Ministerial duo face questions after misleading MPs over PIP

Two ministers have refused to apologise after they both misled MPs about the impact of the government’s new disability benefit on disabled people.

In the space of just 20 minutes, work and pensions secretary Damian Green and minister for disabled people Penny Mordaunt both misled the House of Commons about how personal independence payment (PIP) was affecting disabled people.

The first House of Commons work and pensions questions after the break for party conferences saw about 20 questions from MPs across the main parties with concerns about the way PIP was operating, far more than for any other issue.

In one answer, Mordaunt told MPs that under PIP – compared with disability living allowance (DLA), which it is replacing for working-age claimants – “more people are entitled to use the Motability scheme”.

But Motability’s own figures show that of their customers who have been reassessed for PIP so far, 44 per cent have lost their entitlement to the scheme and have had to hand their vehicles back.

Responding to another question on PIP, Green told MPs on Monday that “many more people are eligible to receive PIP than were eligible to receive disability living allowance”.

But the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) own figures from June showed that only about seven in 10 disabled people who were previously claiming DLA were being found eligible for PIP.

The DWP figures showed just 71 per cent of DLA recipients who applied for PIP were successful with their claim in April 2016, once withdrawn claims were excluded.

PIP was introduced with the intention – announced by chancellor George Osborne in his 2010 emergency budget – of cutting the number of working-age claimants by 20 per cent.

A DWP spokesman appeared to accept that the two statements were not true*, arguing in a statement that the ministers were trying to make completely different points about PIP.

He has so far refused to say whether the ministers stand by their statements or whether they will be apologising to MPs, but insisted that “the comments should be considered in the context of the exchanges made during DWP Oral Questions and the wider discussion of which they formed a part”.

Among MPs who raised concerns about PIP, the SNP’s Martyn Day told Mordaunt that for the fourth year in a row “the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has said that the roll-out of the personal independence payment project is ‘in doubt with major risks… apparent in a number of key areas’”.

Mordaunt claimed that PIP was “a vast improvement on what went before” and was “a more targeted benefit”.

Another SNP MP, John Nicolson, then told her of a disabled constituent who had had her Motability car removed after a PIP assessment.

He said: “She had to use public transport, which she was unable to do, and she lost her job as a result.

“Does the minister really think that government policy is delivering compassionate outcomes in such cases?”

After asking for Nicolson to write to her with details of the case, Mordaunt claimed that more people were entitled to use the Motability scheme under PIP, although “clearly we want to make sure that any decision taken on a PIP assessment is the right one”.

Tory MP Peter Bone told Mordaunt: “I do not know whether it is just in my area, but at every weekly surgery I will have one person who has been refused PIP who is clearly entitled to it.

“I had a lady this week with multiple sclerosis; she is clearly entitled to it and will get it when she goes to the independent tribunal, but why do such people have to wait until then?

“Surely this can be corrected at an earlier stage.”

Mordaunt said she understood Bone’s frustration, and told him that DWP was “looking very closely at those cases that have gone to appeal and been overturned to see why the right decision was not taken earlier in the process”.

She pointed to an earlier answer in which she had said that DWP was working to address such problems, “including giving a bit more flexibility for certain cases at that early stage, with the hope that the evidence we need will then be submitted at that stage”, work that she said was currently being rolled out.

She told Bone that there would be more announcements on PIP in the department’s forthcoming green paper on employment support for disabled people, which is due to be published before the end of the year.

*In full, the DWP spokesman said: “There are more people using Motability now than when PIP was first introduced, including a number who are newly entitled to Motability under PIP, which is the point the minister was making.

“PIP recognises both physical and non-physical conditions, such as mental health problems, much more effectively than DLA did.

“For example, under DLA some people with mental health conditions were not eligible for support or were on much lower rates than they are under PIP, which is what the secretary of state was referring to in his remarks.

“Overall, 66 per cent of PIP recipients, whose main disabling condition is a mental health condition, are getting the enhanced rate of the daily living component, compared to only 22 per cent of working age mental health recipients receiving the highest rate of the DLA care component.

“24 per cent of PIP recipients, whose main disabling condition is a mental health condition, are getting the enhanced rate of the mobility component, compared to only nine per cent of working age mental health recipients receiving the higher rate of the DLA mobility component.”

