The chancellor has shocked disabled activists by ignoring the social care funding crisis in his autumn statement, and refusing to scrap a planned cut to employment and support allowance (ESA).
Despite weeks of lobbying from disabled people, politicians – including some Tory MPs – and charities, he announced no new money for adult social care.
Philip Hammond’s 6,000-word speech contained not a single mention of disabled people, disability or social care, and there was no suggestion of any u-turn on the £30-a-week cut for new claimants placed in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG).
The WRAG cut had also been the subject of fierce lobbying, which had again included some Conservative MPs, and is now set to go ahead in April.
But Hammond did announce a cut in corporation tax for private sector businesses, from 20 per cent to 17 per cent.
He also announced that the universal credit (UC) “taper rate” would be cut from 65 per cent to 63 per cent from April 2017.
This will mean that for every £1 earned – above a certain threshold, known as the work allowance – a UC claimant will have their benefits reduced by 63p rather than 65p.
The Treasury has calculated that a disabled person receiving support with their housing costs and earning £12,000 a year will benefit from the change by £180 a year, or less than £4 a week.
Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, pointed out that the “paltry” alteration in the taper rate would not make up for previously-announced cuts in the work allowance – which again had been the subject of sustained lobbying – leaving claimants worse off overall.
Hammond also confirmed to MPs that the government had “no plans” to introduce further social security cuts up to 2020, “beyond those already announced”.
Reaction to the autumn statement from disabled people’s organisations has been fiercely critical.
Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives, said he was not surprised by the failure to act on social care, because Hammond was “trying and failing” to deal with the “even bigger failures” by his and the coalition government to “put the economy on a sustainable footing and to challenge rather than accelerate rising levels of poverty and inequality”.
He said: “What is particularly troubling is that Hammond’s increased borrowing represents the last nail in the coffin of austerity policies.
“So we now know that all the suffering that disabled people and other marginalised groups have suffered and will continue to suffer is for nothing.
“It has served no good economic purpose and it has instead damaged many hundreds of thousands of lives, ending some.
“Social care will continue to fail older and disabled people; welfare reform will continue to oppress people reliant on state support of working age, again notably disabled people, including mental health service-users.”
He added: “This is a government without a plan, without a vision, leading more and more people into greater hardship as the threats of Brexit and a destabilised US loom ever larger.”
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “Despite the announcement that there will be no further cuts to welfare, the autumn statement is far from good news for disabled people.
“There was no reversal of the ESA cut and the reduction in the tapering rate of universal credit from 65 per cent to 63 per cent is paltry.
“Meanwhile, the [previously announced] freezing of benefits so they do not rise in line with inflation will mean a real terms loss to disabled claimants.
“The chancellor spoke of an ‘economy that works for all’, but it is not working for Deaf and disabled people.
“He said that the government had controlled public spending, while having world class public services, but Deaf and disabled people know that public services are being stripped to the bone.
“Though cutting corporation tax and borrowing to spend on some infrastructure is planned, the subject of social care funding was entirely absent from the chancellor’s statement, with apparently no plans to address the urgent crisis in social care, a vital service which we believe should be viewed as key infrastructure in need of investment.”
Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, also criticised the omission of social care from the speech.
She said: “I am more than disappointed by the lack of even an acknowledgement in the chancellor’s autumn statement of the crisis in social care.
“It would seem that building an expressway between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge is far more important than tackling the issue that thousands of disabled people who rely on care support are confined in their own homes, living isolated lives, unable to join in with their local community, or realise their ambitions as equal citizens.”
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, attacked Hammond’s failure to act on either social care or the ESA cut.
She said: “Hammond’s total failure to mention either the despicable £30-a-week cut from social security payments for disabled people not fit for work or social care funding – which is in total crisis – serves to reinforce the Tory government’s contempt for the lives and wellbeing of disabled people.
“Given the damning outcomes of the UN inquiry report released earlier this month into the austerity-led policies of the government since 2010, we can only assume that they have no sense of shame for the damage they have caused and are causing to disabled citizens in the UK.”
