Concern over Mordaunt’s ‘troubling’ appointment as disability minister

Disabled activists say they are “deeply concerned” by the “troubling” decision to appoint an outspoken supporter of legalising assisted suicide as the new minister for disabled people.

Penny Mordaunt was appointed minister for disabled people, health and work, in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) this week after the sacking of Justin Tomlinson.

In an expanded brief – and at the level of minister of state, rather than junior minister – she will have responsibility for a string of divisive policy areas, including employment and support allowance (ESA), the government’s Disability Confident employment campaign, and personal independence payment, as well as for cross-government disability issues.

But Mordaunt is a long-term advocate for changing the law to allow assisted suicide, an issue that will cause deep concern among large parts of the disabled people’s movement.

In 2010 she was appointed to the Commission on Assisted Dying, which was criticised for its bias after it was set up by the pro-assisted suicide charity Dignity in Dying with money from author Terry Pratchett and River island founder Bernard Lewis, both supporters of legalisation, and chaired by the Labour peer Lord Falconer, also a supporter of legalisation.

Mordaunt, a former director of the charity Diabetes UK, made it clear on her appointment to the commission that she was in favour of changing the law to allow assisted suicide, telling her local newspaper in Portsmouth: “My personal view is that assisted dying should be allowed for the terminally-ill.”

She was also founding chair of the pro-legalisation All-Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, for which Dignity in Dying – formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society – provides secretarial support.

Mordaunt’s appointment is causing alarm and shock among disabled people and their organisations.

Brian Hilton, campaigns officer for Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), said: “GMCDP is deeply concerned by the appointment of Penny Mordaunt MP as the new minister for disabled people.

“The minister is a well-known supporter of legalising assisted suicide, which is opposed by all leading disabled people’s organisations in the UK.

“At a time when disabled people are still facing huge cuts to their support, services and benefits we need a minister who is willing to champion our right to live.”

Journalist and presenter Mik Scarlet, a prominent member of the disabled people’s campaign network Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK), which opposes assisted suicide, said her appointment was “very troubling”.

He accepted that some disabled people were in favour of a change in the law, but he said Mordaunt’s strong support for legalisation meant that she should withdraw from the debate around assisted suicide or resign from her new post.

He said: “She can’t represent the people she is meant to be representing if she continues to have an outspoken view on something which a large percentage of the disabled community are not in favour of.

“It’s another example of a government that doesn’t understand disability trying to claim it represents us, and it just doesn’t.”

Another disabled activist and anti-euthanasia campaigner, Deborah Caulfield, said Mordaunt’s appointment was “bad news”.

She said: “It fills me with dread. I don’t see how she can consider herself a friend of disabled people.”

Caulfield said she believed Mordaunt’s role as minister, to support people to lead fulfilling lives, was “incompatible” with “arguing about making provision for people to end their lives early on the basis that they are severely disabled and need lots of help”.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokeswoman said that Mordaunt’s views on legalising assisted suicide were “an issue of individual conscience and a matter for parliament”.

Despite a private members’ bill proposed by the Labour MP Rob Marris being heavily defeated in a Commons vote last September – although Mordaunt did not vote – the Tory peer and former MP Lord Hayward, treasurer of Dignity in Dying, launched another push for legalisation last month by introducing a new assisted dying bill in the House of Lords.

Meanwhile, work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb has left the government and has been replaced by former home office minister Damian Green, while employment minister Priti Patel has been promoted to international development secretary, with her role – minus responsibility for ESA and issues of “health and work” – taken by Damian Hinds, who was formerly exchequer secretary to the Treasury.

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud, one of the most divisive members of the department among disabled activists, has kept his ministerial job, although he will be joined by Caroline Nokes in a new post, minister for welfare delivery.

When asked whether Crabb’s plans to publish a green paper this year on supporting disabled people into employment were still on course, a DWP spokeswoman said: “Government business continues as normal.

“We will provide further detail on forthcoming announcements in due course.”

The Department of Health has yet to announce its new minister for social care, although health secretary Jeremy Hunt has retained his post.

The government frontbench will include at least two disabled ministers, with Paul Maynard appointed as a junior transport minister – in charge of the rail system – and Robert Halfon, previously a cabinet minister without portfolio and the first MP to hire a parliamentary apprentice, appointed as minister of state for apprentices and skills in the Department for Education.

