New disabled commissioner ‘astounded and offended’ by EHRC treatment

A disabled peer who thought he had been appointed as the next disability commissioner – only to be told the post had been abolished – has been left “astounded and offended” by his treatment by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

A stand-off has now developed between Lord [Kevin] Shinkwin and the commission’s chair, David Isaac, with the Conservative peer insisting that the post of disability commissioner must be re-established.

Lord Shinkwin applied for the post of disability commissioner late last year and was appointed by the government in April.

But just 36 hours before he was due to attend his first EHRC board meeting, he was told by Isaac that he had been appointed only as a commissioner, and would not be leading on disability equality issues.

Isaac told him the role of disability commissioner had been made “redundant”.

Last month, Disability News Service (DNS) reported how the post of disability commissioner appeared to have been scrapped, after EHRC said Lord Shinkwin had only been appointed as a commissioner.

Two former disabled EHRC commissioners – Sir Bert Massie and Baroness [Jane] Campbell – said then that they believed that scrapping the role would make it harder for the watchdog to stand up to attacks on disabled people’s rights.

The commission refused last month to confirm that the role had been scrapped, why the decision had been taken, and who had taken it.

And only this week, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) refused to release any documents relating to the appointment and the decision to scrap the disability commissioner role – including legal advice obtained by the government – following a DNS freedom of information request.

GEO said releasing the information would “prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs”, while disclosing legal advice was “not in the public interest”.

But Lord Shinkwin has now spoken out to confirm that the role he applied for has been scrapped and to demand that the commission reinstates it.

His appointment came more than three months after the post was supposed to have been filled, following the decision of another disabled Tory peer, Lord [Chris] Holmes, not to seek a further term as disability commissioner.

The commission confirmed this week that Lord Shinkwin had only been informed that he would not be the disability commissioner 36 hours before he was due to attend his first board  meeting.

An EHRC spokesman said the commission had decided that Lord Shinkwin was “suitable to be appointed as a commissioner” but that the three-person panel which interviewed him – which included Isaac and a GEO representative – “concluded he did not yet have the specific skills and experience required for the disability commissioner role”.

He added: “As delays in the process meant that the statutory disability committee was dissolved before the end of the appointment process, in the event the board agreed that the role of disability commissioner is no longer required.”

When informed of this explanation by DNS, Lord Shinkwin said: “That is the first time I have heard that argument. I wasn’t told that. I think it’s absurd.

“Disability has already almost claimed my life. I have more experience than any of the panel who interviewed me on the challenges of living with a disability.

“To be perfectly honest, I am astounded by that rationale. I am astounded and offended.”

Lord Shinkwin said he had had three separate conversations with Isaac in the lead-up to the first board meeting after his appointment, on 11 May.

He said: “At each point I was urged to reflect on what he was saying and accept what he was saying, and accept that the disability commissioner post had been made redundant.

“I said, ‘Sorry, I can’t accept that.’

“I wasn’t able to attend the first board meeting because I felt my position needed to be clarified before I attended meetings.”

He added: “I don’t think it is possible to achieve real progress on disability equality unless… there is a sharp focus on disability and a true understanding of the unique barriers that we face. We are unique in my view.”

He made similar comments in a House of Lords debate on the report by the Lords committee on the Equality Act 2010 and disabled people last year.

He told DNS this week: “As a result of being unique we are the least powerful of the protected characteristic groups.

“That needs to be recognised and that is why I feel a disability commissioner is so important.”

He also does not believe that the commission’s new disability advisory committee – a downgraded version of its former statutory disability committee, which has just been scrapped – should be disbanded in two years’ time, in April 2019.

He said: “There should be a review before any decision is made.”

And he has told Isaac that he would like to chair the committee, so that it is led by a disabled person.

Lord Shinkwin said EHRC needed to “affirm that disabled people are in a unique position and the very least they need to do following the loss of the statutory status of the disability committee is to reinstate the position of disability commissioner”.

He said the decision to make the disability commissioner role redundant was because of the approach of senior people at EHRC.

He said: “I think this is the fault of certain people at the commission pursuing what they think is a universalist approach to equality [one which fails to take account of the particular barriers disabled people face], which I don’t think is working in the best interests of disabled people.”

He is now waiting for Isaac to respond to his letter describing his concerns, and he is due to speak about the situation in the House of Lords today (Thursday).