She added: “This contemptible disregard for the needs of both disabled and older people is all the more insulting when not only will £370 million be spent on repairs to a millionaire’s palace, but a further £7 million has been ‘found’ to fund repairs to Wentworth Woodhouse, which few have ever heard of.”
Earlier this month, a survey by the Independent Living Strategy Group (ILSG) suggested that more than half of people (58 per cent) who receive care and support services in England had seen their quality of life fall in the last year.
The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell said at the time that the survey showed that increased social care funding was needed to prevent disabled people from an “extreme risk” of harm.
Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS providers and commissioners, said yesterday (Wednesday) that frontline staff would “find it extraordinary” that the government had ignored the “stresses and strains being felt in the health and social care system”.
He said that social care services were “in crisis right now”, and added: “Relying on a political rhetoric that promises to protect the NHS, but fails to acknowledge that a cut in social care results in a cost to the NHS, is an economic deception.”
The autumn statement document also confirmed that the government expected to spend £95 million this year on paying thousands of families the disability elements of child tax credit they were mistakenly not receiving.
A “data match” carried out by HM Revenue and Customs in January found that 28,000 families with a child entitled to disability living allowance were not receiving the disabled child element of child tax credit.
24 November 2016
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted flooding its under-fire Disability Confident scheme with hundreds of employers from the hugely-discredited disability employment programme it is replacing.
The revelation is yet another blow to the credibility of the newly-relaunched scheme.
Penny Mordaunt, the minister for disabled people, boasted earlier this month that more than 2,400 businesses had already signed up to Disability Confident.
But DWP has now admitted that all but about 100 of those 2,400 organisations have simply been transferred across from Two Ticks – the scheme that Disability Confident is replacing – with many of them not even having to fill in an application form.
Disability News Service (DNS) reported last week how new research had suggested that Disability Confident – which aims to encourage employers to take on disabled staff – was “trivially easy to abuse” and allowed organisations to describe themselves as “Disability Confident” even if they failed to comply with anti-discrimination laws.
Research published in 2014 showed that less than one in six (15 per cent) organisations that displayed the Two Ticks symbol kept all five of its commitments, while almost one in five (18 per cent) carrried out none of them.
DNS has also revealed that many of the organisations that have signed up to Disability Confident have troubling track records when it comes to their attitudes to disabled people, including outsourcing giants Capita and Maximus, and insurance giant Unum.
But until this week it was unclear how DWP had managed to to sign up so many employers to the scheme so soon after its official relaunch.
Now, following information received from a leading disabled people’s organisation, DNS can reveal that DWP has simply transferred across more than 2,000 members from Two Ticks onto the middle level of Disability Confident, without even asking them to assess their own suitability for the scheme.
Choices and Rights Disability Coalition was contacted by DWP this summer to ask if it was interested in signing-up to Disability Confident.
When it expressed interest, it received a follow-up email stating that, because Choices and Rights was already a Two Ticks employer, the DWP civil servant had “completed the Migration Form on your behalf”.
As a result, the email added, Choices and Rights would “automatically” receive accreditation at “Employer” level – the second of the three levels – for the next 12 months, without even needing to self-assess its own policies and performance.
Gillon said: “DWP were forced to replace Two Ticks because the scheme was thoroughly discredited by thousands of firms who displayed the logo but did nothing.
“Even DWP and its ministers admitted that this was the case.
“To take the thousands of Two Ticks employers and simply relabel them ‘Disability Confident Employers’, after admitting many of them are nothing of the sort, betrays the real object of Disability Confident as ‘perception management’ by DWP, rather than any intention to truly challenge the disability employment gap.”
He pointed out that an employer at Disability Confident Employer level is supposed to have committed to offering “accessible interviews, flexible assessments, spreading the word to suppliers and partner companies, supporting disabled staff, monitoring career progression and listening to feedback”.
But he said: “None of these are required by Two Ticks, and we know the reality was most Two Ticks employers carried out very few, if any, of their commitments.