Maynard appeared before the transport select committee yesterday (20 July), just three days after his appointment, to give evidence on the experience of rail passengers.

Justine Greening, previously international development secretary, replaces Nicky Morgan as education secretary and minister for women and equalities.

Last month, Greening announced on Twitter that she was in a same-sex relationship, becoming the first openly gay female cabinet minister.

21 July 2016



Cockroft’s fear of PIP reassessment and losing independence as she heads for Rio

One of Britain’s biggest stars from the London 2012 Paralympics has said she is “scared” that she will lose her independence when she is reassessed for the government’s new disability benefit.

Wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft has yet to be assessed for personal independence payment (PIP), which was launched by the government the year after London 2012 with the aim of cutting spending on working-age disability living allowance (DLA) by 20 per cent.

Cockroft, who won two track gold medals at London 2012 and is going for three in Rio, told Disability News Service (DNS) that she dreads the reassessment, the possibility of having her support cut, and potentially losing the car she leases through the Motability scheme as a claimant of the higher rate mobility component of DLA.

She said: “I haven’t yet been hit by PIP, I haven’t been called up for my assessment, but honestly, it scares me.

“If I don’t have my car I will lose everything, I will lose my independence.

“I know people will say, ‘Oh, you can afford a car, you can afford this, you can afford that,’ but the truth of the matter is that I am a Paralympian so I don’t actually make enough money to even move out of my parents’ house. I can’t live without my car.”

Speaking on Saturday (16 July), as she and many of the rest of the ParalympicsGB team took part in media interviews, and prepared to enjoy a celebratory team dinner in London before the final countdown to the Rio games, which begin on 7 September, Cockroft said: “Honestly, it scares me.

“The fact that I am a Paralympian makes it worse because you are selling yourself on things you can do.

“They know what you can do, they see it on telly, they see it every day, they think that you’re maybe more able than you are.”

Like many tens of thousands of other disabled people with physical impairments, she fears the tighter eligibility criteria under PIP which mean that claimants only qualify for the enhanced mobility rate – and therefore entitlement to lease a Motability car – if they are unable to walk more than 20 metres, rather than 50 metres under DLA.

She said: “I am strong pushing a wheelchair, but ask me to walk down the street and I’m probably going to land on my face in about two minutes, but not in 30 metres, depending on where we are.”

When told by DNS of last week’s story, which quoted Motability’s own figures showing that 35,000 disabled people are expected to lose their vehicles this year as a result of being reassessed for PIP, she said: “It breaks my heart, it absolutely breaks my heart.”

Cockroft said she understands that some people are “playing the system” but she points to her boyfriend, Sam Ruddock, a fellow Paralympic athlete, who has cerebral palsy and has even been turned down for a blue parking badge.

She said: “He can’t even get a blue badge because on a sunny day when he hadn’t trained and he was walking on a flat piece of ground, they said he was too able.

“But what happens when it’s snowing, or it’s wet and he has to walk over uneven ground and he’s had a heavy day walking, and he’s tired? What happens then? Apparently that doesn’t count.

“He just tried to get a blue badge to make life a little bit easier and he didn’t get it. How can you not be disabled if you’re a Paralympian?”

21 July 2016



Delayed UN examination of UK government ‘will take place next year’

Disabled people’s organisations and grassroots groups are set to call on disabled people across England to provide the evidence they need to prepare a “hard-hitting” report on the government’s failure to implement the UN disability convention.

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) has announced that it will put together a “shadow report” to submit to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD).

It emerged this week that the committee is set to hold its delayed public examination of the UK government’s progress on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) next year, the first time the UK has been examined since the Labour government ratified the convention in 2009.

The examination has been delayed partly by a separate, continuing inquiry by the committee into allegations of “systematic and grave” violations of disabled people’s human rights by the UK government, an inquiry triggered by Disabled People Against Cuts, one of ROFA’s members.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said this week that it understands that a pre-sessional working group – in which CRPD meets to decide on the list of subjects that will be discussed at a country’s public examination – would discuss the UK’s case next spring.

In this week’s response to a report by peers on how the Equality Act has affected disabled people, the commission also refers to “next year’s examination of the UK” under the UNCRPD.

EHRC is working with the other members of what is known as the UK’s “independent mechanism” on the convention – the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, and the Scottish Human Rights Commission – to produce their own shadow report.