But he said: “I am not about to throw in the towel. I have written to the chair. I have restated that I do not accept the abolition of the post.”

Lord Shinkwin also said that he did not believe the government had played a part in the decision to scrap the role of disability commissioner, and that he had not discussed the issue with the minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening.

He said: “I don’t see this as something the government should become involved in.

“This is in my view between disabled people and myself, as a disabled person trying to champion disability rights, and the chair of the commission.”

An EHRC spokesman said the decision to “move away from having a named disability commissioner” was taken by the EHRC board.

He said: “Rather than having just one named champion of disability rights on the board, all board members, including a number of disabled commissioners and others with direct experience, will have a responsibility to champion disability issues.”

He said that one other board member, Caroline Waters, had been named in a list of the UK’s most powerful disabled people, but the commission would not say how many other members of the board were disabled people “for privacy reasons”.

He added: “The work of the board will be structured around domains, looking at every area of people’s lives including healthcare, education, work and living standards, to ensure that we are tackling the root causes of the injustices that still exist in our society.

“We believe that this allows our board to work in a more strategic way, looking across domains at issues that may affect more than one group and understanding where different protected groups are disproportionately affected by a particular policy or practice.

“This way of working will allow us to have more impact in tackling disability and reflects the fact that many of the people that we exist to support will have multiple protected characteristics and identities.”

29 June 2017

 

 

UN confirms that UK government’s treaty violations were both grave AND systematic

The United Nations (UN) committee that found the UK government guilty of violating the UN disability convention has revealed for the first time that its breaches of the human rights treaty were both “grave” and “systematic”.

The decision to clarify the seriousness of the UK’s breaches of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) shows for the first time just how seriously the committee viewed those violations.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said the UN’s clarification showed that the actions of the Conservative government that led to it being found guilty of breaching the treaty were “obviously based on a deliberate intention to cause harm without any regard to the horrendous consequences for disabled people”.

When the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) published its report last November, it said the UK had committed “grave or systematic” violations of the treaty in three specific areas.

The committee has previously refused to expand on that conclusion, leaving it unclear whether the committee believed the violations were simply grave (serious) but isolated, or just systematic (regular) but not grave or serious.

But the committee has now agreed for the first time to expand on its conclusion, and has revealed to Disability News Service (DNS) that the breaches of the convention by the UK government were both grave and systematic.

A spokeswoman for the committee said: “The committee can confirm that some violations were grave, some others were systematic and some were both: grave and systematic.”

The committee had concluded in the report that the UK government had discriminated against disabled people across three key parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Most of the breaches – which were all under articles 19 (independent living), article 27 (work and employment) and article 28 (adequate standard of living and social protection) of the convention – were caused by policies introduced by Conservative ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) between 2010 and 2015.

It was the first such high-level inquiry to be carried out by the committee, and was a result of years of research and lobbying by DPAC.

DPAC’s work was led by one of its co-founders, Debbie Jolly, who died just a few days after the report vindicating her and DPAC’s efforts was published.

Linda Burnip, a DPAC co-founder, who also played a key role in ensuring the UN inquiry took place, said: “When violations are systematic, or both grave and systematic, then the actions of the Tory government that led to this are obviously based on a deliberate intention to cause harm without any regard to the horrendous consequences for disabled people.”

She pointed to actions such as cuts to social care, the impact of the work capability assessment – which has been linked by public health experts from the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford to hundreds of suicides between 2010 and 2013 – the hugely damaging introduction of personal independence payment and consequent cuts to support, the increased use of sanctions and the resulting deaths of benefit claimants, and the introduction of the bedroom tax.

Burnip said: “What is particularly damning is that we know the government was aware of the harm their actions were making to disabled people’s lives yet carried on regardless with their unrelenting attacks and scapegoating.

“Even now they refuse to consider a cumulative impact assessment, which might at the very least be a first step towards acknowledging their culpability in the abusive violation of our rights.”

DWP said last November that the UN report presented an “inaccurate” picture of life for disabled people in the UK, and dismissed all 11 of its recommendations.

A DWP spokeswoman said this week: “We have responded to the [committee] in full. As discussed in our response, there are individual facts in the report which are incorrect, and the report fails to place the government’s reforms in context.

“The UK is a recognised world leader in disabled rights and equality and as a share of GDP, our public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7* countries bar Germany.

“Not only do we spend over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more than ever before – but we also offer a wide range of tailored and effective support, which this report fails to recognise.