“The victims here will be disabled recruits and employees who see the Disability Confident logo and presume a certain level of support that the companies being handed Disability Confident status for zero effort have not agreed to and may have no intention of providing.
“How can we be Disability Confident in that?”
A DWP spokeswoman denied that simply transferring organisations across from Two Ticks to Disability Confident had further undermined the scheme.
She said: “We know Two Ticks employers are already committed to supporting disabled people to get and keep jobs.
“So we’re offering them the opportunity to migrate onto the new scheme, coming in as a Level 2 Disability Confident Employer.
“This status will last for 12 months, during which time they will have the opportunity to do a full self-assessment and secure the status for a full two years.
“The Two Ticks scheme will continue until July 2017.
“So far, 2,311 Two Ticks employers have been transferred onto the new scheme but the process is still ongoing.”
She added later: “Two Ticks employers are contacted by their regional Disability Confident team for their district to inform them of the scheme and the migration process.
“It’s at the discretion of the district team whether they complete the Migration Form on the company’s behalf or they support the company to complete it themselves.”
Choices and Rights is also frustrated at the lengthy DWP delays to its attempts to progress through the scheme.
It wanted to take advantage of its experience and expertise in recruiting and employing disabled people to achieve level three – or Disability Confident Leader – status.
One of the ways to achieve level three status is for an employer to have its practices assessed by an existing Disability Confident Leader.
But when the coalition asked DWP on 16 September for details of such an organisation in its local region of Yorkshire and Humberside, it was told: “This is a most interesting question, and one which has been raised before.
“I can tell you that this matter is being looked at currently, so I have forwarded your email onto the team looking at this question.
“It may be that they could contact you, either by telephone or email, which I hope you will not object to them doing.”
After receiving no further contact, Choices and Rights emailed again, on 5 October, and this time was told: “I am sorry you have heard nothing from our team who could reply to your enquiry.
“I will get in touch with them again, raising your concern that no reply has yet been forthcoming.”
Seven weeks later, Choices and Rights had still had no further communication.
The DWP spokeswoman denied that the failure to contact Choices and Rights demonstrated a lack of interest or DWP incompetence.
She said: “We’ve received a high volume of enquiries since the introduction of the new scheme.
“We value engagement from all companies and endeavour to respond as quickly as possible.”
She confirmed that, following DNS’s questions, a member of the Disability Confident team had now contacted Choices and Rights.
24 November 2016
Disabled activists and academics have called for the release of an autistic man with learning difficulties who has been held in locked mental health institutions for seven years, against his and his family’s wishes.
The case of Eden Norris was highlighted at the parliamentary launch of a new online educational resource, which itself focuses on how tens of thousands of people with learning difficulties were locked away in long-stay hospitals through much of the twentieth century.
The website tells the story of disabled campaigner and self-advocate Mabel Cooper, who was institutionalised in the 1950s, and kept in long-stay hospitals for more than 30 years, as a result of bogus assessments of her IQ.
The launch event – part of UK Disability History Month – heard from Norris’s disabled mother, Deborah Evans, from west London, who described how her son had been held in so-called assessment and treatment units for the last seven years, and was being treated “abysmally”.
He is currently at the privately-owned Cawston Park Hospital, in Norwich, having been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, and she said he was often kept chemically-sedated.
Evans has found service-providers willing to support him to live near her in the community, but their local council has refused to give the go-ahead for him to leave Cawston Park.
She is only able to visit him every two weeks, which means a 13-hour round trip.
Before he was taken to Norwich, Norris was kept for five years in an adult forensic unit in Watford, from the age of 17, even though he has no criminal record.
His mother told the event: “He wants to come out, he wants his own flat. It’s just so cruel, this system.”
His family have pointed out that keeping him at Cawston Park is hugely lucrative for the company that runs the unit, the Jeesal Group. At one stage, his care was costing £12,000 per week.
He was originally admitted voluntarily because he wanted help for anxiety, as a result of a lack of support in the care home where he was living, but he was later sectioned after episodes of “challenging behaviour”.
When his family tried to take him home, they say, Hammersmith and Fulham council threatened to remove all of his care and support.
