Discrimination against disabled staff shoots up at DWP, the home of ‘Disability Confident’
The number of disabled civil servants who have faced discrimination within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has risen by nearly a quarter in just a year, according to “shocking” and “very worrying” new figures.
More than 1,400 disabled civil servants who took part in the survey for the Cabinet Office said they had been discriminated against in 2015, compared with 1,038 in 2014.
Although more DWP civil servants (61,019) responded to the 2015 survey than the 2014 survey (54,426), the figures show that the proportion of staff who faced disability-related discrimination rose by 23.5 per cent.
And there were far more staff discriminated against on the grounds of disability in 2015 (1,437) than age (895), caring responsibilities (1,041), race (429), gender (607) or sexual orientation (153).
But the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, has failed to express any concern about the figures or suggest a plan for tackling the problem of rising disability discrimination within his own department.
The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell said the figures were “very worrying”, and showed DWP needed to “sort out its own housekeeping”.
The results of the survey – carried out as part of the annual Civil Service People Survey – come as a huge embarrassment for Tomlinson, who is leading a campaign to make other employers more “disability confident”.
The Disability Confident campaign aims to work with employers to “challenge attitudes towards disability” and “ensure that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations”.
But Baroness Campbell said: “The DWP needs to sort out its own housekeeping, otherwise how can they possibly lead by example on the Disability Confident campaign.”
Her reservations about the campaign had already inspired her to seek an amendment to the welfare reform and work bill, which would have forced the government to publish an annual report on progress towards its target of halving the disability employment gap.
She said: “I think it is essential that the government understand more about the complexities that prevent disabled people entering employment.
“Without adequate data leading to reliable analysis, solutions to this interminable problem will not be found.”
David Gillon, a disabled activist and blogger, said the figures were “shocking”, particularly coming from the department “charged with supporting disabled people”.
He said: “How can we trust DWP to defend our interests when these figures once more demonstrate that DWP are part of the problem, not the solution?”
Gillon said that DWP’s understanding of disability was “so fundamentally negative that it must inevitably leak corrosively through into their dealings with their own disabled staff”.
He said: “DWP discriminate against disabled people wherever they come across them; the surprise would be if they didn’t discriminate against their own staff.”
And he said that Disability Confident was “based on the ridiculous claim that workplace disability discrimination doesn’t exist”, and that the figures “go a long way to explaining why DWP might be so desperate to advocate such a demonstrably false claim”.
He added: “Disability Confident is very heavily based on inspiration-porn and the depiction of the ideal disabled employee as inherently ‘inspiring’.
“It then becomes impossible for a merely normal disabled person to meet this idealized perception of a supercrip.
“When measured against Disability Confident’s favoured Paralympians, entrepreneurs and war heroes, it is sadly unsurprising that managers will judge their own disabled staff lacking, and punish them for it.”
A DWP spokesman refused to say whether Tomlinson was concerned about the figures, what he believed had caused the rise in discrimination, what if anything he planned to do about the problem, or whether the figures showed that he needed to do more to make his own department “disability confident”.
But the spokesman said in a statement: “Any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination is unacceptable and where formally reported it will be dealt with in the strongest possible way.”
He added: “It would be overly simplistic to interpret the People Survey findings as reflecting an increase in these incidents.
“The figures are in part a reflection of the work we have been doing to encourage more people to come forward and raise awareness in this important area.”
When it was pointed out that it was an anonymous survey and so did not measure disabled staff who had come forward to report discrimination, he failed to respond.
4 February 2016
Government departments and judiciary in ‘fit for work’ suicide ‘cover-up’
Two government departments – and the judiciary – appear to be conspiring to prevent the release of information that would show how ministers ignored an opportunity to prevent the “fitness for work” test causing disabled claimants to take their own lives.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been asked key questions about its apparent failure to fulfil its legal duty to respond to a coroner’s report on the suicide of a disabled man found “fit for work” six years ago.
Questions submitted by Disability News Service under the Freedom of Information Act were due to be answered by 20 January – again, according to DWP’s legal duty – but the response is now two weeks overdue.
Both the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Judicial Office have produced misleading responses to questions submitted by DNS in the past few days.
The report by coroner Tom Osborne was written in late March 2010 following an inquest into the death of 41-year-old Stephen Carre, from Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, who had taken his own life in January 2010*.
DNS has seen a series of letters that show the coroner gave DWP all the information it needed to carry out an urgent review of the safety of key aspects of the work capability assessment (WCA) in 2010.