“Our focus is on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst providing support for those who can’t.”

*The other G7 countries are the USA, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Canada.

29 June 2017

 

 

Court awards disabled woman ‘aggravated’ damages for ombudsman discrimination

A county court has delivered a devastating judgment against the Local Government Ombudsman, after it discriminated against a disabled woman by failing to provide the reasonable adjustments she needed to lodge a complaint against a local authority.

The ombudsman has been ordered to pay £12,500 in damages to Jeanine Blamires to compensate her for the ordeal, following breaches of both the Equality Act and the Data Protection Act by the ombudsman.

Although the judgment is only in draft form, its conclusions are unlikely to be altered.

District judge Joanna Geddes even awarded aggravated damages against the ombudsman over the breach of the Equality Act, because she said it had defended the case in a way that “added to the injury, frustration and distress” felt by Blamires, which had “exacerbated” the symptoms of her long-term health conditions.

She also awarded aggravated damages for the Data Protection Act breach, because of the ombudsman’s “continued denial” that it had broken the law.

Blamires has told Disability News Service that she was “disgusted” and “sickened” by the ombudsman’s behaviour and that she believed it had now “lost its moral authority to adjudicate over others”.

Judge Geddes said Blamires’ husband David told the court that his wife had “found the whole process extremely distressing and has on several occasions been reduced to tears by the intransigence of the defendant in not meeting her disabled needs by making reasonable adjustments.

“This has led to a deterioration in her condition and a reduction in her ability to fulfil her role as a housewife and mother.”

The case relates to her attempt in March 2012 to help her daughter lodge a complaint through the ombudsman against North Yorkshire County Council over a housing issue.

She then complained herself about the council five months later.

Blamires, who represented herself in the legal case, had told the ombudsman – when lodging the complaint against the council – that she had severe ME and dystonia, while her husband also had ME, as well as chronic pain and dyslexia, and that they would need help to use the service.

She told the ombudsman that they both found telephone conversations difficult, and that “though e-mail is useful, regular meetings are better, we have a lot of evidence and we are not sure about what you will need”.

But the ombudsman lost this information in transferring her application form to a different format, and then took two years to admit to the court that it had done so.

It had originally claimed that Blamires failed to fill in the part of the form that related to requests for reasonable adjustments.

As the process of lodging a complaint against the council progressed, she told the ombudsman that she was struggling – for impairment-related reasons – to submit all of the necessary paperwork.

But the ombudsman ignored this and without warning reached a provisional decision in the case against the council – one which she found unacceptable – in December 2013.

She complained that she had not been allowed to present all of her evidence, and that the ombudsman had failed to provide reasonable adjustments, and she asked it to arrange face-to-face meetings and some support to help her with the complaint.

Blamires told Disability News Service this week: “The defendant didn’t provide it. They only offered extra time. I just cried.

“They didn’t have all the evidence and they didn’t understand my complaint.”

Judge Geddes says in the draft judgement that the ombudsman had issued the provisional decision without exploring the issue of reasonable adjustments, and even though it knew that Blamires had expressed more than once “how overwhelmed and fatigued she was by the process”.

The judge added: “They were aware that she found the volume of paperwork she had ‘overwhelming’ and was struggling both to know what to submit in support of her claim and to physically complete the task of sending it by reason of her disabilities.”

Judge Geddes even suggested that the ombudsman’s argument that its limited resources did not allow it to offer face-to-face meetings or advocacy as a reasonable adjustment – when one of its own leaflets said that it did – implied that such promises were published to “pay lip service only to the duties the [ombudsman] has to anticipate and make reasonable adjustments”.

The judge even had to withdraw some of her own statements made earlier in the case because the ombudsman had provided her with misleading information about the extent of its powers.

As well as being ordered to pay £12,500 in damages to Blamires, the ombudsman was also ordered to pay her costs of £750.

Blamires said she was “disgusted” by the ombudsman’s behaviour during the lengthy case – including misleading the court, failing to disclose documents and submitting false information – when its own purpose was “supposedly to ensure justice”.

She said: “It has been an horrendous ordeal for my family who care for me who have had to watch as I have got worse due to this fight.

“I am so glad that District Judge Geddes listened to me. It’s taken too long to do this – four years – much of that time and public money has been wasted by the ombudsman due to its behaviour. I am sickened by it.

“I am not sure it is now possible for the Local Government Ombudsman to sustain its role to remedy injustice. It has lost its moral authority to adjudicate over others.