20 October 2016

 

 

Premier League has been dishonest on access, says disability commissioner

Football’s Premier League has been branded dishonest by the equality watchdog’s disability commissioner, over its attitude to access and inclusion.

Lord [Chris] Holmes told MPs that there had not been “anything like an inclusive culture” in the Premier League and in Premier League clubs, which was “a great shame when it is our only national game”.

He said the Premier League “needed a completely different mind-set” and pointed to the “pages and pages” devoted to broadcast arrangements in the Premier League rule book, compared with “just one line” on access.

He said that changes required for television broadcasters, when new technology was introduced, were carried out “within weeks” rather than the “decades” it has taken to make access improvements.

Lord Holmes, disability commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and himself a retired Paralympian, was giving evidence to the culture, media and sport select committee as part of its inquiry into access to sports stadiums for disabled people.

He contrasted the Premier League’s attitude to that of Premiership rugby union and county cricket, which had both worked closely with the watchdog to improve access and inclusion.

Asked by Tory MP Nigel Huddleston what he saw in those sports that was different to football’s Premier League, he said they were “collaborative, open, honest, prepared to share”.

He then added, in response to a follow-up question from Huddleston, that it would be “delightful” in the future to be able to use the same words to describe the Premier League.

Lord Holmes said that some clubs had done “as good as nothing” for more than 20 years to improve access.

And he warned that the commission could take legal action under the Equality Act against individual clubs, and even against the Premier League itself, depending on the progress demonstrated in the next few months.

He said: “I don’t think we have an inclusive culture. We don’t even have a culture of compliance from Premier League clubs and the Premier League.”

The Premier League’s executive director, Bill Bush, had earlier told the committee that he could not yet name the clubs that were set to break their promise that they would meet guidelines on access laid down 13 years ago in the Accessible Stadia Guide.

The Premier League said last year that all of its clubs had promised to meet the guidelines by August 2017, but Lord Holmes told the committee that probably more than a third of the clubs would fail to meet that pledge.

Bush said he was not “hiding” the names of the clubs, but that it would not have been fair to name them at this stage because the Premier League had so far only carried out a “dipstick test” of their accessibility, which was not “definitive”.

He said the Premier League would publish a club-by-club account of progress in January.

Lord Holmes said that this refusal to release the names of individual clubs until January was “not entirely helpful”.

He also pointed to a new mobile phone app that has been launched for football fans by the Premier League, even though it was not accessible.

He said: “It clearly demonstrates that if that thinking is going on, there is no sense of an inclusive culture and there’s no sense of embracing the positive opportunity that exists here.”

Lord Holmes praised smaller clubs like Wrexham and Tranmere Rovers, both in the fifth tier of English and Welsh football, and both of which have improved access despite their grounds being more than 100 years old.

Bush claimed that Premier League clubs took the issue of access “very, very seriously” and none of them had ever said they could not afford to carry out access improvements.

He claimed that any delays were due to other factors, such as the “disruption” caused by the major building work necessary to put in lifts and viewing platforms.

20 October 2016

 

 

Huge rise in recorded hate crime, but full picture yet to emerge, say campaigners

New Home Office figures show the number of disability hate crimes recorded by police increased by more than 40 per cent last year.

The percentage increase in recorded disability hate crime by police forces across England and Wales was higher than for any other hate crime strand.

One disabled campaigner said it was “both a relief and a sadness” to see the figures, as they were beginning to show the true levels of disability hate crime but also demonstrated that years of work to encourage more disabled people to report such offences were paying off.

The Home Office figures show there were 3,629 disability hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales in 2015-16, compared with 2,515 in 2014-15 and only 1,748 in 2011-12, meaning they have more than doubled in just four years.

The Home Office said it was possible that some of the increase could be due to an increase in actual disability hate crime, but that improved reporting and recording was likely to be a factor across all the strands of hate crime, including race, religion and sexual orientation.

The London-wide Disability Hate Crime Matters initiative, aimed at increasing the reporting and recording of disability hate crime – led jointly by the Metropolitan Police and the pan-London Deaf and disabled people’s organisation Inclusion London – has seen a sharp increase in disability hate crime reported to police since it began rolling out in January.

In 2015-16, the Met recorded 357 disability hate crimes, according to the Home Office figures, almost exactly double the 178 recorded the previous year.

But the latest figures, shared with Disability News Service by the force, show an even sharper increase, from 228 in the year from September 2014 to August 2015, to 495 in the year from September 2015 to August 2016, an increase of 117 per cent.