And his family say the hospital obstructs their efforts to keep in touch with him, particularly when they raise his case publicly.
Perry Collins, Evans’ partner, said the idea that he was dangerous was ridiculous.
Every time they visit him, they take him shopping, and to a restaurant, a bowling alley and a nightclub (he loves “drum and bass” music).
Collins said: “Eden is not dangerous, he’s autistic. They are using his disability to make money.
“He cries, ‘Mum, bring me home. Get me home,’ on the phone. How many other people is this happening to?”
Tricia Nicoll, a disabled activist and an independent consultant, said the case “should be flashing alarm bells” on the desk of the council officer responsible for commissioning his support.
She said: “There was a horrible honesty to long-stay hospitals. Nobody tried to hide it. People knew they were there.
“It was an honest awfulness, yet there is a horrible dishonesty about this, with private companies beholden to their shareholders making a lot of money to keep people incarcerated and make their lives completely s**t.”
Jan Walmsley, visiting professor in the history of learning disabilities at The Open University, and a health and social care consultant, said authorities were “misusing” the Mental Capacity Act to justify keeping people like Eden in detention and to “keep parents at bay”.
She invited Evans to speak at the parliamentary event to highlight how people with learning difficulties were still being wrongly detained in institutions, just as Mabel Cooper had been.
Hammersmith and Fulham council said it could not comment because the case was “so complex”.
Cawston Park had not responded to a request for a comment by 11am today (Thursday).
24 November 2016
A Labour MP has proved that the government has abandoned a target it set to halve the disability employment gap by 2020.
The promise, included in last year’s general election manifesto, said a Conservative government would “aim to halve the disability employment gap” in the next parliament.
A month after the party’s election victory, Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, confirmed in a press release that the government “aims to halve the gap between the disabled employment rate and the overall employment rate by 2020”.
But in recent months, ministers have suggested that there was no target date for halving the gap, with Penny Mordaunt, the current minister for disabled people, stating on 4 November that it was “a long term project”.
Mordant has now finally admitted that the government has abandoned the target, in a written answer to Labour MP Stephen Timms, himself a former work and pensions minister.
In his latest attempt to persuade the government to admit that it had abandoned a target date, Timms had asked whether it expects “to achieve the commitment to halve the disability employment gap by (a) 2020, (b) 2025 and (c) 2030”.
Mordaunt told him the government was “not setting a deadline for completing this work”.
During a Commons debate the following day on planned government cuts to employment and support allowance, Timms pointed out the existence of Tomlinson’s press release from the previous year.
Even then, Tomlinson – who was sacked as minister earlier this year – claimed he did “not actually recall that press release, as my understanding was that we had not set the date”.
Despite the press release – issued in Tomlinson’s name and clearly stating the target date -Tomlinson claimed that he had actually wanted to set a different target, “such as having one million more people in work by a certain date”.
But Timms told him: “If one reads a commitment or a promise in a manifesto for 2015 to 2020, one is entitled to believe that what that says will be achieved will actually be achieved by 2020.”
He pointed out that David Cameron had said in one of last year’s televised election debates: “The gap between the disabled unemployment rate and the unemployment rate for the whole country is still too big. I want to see that cut in half over the next five years.”
Timms added: “He was explicit about that. The press release issued by [Tomlinson] – he told us that he could not remember it – was also clear that this was going to be done by 2020.
“That was what everyone in the disability organisations understood.”
24 November 2016
The government is to bring in new laws that will tackle the “exploitation” of a scheme that allows wheelchair-users to buy significantly-adapted vehicles without having to pay any VAT.
The new laws were announced in this week’s autumn statement document, but were not mentioned in the chancellor’s speech to MPs.
The Treasury expects to save £20 million through the new measures in 2017-18.
The VAT relief on the purchase price of an adapted vehicle – when the price of a non-adapted car has to include 20 per cent VAT – means the buyer can make a substantial profit if they remove the adaptations and resell the vehicle.
An investigation by HM Revenue and Customs estimated that as much as £30 million of the £65 million annual cost of the VAT relief scheme was accounted for by people “exploiting” the system.
