process of retendering the four contracts for another three years.

But the two journalists were astonished at how easy it was to secure a position as a Remploy ExE, and neither of them was asked to provide contact details for previous employers or personal contacts who could vouch for them.

Although Remploy carried out checks on their criminal records through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), no other checks were conducted into their backgrounds, and there were no face-to-face interviews.

Both say they were accepted onto the programme after a 10-minute phone conversation.

They believe Remploy’s casual approach to safety exposes service-users in the care settings inspected by CQC to potential harm, and risks undermining a valuable programme that has previously been praised for giving disabled people and others with lived experience of care a vital role in regulating and inspecting service-providers.

One of the journalists told Disability News Service (DNS): “Other than a DBS check, no one has checked that I have had any personal experience in mental health services.”

The other said: “It’s pretty shocking. They are taking people on board without checking whether they are in any way appropriate for the job.”

But the failure to even ask for references – they both used their real names in their applications – was not their only concern.

Both attended one-day training sessions, only to be appalled by the quality of what was provided.

The freelance trainer who ran one of the sessions admitted he had never set foot in a care home and had no experience of the industry, and he was unable to answer simple questions about the way the scheme operated.

One of the journalists said: “Overall the training was unclear, uninformative and has not left me confident to take part in an ExE inspection.

“The training session was confusing, scripted and many questions asked were left unanswered.

“I believe I could have read through the handout and slide shows and Googled the ExE role in my own time and would have been equally as ill-prepared for the role.”

She added: “I do not regard myself as an expert, nor has the training given me the confidence to call myself an ‘expert’.”

The other undercover journalist said: “The guy training us admitted that he had never been an Expert by Experience, and he had no clinical knowledge.

“The training was based on a PowerPoint presentation and a pamphlet. It was utterly shocking.”

Both turned down the opportunity of working for Remploy after attending the training sessions.

In contrast to Remploy, the charity Choice Support, which heads the consortium that runs the Experts by Experience programme in the central region of England, carries out face-to-face interviews for those shortlisted for ExE roles, and obtains references for those successful at interview, completing DBS checks before a role is offered formally.

Choice Support’s training package is carried out by trainers – including key members of the consortium, such as its national lead, Kim Arnold – who have “detailed knowledge of the industry as well as personal experience of using the services”.

Claire Bolderson, a former ExE, now campaigns for improvements to the way Remploy runs the programme and to the pay ExEs receive.

She has exchanged emails with CQC’s head of engagement, Chris Day, who admitted that Remploy did not ask for references for its new recruits.

In an email seen by DNS, Day told Bolderson: “Remploy has assured CQC that it carries out robust screening of potential experts prior to their deployment on inspections, where they are asked to provide a detailed overview of their personal or family caring responsibilities, experience of team working and report writing experience.

“As part of the screening process Remploy carries out DBS checks on all potential experts, and risk assessments where appropriate, as a result of these.

“Remploy does not take up personal or professional references as part of its contractual obligations for recruitment of ExE.”

Bolderson replied: “I am, to be quite blunt, stunned by your acceptance of Remploy’s failure to ask for personal or professional references when recruiting new Experts.

“The ‘robust screening’ of which you have been assured consists of asking potential recruits, in a telephone conversation, about their experience largely as users of regulated services.

“There is no process for establishing whether that person is telling the truth.

“There is no way of verifying whether they have any of the experience they claim.

“In short, Remploy simply accepts the potential recruit’s word for it.

“That is hardly ‘robust screening’.

“A DBS check is of course an important legal requirement. But it tells Remploy only whether a person has ever been caught and successfully prosecuted, not that they have relevant experience and are caring, responsible and capable individuals.”

In a statement, a CQC spokesman repeated the three paragraphs above from Chris Day’s email.

He added: “Remploy has redesigned its face-to-face and on-line training based on feedback from both CQC and ExE.