“Councils are not going to respect the Local Government Ombudsman’s decisions because the Local Government Ombudsman chose not to respect the county court.”

She wants communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid to replace the ombudsman with a new organisation.

But she also praised Leeds Combined Court, which “did the exact opposite” of the ombudsman by providing her with reasonable adjustments, including arranging video conferencing for one of the court hearings, and supporting her when she became ill in court.

And she thanked the charity, the Personal Support Unit, which helps people who have to represent themselves in court, and supported her by reading documents, and helping her write witness statements and skeleton arguments.

Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman*, said in a statement: “We didn’t get things right for Mrs Blamires and I have personally apologised to her.

“We hold ourselves up to the same standards we expect of those bodies we investigate and we will fully accept the final findings of the court when we receive them.

“This is a salutary reminder that mistakes happen and when things do go wrong, it’s how you deal with them that matters.

“This case highlighted some issues with our IT system and the way we were doing things that we needed to change. We’ve done that and we’ve strengthened our quality checks and revised our guidance.

“But we won’t stop there. We will use this as an opportunity to look at what else we can do to be flexible and find more creative ways of helping people access our service.”

He added: “We are sorry if the judge felt we provided her with misleading information, this was not our intention.”

*It was renamed earlier this month

29 June 2017

 

 

Ministers’ silence over why WCA legislation is missing from Queen’s speech

Work and pensions ministers have refused to explain why plans for new social security legislation were dropped from last week’s Queen’s speech.

Disability News Service reported last week how a Tory election promise to “dismantle” the work capability assessment (WCA) through new legislation appeared to have been abandoned when it failed to appear in the Queen’s speech, which covered legislation that will be introduced over the next two years.

The minister for disabled people, Penny Mordaunt, had told a national disability hustings event a few days before the general election that a Conservative government would “legislate to reform the work capability assessment”, which “treats people like they are part of a sausage factory”.

And she said that ministers had “managed to get into the manifesto a legislative commitment to dismantle the work capability assessment”.

The manifesto did not mention replacing the WCA but it did promise that a Conservative government would “legislate to give unemployed disabled claimants or those with a health condition personalised and tailored employment support”.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokeswoman denied this week that the failure to include a social security bill in the Queen’s speech meant ministers had abandoned its reforms.

She said: “We have comprehensively consulted on reforms to the work capability assessment as part of the Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability Green Paper, and have committed to introducing more personalised and tailored support to help people stay in work and the unemployed to return to work.”

She added: “We remain strongly committed to help people with disabilities and health conditions get into and stay in work and are considering next steps in response to the green paper.”

When asked why the commitment to new legislation was missing from the Queen’s speech, she said: “We don’t take decisions on the content of the Queen’s speech.

“As I’ve said below, we have committed to introducing more personalised and tailored support to help people stay in work, and the unemployed to return to work.”

Asked if she could ask the relevant ministers – or their special advisers – why the bill had not appeared in the Queen’s speech, she said the press office had “nothing further to add”.

29 June 2017

 

 

Mencap care staff ‘called resident “poison dwarf” and reused feeding syringes’

The disability charity Mencap is facing allegations that staff at one of its care homes used an offensive nickname for a disabled resident, and repeatedly reused feeding syringes that should have been thrown away after just one day.

A whistleblower, A*, has told how one resident was nicknamed “poison dwarf”, while staff refused to take another resident to watch his beloved football team – even though he had a season ticket – because of his incontinence.

She has also described how the same staff member bullied one older resident and told him she wished he would “hurry up and move out”, and shouted at him in his bedroom.

Another member of staff allegedly used offensive, threatening language to an older couple from Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been talking to one of the residents.

The whistleblower has also alleged that one woman with high support needs – who is fed through a PEG feeding tube – suffered repeated infections after staff kept reusing syringes for a whole week when they were only supposed to be used for one day before being thrown out.

Residents’ financial records were also more than three months out-of-date, the whistleblower has told the authorities.

A, who herself is disabled, had previously worked happily at another Mencap home, but almost immediately became concerned after transferring to the new home, which supports adults with learning difficulties**.

Although some of the staff were professional and caring, she said, others “were not bothered at all”, and the care overall was “atrocious, especially surrounding the peg feed”.

A passed her concerns to Mencap, and to the local council’s safeguarding team, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the local police force. She has now resigned from her job.