It is also spending £100,000 to fund Disability Rights UK and Disability Wales to write a shadow report covering England and Wales, and to fund Inclusion Scotland and other Scottish disabled people’s organisations to produce a shadow report for Scotland.

Non-governmental organisations are invited to submit shadow reports – alternatives to a government’s own report on its convention progress – to CRPD for consideration before it carries out a public examination of a country’s record.

ROFA’s members wrote their own shadow report 18 months ago, but because of the delay caused by the inquiry into the UK’s alleged violations of the convention, now needs to prepare an updated version.

ROFA is hoping that its report will draw on evidence from an informal network of about 40,000 disabled people who are linked to its member organisations – which include Equal Lives, Disabled People Against Cuts, Inclusion London and Sisters of Frida – and is likely to put out a call for evidence later this summer.

Tara Flood, chief executive of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, another ROFA member, said the shadow report would be “incredibly important” and would need to be “very hard-hitting” because the committee’s examination would “set the benchmark” for CRPD’s future scrutiny of the UK government.

She said: “What we are planning to produce will be equally robust as the one we drafted 18 months ago.

“What it will be clear about is the evidence of the disproportionate impact [of the government’s policies] on disabled people of all ages.”

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said the alliance’s “grassroots” shadow report would be important because it would “solely reflect the views and experiences of disabled people and Deaf and disabled people’s organisations (DDPOs) on the ground and minimise the risks of diluting these experiences and views because our report will not need to be agreed with other organisations and non-DDPOs who may have different agendas”.

She said the report would “build on the extensive data we collected in autumn 2014 and use the same extensive network of disabled people and DDPOs”.

A UN spokeswoman said: “There is as yet no information regarding when the committee will conduct its delayed review of the UK.”

21 July 2016



Drop in Access to Work numbers shows DWP ‘is strangling the scheme’

The government is facing calls for a “fundamental rethink” of its approach to Access to Work (AtW), after new figures showed the number of disabled people receiving support through the employment scheme fell last year.

At its peak, in 2009-10, under the last Labour government, AtW was supporting more than 37,000 disabled people a year, but this plunged under the coalition to 30,780 by 2011-12.

In the following three years, the number of claimants slowly climbed back towards its peak, but the figures released this week show they fell again last year, from 36,780 in 2014-15 to 36,470 in 2015-16, with the numbers of existing and new claimants both falling.

The government has said that Access to Work is crucial to achieving its promise to halve the disability employment gap, and has pledged to spend about £123 million a year on the scheme by 2020, compared to about £100 million presently, supporting an extra 25,000 people a year.

But Deaf and disabled campaigners have consistently warned of the “weekly battles” many claimants are facing to continue receiving support through the scheme.

Ellen Clifford, a spokeswoman for the StopChanges2ATW campaign, said the new figures were “of little surprise”.

She said: “At the StopChanges2ATW campaign we continue to hear on a weekly basis about the battles individual Deaf and disabled people are facing and what some are describing as ‘willful incompetence’, with forms continuously lost, resulting in delayed payments.”

She said Access to Work was “extremely effective” and had been shown to make a profit for the Treasury.

But she said that the way it was being run was adding “an additional layer of difficulties on top of the everyday workplace discrimination and barriers to employment that Deaf and disabled people face”.

She said: “There is a clear ideological position underpinning this approach which considers that anyone accessing taxpayer’s money should have to continually and extensively justify their need for it while [the government tries] to reduce individual awards.

“All of this is counter-productive to a disability employment support programme that works.

“If the government are serious about halving the disability employment gap and improving the reach of Access to Work then they should start listening to Deaf and disabled people and rethink their fundamental approach to it.”

Disabled activist David Gillon said that for the AtW figures to drop at the same time the government was reporting more disabled people moving into work “strongly suggests that employers are cherry-picking those disabled people with minor restrictions on working and that those with more fundamental access issues remain as excluded from the workplace as ever, if not more so”.

He said the figures showed that the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) “ever increasing bureaucracy around AtW, and a bureaucracy aimed at restricting claims, not enabling them, is having an ever more strangling effect on the scheme”.

Gillon said that he and other disabled activists with a focus on employment issues have long argued that the government’s Disability Confident campaign – which urges employers to “see the ability, not the disability” – is “simply encouraging employers not to consider the access needs of disabled potential employees”.

He said: “These new AtW figures would seem to confirm that this is now happening.”