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.

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission last month suggested that levels of disability hate crime affecting adults in England and Wales had actually fallen in the years between 2007 and 2014, from an average of 77,000 per year during the period 2007-08 to 2009-10 to an average of 56,000 per year during the period 2011-12 to 2013-14.

Despite these figures, analysis of official crime statistics by the charity Victim Support, published in April, showed that while violent crime had fallen by almost half for non-disabled people over the 10 years to 2015-16, over the same period the proportion of disabled people who were victims of violence had increased by 3.7 per cent.

The Home Office has previously been criticised for failing to take action to address disability hate crime.

In July, disabled campaigners attacked the government’s new four-year hate crime action plan for its “totally disrespectful” failure to address problems around disability-related hostility.

Anne Novis, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network and the independent chair of the Met’s disability hate crime working group, said: “Each year we are experiencing better recording of disability hate crime reports to the police.

“This has come about due to extensive work and efforts by Deaf and disabled people engaging with the police in their regions to improve responses to hate crime.”

Novis, who also leads for Inclusion London on disability hate crime, said: “When we have the opportunities to advise and communicate regularly with police officers we can influence and deliver training, change policies and processes that cause barriers for reporting, and work together on improving justice outcomes.

“In London since January 2016, due to the Disability Hate Crime Matters initiative rolling out briefings to all officers in London on disability hate crime, we have seen recorded incidents increase significantly.

“This improvement evidences what can be achieved when we, the victims, the experts on this issue, are listened to and influence the work on disability hate crime.

“Yet at the same time, we do expect increased funding to our own organisations, so we can assist victims and participate in local strategic partnerships, ensure better policies and procedures that make it easy to report hate crime, and legislation that is equal for all victims, so we all can access equality of justice on hate crime.

“We also need those in positions of influence to ensure they do nothing that perpetrates hostility or incites others to denigrate and stigmatise Deaf and disabled people, portray us a ‘fraudsters’, ‘benefit cheats’ or a ‘burden on the state’.

“The media and government representatives have given a language of ‘hate’ towards Deaf and disabled people which must not be tolerated by anyone.

“In my opinion, this language has increased the types of hostility we experience.

“We have a long way to go, a lot of work to do together between Deaf and disabled people’s organisations and the police, till the full picture of our experiences of hate crime are fully revealed in statistics.”

Stephen Brookes, another coordinator of the network, said it was “both a relief and a sadness to see the substantial increase in recorded disability hate crime in the latest government report”.

He said: “It is significant that we see an increasing confidence that disabled people both can and are reporting hate crime, which may suggest improved identification of what is and is not a hate crime in a historically low-reported category.”

But he added: “Of course we must accept that it is possible that some of the increase may be due to an escalation in actual criminal hate behaviour, which is not unexpected in an increasingly hostile society.”

He said that a third-party reporting centre he is involved with in Preston was recording an average of eight cases per month, over an 18-month period, although many of these were treated as “lower level” reports that were “noted and logged” and dealt with at a community level rather than as crimes.

Brookes said there was still a need for “far better use of the existing available elements of law to ensure full justice for disabled people”.

He pointed to the lack of consistency in sentencing by the courts and the “abysmal” use of section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act – which increases sentences for crimes involving disability-related hostility – which he said would be “almost laughable if it wasn’t so serious”.

20 October 2016

 

 

Government agrees to review ‘discriminatory’ blue badge guidance

The government has agreed to review “discriminatory” guidance that has made it almost impossible for many disabled people whose mobility is affected by mental health conditions or autism to secure a blue parking badge.

The pledge follows a legal challenge from a disabled person who had had a blue badge for 30 years, but was told by his local council earlier this year that he no longer qualified because of the new Department for Transport (DfT) guidance.

The internal review of the guidance is likely to be followed by a full public consultation, with fresh guidance issued to local authorities, DfT has said.

The guidance was issued after the introduction of personal independence payment (PIP), and advises councils how to deal with blue badge applications from disabled people who formerly claimed disability living allowance (DLA) but have now been reassessed for PIP.

Because of this guidance, disabled people who have had a blue badge for many years are now being told they no longer qualify, simply because they have moved from DLA to PIP.

After the impact of the guidance began to emerge earlier this year, the family of David*, an autistic man with learning difficulties, took legal action on his behalf against DfT and their local council.