“They continually evaluate and review their training and its quality. Recent independent survey results showed an improvement in the satisfaction rates of ExE taking part in training from 65 per cent in September 2016 to 82 per cent in January 2017.

“Remploy will continue to work with CQC to update and improve the quality of training and is in the process of implementing a Learner Management System with access to a broader range of training for its Experts by Experience.”

A Remploy spokesman said: “We are confident that our recruitment and training process ensures that individuals are well prepared for their roles as Experts by Experience (ExEs).”

He said this was backed up by the most recent survey of ExEs, carried out in August, which found 92 per cent rated their first contact with the programme as good or satisfactory; 85 per cent said the recruitment process was good or satisfactory; and 83 per cent found the effectiveness of their training to be good or satisfactory.

And he said that 88 per cent stated that “the effectiveness of the communication and information about the roles of the Expert and Inspector was good or satisfactory [in] preparing them for an Inspection”.

He said: “These figures have increased each year that we have delivered the programme, reflecting the continuous improvement Remploy is committed to putting in place.

“We have lengthy conversations with all potential ExEs to gauge their experience of, and engagement with, health and care services prior to providing training.

“All potential Experts by Experience also undergo required criminal background checks.”

He refused to comment on why Remploy did not request or take up references.

Bolderson and other current and former ExEs have repeatedly raised concerns about the quality of the service provided by Remploy.

Earlier this year, DNS reported how disabled people working as ExEs for Remploy were refused support workers, while one was bullied into resigning.

Internal reports secured by DNS showed how CQC was forced to write “formally” to Remploy three times over concerns about the way it was running the ExE programme, while a CQC report in May 2016 found there had been “multiple issues with Remploy’s performance to date”.

When CQC was asked about the concerns earlier this year, it said there had been a significant improvement in Remploy’s performance since 2016, but these latest revelations cast doubt on that claim.

There are also continuing concerns over Remploy’s decision to pay its ExEs just over £9 an hour in basic pay (£10 in London), compared with rates of £15 an hour for those employed by the Choice Support consortium.

Remploy was heavily criticised for slashing the pay of ExEs when it took over the contract.

The latest criticisms of Remploy are also likely to alarm disabled people in Wales, where the company has been awarded a contract by the Department for Work and Pensions to provide employment support services under its new Health and Work programme.

Bolderson told DNS: “It’s increasingly obvious that Remploy are incredibly good at pulling the wool over the CQC’s eyes, which raises some serious questions about the CQC as an effective regulator.”

19 October 2017

 

 

Sir Bert Massie: Tributes to ‘a life committed to disabled people’s liberation’

Tributes have been paid to Sir Bert Massie, the chair of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) throughout its seven years, who made a “fundamental” contribution to disabled people’s liberation, and who died this week.

His other appointments included time as a founding commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), as chief executive of RADAR, as commissioner for the Compact, and as a long-serving governor of the Motability scheme, and of Liverpool John Moores University.

He also served on the National Disability Council, the Disability Rights Task Force, and the Independent Commission on Social Justice.

But tributes this week focused not on his CV but on his personal warmth, his sense of humour and generosity, and the decades he spent fighting for the rights of disabled people.

Many mentioned his significant role in helping to secure civil rights for disabled people through the first Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, following years of campaigning by disabled people and their organisations.

Professor Tom Shakespeare said on Twitter that “few people did more to promote disability rights and inclusion in UK”; former minister for disabled people Anne McGuire described him as “a man of courage, conviction, vision and optimism”; and Liz Sayce, who worked with him at DRC, said, also on Twitter, that he was “a giant of disability rights who made a massive difference”.

McGuire told Disability News Service (DNS) that Sir Bert was “one of the most impressive people I have ever known”.

She said: “He showed personal courage as he dedicated his life to working to improve the lives of disabled people.

“He was an activist who never flinched in the face of opposition, yet he also knew the importance of being able to work with politicians to get change.”