One individual who took advantage of it was found to have bought 70 Range Rovers, 20 Mercedes and five Porsches in just two years, while another bought 30 BMWs in a single day, according to the Treasury.
A Treasury spokeswoman said: “Individuals are using the scheme to buy extremely high-end cars with minor adaptations and are then reversing those adaptations and selling these cars on for a profit.”
She said she did not have further details of who was responsible for “ripping off the scheme”, but she added: “It’s clearly not disabled people.”
She said the people losing out from the changes would not be disabled people, but “the people exploiting the scheme”.
The measures to clamp down on abuse of the exemption, which is supposed to apply to vehicles that have been “substantially and permanently adapted” – through changes such as having hoists or lifts installed, or floors lowered – will mean wheelchair-users will only be able to buy a VAT-free car once every three years.
There will be exceptions, for example if someone needs to replace a car that has been written off in an accident, or if their needs have changed substantially.
Car dealers will also need to provide details of all of their zero-rated sales to HM Revenue and Customs.
The autumn statement announcement has taken disability organisations by surprise, as a consultation on the proposals ended in September 2014, following a mention in the 2014 budget.
A substantial majority (80 per cent) of those who took part in the 2014 consultation supported changes to the system to deal with abuse.
The government said two years ago that the scheme was “being targeted and abused by individuals and organisations that purchase vehicles at the zero rate of VAT in order to sell them on for profit”.
There were also concerns that dealers were adding “unnecessary and dangerous” adaptations in order to supply the vehicle at the zero rate of VAT, before being removed post-sale.
A spokeswoman for Disabled Motoring UK said the charity hoped the change would “safeguard the concession”, as continuing widespread abuse would have “put the exemption in jeopardy”.
She said: “It is quite clear there is some kind of abuse going on. I heard somebody was buying several Lamborghinis.
“They have reassured us that if somebody’s condition changes or they require another vehicle then that exemption will be provided.”
Declan O’Mahony, director of Motability, added: “Our position is the same as it was in 2014 when it was consulted on.
“We would welcome some common sense tightening to prevent any abuse of the relief, because the relief is important to disabled people.”
24 November 2016
The growth of zero hours contracts is making it even harder for disabled workers to secure the reasonable adjustments they need to do their jobs, “valuable” new research suggests.
Employers are displaying a “strong reluctance” to make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers on zero hours contracts, despite their duty to do so under the Equality Act, according to the research by Rupert Harwood, from the University of Greenwich’s Department of Human Resources and Organisational Behaviour.
He says that workers are too scared of being sacked and then facing benefit sanctions to push their bosses to agree reasonable adjustments – reasonable steps to prevent a substantial, preventable disadvantage – that have been turned down.
The paper, What Has Limited The Impact Of UK Disability Equality Law On Social Justice?, says that extra demands on workers in general – even those not on zero hours contracts – make it more likely that disabled workers will be denied requests for reasonable adjustments.
As part of Harwood’s research, published in the legal journal Laws, he studied more than 250 disabled workers, between April and November last year.
One of them said: “Neither of my zero hours contract employers have ever asked about my disability, let alone offered to make reasonable adjustments – and I am too nervous to raise it as I assume I will lose work as a result.”
Harwood says his study also suggests that employers have become “more willing than in the past to discipline disabled individuals for impairment related shortcomings”.
He adds: “As demands on workers in general to be more adaptable increased – including, for example, to work more varied and unpredictable hours – the distance between adjustments (such as allowing time off for a medical appointment) and normal practice increased, which in turn could lead to adjustments appearing less reasonable to employers.”
He says that the government’s welfare reform focus on individual “deficiencies” as the main cause of unemployment, and the narrative from government and the media on “disability benefit cheats” has in some cases even been “providing a pretext” for employers not to make reasonable adjustments.
One Department for Work and Pensions administrative ofﬁcer reported having to “go for four audiograms till they believed me followed by two consultant letters and two GP letters”.