David can easily become distressed when out in public with his personal assistant or relative and needs to be able to get back to his car quickly to avoid that distress leading to a more serious incident.

But although he has had a blue badge for three decades, his council has told him he no longer qualifies.

His lawyers, civil rights and judicial review experts Deighton Pierce Glynn, argued that DfT’s apparent failure to carry out a proper consultation on the new guidance was a breach of its public sector equality duty (PSED), under the Equality Act 2010, and was also disability discrimination.

When Disability News Service asked DfT earlier this year whether it had carried out an equality impact assessment of the new guidance, a spokesman said: “Not that I am aware of.”

DfT now appears to have backed down, stating in a letter to David’s lawyers that its blue badge policy team was carrying out an “internal” review of the guidance, involving the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Department of Health, lawyers, local authorities, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, disability organisations and mental health experts.

The DfT letter promises the review will “look at how the scheme works for people with non-physical disabilities, with a view to ensuring that equalities issues are addressed and that the scheme continues to be sustainable for disabled people”.

The letter adds: “Following the initial work, a public consultation is likely. Local authorities are also likely to need fresh guidance.”

Louise Whitfield, from Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG), said: “Although the battle continues to get my client the blue badge he so clearly needs and is entitled to, it’s a significant step forward for the government to recognise that this situation needs a thorough review.

“The changes to the rules have had a devastating impact on the lives of many disabled people like my client, and the position needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency.

“We’re therefore in the process of getting in touch with key groups, especially Deaf and disabled people’s organisations, to ensure they’re aware of the review and can get involved. More information will be available on the DPG website shortly.”

The DfT guidance, published in October 2014, states that it is only those who qualify for the standard or enhanced mobility rates of PIP under the “moving around” criteria – those with physical impairments that mean they cannot walk very far – who should automatically qualify for a blue badge.

Those who qualify for the PIP enhanced mobility rate because they have problems planning and following journeys – including many autistic people and people with mental health conditions – are no longer automatically entitled to a blue badge, as they were if they claimed the upper mobility rate of DLA for the same reasons.

The updated blue badge application form included in the guidance document has no sections in which disabled people with problems planning and following journeys can provide evidence to show why they need a blue badge.

It is likely to have taken this long for concerns to emerge because most of those affected are long-term DLA claimants with high support needs, who have only recently begun to be reassessed by DWP for their PIP eligibility.

David has lost his appeal against being turned down for a blue badge by his local council, but a case against the local authority, again arguing disability discrimination under the Equality Act, and a breach of the PSED, is continuing.

DfT had not commented on the legal case by 11am today (Thursday).

*Not his real name

20 October 2016

 

 

MPs hear of government’s failures on accessible housing

A parliamentary inquiry has been told of the government’s failure to deal with the severe shortage of accessible housing, and other problems disabled people continue to face in accessing the built environment.

The women and equalities committee yesterday (Wednesday) published written evidence it has received from more than 150 individuals and organisations as part of its ongoing disability and the built environment inquiry.

Much of this written evidence has come from disabled people and their organisations.

Bristol Disability Equality Forum told the committee that evidence “strongly suggests that the Government is failing to take adequate notice of current and future needs for accessible homes into account in its policies on increasing housing supply”.

Inclusion London told the committee that low-cost accessible housing was “in short supply”.

It warned that disabled people were “falling into serious debt because of the heavy cost of adaptations needed to make their homes accessible”.

It called for every local authority to be forced to maintain an accessible housing register, which would also record how many disabled people were waiting for accessible social housing.

And it called for all new homes to be built to the Lifetime Homes standard, with 10 per cent of all homes to be built to full wheelchair accessibility standards.

Equal Lives, a disabled people’s organisation in Norfolk, told the committee: “Accessible and affordable accommodation that facilitates independent living is difficult and sometimes impossible to find.

“The lack of in-built accessibility features means people spend large amounts of time and money to make things accessible for themselves.”

It warned that laws around accessibility were “not understood or implemented effectively” and that “too often the burden of implementation is put directly on disabled people”.

Gosport Access Group and Disability Forum said there were “serious pressures on accessible housing supply in some parts of the borough”, while in allocation of social housing, people’s accessibility needs were “over-ridden” by the need to provide some kind of roof over their head, which often resulted in them being placed in unsuitable accommodation.