She regularly turned to him for advice when she was minister, and praised his willingness to make a contribution in the early days of the new EHRC, even though he thought it had been too soon to abolish the DRC.

He was, she said, “fun, mischievous and amusing and laughed easily”, and added: “I will remember Bert for his humanity, vision and energy. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

Disability Rights UK (DR UK), which was formed from the merger of RADAR and two other disability organisations, also paid tribute to his work, and said: “On occasions, he courted controversy from sections of the disability movement for not being radical enough but no one can doubt the enormous contribution he has made to enhancing our rights.”

DR UK said that Sir Bert had been “educated the hard way” in Liverpool, having been “completely failed” at school by the special education system.

He caught polio at three months old, and spent the first five years of his life in Alder Hey hospital, before being sent to Greenbank School for Rest and Recovery, and then a special school.

He would tell his local paper, the Liverpool Echo, that it was only when he mixed with the middle classes for the first time, at the age of 11, on a holiday organised by the British Polio Fellowship, that he “at last had an aspiration for education”.

He left school without qualifications, and started work at a Liverpool disability organisation, but received tuition at a local convent as none of the evening classes were accessible to a wheelchair-user.

He gained O-levels, then A-levels from the specialist Hereward College in Coventry, and a degree in social studies, as well as a social work qualification, before joining RADAR in 1978.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell met him briefly when she began studying at Hereward as a teenager when he was about to leave, and then met him again at RADAR when she was a 22-year-old recruit, and he was deputy chief executive.

He sacked her six months later, on the orders of the chief executive, George Wilson, because she was unable to use a manual typewriter.

For years, she refused to speak to him, and “gladly joined calls to denounce RADAR and him”.

But she later made peace with him, after he apologised and said he had deeply regretted what had happened, and she realised that they had been “caught in the same oppressive culture”.

In later years they became good friends.

She said this week: “I understood he was biding his time for the right time, to take control of the organisation and change it.

“I don’t think this ever really happened there, but his appointment as chair of the DRC allowed him to show us the real Bert. The radical, uncompromising Bert.

“This never meant he took to the streets or got arrested. Not his style. He preferred to fight from within the establishment, especially the corridors of power in parliament, which I feel should be recognised by all disabled people more than it is.

“For the first two decades, radicalism and direct action were my primary driving force.

“Bert took the other road of negotiation and at times necessary compromise with the establishment.

“You choose your strengths but the fundamental principle of equality for disabled people is the same.”

David Buxton, who first met Sir Bert as a young activist campaigning outside parliament for disability rights legislation in the 1990s, said he was “one of the great inspirations, a kind, funny and modest disability rights leader who kept us kicking and alive”.

He was, he said, one of the few who could “pull everyone together, engendering a sense of great belief in ourselves that we would see a new disability rights law”.

“Life has been a battle… but I don’t do bitterness or hate,” Buxton remembers him saying in later years.

He said Sir Bert had “intellect, humour and humanity and an ability to listen to both sides of the political and disability movements from the local to the international level”.

And he remembers Sir Bert telling him at a London dinner that he had enjoyed “both wonderful and difficult times leading DRC”.

Leadership could be “lonely”, he told him, but the key was “to find a few close friends in your circle, find one or two great mentors to guide and support you all the way”.

He said Sir Bert should be remembered as “a great Scouser”, for “a life lived well in the service of others”, and as someone who had made “awesome contributions to disability rights”.

Buxton, now chief executive of Action on Disability, added: “We have lost one of the supreme disability rights campaigners with an indomitable fighting spirit and today disabled people are better placed because of him.”

Disabled campaigner Kaliya Franklin met Sir Bert for the first time at the Labour party conference in 2011 where she said she “completely fan-girl’ed him”.

After the Spartacus report was published by the new grassroots network she was part of, he “took me out for lunch, taught me his history of the disabled people’s movement and asked what he could do to help.