But that review – ordered by Osborne through a process known as a Rule 43 letter – was never carried out.
DWP press officers have repeatedly refused to answer questions about the failure of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith to respond to the Osborne report.
But they have also been joined in their cover-up by colleagues in the press offices of the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Office.
Both press offices have been shown letters that prove DWP was provided with the necessary information – including a transcript of the Stephen Carre inquest – to allow it to respond to Osborne’s report, but failed to do so.
All three press offices have tried to argue that DWP did respond to the coroner’s report, through a letter sent to Osborne on 4 May 2010, despite being shown communication that proves the 4 May letter was just a holding response while DWP awaited further information from the coroner.
The Chief Coroner’s Office has refused to investigate DWP’s failure to produce a response.
And this week, a spokesman for the Judicial Office claimed that the coroner had received no further communication from DWP after the letter of 4 May, despite being shown letters that were sent by Osborne to DWP which prove otherwise.
Last week, the Ministry of Justice refused to say whether a DWP response to the Osborne report was ever sent to the Lord Chancellor, as legislation in place at the time said it should have been.
The Ministry of Justice press office has seen the same letters that were shown to the Judicial Office, but has also refused to answer questions about the report, including whether it will investigate what appears to be a breach of the law by Duncan Smith.
Duncan Smith’s failure to act on the Osborne report may have led to many other similar deaths of ESA claimants who took their own lives after being found “fit for work”.
Just weeks after the Osborne letter was sent to DWP, ministers decided to roll out the WCA to hundreds of thousands of existing claimants of incapacity benefit (IB), many of them with long-term mental health conditions.
One of those ministers, Chris Grayling, appointed Professor Malcolm Harrington to carry out an independent review of the “fairness and effectiveness” of the WCA, and later told him he wanted to push ahead with plans to roll out the assessment to IB claimants, despite Harrington – who was never shown Osborne’s letter – suggesting this should be delayed by a year.
The following year, in December 2011, a long-term IB claimant – Ms D E – took her own life after being told she was not eligible for ESA.
Her case was linked by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland to similar failings within the WCA process to those that led to the death of Stephen Carre.
And in 2014, another coroner wrote an almost identical letter to Osborne’s, again warning of concerns about the safety of the WCA, after the death of a north London man, Michael O’Sullivan, who also took his own life after being found fit for work.
Last November, government-funded research concluded that the programme to reassess people claiming IB using the WCA could have caused 590 suicides in just three years.
*Osborne ruled that the trigger for Stephen Carre’s suicide had been DWP’s rejection of his appeal against being found “fit for work”, and he called in his Rule 43 letter for a review of the policy not to seek medical evidence from a GP or psychiatrist if the claimant has a mental health condition.
Neither the Atos assessor who assessed Carre, nor the DWP decision-maker who subsequently decided that he was fit for work and therefore ineligible for the new employment and support allowance, had sought information from his GP, his community psychiatric nurse or his psychiatrist.
4 February 2016
Alarm over huge new ‘care village’ for autistic adults
Disabled campaigners have expressed alarm after work began on a huge new “care village” for autistic adults, despite concerns raised by the local council.
The £4 million project will see a 40-unit “specialist care centre” on land in North Shields, with the first residents expected to move in early next year.
The project is headed by Lenore Specialist Care, a company that already runs a 23-bed residential home for adults with learning difficulties in nearby Whitley Bay.
The local authority, North Tyneside council, appeared to demonstrate its approval through a photograph sent out by Triodos, the “ethical” bank funding the scheme, which showed the council’s chair, Cllr Gary Bell, digging the first turf, although the council later blamed an administrative error for Bell’s decision to take part.
Such a scheme contrasts with the government’s national autism strategy, Think Autism, which says that adults with autism “should be able to benefit fully from mainstream public services to live independently and healthily, including access to appropriate housing to meet individual needs”.
The new development also contrasts sharply with the government’s response last November to its No Voice Unheard, No Right Ignored consultation, which looked at how to strengthen the rights of people with learning difficulties, autism and mental health conditions, and focused on how they can “live independently in their communities and make choices in their lives”.
Laura Murray-Walton, Lenore’s service manager, said in a press release that the company was the first in the north-east to develop such a facility providing specialist care to adults who “suffer from” autism or learning difficulties.
The project has been seen as an alarming return to institutionalisation, with the user-led campaigning group Autistic UK describing it as “dreadfully old-fashioned” and “Victorian”.