It said that government policy was “geared towards promoting development, without much scrutiny of either the quality or accessibility of new buildings”.

Disability Stockport told the committee that private landlords were “exempt” from having to provide accessible rented accommodation, or improve access to the common areas of buildings in multiple ownership, which “results in many people becoming prisoners in houses they rent or even own”.

The Access Association – many of whose members are local authority access officers or access consultants – said in its evidence that government policy on accessible housing, and the number of accessible properties available, were “inadequate, inconsistent and need to be improved”.

It called for the Equality Act to be amended so that it was not disabled people’s responsibility to enforce their right to an accessible and inclusive built environment.

Leicester Disabled People’s Access Group warned that access in the city was deteriorating.

In its written evidence to the committee, it said that “while previously we worked for improvement in existing and new built environment, the group now feels it is struggling to prevent deterioration in access within the city – a situation we find unacceptable in 21st Century Britain”.

Independent Lives, a user-led disability organisation based in West Sussex and Hampshire, said disabled people were “not consulted with often enough in the decision making process around the built environment”.

It added: “Government and building regulators need to realise the importance of listening to the voices of disabled people when planning and building community spaces.”

Darlington Association on Disability said that accessibility appeared to be “looked upon as a problem that designers consider last, which results in poor accessible design”, while it was “also the first thing that designers look at when looking for ways to reduce costs”.

In its evidence to the committee, Stirling Access Panel said that planning permission for new and modified buildings was “repeatedly” granted by its local council even though those buildings contained “designed barriers” that made it “impossible for disabled people to use them or live in them”.

Cllr Douglas Johnson, a Green member of Sheffield City Council, former equality rights supervisor at Sheffield Law Centre, and now with discrimination law experts Unity Law, said he believed that council planning officers needed stronger powers to tackle developers that failed to offer accessible design in their buildings.

Many submissions to the committee came from blind and partially-sighted people, and their organisations, raising concerns about the growing number of shared space street developments.

Lord Holmes, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s disability commissioner, providing evidence in a personal capacity, said he had been campaigning against shared space schemes.

He said he “strongly” believed that such schemes “cause barriers for blind and other pedestrians by removing safety features and excluding people from the public realm”.

Inclusion Scotland said it had “serious concerns over the implications of the Shared Surface and Shared Space design for disabled, blind and partially sighted people”.

Mike Brace, former chair of ParalympicsGB, said that shared space schemes were “dangerous”.

He also told the committee that pavement areas were “increasingly becoming hazardous and difficult to navigate”.

He said: “As a guide dog user for the past six years, and a white cane user for 50 years prior to that, I have been acutely aware of how difficult it has become to navigate safely and independently throughout London.

“One of the main reasons for getting a guide dog after 50 years of using a cane, was the deterioration in the built environment, especially pavement areas and street maintenance.”

Angela Cavill-Burch, from Peterborough, submitted evidence about the problems she and her husband – who uses an electric wheelchair – had faced in trying to find safe, accessible housing.

She said they had been “living in a very dangerous situation since 2009, and seem to only hit brick walls whenever we try to help ourselves”, and had only had three inappropriate properties to look at from the council’s housing list since 2010.

She said: “Having looked at list after list it is quite obvious that Peterborough does not have any specialised housing stock for disabled people who have such substantial needs that they have care workers on site for much of the day.”

Cavill-Burch said that she repeatedly sees new bungalows being built with “absolutely no regard to accessibility”.

She added: “I see stepped accesses, narrow corridors, tiny rooms. Everything to prevent an electric wheelchair user from buying or renting that property.”

20 October 2016

 

 

Disabled musician ‘faces discrimination and abuse from other buskers’

A disabled busker has been forced to complain to the police and his local council after being verbally abused by other buskers, and even being attacked by one of their children.

Guy Stewart, an experienced singer, saxophonist and harmonica player, has been trying to establish himself in the city of Bath since moving to the area for family reasons.

But he says he has faced discrimination and abuse from a small minority of buskers, who refused to allow him to play in the best slots in the city centre throughout the summer, and misled him about the system they used to share out the pitches.

He said: “There are good pitches that bring in more money, but after a month of not being able to get even an hour on a good pitch I started to make further enquiries about how I could.

“Due to my condition, I can only work up to three hours a day, so every minute counts.

“I was told at least three different stories and after further questioning I was met with verbal abuse, intimidation and even an assault.”