“‘I don’t know what to do,’ I told him. ‘We’re making it up as we go along.’ With his Sir Bert twinkle, he smiled and said, ‘You’re all doing a great job, but I’ll see what I can do.’”

He later asked Franklin to join the commission on disability and poverty that the Labour party had asked him to chair.

She said: “The best part of disability rights campaigning is the incredible people I’ve been lucky enough to meet, and the worst part is losing so many friends.

“Disabled people and the disability movement would not be where we are now without the strategic influence and vision of Sir Bert.

“He really did encourage us to look up to the stars and not trip over any rugs*.”

Tom Hendrie, head of policy and communications at Cheshire Centre for Independent Living, first met Sir Bert in the 1980s when he had come to speak to a small, newly-formed user-led group in Barrow-in-Furness.

He said: “He will be remembered for the big things like [campaigning for the] mobility allowance and the Motability scheme but he was a very active supporter of grassroots disability organisations, always willing to travel to an AGM or to chair a meeting about a local issue.

“He came under some criticism of being too close to the establishment later in his life but his legacy is still very real and positive in the lives of disabled people.”

Lord Sterling, chair and co-founder of Motability, said: “Over the last 50 years, Sir Bert worked with a great number of disability organisations, tirelessly campaigning for the rights of disabled people, and many of us here had the pleasure of knowing him over these years.

“Sir Bert became a governor of Motability in 2002 and his incisive knowledge and wise counsel played a key part in our constant endeavours to improve the Motability scheme.

“Taking account of his own disability, his energies never ceased to amaze me.

“He was a real ‘doer’ and always prepared to challenge and fight for what he believed in.”

Neil Crowther first met Sir Bert when he was at RADAR and later worked with him at DRC.

In a tribute on his blog, Crowther describes how they worked together again when Sir Bert asked him to join the commission on disability and poverty.

He described Sir Bert as a “consummate negotiator” and political operator who “secured countless commitments from some of the most senior and influential figures of the past 50 years”.

He said: “He never gave up imagining the world could be a better place for disabled people.”

Among his many achievements secured from years of negotiating and influencing, Sir Bert drafted the amendment to the transport bill in 1984 that led to the setting up of a statutory Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), and was a DPTAC member for more than 15 years.

His arguments later helped stave off attempts by the Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker to abolish DPTAC, and replace it with unpaid disabled advisers.

Sir Bert said at the time that the government appeared to believe that improvements to society can only be made by paying million-pound bonuses, except with disabled people “who are the only people in society who work for free”.

He spoke out, too, on attempts to legalise assisted suicide, arguing in 2015 – after new research showed an “explosion” of cases in which greedy relatives were committing fraud by targeting members of their own family – that some relatives were not “wonderful” and caring, but have “other motives”, which could put “enormous pressure” on many disabled people if assisted suicide was legalised.

“Not everybody is a saint,” he said.

He campaigned also to improve wheelchair services, and served as chair of the assistive technology organisation CECOPS (Community Equipment Code of Practice Scheme).

He once told Disability News Service how he had applied for a new wheelchair through his local wheelchair service in February, but would not receive it until October, which he said was “just a little bit faster than making a baby, which I suspect is more complicated”.

Brian Donnelly, executive director and founder of CECOPS, wrote this week: “Bert was a true campaigner, but he was never a complainer. He only asked for what was right and nothing more.

“He had a wonderful art of guiding conversations in a way that made others feel that they had made decisions themselves.

“Bert’s view was that a good cause is always worth fighting for.”

As a member of the Baring Foundation’s Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector, Sir Bert raised concerns about the “sinister” impact of new lobbying laws, which he suggested showed the government wanted “to close down debate”.

He said in 2015: “In the 1980s and 1990s, I was involved with several charities that criticised government policy – think of the battle for the Disability Discrimination Act – but at no point did government seek to silence charities.

“It is very frightening, it is very sinister. I always believe a strong government should be able to take it on the chin and come back with robust arguments.”