And he said that the only possible explanations for a fall in AtW claimants nearly two years into a period of post-recession growth were either “incompetence or design”.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 3.335 million disabled people in jobs in the first quarter of 2016, an increase of about 120,000 on the same period in 2015.

Gillon said: “That the Tories took a benefit that actually showed a 1.4:1 return on investment, slashed it, and continue to make it harder than ever to access, suggests that they continue to hold a deep-seated ideological contempt for the scheme and the idea of supporting disabled people into work, even when it should make substantial sums of money for the Treasury if left to flourish unhindered.”

A DWP spokeswoman said there had been a fall of less than one per cent in the number of AtW users and the department was “continuing to work with jobcentres, businesses and local organisations to promote the scheme”.

She said: “As the scheme is demand-led, the figures reflect this and therefore vary year on year.”

She said the figures showed an increase in the number of people with hearing and sight impairments, learning difficulties and mental health conditions claiming AtW, as well as record numbers of AtW recipients aged between 16 and 24.

She said: “The spending review in the autumn announced a real-terms increase in funding, starting in 2016-17, to raise numbers helped by this demand-led service by 25,000 by the end of the parliament.

“In order to meet this commitment, we are promoting the scheme through Disability Confident, as well as working with jobcentres, businesses and local organisations to increase awareness.

“We’re committed to closing the disability employment gap: just last week the government accepted all of Paul Maynard MP’s recommendations on improving accessibility of apprenticeships [to people with learning difficulties].

“This includes better promotion of Access to Work to these groups.”

21 July 2016



ROFA’s conference hears call to build a stronger alliance

A campaigning alliance has called for disabled people and their organisations to join its fight to use the UN disability convention to defend attacks on their rights by the UK government.

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) was holding its third national conference in the five years since it was founded by a small group of disabled people’s organisation (DPOs) and grassroots groups.

Last week’s conference was attended by more than 50 representatives of DPOs and groups.

The conference heard that ROFA had campaigned over the last year on issues such as cuts to Access to Work; the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund; cuts to employment and support allowance and personal independence payment; proposals to legalise assisted suicide; and the government’s planned cuts and reforms to disabled students’ allowance.

Over the next year, ROFA will continue to campaign on welfare reform, independent living, disability hate crime, employment and education.

This will include campaigning on the social care funding crisis; developing a disabled-led vision for independent living; continuing to campaign against Department for Work and Pensions contractors Atos, Maximus and Capita; and developing a vision for community and welfare support that delivers choice and control to disabled people.

Tara Flood, chief executive of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, one of ROFA’s founding members, told the conference: “It feels like the movement is coming together in a way we haven’t seen before.”

But she said there was still a need to “strengthen and broaden our movement”.

And she said: “ROFA isn’t going to be rich anytime soon, but we are rich in terms of experience and history and commitment to disability rights.”

Flood called for more to be done to find and work with younger disabled people.

She said: “I worry about the cumulative impact on disabled young people of austerity as they move into adult life.

“Children’s services are far from perfect, but the reality is things are being decimated.”

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said the conference – which was hosted by Disability Sheffield, with the venue at Sheffield town hall provided free by Sheffield City Council – was “a real achievement”.

He said: “When we lost UKDPC [the UK Disabled People’s Council], when that collapsed, DPOs and disabled people didn’t have a national voice in England, and now we do.

“Change starts from us, it’s not going to come from anywhere else.

“We need to build inclusive, diverse disabled people’s organisations and we cannot do it at a local level, that’s why we need ROFA, a national voice of DPOs in England, to join our voices with those of the representative voices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

He said this would provide a “real voice to fight for the UN [disability] convention” and use it “as a weapon” against a government that “tries to take our rights away”.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said there was a need to build the alliance, despite there being no funding to do so, and added: “We have a big informal membership but we need to formalise it.”

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, pointed to comments made by Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who said in May at the launch of Beresford’s book All Our Welfare: “We know the media is hostile to the kind of values we have.”

Beresford told the conference: “We must have conversations with each other, we need to think of ourselves as kind of Jehovah’s Witnesses and have the confidence to go and talk to people and tell them our truths.”

Simone Aspis, from Changing Perspectives, said she was concerned about the risk of disabled people’s campaigns working too closely with left-wing political groups and unions, which might not understand or support vital issues such as inclusive education.

She said: “It’s really important that when we work with allies we are really clear, nothing is left unsaid, because anything left unsaid is maintaining the status quo unless we challenge it.”