The paper adds that “some interviewees suspected that employers – knowing the fear of the harsh beneﬁts regime – felt less pressure to accede to requests for adjustment”.
And Harwood says there is “considerable evidence” that employers providing workfare placements through the government’s Work Programme have “felt little need to provide adjustments” for disabled participants, and that Jobcentre Plus has done “little to address this”.
Harwood points out in the paper how useful reasonable adjustments can be, with one local authority housing ofﬁcer telling him that adjustments meant “less pain, less time off, less need for extended hours to ensure rest breaks”, and that she was able to become “the top performer in my department, but the only one with a disability”.
But he warns that the increasing number of workers on short-term – and particularly zero hours – contracts will “increasingly ﬁnd themselves unable to get adjustments and perhaps increasingly unable to get work”.
A spokesman for Disabled People Against Cuts welcomed the new paper.
He said: “This valuable research sheds a light on just how bad things have got in the workplace for disabled people.
“Discrimination at work is running out of control, due to a perfect storm of a government that has no interest in enforcing the Equality Act, a climate where exploitation of all workers is commonplace, and the introduction of tribunal fees and cuts in access to legal aid that prevent workers from defending their rights.
“Add to this toxic combination a government that is hell bent on harassing disabled people to find any low quality, insecure and exploitative job that is going, has led to an intolerable and unacceptable situation for disabled workers in the UK.”
Meanwhile, a new TUC study has found that disability-related sickness absence is the biggest equality issue facing union representatives.
Unions reps told the TUC that workplace policies were not being adjusted to account for the higher rates of sickness absence of some disabled workers.
And they said that more work was needed to ensure that managers were adequately trained to manage disabled workers.
Reasonable adjustments to working patterns, such as offering flexible working, or home working, or having time off for medical appointments, would minimise disability-related sickness absence and discrimination, said the TUC.
24 November 2016
Campaigners hope that a new website will educate children – and their teachers – about the “eugenicist agitation” that led to tens of thousands of people with learning difficulties being incarcerated for life throughout much of the twentieth century.
The new educational resource* is built around the film No Longer Shut Up, which tells the story of disabled campaigner and self-advocate Mabel Cooper, who was institutionalised in the 1950s, and kept in long-stay hospitals for more than 30 years, as a result of bogus assessments of her IQ.
Legislation introducing widespread detention of people with learning difficulties was first brought in through the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act, and was based on the same eugenicist ideology that would lead to forced sterilisation and racist immigration control in the US, and the extermination of tens or even hundreds of thousands of disabled people by the Nazis in the 1930s.
On her release, Cooper worked to increase awareness about the old long-stay hospitals, and was awarded an honorary Open University degree in 2010, three years before she died.
The website, launched in parliament this week as part of UK Disability History Month (DHM), includes activities for both mainstream and special educational provision, and covers issues such as disability rights, discrimination and bullying.
Among those subjects, it examines “the impact of attaching labels to people”, daily life in the long-stays, how disabled residents resisted the hospital regimes that oppressed them, and the new challenges created when increasing numbers of people like Mabel Cooper began to be returned to live in the community from the 1980s.
The website also examines how many disabled people, particularly those who are autistic, are still being locked up against their will in assessment and treatment units.
And it examines the use of disability-related language, the subject of this year’s DHM.
Richard Rieser, DHM’s coordinator, said that the kind of “false science” that led to Cooper’s incarceration was still being used today to assess how children should be educated, for example through 11-plus exams.
He said: “We are hoping that schools will all start using this to show how science can be misused and show how people can be affected in such a dramatic way.
“We need to uncover these things that have gone on, both in the past and in the present.
“It’s about looking at the past but also how we change things in the present to get greater equality for disabled people.”
Rieser told the parliamentary event that it was vital that people with learning difficulties were supported to “become voices for their own rights”, as Mabel Cooper had done.
He said that disabled people had always resisted oppression and that “we must build that resistance now and we must ask non-disabled people to be our allies”.
Patrick Burke, founder and chair of People First Merseyside for more than 25 years, told the launch event about some of his own experiences of being institutionalised for more than 20 years in a long-stay hospital.