She said she felt unsupported by Mencap after she raised her concerns, including when she had to take time off sick due to anxiety.

She said: “I’ve closed a door on Mencap and refuse to look back on them now but know that I am not the only one to be treated this way by them and I certainly won’t be the last.”

In its last inspection, which took place in the last six months, before the whistleblower raised her concerns, CQC concluded that the care home provided a good level of service.

A spokesman for the local authority said: “We’re continuing to investigate the concerns raised and we’ll work closely with the care home and the CQC to ensure that the needs of residents are being fully met.”

A Mencap spokeswoman said: “Mencap immediately alerted safeguarding bodies to these allegations and were permitted to carry out an internal investigation.

“We can confirm that these allegations were fully investigated and no concerns were found.

“Mencap takes the welfare of the people we support very seriously and remain committed to working with external bodies to ensure we maintain the highest standards of care.”

But she said the charity was also aware of claims that A had subjected several Mencap staff to “harassment” since making her allegations, some of which has been reported to the police.

She said: “A number of Mencap staff have felt compelled to contact the police on grounds of harassment regarding the whistle-blower.

“Whilst we take all allegations seriously and always investigate, we also have to be mindful of the impact that personal harassment might have on staff and take this into account in all incidents.”

Asked about the harassment allegations, the council spokesman said: “We’re not in a position to comment on individual cases because of the sensitive information discussed, but we do support people to come forward and raise any concerns which they may have.”

A police spokeswoman said the force had examined the allegations against staff at the home but concluded that no criminal offences had taken place.

She said: “CQC and the council are investigating but there is no police investigation.”

She was unable to confirm any active investigation relating to the home, including into any harassment allegations.

A CQC spokesman said: “We have received allegations in relation to the care and treatment of people [at the home] and have referred them to the local council safeguarding team.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and consider what future actions to take, which may include carrying out a return inspection.”

*She has asked for her name not to be published

**For legal reasons, DNS is not naming the home or its location

29 June 2017

 

 

Crossbench disabled peer calls for an end to austerity, and the misery it has caused

A crossbench disabled peer has called for an end to government-led austerity and the “personal misery” it has caused.

Lord [Colin] Low, speaking in the Lords debate on last week’s Queen’s speech, said he believed the result of the general election showed voters were “no longer willing to buy neoliberal austerity”.

He told peers that austerity had caused “a great deal of personal misery”, with one in four children living in poverty, the use of foodbanks continuing to rise, and a social security system that was “increasingly inhuman and self-defeating”.

He pointed to disabled people losing their Motability cars – and consequently their jobs –because of the government’s personal independence payment reforms, while other benefit claimants have had their payments sanctioned for “unavoidably missing appointments”.

He added: “The film I, Daniel Blake is all too true to life. The iniquitous work capability assessment finds people fit to work who are patently unfit and who, coroners find, are taking their lives as a result.”

Lord Low said that this “misery” was caused by “conscious, strategic decision-making” by the government, including cutting £12 billion from social security spending in the last parliament, on top of nearly £20 billion cuts under the coalition government.

He said this was part of a 40-year project to “systematically shrink” public sector spending to just 36 per cent or less of national income, compared with 44 per cent in Germany and 50 per cent in Denmark.

And he told fellow peers that the Grenfell Tower fire showed the harm caused by this attack on state spending, with the NHS and other public services in crisis and local services unable to cope.

He said: “Local government, which provides many of these services, will have lost 60 per cent of its funding by 2020.

“The election and the Grenfell Tower fire should serve as a wake-up call that we need to change course.”

He called instead for government to borrow while interest rates are low in order to “invest in infrastructure, thus giving people work, getting them off the dole and being productive, fuelling growth by spending and creating demand for consumer goods, and paying taxes and boosting receipts for the exchequer”.

The independent peer said he believed that voters in the general election had been attracted by the alternative to “neoliberal austerity” offered by the policies of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, which although they were widely described as “hard left” were in fact “fairly standard social democracy”.

Lord Low also said that the “colossal misjudgements” of the last two prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May – over calling the Brexit referendum and a snap general election – showed that it was “surely no longer possible to sustain the pretence that the Conservative party is self-evidently more effective than the Labour party as a vehicle for governing the country”.

And he said that “people should realise that the centre of gravity has shifted [leftwards], in defiance of the political establishment, the media and the commentariat”.