Andrew Lee, from People First (Self Advocacy), said: “It’s important that local groups come together.

“It’s really important that we have the alliance coming together so that we can build up our strength and give ourselves some confidence.”

Roger Lewis, from the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said there was a “huge amount of fear” among disabled people about how they were being targeted, which meant there was a need to be “united and strong” in the face of “any attempt to divide us or any other group that could be scapegoated”.

After the conference, Andrew Crooks, development and engagement worker for Disability Sheffield Centre for Independent Living, which helped organise the event, as it did last year, said: “We feel it’s important for local disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to feel part of the collective voice of disabled people and we truly value the idea behind ROFA, where disabled people can unite and defend our rights together.

“They say there is strength in numbers and that is true but for disabled people in Sheffield and all over the UK I think disabled people need to know they are all in this together and can at least seek strength from other like-minded people.”

He said that Disability Sheffield feels that it is “fire-fighting” and is “constantly hearing from disabled people who are in fear of their very existence” and “really fear for their basic rights”.

He said disabled people were facing the pressures of losing benefits through the government’s personal independence payment reforms, concerns about the work capability assessment, and problems with discrimination at work and access to the built environment.

Crooks said: “In Sheffield I think we are now beginning to see the effect of swingeing austerity cuts where Sheffield City Council, with a 50 per cent loss in government support, is now taking its toll on disabled people in relation to social care.”

He said there were about 200 people in Sheffield who lost their access to the Independent Living Fund after it was closed and now “see no guarantees of being able to live their lives the way they need to”.

He said: “The feeling in our city is that there are moves back to more institutionalised methods of care and people are fearful it’s beginning to affect their ways of living.”

Disability Sheffield’s chair, Kate Whittaker, a public law solicitor who has taken high-profile legal cases in areas such as community care, disability discrimination and human rights, said: “It’s more important than ever for us to work collaboratively all over the UK where we can campaign for stronger rights, build the capacity of DPOs to deliver vital services like advocacy and support with direct payments, and tackle the barriers disabled people face to equality and full inclusion in society.”

21 July 2016



EHRC earns cautious approval for response to Equality Act report

The equality watchdog has earned cautious approval for its response to recommendations made by a House of Lords committee that examined the impact of the Equality Act on disabled people.

The committee concluded earlier this year that the government was failing to protect disabled people from discrimination, and that there were problems with laws designed to address disability discrimination in “almost every part of society”.

Last week, the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who was a member of the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee throughout its nine-month inquiry, said she was “bitterly disappointed and angry” with the government’s response to the report, which she said was a “wasted opportunity to kick-start a progressive equality agenda for the UK’s 11 million disabled people”.

This week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) delivered its own response to the report, including eight recommendations that call for it to take action itself.

Of those eight recommendations, it accepted two, but also accepted four more “in principle”, and rejected two.

Although it turned down a call to work with local and national disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) to raise awareness of disabled people’s rights under the Equality Act, it agreed to explore with DPOs an effective way to raise awareness of “rights and responsibilities”.

It also said it would work with DPOs to consider how best to promote the use of reasonable adjustments.

But the commission rejected outright a recommendation to return stronger powers to its disability committee, which is due to have its statutory decision-making powers removed next April, and also declined to work with disabled people and their organisations to co-produce a major “disability-specific action plan”, because it said disability was already “embedded” in its programme of work.

David Isaac, the commission’s new chair, who was appointed by the government, said the report showed that progress on achieving disability rights had “stalled”, and he demanded a new national focus on disability rights so that disabled people were no longer treated as “second class citizens”.

He called on the government to show stronger leadership by introducing the remaining parts of the Equality Act that have yet to be implemented, including those on dual discrimination; access to ships; common areas of rented blocks of flats; access to buses and coaches; and the requirement for political parties to report on the diversity of their candidates.

And he said that service-providers such as restaurants, theatres, concert venues and sports stadia must “raise their game” on access.

He said: “It is a badge of shame for our society that thousands of disabled people are still not being treated as equal citizens and the everyday rights non-disabled people take for granted, such as being able to access transport, housing, restaurants, theatres and sporting events, are still being denied.”

He said EHRC itself must “use its position to bring people together”.

And he pointed to work the commission has already announced it will carry out this year, including helping to prepare a shadow report to the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities; investigating the impact of government welfare reforms on disabled people; and launching a major inquiry into disabled people’s housing.