Ian Davies, former chair of Central England People First and a member of The Open University’s Social History of Learning Disability steering group, said afterwards that the online resource was “a really good project”.
He said: “We need to get [young] people involved at a very early stage, so they understand what is happening.”
Rieser said later, at an event held to launch UK Disability History Month, that the way language was used can either empower or disempower disabled people.
He said: “We live in a world where if you triumph over the tragedy you become a superhuman on Channel 4.
“What about the rest of us? Are we lesser humans or ‘under-humans’?
“Should all disabled people be measured [against the Paralympics]? I don’t think so.
“Or should we all be seen as the government would like us to be seen, as scroungers… the not quite deserving poor?
“This is the language used to describe us and it has an impact and leads to death on the streets.”
He pointed to the deaths of disabled people like Kevin Davies, Raymond Atherton and Francecca Pilkington, who all died as a result of disability hate crimes.
Louise Regan, vice-president of the National Union of Teachers, said the resource was “going to be a really valuable tool for our members in schools, and also to educate themselves”.
*The resource is a collaboration between the Living Archive of Learning Disability History Project (led by the Open University, working with Rix Research and Media and the University of Leeds), UK Disability History Month, Access All Areas theatre group, and the self-advocacy training organisation Advocreate. It has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council
24 November 2016
A new accreditation scheme should make it easier for disabled people to find a car park that meets their access needs.
The People’s Parking scheme already has about 150 car parks signed up across the UK and hopes to reach 200 by the end of the year, with support from major car park operators NCP, Excel and Q-Park.
The scheme has a searchable map and database on its website, and has been launched this month by disabled campaigner Helen Dolphin.
Her own research previously found “shocking” access failures in city centre car parks.
Dolphin was first prompted to start campaigning on accessible car parks when she worked for the disability charity Disabled Motoring UK (DM UK).
The survey she carried out in 2012 of 20 car parks across England, Wales and Scotland found only one of them achieved the government’s recommended minimum proportion of accessible parking spaces (six per cent of the total number of spaces), while five had less than one per cent, and two did not have a single accessible space.
The survey also found that two of the car parks were completely inaccessible to wheelchair-users.
Under Dolphin’s new scheme, car parks that secure general accreditation will have proved they are well managed; have good signage; are clean and bright; offer good pedestrian access; and that parking rules, including blue badge bays, are enforced.
But they can also go further and receive accreditation in specific areas, such as facilities for disabled people if they have larger accessible parking spaces, accessible payment machines, and offer alternative payment methods.
And they can be accredited for being family friendly, if they have parent and child bays; for having no height restrictions; for providing parking for cyclists; or featuring charging-points for electric vehicles.
Other potential accreditations include convenience for commuters; closeness to shops, or airports; and whether parking can be pre-booked, or paid for by phone.
This means, says Dolphin, that a disabled person with an electric vehicle who needs a car park with no height restrictions will be able to find one which meets all these requirements.
She said: “When I carried out the car park survey in 2012 I was shocked by the results, and this has led to my ongoing campaign to improve car parking for disabled people.
“People’s Parking is my way of doing this in an inclusive way, as it also addresses parking issues that other motorists have, such as finding somewhere to charge an electric car, or a wider bay for parents.”
Dolphin, a member of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, which advises the government on accessible transport, said: “As a disabled person, I have often struggled to get in and out of car parks.
“This is because I find it incredibly difficult to take tickets out of machines and put coins in slots.
“However, by making a few simple changes many car parks can make themselves accessible to disabled people.”
She added: “I think many operators have now grasped the fact that there is more to disabled parking provision then just painting a disabled sign on a few bays, and I hope my accreditation will help the parking industry strive to improve disabled provision further.
“Although access to some car parks is still not great, I’ve received a very positive response from a large number of operators, which shows many are willing to do what they can to improve the situation.
“Unfortunately, some older car parks can struggle to have good access but as my scheme grows I hope there will be enough choice for disabled people to be able to avoid those which do not have the correct provision.”
24 November 2016
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com