Despite being a Labour member, he would criticise his own party when necessary, perhaps most notably when it commissioned him to chair the disability and poverty commission and then refused to publicise its conclusions.

He was also critical of the EHRC under the leadership of its first chair, Trevor Phillips, resigning as a commissioner after two years over concerns with his leadership, a step Baroness Campbell also took.

He later explained that Phillips had failed to stand up to the Labour government, which had put too many of its own supporters onto the commission’s board.

Crowther was one of several to point out this week that many activists saw Sir Bert as being too close to the government, but he was “always driven by one thing only – the wellbeing of disabled people”, which was why “when some disability activists saw him as the enemy, many more regarded him as a folk hero”.

Baroness Campbell said Sir Bert taught her how to survive within parliament, how “to play the game and sometimes win.

“Unlike me, he never personally criticised me because he completely understood and respected where I was coming from. Such maturity is rare.”

She added: “Bert’s contribution to our liberation is fundamental. He was a man of his time, fighting from within a very oppressive culture.

“In many ways this was so much harder, but he never wavered. He worked harder and longer than any disabled person I know.

“Bert rightly deserved the credit afforded him by the establishment and he deserves our credit as disabled people now engaged in the continuing struggle for disabled people’s equality and human rights.”

*Sir Bert once said that disabled people “have been invited to look up to the stars while having the rug pulled from beneath them”

19 October 2017

 

 

National summit set to build new alliances and ‘reinvigorate’ the movement

Organisers of a national “summit meeting” of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), grassroots campaigns and trade unions hope it will “reinvigorate” the disability movement.

The National Disabled People’s Summit is being funded by unions, and co-organised by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance.

Organisers of the summit say there is a need to explore how to co-ordinate resistance and organise joint campaigning in the wake of years of austerity measures that have targeted disabled people.

They point to the report in August of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which concluded that cuts to social protection in the UK had caused a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.

At least 24 different organisations and campaigns are already signed up to take part in the summit in central London on 4 November.

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s new shadow minister for disabled people, is set to attend, and is likely to speak briefly, along with Ellen Clifford, from Inclusion London, and Bob Williams-Findlay, a former chair of the British Council of Disabled People.

But the focus of the event will be workshops on areas such as independent living, social security, accessible transport and inclusive education, where participants will try to agree plans for campaigns, and aim “to inspire concrete activity that will lead to real change”.

One reason for the summit is to try to identify disabled people who can take a lead on campaigning, following a year in which the movement has lost some of its key figures, including Debbie Jolly, Sophie Partridge, Robert Dellar and Eleanor Firman.

Clifford, Inclusion London’s campaigns and policy manager, said: “In terms of losing key campaigners, the last year’s been really awful and it has really had an impact on capacity.”

She added: “The summit won’t appeal to everyone because the position behind it is a clear anti-austerity one that not every single Deaf and disabled person or disability organisation may subscribe to.

“The aim is to build new alliances between all those who want to fight neoliberal attacks on our rights and to reinvigorate our movement for change.

“I am really excited about people working together who have not worked together or campaigned together before.”

She said: “Over the past year in particular we have lost a number of experienced and committed activists.

“We need to empower new campaigners to get involved and gain the confidence to take and lead collective action that can not only bring about the reversal of damaging cuts but also go forward in creating a society founded on principles of fairness and social justice, equality and human rights for all.”

DNS reported last month how the idea for the summit came after Mandy Hudson – who represents disabled teachers on the new National Education Union – and colleagues on the TUC’s disabled workers’ committee, realised how many disabled people were having to fight individually to secure the support they needed to live independently, and decided it was “time for a more strategic view”.

The summit is taking place at the headquarters of the National Education Union in Mabledon Place, near Euston and King’s Cross stations.

Attendance is free, and can be booked online.

19 October 2017

 

 

Second year of huge rises in disability hate crime, but causes still unclear

The number of disability hate crimes recorded by the police rose by more than 50 per cent last year, according to new figures released by the Home Office.