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) welcomed the commission’s commitment to work with disabled people and their organisations, and Isaac’s comments.

A DR UK spokesperson said: “We look forward to working with the commission to ensure that the full participation of disabled people is central to their overall work for a fairer, inclusive Britain.

“However, there is still a huge question about how the commission will be led and steered in its disability work once the disability committee comes to the end of its life in March 2017.

“Also, the commission has accepted some of the House of Lords’ recommendations ‘in principle’ – and we will want to see more clarity about what ‘in principle’ agreement will really mean.

“For instance, how will disabled people be informed of their rights in practice?”

Disabled campaigner Doug Paulley, who gave evidence to the committee about how the system failed to protect disabled people from discrimination, said he was pleasantly surprised at how well the commission had engaged with the committee’s recommendations.

He has previously been critical of the commission, which he believes has been left “ineffective and rudderless”, but he said it had “engaged with the issues in detail and with some thought”.

He said: “Doubtless it will continue to largely not use the powers afforded to it; doubtless too it is underpowered by the government’s failure to behave responsibly or reasonably, and by limited resources.

“But I think there is at least some hope, some potential shown in the report, that they could start to change some elements of their ethos and operation.”

Baroness Deech, who chaired the committee, said she found the commission’s response “really quite positive” and said that it was a “platform to build on” and showed a “spirit of willing to get on with this”, while it was “definitely more positive than the government’s”.

She said there would be a House of Lords debate on the committee’s report in early September, and promised that she and her committee colleagues would “certainly be standing up as individuals for more action”.

Baroness Deech also said she hoped that she could persuade the new minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening – who replaced the sacked Nicky Morgan, who was responsible for the government’s response – to “look again” at the report’s findings.

21 July 2016



Funding drought ‘shows up discrimination faced by BME groups’

Organisations that represent disabled people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities face blatant and widespread discrimination at the hands of local and national government, according to a leading campaigner.

Julie Jaye Charles, chief executive of Equalities National Council (ENC), said she believed the discrimination showed itself through the failure of local and central government to fund organisations like hers.

She said: “There is a discriminatory imbalance of power. Discrimination we know is not about calling each other names.

“If you feel you are being discriminated against and you see a community is being discriminated against and your organisation is being discriminated against, it’s racism, it’s discrimination, full stop.

“I will shout to the rooftops about that, because it’s unfair.”

She said she believed that at least 60 small BME disabled people’s organisations had been forced to close because of funding cuts, while she could name only a couple of small, local groups that were still operating: the Disabled Asian Women’s Network and Waltham Forest Black People’s Mental Health Association.

She spoke out this week as a House of Lords event – hosted by Baroness Uddin and organised by ENC and the charity Include Me TOO – was set to highlight the problem.

Lord [Chris] Holmes, the disabled Tory peer and disability commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was due to speak at last night’s (20 July) event.

Jaye Charles said she hoped the meeting would provide impetus to set up an all-party parliamentary group on BME disabled people.

She said it was time to have the conversation about why BME organisations were struggling for funding, and she said she was “appalled” at what she saw as “openly discrimintory practices”.

She said: “It is time for us to have an open discussion on why BME organisations are closing rapidly up and down the country in England and Wales, due to lack of recognition and lack of power to continue to fight their cause for the most vulnerable they serve.”

Parmi Dheensa, chief executive of Include Me TOO, said that “substantial resources” had been invested in improving services and support for disabled children and young people and their families.

But she said the needs of BME disabled children, young people and families had been “overlooked”, which further increased the difficulties they faced.

Jaye Charles pointed to statistics from 2011 which showed there were nearly 900,000 BME disabled people in England, a figure she believes is certain to be an under-estimate, while in her own local authority, Newham, there were nearly 26,000.

ENC supports disabled people across housing, employment, further education, social security, health and social care and immigration.

They come to ENC, she said, because they don’t have the funding to access legal support and yet cannot afford to feed their families.

Last year, after she won a lifetime achievement award for her work with disabled people from BME communities – she set up ENC and first ran it from her front room in 1997, but she hasn’t been paid for her work since 2007 – she said she hoped to set up a food bank just for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.

ENC has been in talks with the food poverty charity The Trussell Trust, and Jaye Charles said she will soon be able to launch the service.

Her organisation still receives regular referrals from well-funded organisations that rely on its expertise with BME disabled people, she said, even though ENC has no council funding itself.