Russell Stronach, treasurer of Autistic North-East and vice-secretary of the user-led, national autistic people’s organisation Autistic UK, said the plans were “very retrogressive”.
He said: “I am the father of a 25-year-old autistic man and I wouldn’t want my son in a place like that. It flies in the face of the concept of independent living.”
He also pointed out that the development was “tucked away out of sight in a quiet corner of town” and was “right next door to a traditionally rough estate”.
Andrew Lee, director of policy and campaigns at People First Self-Advocacy, said that institutions were “a thing of the past”, and were “definitely not the set-up to meet the aspirations, hopes and dreams that people with learning difficulties have as being part of an inclusive society in the 21st century”.
Lee said: “When people with learning difficulties talk of independence, choice, control, having a job, being married, having a family, all of these dreams and hopes are from being part of society, not cut off from it.
“Having neighbours that don’t have a learning difficulty, don’t have autism, aren’t a member of staff, is part of that. “
He added: “I would think if you were to ask people with learning difficulties and autism living in Tyneside and [North Shields] whether they would be happy about being cut off from mainstream society, they would have some very strong views about it.
“Not listening to disabled people has proved dangerous in the past. Please learn from the mistakes of the past and start listening to us.”
A Triodos spokesman said its “guiding principle” was that any loan “should provide clear, positive benefits to people and society”.
He said that “care-providing customers” must deliver a “high level of personalised care”, while the bank relies on the Care Quality Commission’s registration and regulatory inspections and assessments to ensure that standards are monitored.
He added: “We believe that more factors determine the quality of care than the number of accommodation spaces available on site.
“In this case, the facilities are specially designed for autism care (which include provisions such as sensory rooms), supported living accommodation has been offered, and an emphasis on personalisation has been shown through individually tailored support plans.
“The service is also rooted in the community, as the service is located in the centre of North Shields.”
And he said that Tyneside “has been identified as an area which is lacking considerably in autism specialist accommodation”.
A spokeswoman for North Tyneside council said it was “aware of wider concerns” about the development but that the decision to grant the project planning permission was “in line with national government planning policy”.
She said: “As is the case when developments are proposed for any type of supported accommodation, the committee cannot refuse planning permission based on commissioning matters; their role is based on the spatial aspects of the application.
“However, the council did provide advice on numerous occasions to the applicants before they applied for planning permission, advising that the proposed development was significantly larger than our recommended approach and national guidelines.”
When asked why the council chair took part in the Triodos photo opportunity, she said: “The role of the non-political council chairman is to undertake civic and ceremonial duties – this includes supporting new businesses opening in the borough.
“It is entirely normal for the chair of the council to be asked to mark a major milestone for a business and this was no exception.”
But she added: “The council’s officer team have apologised to the chairman for failing to put the invitation into context before he accepted it.
“The chairman, Cllr Bell, is a committed, personal supporter of local organisations that work on behalf of people with a learning disability.”
The Department of Health had failed to comment by noon today (4 February).
4 February 2016
Protesters to march on GP surgery over Maximus job coach project
Disabled activists are to march on a surgery next month in protest at its involvement in a government scheme that is placing welfare-to-work advisors from a discredited US outsourcing giant in GP practices.
Six surgeries in Islington, north London, are taking part in the year-long pilot scheme run and funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Islington council.
Under the Working Better scheme, job coaches employed by Remploy – which is now mostly owned by the US company Maximus – are placed in GP surgeries for one day a week.
Patients who are unemployed and have long-term health conditions can ask their GP to refer them to “intensive and personalised employment coaching” within the surgery.
The job coaches “work with patients to establish their previous work experience, knowledge and skills, to build confidence, set goals and identify job or educational opportunities”.
But activists from the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) say the pilot scheme will destroy trust between doctors and their patients, particularly those with mental health conditions.
They are particularly alarmed at the involvement of Maximus, which already runs DWP’s work capability assessment system and has quietly secured a string of other lucrative DWP contracts.
MHRN, DPAC and other activists are planning a protest march on 4 March that will target City Road surgery, one of the six GP practices taking part in the pilot project.
Paula Peters, one of the organisers of the march, said: “Colluding with the DWP is not what they should be doing.”
She said she believed that such projects would “stop people in serious mental distress and people who need treatment from their GPs accessing their GP surgery”.
She said: “They will just not go there if there is a Maximus job coach slap bang in the middle.
“If people in mental distress feel it is not safe to access their GP, where do they go?