The rise in recorded disability hate crimes (53 per cent) was larger than for any other strand, with race hate crimes rising by more than a quarter (27 per cent), those motivated by sexual orientation also increasing by 27 per cent, and religion-based hate crime rising by 35 per cent.

In all, the number of hate crime offences recorded by police in England and Wales rose by 29 per cent to more than 80,000 between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The increase in disability hate crimes was even bigger than the rise of more than 40 per cent last year, which again had been a larger rise than for any other hate crime strand.

Despite the new Home Office figures, it is still not clear whether there has been an increase in actual disability hate crimes in recent years, if the increase is due to a rise in reporting of hate crimes, or if it is due to a combination of both factors.

Since 2011-12, the number of disability hate crimes recorded by police has risen from 1,748 to 5,558.

The Home Office report says that some of the rise in race and religious hate crime was due to a genuine increase in hate crime, particularly around the time of the EU referendum in June 2016 and the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester this year.

But the report says that a second consecutive year of sharp rises in disability, sexual orientation and transgender hate crime (which rose by 45 per cent this year) is probably due to the police “improving their identification and recording of hate crime offences and more people coming forward to report these crimes rather than a genuine increase”.

Nearly nine in 10 offences (89 per cent) flagged as hate crimes in 2016-17 were either public order offences or “violence against the person”.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) show that the number of disability hate crime prosecutions rose from 941 in 2015-16 to 1,009 in 2016-17, an increase of more than seven per cent.

The proportion of successful convictions also increased, from 75.1 per cent to 77.3 per cent, with the number rising from 707 to 800 in 2016-17.

Despite these numbers, only 117 cases saw a recorded and announced increase in a sentence on the grounds of disability hate crime, although this was an increase from 84 in 2015-16.

The report says that the number of sentence uplifts “remains considerably lower than that for other hate crime strands”.

In the 10 years since 2007–08, this has risen from four sentence uplifts (2.8 per cent of successful prosecutions) to 117 (14.6 per cent).

But it compares with more than half of all cases (52.2 per cent) involving hostility on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity which saw sentences “uplifted”.

Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, wrote to solicitor general Robert Buckland in August to warn him that “alarm bells are ringing” over the “massive discrepancies and inconsistencies” in the way the criminal justice system dealt with disability hate crime (DHC) prosecutions.

He said then that he and his colleagues felt “deep dismay” that six recent court cases involving violent attacks on disabled people – reported by Disability News Service (DNS) – had not been treated as disability hate crimes.

In the letter, he wrote: “Once again we see that it seems to be difficult to prove an offence is a disability hate crime under current legislation especially if the case is not supported by absolute DHC based evidence.

“Additionally we still find that cases in which CPS treated the offences as disability hate crime, the judiciary still frequently refuse to accept their responsibility and increase the sentence, proving that there are massive issues in the way both police and the judiciary [deal with] disability hate crimes.”

He said that Buckland had agreed in his response that there were “considerable challenges in showing there is aggravation in relation to disability in serious offences”, and that more work needed to be done by the criminal justice system.

Brookes said this week: “My concern has to be that we still are finding major barriers in the whole DHC charging process as proving disability hostility is still too vague in some respects.”

Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, said: “Crimes motivated by hate have a corrosive effect on society and it is pleasing to see the courts are using their powers to increase sentences in the majority of cases for the first time.

“Sentence uplifts are important because they demonstrate that the CPS has built the case effectively, the hate crime element has been recognised and the perpetrator has received a more severe sentence as a result.”

In all, across race, religion, homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and disability hate crimes, there were 14,480 convictions in 2016-17, with a success rate for the CPS of 83.4 per cent.

19 October 2017

 

 

Police watchdog orders force to reinvestigate treatment of autistic man

An independent watchdog has upheld an appeal by the family of a young autistic man who say he faced discrimination and mistreatment by a police force, months after it cleared another force of similar allegations.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded three months ago that there was insufficient evidence to show misconduct by officers of Northamptonshire police who were involved in the arrest and detention of Daniel Smith.