29 June 2017

 

 

Disabled people ‘have too little awareness of rights’ in lead-up to Brexit

A new report has called for greater awareness of the rights enjoyed by disabled people through the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU), as the country moves towards Brexit.

The Implications Of Brexit For Disability Rights looks for ways in which disability organisations can work together to push the government to ensure that disabled people’s rights do not suffer after the UK leaves the EU.

And it describes the “key priorities” for disabled people in a post-Brexit Britain.

The Disability Rights UK (DRUK) report warns that too much of the Brexit debate appears to be about trade tariffs rather than rights, and that disabled people “have too little awareness of their rights and what they can achieve”.

It quotes disability consultant Jonathan Kaye, who has said he fears that unless those EU rights important to disabled people are highlighted during Brexit negotiations, most will “simply be disregarded and seen as being ‘unnecessary red tape’ once the UK formally leaves the EU”.

Kaye says there are “literally thousands of regulations and rules governing the design, functionality and usability of almost every product and object in the home and general environment, indoors and outdoors, which contain elements of disability related consideration”, many of which have taken years of “painstaking and careful lobbying and dialogue”.

The report does not take a position on whether leaving the EU was the right decision, and quotes a Papworth Trust survey which suggested last year that disabled people were slightly more likely to be in favour of leaving the EU (54 per cent) than the overall population who voted in the referendum (52 per cent).

But it paints a clear picture of the potential risks of leaving the EU without paying attention to the impact of Brexit on disabled people’s rights.

Philip Connolly, policy and development manager at DR UK, said he believed there would be “a lot of unity” among disability organisations and disabled people over the need for these issues to be addressed, whether individuals voted “remain” or to leave the EU, and whoever they voted for at the general election.

Some of the major areas covered by EU action on disability include: access to air, ship, rail and coach travel; employment equality; Braille labelling on medicines; public procurement; funding for EU-level disabled people’s organisations (DPOs); other funding from the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund; accessibility of public sector websites; and schemes which provide mutual recognition of benefits when disabled people travel to other EU countries, such as with parking badges and health insurance.

Another crucial benefit, provided through freedom of movement across the countries that are part of the European single market, has been the ready supply of committed and professional personal assistants, and care workers.

Other concerns include the post-Brexit rights of disabled people from the UK currently living in other parts of the single market and of disabled people from those countries currently living in the UK.

The report proposes a manifesto of eight points, which includes calling on the government to carry out a full assessment of the impact on disabled people of its future plans for freedom of movement across the EU.

Connolly said that chancellor Philip Hammond had argued for an “open Brexit”, where “certain proportions of migrant labour are allowed into the UK, perhaps to do specific jobs in specific industries, and he’s saying this is in the interests of the British economy.

“Our position is not massively dissimilar to that. We are saying that there are people who are doing a job, meeting the needs of disabled people, in the health service or social care sector, and these people should still be allowed into the UK so that disabled people can get support or live independent lives.

“The chancellor’s call for an ‘open Brexit’ is opening a door that we want to go through as well.”

The manifesto also calls for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to be given greater legal status in the UK.

And it says the government should ensure that EU-based rights, such as regulations on access to air and ship travel and public sector web accessibility, are maintained post-Brexit.

It also wants to see all those disability rights that are already incorporated into UK law remain unchanged, including regulations as well as primary legislation.

Other demands include calling on the government to guarantee that it will match current EU spending on disability rights and DPOs in the UK after Brexit, and for it to pledge a continued commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The manifesto has already secured backing from a number of leading disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) including Action on Disability, Disability Wales, Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living, the National Survivor User Network, Shaping Our Lives, Spectrum, Spinal Injuries Association, York Independent Living Network, Breakthrough UK, Inclusion Scotland, Independent Lives and Real.

The report was written by Professor Anna Lawson, head of the Centre for Disability Studies and the new Disability Law Hub at the University of Leeds, and Liz Sayce, recently retired as chief executive of DR UK.

It was funded by The Legal Education Foundation, and was based largely on views expressed during public events on the impact of Brexit, interviews with DPOs and disabled people, discussions with experts from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and government, and analysis by Professor Lawson.

Connolly said the all party parliamentary group on disability was likely to be addressing the issues raised by the report at a future meeting, which would provide a “very good opportunity” for disabled people to lobby their MP to attend the meeting and hear that “disabled people have a perspective on Brexit”.