“I would not go to my surgery if I knew there was one of those inside of it. I wouldn’t feel safe.”
She said that many people with mental health conditions are being discharged from secondary care into the care of GPs, and many have chronic health conditions that need regular treatment and monitoring.
The protesters also fear that what is currently a voluntary scheme – with no impact on receipt of benefits – will eventually become mandatory, with people facing benefit sanctions if they refuse to see the Maximus advisor.
They point to last year’s Conservative election manifesto, which said that people “should get the medical help they need so they can return to work”, and warned: “If they refuse a recommended treatment, we will review whether their benefits should be reduced.”
Peters said: “You already have jobcentre advisors going into food banks, they will be going into libraries, they are going out to schools to give 12-year-olds career advice, and now they are heading into GPs’ surgeries. Where next? Funeral homes?”
Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington council, defended the decision to co-operate with the pilot project and said fears about the scheme were “misplaced” because it was “entirely voluntary and not linked, in any way, to any welfare-to-work conditionality or sanctions regime”.
He said: “We know from independent research across our community that the vast majority of our disabled residents do want to work and want a better chance to show what they can do.
“That’s why we’re doing more to break down barriers and help make employment support services more accessible and inclusive to the disabled people who want to benefit from them.
“No-one is or will be made to see an employment support coach if they do not want to and no client’s information is shared with Jobcentre Plus.
“No disabled person who is unable to work should be made to. The council opposes ‘workfare’.
“We ask those proposing to protest to suspend their action and come and meet us so we can discuss our Working Better scheme in detail.”
Despite Remploy now being mostly owned by Maximus, an Islington council spokesman said he had been told by Remploy that it was “a completely separate company and brand” to Maximus, and that “Maximus have absolutely no involvement in the Working Better project and none of the coaches are from Maximus”.
Dr Josephine Sauvage, joint vice-chair of Islington clinical commissioning group, and one of the GPs at City Road, said: “When we become ill we often stop doing those things that get us out and about and bring fulfilment to our lives. As a local GP I see and hear this every day.
“My first concern is always a patient’s well-being and I’m very keen to do more to support this.
“Prescribing free and confidential employment coaching, delivered in a caring and familiar environment, can be really beneficial to a patient’s confidence and self-esteem, as well as their long-term recovery.”
Last summer, MHRN and DPAC and other activists marched on a jobcentre in Streatham, south London, to protest at plans to force people with mental health conditions to undergo psychological treatments in exchange for out-of-work benefits.
Like the Islington pilot, the Streatham pilot is part of growing moves by the government to build closer ties between NHS services and employment programmes, particularly for claimants with mental health conditions.
4 February 2016
‘Appalling’ consultation ‘shows government’s PIP plans are deplorable’
An “appalling” consultation has failed to make the case for “deplorable” government plans to tighten eligibility for its new disability benefit, according to new research by three disabled campaigners.
The research by Caroline Richardson, Stef Benstead and Emma Nock, for the user-led Spartacus online network, concludes that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has failed to provide “adequate” or “robust” evidence to justify the changes to personal independence payment (PIP).
The DWP consultation document was published on 10 December and ran until 29 January, and examined possible changes to how PIP assessments take account of the way a claimant uses independent living aids and appliances.
All of the options laid out in the consultation document would either reduce payments for many claimants, or make it harder for people to claim PIP.
For their report, Crippling Choices, Spartacus surveyed sick and disabled people about the changes, although they had to simplify the government’s consultation questions because they were so complex.
The three Spartacus authors say the results of the survey show the consultation was too difficult to understand, and gave people far too little time to respond – over the Christmas and new year period – while DWP failed to promote it properly to disabled people.
The Spartacus report concludes that the questions and options presented by the government were “complex, repetitive and confusing”.
And it says that DWP failed to provide “any adequate or robust evidence” for its central argument, that people receiving PIP on the basis of aids and appliances do not need benefits to pay for impairment-related costs.
Although there were only 61 responses to the Spartacus survey, because of the lack of time, there was “overwhelming opposition to all the options presented by the DWP” and a belief that the consultation was “simply a cost-cutting exercise, not based on research or an understanding of disability”.
The report points to a string of costs that are already not accounted for by PIP, including higher utility bills, specialist or more expensive food, and extra laundry costs.
PIP currently takes into account a claimant’s need to use aids and appliances to complete the assessed activities, with two points – the lowest level – scored for most questions.