But IPCC has now examined concerns about the way Smith was treated by Devon and Cornwall Police over a second arrest four months later, and how it investigated a subsequent complaint about the way he was treated.

Devon and Cornwall’s professional standards department cleared its own officers of any wrongdoing, after Smith’s family lodged a complaint, but IPCC has now decided that that may have been the wrong decision and has asked it to reinvestigate the complaint.

His family say both forces discriminated against Daniel, ignored him when he told them that he was autistic, failed to provide him with the support he needed – ignoring their own guidance – and breached his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Smith was held in a cell for eight hours after he had defended himself from a vicious disability hate crime in a local park in Rushden, Northamptonshire, in October 2015.

He had been left bloodied and bruised by the attack but ended up being prosecuted for assault after the police failed to investigate the hate crime and charged him instead.

He spent eight hours in the cell, without medical treatment, even though he told officers he had only been defending himself against “the bullies”.

He was eventually cleared of assault charges by magistrates, following a six-month court ordeal.

But struggling with the trauma of his treatment over the Northamptonshire incident and following a distressing court hearing in February last year, he became involved in an incident with a young woman in his home city of Exeter, Devon, who had headbutted him after an argument.

He was arrested and locked up again, despite telling police he was suicidal and autistic. His family say that no appropriate adult (AA)* was provided for him.

His dad, Owen, said that a statement was taken from his son after several hours in the police station, by which time he was in “an appalling mental state” and “would have said anything to get released”.

Owen Smith said: “If the correct procedures had been followed for Daniel, a proper account could have been elicited from him, explaining the circumstances of the incident as regards his autism, the fact that he was acting in self-defence, why he reacted in the way he did.

“He was vulnerable, exhausted and scared.”

Daniel’s mental health subsequently deteriorated significantly, and he became so scared of being attacked yet again, following the Exeter incident, that he spent hundreds of pounds buying mini security cameras that he attached to his body.

In both the Northamptonshire and Exeter cases, CCTV evidence from the police station was destroyed before it could be examined by the forces’ professional standards departments.

Daniel’s family believe there were several officers from both forces who should have known that Daniel was autistic and failed to act on that information.

IPCC has now told the family that it is not satisfied with the internal investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police, and has asked it to reinvestigate.

It criticises the force for failing to secure the CCTV footage following his arrest, and has asked it “to review their processes to try to ensure that this does not happen in the future”.

It also reveals that the force possessed information dating back to 2012 that Daniel Smith was autistic.

The IPCC letter raises a number of other concerns about how he was treated in custody, including why officers accepted his statement that he did not want support from an appropriate adult.

It adds: “The decision about whether or not to call an appropriate adult is the custody sergeant’s, not the detainee’s.

“There is an inherent contradiction in asking a detainee whether one is required.”

The letter adds: “There are flaws, gaps and contradictions that have not been accounted for. A reinvestigation is required to explore these.”

Smith’s solicitor, Sarah Ricca, of Deighton Pierce Glynn, said: “The IPCC’s decision is the first ray of light in Daniel’s attempts to expose the injustice of how he has been treated by the two police forces.

“Daniel was failed by the police on the two occasions he was arrested and detained and till now he has been failed again by the complaints system.

“We hope that this will mark a turning point in taking seriously the issues his case raises about fair and equal treatment of people with autism by police.”

Disability News Service learned of the IPCC ruling yesterday (Wednesday) and has since been unable to contact a Devon and Cornwall Police press officer.

But a Devon and Cornwall Police spokeswoman said earlier, before the IPCC had delivered its ruling: “A complaint was received by a member of the public in 2016 relating to an incident on the 28th of February 2016 involving a 27-year-old man.

“The matter was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) who referred the case back to Devon and Cornwall Police to carry out a local investigation.