ENC has just won a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contract to help employment and support allowance claimants who are not working well with their Jobcentre Plus offices – which will see them using DWP’s Flexible Support Fund – into jobs through the Work Programme.

Jaye Charles said DWP has promised that the project will be rolled out across the country if it proves successful.

21 July 2016



No confidence that SCIE report will see Care Act turnaround in Norfolk

A report commissioned following concerns raised by disabled people that their local authority was breaching its duties under the Care Act will do little to help because it fails to address drastic cuts to social care funding, say campaigners.

Norfolk County Council (NCC) had asked the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) to review its implementation of the 2014 Care Act after the disabled people’s organisation Equal Lives accused it of “reckless behaviour” that had left disabled people prisoners in their own homes.

Equal Lives had accused the Conservative-majority council of a “systemic failure” to meet its legal duties under the act.

But although the report by SCIE – an improvement support agency that was originally set up by the Labour government but later became a charity – makes 22 recommendations for improvements at the council, it says nothing about the need for greater funding for social care in Norfolk.

SCIE said that the issue of funding and resources was “not specifically in scope” for the review, although the impact of funding cuts on the council’s practice “was raised by participants in the course of the review”.

Service-users in Norfolk are now considering taking legal action against the council over the cuts to their support, while their experiences will be fed into an inquiry into adult social care by the communities and local government select committee.

Their cases will also feed into a report being prepared by Equal Lives and other members of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance for its “shadow report” on how the UK government is implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

SCIE’s conclusions came as a health select committee report on the impact of last year’s spending review on health and social care funding in England concluded that “increasing numbers of people with genuine social care needs are no longer receiving the care they need because of a lack of funding”.

The committee’s Conservative chair, Dr Sarah Wollaston, said that this “not only causes considerable distress to these individuals and their families but results in additional costs to the NHS”.

The committee heard that adult social care budgets had fallen by £4.6 billion (31 per cent) between 2010-11 and 2015-16, while by June 2015, 400,000 fewer disabled and older people were receiving social care than in 2009-10, with the size of care packages also being cut.

The SCIE report claims there is a “high level of awareness that cuts have to be made and budgets have to be reduced”, and that it has been “very difficult to manage expectations”.

It adds: “Service users and carers, aware of NCC’s need to make financial savings, feel generally anxious about reviews and assessments, as a reduction to Personal Budgets could have a significant impact on their quality of life.”

The report says the council has a “genuine intention to improve outcomes for local people”, but says there are “several areas for NCC to focus on to deliver and embed the Care Act’s requirements in ways which use resources to best effect” and “gain the full confidence” of service-users, staff and other groups and individuals.

But Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said: “Whilst welcoming the review I am not confident it will change very much given there are no recommendations around resources, even though the report does highlight cuts and management culture as contributing factors to poor performance.

“The disabled people at the launch of the report saw it as ‘too high level’.

“Their experience is having their personal budgets cut and a rising fear of social workers and reviews, as they are often a negative experience.

“I don’t believe things can be turned round in Norfolk without a significant rise in funding.”

Earlier this year, Equal Lives published six cases studies of disabled people whose wellbeing had suffered as a result of council cuts, and which it said demonstrated how the council had breached its duties under the Care Act.

Harrison said: “Norfolk has seen the adult social care budget cut by 40 per cent since 2010, with rising demand for services.

“We are facing a further £20 million cuts over the next two years.

“This is unsustainable and I call on Conservative politicians at national and local levels to take this seriously and address this crisis.”

Cllr Bill Borrett, the Conservative chair of the council’s adult social care committee, told Disability News Service that the funding pressures faced by NCC were “a national problem” and “not a problem unique to Norfolk”, and that his council, just like any other, would like more funding for social care from central government.

But he said social care had to “compete for its resources” with other areas, such as the NHS, education, and paying for the Trident nuclear deterrent, and that it was “a decision for society to make about whether they think there is enough of the national wealth being spent in this area or not”.

He said SCIE had not been asked to look at whether disabled people were receiving large enough care packages but at “the effectiveness of what was done and how the council was using its resources to get the best results”.

He said: “What we have to justify as an organisation is that we are using the scarce resources available to us to get absolutely the best results we can from those resources.

“If the council felt that absolutely everything it was doing was perfect then we wouldn’t have commissioned this report.

“We need to look at delivering services in a different way and that means that services are different.”