29 June 2017

 

 

Disability arts misses out again, despite huge rise in diverse-led Arts Council funding

Disability arts organisations have missed out on a huge increase in funding that has been handed to other diverse-led groups by Arts Council England (ACE).

Although there has been a significant increase in the number of disability-led arts organisations that will be funded for the next four years – from 23 to 35, according to ACE – the total amount of annual funding has fallen by about £140,000 a year.

The figures were released as ACE announced the arts and cultural organisations that would receive funding as part of its national portfolio for the four years from 2018-19 to 2021-22.

The ACE report shows that funding for LGBT-led organisations has risen from £3 million to £26 million a year (compared with 2017-18), with grants for black and minority ethnic-led groups rising from £12 million to £19 million a year, while disability-led funding fell from £7.169 million to £7.029 million a year for the next four years.

Three years ago, after a fall of 30 per cent in the number of disabled-led arts organisations funded through the national portfolio programme, and a fall of nearly 15 per cent in annual funding, ACE had pledged to take action*.

It pledged to invest £7.5 million to build capacity among black and minority ethnic and disabled artists and organisations in the next three years.

Although that investment has helped lead to an increase in the number of disabled-led organisations represented in the national portfolio, it has not had the same impact on the overall level of funding.

An ACE spokeswoman said: “The investment reflects the level of ask made by different organisations. We did offer a number of uplifts as part of our investment.”

These uplifts are included in the final figure of £7.029 million.

But she also said the figures for 2017-18 included funding for organisations that no longer self-defined as disability-led by the 2018-22 application stage.

She said one of the “wider challenges” ACE faced was the low number of disabled people working in the arts and cultural sector, which has “a direct impact on the number of disability led organisations”.

She said ACE was encouraging organisations to address this, including through new requirements for some future funding agreements.

She said: “If we see an increase in the number of disabled people working in the sector we will likely see an increase in the number of disability led organisations too.”

She said there was also a high number of “prefer not to say” responses to questions on diversity, particularly in relation to disability, and ACE wanted to reduce this.

One of the actions it plans to take is to “better identify the barriers disabled people face in the future to working in the sector”.

In all, ACE will invest £409 million a year in its national portfolio, funded by £338 million of government money and £71 million from the National Lottery.

Some of the disability-led organisations that will benefit from the national portfolio funding announced this week have spoken of how important that money will be for their work over the next four years.

Dr Ju Gosling, artistic director of Together! 2012, which is based in Newham, east London, said she was “quite shocked” by the drop in funding for disabled-led organisations, when other diverse-led groups had seen ACE funding increase significantly.

But she said her organisation’s ACE funding – £60,000 a year for the next four years from April 2018 – would provide Together! 2012 with guaranteed funding and “security”, and added: “Critically, it is about having our value recognised, that endorsement from the Arts Council to say we are creating great art for everyone, endorsing that that is exactly what we are doing.”

Together! 2012 runs a free, year-round programme of creative workshops for disabled people, and free disabled-led exhibitions, events, performances and screenings.

Gosling said: “Our position as a national portfolio organisation will enable us to continue our work to create an international centre of excellence for disability arts in the main [London 2012] host borough of Newham, which at the beginning of 2012 had the lowest level of cultural engagement in the UK.

“The opportunities we will be able to provide for disabled artists from across art forms will also benefit disability arts across the country.”

Another disabled-led organisation to join the portfolio for the first time is Disability Arts Online, which will receive £100,000 a year.

Colin Hambrook, its editor, said: “As part of a cohort of new diverse-led organisations, we look forward to working towards an arts sector that appreciates the richness and diversity of disability arts and culture.”

The user-led Attitude is Everything, which campaigns for better access to live music for disabled people, has been awarded nearly £250,000 a year by ACE, an increase in funding that will allow it to create a new artist development programme for Deaf and disabled artists and promoters.

Suzanne Bull, chief executive of Attitude is Everything, said: “Their commitment ensures that we can further raise our profile; ensuring that we can support even more music venues, festivals and events to meet the requirements of disabled and Deaf people.”

Other disabled-led organisations to secure funding for the next four years include Graeae (£564,399 per year); DaDaFest (£193,052 per year); Deafinitely Theatre (£212,110 per year); Disability Arts in Shropshire (£120,000); Extant (£156,000); and Shape Arts (£286,551).

*The number of disabled-led organisations receiving funding is not directly comparable with the last announcement in 2014 because ACE now uses a different definition of “disabled-led”.

29 June 2017

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com