“Devon and Cornwall Police carried out the investigation, the outcome of which was appealed by the member of public.

“The appeal has now been referred to the IPCC for a decision.”

IPCC had not been able to comment by noon today (Thursday).

*An appropriate adult ensures “the rights, welfare and effective participation” of a child or “vulnerable” adult suspect who is being detained or interviewed by police

19 October 2017

 

 

UK wants to promote its disability policies to rest of the world, says Mordaunt

The minister for disabled people has dismissed a damning UN report on her government’s disability rights record, arguing that the rest of the world should instead be learning from the UK’s policies.

Penny Mordaunt was speaking weeks after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities said the government’s social protection policies had caused a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.

The short debate was secured by the SNP’s Deidre Brock, but took place towards the end of the parliamentary week, when most MPs had returned to their constituencies, so only a handful of MPs were in the Commons chamber to hear the debate.

Brock said the government’s austerity policies were responsible for causing disabled people “a river of human misery”.

And she said the UN committee had criticised the government’s “austerity fetish” and had called on the government to “backtrack” on its cuts to independent living support.

Brock called on Mordaunt to promise to include disabled people and their organisations in its work to address the more than 80 recommendations made by the committee, and to ensure that they were adequately funded for this work.

She also called on Mordaunt to commit to carrying out an assessment of the cumulative impact of all her government’s cuts and reforms to disabled people’s support – and to review the benefits system’s conditionality and sanctions regime – as recommended by the report.

The Labour MP Luke Pollard criticised the government for failing to provide a full statement to MPs after the UN report was published.

But Mordaunt defended her government’s record and even said she wanted to “promote” its disability policies so that they could be a “catalyst for change elsewhere in the world”.

She insisted that the government had “shown what can be done to facilitate disabled access, both physical and service-based, and how that can be achieved in co-operation with business and the third sector”.

She added: “Our work promotes change elsewhere in the world, which is why we would like the UN to recognise what we have been doing.”

Mordaunt’s response came only weeks after Disability News Service (DNS) reported how a disabled woman was forced to quit her job because the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs refused to allow her to use one of the parking spaces close to the offices where she worked.

Much of Mordaunt’s response was not aimed at the contents of the UN report but at explaining why the UN was wrong to criticise the UK government so extensively.

She wrongly claimed – as her department did last week in a response to DNS – that the UK was “one of the few nations” to ratify the convention’s optional protocol, when 92 have done so.

And she claimed the government’s next step would be to “correct some of the factual inaccuracies in the UN report”.

But Mordaunt also said that the Office for Disability Issues was “reflecting” on how it could take forward the call by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for a “co-ordinated, UK-wide action plan” to implement the UN convention.

She told MPs that spending on disability benefits would be higher than in 2010 for every year until 2020 and was “currently at a record high”.

Mordaunt also said her department would shortly be making an announcement on the conditionality and sanctions regime as it affects people with mental health conditions.

DNS reported earlier this month how work and pensions secretary David Gauke had admitted that the system of benefit sanctions often fails to work and can instead cause harm to claimants, particularly those with mental health conditions, and that he would try to find a way to make the sanctions system less damaging to people with mental health conditions.

Mordaunt said her government had worked in many other ways to support disabled people, including tackling disability hate crime; working to improve building regulations and accessible housing, and the provision of Changing Places toilets; “tackling the extra costs of disability”; and improving education “and extending opportunity”.

Mordaunt also spoke of how she had volunteered in the early 1990s in Romanian orphanages and hospitals, where most of the children were disabled, and all but one of the aid workers were British.

She said she was part of a government whose aid efforts had “prioritised” the 15 per cent of the world’s population who are disabled, and how it wanted to “establish the UK as a global leader in this field”.

Mordaunt also claimed that she regularly received requests for advice from ministers for disabled people from around the world on “how to set up welfare systems and improve accessibility, employment and representation”.

19 October 2017

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com