The assault took place when a female busker encouraged her daughter – who he thinks was aged seven or eight – to hit him over the head with one of her toys as he sat on his scooter, and only told her to stop when he doubled over in pain.

Stewart’s impairment means he is sensitive to nerve pain in certain parts of his body, which he says can be “excruciating”.

On another occasion, last month, a male busker came up and screamed abuse at him, while he says other disabled buskers have also faced abuse.

Disability News Service (DNS) has also seen a YouTube video posted on the site three years ago, which shows one city centre busker launching a tirade of abuse at a disabled singer.

Most buskers have been “supportive, helpful and friendly”, says Stewart, but a minority have not.

He has now been forced to ask both the council and Bath police for help.

He said: “I believe I have a right to earn a living; some of the buskers in Bath deliberately took that away from me.

“They deprived me, a disabled guy in a wheelchair, of my right to earn an honest living as a musician.

“My disability was viewed as a weakness and exploited.”

He added: “By lying to me and not letting me work as I wanted to in the summer months of August and September, I don’t have the money now saved up to help me through the winter, so I have to risk real health problems, because I have coronary heart disease, by working outside in the winter.”

He says he has been “purposely excluded from getting time on the street pitches” at the regular 10am meetings at which slots for the day are shared out among the buskers.

A Bath and North East Somerset Council spokeswoman said the allegations were “concerning”.

She said: “A representative from the council’s environmental protection team has spoken to the man in question about his concerns.

“We have referred his allegations of anti-social behaviour on to the police and we understand they have been in touch with him directly.

“We have also spoken to the buskers’ representative, who works with the council, and we have passed his telephone number and address on to the man in question, so he can seek further advice.”

The council does not organise pitches for busking in Bath, but has previously published a code of conduct, after working with buskers, Bath Abbey and the Bath Improvement District, which the spokeswoman said “we expect everyone to work to”.

Although the council does not run the pitches, the code says that its officers can be sent out to investigate concerns about breaches of the code, with the possibility that they can issue verbal and written warnings and then – if the busker still fails to abide by the code – a community protection notice under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and the possibility of legal action.

After DNS raised his concerns with the council last week, Stewart says the buskers appear to have changed their system to “one that is fair and equitable to everybody, and the people who have been doing the abusing and intimidation have left”.

He said: “I feel very strongly that as a disabled person I should stand up and confront any abuse of any kind, whether that person is disabled or not.

“If nepotism, cronyism and exclusion are systems that go unchallenged, then these sort of events will eventually happen.

“To date, my efforts may have brought some changes, as from this weekend there is less tension.”

He added: “My hope is that the city council make some changes, instigating a fair and equal pitch allocation system for all, and support the buskers of Bath who help bring in tourists while livening up the streets with world-class musicians, plus generating income for the city.”

Anyone interested in joining a new group Stewart wants to set up to support disabled musicians can contact him through his website

20 October 2016

 

 

Arts Council scheme should boost disabled arts leaders

The Arts Council has announced that it is to spend more than £2.5 million on a programme that aims to increase the number of disabled people in senior leadership roles in England’s arts and cultural organisations.

The £2.57 million Change Makers programme, which is also aimed at black and minority ethnic potential leaders, will provide bursaries to fund training placements for nine disabled leaders.

Arts Council England (ACE) hopes the bursaries will allow them to gain the necessary experience, knowledge, skills and confidence to compete for future posts as artistic directors, chief executives or other senior positions.

One of the disabled people who has secured a grant is artist and arts leader Jess Thom, already well-known through her performing alter ego Touretteshero.

She will work with Battersea Arts Centre on an 18-month senior leadership training and development placement, where she will pilot a “relaxed venue” that will take “an inclusive approach at every level”, work on a major new production that will premiere next autumn, and curate a week-long “relaxed festival” at the arts centre in spring 2018.

Amit Sharma, currently associate director of the disabled-led theatre company Graeae, will join The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester as associate artistic director for 18 months, where he will direct two productions, and join the theatre’s senior management team.

Hannah Kayi Mason, an emerging black and disabled leader in the visual arts, will work with The Art House and other artists and arts organisations on a series of co-productions and solo projects.

Another of the nine is James Rose, who has secured a training placement at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO), with the help of a private donation.