Asked whether disabled people in Norfolk were currently enjoying choice, control and a right to independent living, he said: “What we’ve got to be sure of is that these different services are going to be better at meeting their needs than the way the services were constructed in the past, and I don’t know the answer to that.”

And asked what message he would give to disabled people facing cuts to their support in Norfolk, he said: “The message I would give to them is we are striving to give them the best service that we can, given the budgets that are available to us, and that nothing is more important than that goal.”

21 July 2016



Star’s frustration as boccia misses out – again – on live TV at Paralympics

One of the most experienced members of the British ParalympicsGB team has said he is “frustrated” and “disappointed” that his sport will not be televised live at the Rio Paralympic Games in September.

Nigel Murray is the first member of ParalympicsGB to speak publicly about the decision to provide live television coverage of just 13 sports in Rio, since Disability News Service revealed last week that the host city had scrapped plans to pay for an expansion of the coverage.

The Rio organising committee decided not to provide the funding needed to increase the number of Paralympic sports that were covered live at London 2012, because it could not afford the extra expense.

This means there will be no live coverage – apart from Channel 4’s own camera teams, which will cover “as many [British] medal successes as possible” – of sports including boccia, goalball, triathlon, rowing, canoeing, sailing, shooting, archery, road cycling, the marathons and the equestrian events.

Murray, who made it clear that he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of his team-mates, said he was “frustrated” at the failure to provide live coverage of boccia, a decision that was also made at London 2012.

He said boccia needed to “get our foot in the door” of live coverage, and added: “I was disappointed in London that we didn’t get the media attention other sports did, which is frustrating because we really want to showcase our sport.

“It’s very easy for me to say boccia is fantastic, it’s brilliant, but unless other people can get access to it through the media, the wider audience aren’t going to get to know about boccia.”

He called on boccia governing bodies across the world to “push” for live coverage in four years’ time at the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

And he said he would like to campaign for that to happen himself – he is likely to retire from professional sport after Rio – in order to “get more publicity for the athletes of the future”.

Murray is Britain’s most successful boccia player, having won two golds, one silver and one bronze medal from appearances at the last four Paralympic Games, and is the fifth most successful boccia player of all time.

He said he was “very proud” of his sport and would “do anything actively to promote my sport and the benefits and merits of my sport and as athletes what we achieve”.

Although boccia is traditionally a sport for disabled people with high support needs, including many people with cerebral palsy, Murray said it was “a great sport that anybody can play and that’s why I find it a little frustrating, because unless we get that key to the door that lets us in and we can really showcase our sport it does make it difficult for us to compete in the profile stakes”.

He said that feedback from London 2012 was “how much people enjoyed it, how much people wanted to be involved, find out more about it, which was fantastic”.

But Murray said he was “not going to kid myself” that boccia would ever receive the same attention as athletics, swimming or wheelchair basketball, but live coverage would certainly secure more media coverage, and raise the profile of his sport.

He said he was “certainly disappointed” about Brazil’s decision, particularly when the host country has some “fantastic opportunities” for medals in boccia, while Japan has also “invested heavily” in its boccia squad.

He added: “I think if it was to happen once, just once, I think it would make people sit up and say, ‘We want to see more of this.’”

Murray said he had never heard people who have watched boccia for the first time say they had not enjoyed it, as he had with some other sports.

He said: “They are quite intrigued by the nature of the different disabilities, of people throwing balls, some people using ramps, and some people using their feet.

“It’s a game that is easy to follow, you don’t have to know all the intricacies to understand the game, it’s quite simple really, and I think it makes for a fascinating sport to watch.”

A spokeswoman for the British Paralympic Association, which selects and manages the ParalympicsGB team, said: “We know that Channel 4 have worked really closely with the IPC [International Paralympic Committee] and OBS [Olympic Broadcasting Services, which provides pictures and sounds from all Olympic and Paralympic Games to broadcasters that hold the rights for the games in each country] on achieving the best possible coverage achievable this time around.

“Unfortunately it does mean that some sports will not receive live coverage but we applaud Channel 4’s efforts to try to get to as many sports as possible over the course of the games, even where live event coverage isn’t available.

“We do of course want to see the coverage widened as far as possible for Tokyo 2020.”

She added: “We are confident that we won’t need to push the IPC [to try to expand the number of sports covered in Tokyo] as they share our ambition for wider coverage for the games.”

21 July 2016


News provided by John Pring at