Over 18 months, from June 2017, he will create, curate and direct a new ensemble of disabled and non-disabled musicians, which he will conduct, and which will deliver a series of performances and workshops across the region.

Rose, who uses a head-baton to conduct, said: “The prospect of developing a new ensemble for the BSO comprising of players with and without disabilities is an exciting one.

“This will not only provide a platform for new talented musicians, but it will also be used as a vehicle to inspire those who have disabilities to engage with classical music – whether it be playing or listening.”

Abid Hussain, ACE’s diversity director, said: “We’re committed to ensuring the diversity of England is better reflected at a leadership level across the arts and cultural sector.

“Through our Change Makers programme, these 20 disabled and black and minority ethnic leaders will have an inspiring and transformational opportunity to realise their leadership potential, giving them the confidence and the experience to take their next step into a senior leadership role, helping to shape the future of our sector.”

20 October 2016 

 

 

Council criticised for excluding disabled people from consultation group

A local authority has been heavily criticised for introducing new ways of consulting on disability issues that will exclude most disabled people from taking part.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council previously ran a disability advisory and monitoring group (DAMG) which allowed disability groups and disabled campaigners to pass on their views about issues of concern.

But following a review, the council – which ran the group alongside the local clinical commissioning group and NHS trust – has now scrapped DAMG and replaced it with a new group that will allow only official representatives of disability organisations to attend.

As nearly all of those organisations are not user-led organisations, there are concerns that the new disability advisory group (DAG) will exclude many disabled people from making their views known to the three public bodies.

The list of organisations invited to the first meeting appear to show that as few as two of 32 of them are disabled people’s user-led organisations, while about half are national disability charities.

Catherine Scarlett, a disabled activist who lives in the area and previously attended DAMG meetings, said she was appalled by the changes, and believed the council had wanted to stop her and other disabled people raising their concerns about the barriers they faced in accessing council and NHS services.

She said: “People like me believe passionately in self-advocacy and are perfectly able to know what should be happening, what the barriers are that we face, and what solutions can be effective in removing them.

“I was absolutely horrified that we are now being excluded and don’t even have any mechanism for bringing problems forward for consultation.

“It seems to be an incredibly regressive step to move from consulting with disabled people to deciding that other people are better placed to speak for us – it is like going back into the Dark Ages.”

In an email to two of her local councillors, Scarlett said: “The council have a duty under the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010 to consult with disabled people – not able-bodied representatives of disability organisations but actual disabled people!

“You wouldn’t have a group sorting out women’s issues that was only populated by men so it is not acceptable for able-bodied people to speak for disabled people.”

Mark Baggley, a direct payments worker with Choices and Rights Disability Coalition, which is based in Hull but also covers the East Riding area, said his organisation was “concerned” about the council’s plans.

He said the coalition, a user-led disabled people’s organisation, was only notified about the decision to replace DAMG with DAG last week, and will now discuss whether it will take part in the new set-up.

Baggley said there were very few user-led groups in the East Riding area, and added: “We are concerned about it. These people have been involved. Why suddenly exclude them?

“Some disabled people have put a lot of input, a lot of time, into it. I think it’s quite insulting to exclude them.”

He said East Riding council had never supported or funded the coalition, which was funded mostly by Hull City Council.

East Riding council has been unable to say how many of the groups being invited to DAG are run and controlled by disabled people.

A council spokesman said: “The council rejects the suggestion that the creation of DAG is due to criticism of the authority or its partners; far from it.

“The council continues to welcome all forms of feedback, including that which is critical, as this can help both the council and its partners to identify areas for improvement.

“The main driver behind the change was that we were often hearing individual issues facing the members of DAMG, but had no way of knowing if these issues were experienced by others or if they were particular to that person’s situation.

“By creating a strategic level group, we will hear the voices of many and can see overarching trends and issues facing people.

“For individual concerns, the partner organisations all have methods for reporting concerns or complaints and the most direct and easiest route for individuals to raise concerns is through their councillor.”

He said that DAG’s “effectiveness” would be monitored “to ensure that we are hearing the voices of those effected by service changes and emerging trends at both a local and national level”, while its membership would “evolve through a continual search for representative organisations” and any groups that were not represented.

He claimed that DAG would “strengthen” the council’s commitment to the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty, “particularly its ‘duty of enquiry’, which requires public authorities to have an adequate evidence base for their decision making”.

20 October 2016

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com