But the consultation document lays out five possible options for change: giving claimants who score all their assessment points from aids and appliances a single lump sum instead of a regular weekly payment; awarding such claimants a lower regular payment; removing their eligibility altogether; changing the definition of aids and appliances; or reducing the points awarded for the use of aids and appliances.
Nock said: “The changes proposed suggest either an ignorance of the impact of disability or a wilful decision to ignore the truth.
“Both are deplorable in a government seeking to make changes that will have a significant impact on the people already suffering a disproportionate effect of the welfare cuts.”
Richardson, who has lodged a complaint about the consultation with DWP, said: “It’s clear from the options given in the consultation that the government wish to reduce the amount spent on PIP by reducing points available, and hence reducing both the number of awards and the level of the award.”
Benstead said the survey results were in line with previous research that showed the inadequacy of PIP and disability living allowance in meeting the extra costs faced by disabled people.
She said the consultation was “appalling”, and added: “We had to simplify the questions for our survey, as the consultation was so complex.”
Benstead said that researching the report in the timeframe permitted by the government had damaged the health of all three of its authors.
She added: “The very fact that the government considers the use of aids and appliances to be an issue is a shocking indictment of the government’s understanding of disability and chronic illness.”
By noon today (4 February), DWP had declined to comment on the report itself.
It also said it was “unable to comment on a complaint”, but a DWP spokesman said in a statement: “In terms of the consultation it will help to ensure that PIP properly supports people with the extra costs associated with their disability.
“It was promoted widely, with more than 80 disability organisations contacted directly.
“DWP officials also met with the Disability Benefits Consortium, which represents 60 disability groups, and held meetings in London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh.
“In addition, each member of the Disability Charities Consortium was offered a meeting with DWP officials.”
4 February 2016
Disabled ex-Lib Dem MP backs IDS over WCA suicide report ‘cover-up’
A disabled former Liberal Democrat MP has refused to criticise the Tory work and pensions secretary for covering up a report that linked the “fitness for work” test with a disabled man’s suicide.
Stephen Lloyd, who narrowly lost his Eastbourne seat at last year’s general election, was a supporter of many of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms during his five years as a coalition MP.
And now, in an email interview with Disability News Service (DNS), Lloyd has refused to condemn the cover-up – even though his party is no longer in power – and has defended coalition cuts and reforms that cut billions of pounds a year from spending on disability benefits and services.
Asked whether he stood by his backing for Duncan Smith, which he expressed several times as an MP, Lloyd said: “I actually believe that IDS is genuinely committed to helping disabled people into work, where possible.”
He suggested that the blame for any failure of Duncan Smith’s policies lay instead with the chancellor, George Osborne.
When DNS drew his attention to a trio of news stories that demonstrated the harshness of Duncan Smith’s policies on out-of-work disability policies and showed he had covered up a report that linked the work capability assessment (WCA) with the death of a man who took his own life, he refused to criticise the work and pensions secretary, although he said the three stories were “appalling”.
He claimed he was not a “supporter” of Duncan Smith but believed that his “basic premise is to set up a system that tried to get people who have been out of work for a long time through disability into work”, which he said was “not easy”.
The three stories show that Duncan Smith failed in his legal duty to respond to a coroner’s report into the death of 41-year-old Stephen Carre, who took his own life in January 2010 after DWP rejected his appeal against being found fit for work.
In November, government-funded research concluded that the programme to reassess people claiming IB using the WCA could have caused 590 suicides in just three years.
But when DNS asked why Lloyd refused to criticise Duncan Smith over the cover-up, he refused to comment further, or to express any concern about the deaths that may have been caused by the failure to respond to the report.
And when asked if he had made a single political decision that he regretted during his five years as an MP, he said, “not really”, before talking instead about the failings of the government contractor Atos in carrying out the WCA.
When asked if this meant that he believed he had not made a single political mistake in five years, he again declined to comment further.
Asked about the billions of pounds of support cut by the coalition to spending on social care, disability living allowance and personal independence payment – that have led to thousands of people having to hand back their Motability vehicles – as well as increased sanctions for those on out-of-work benefits, and cuts to disabled students’ allowance, he refused to say which of those he supported.
Lloyd, who is still active politically for the party in Eastbourne and also works as business innovations director for an international communications company based in Eastbourne, was widely praised for his constituency work during his five years as an MP.
He was the first MP to launch a much-copied scheme to support the creation of 100 apprentices in his constituency in 100 days, and ensured his constituency team represented disabled people in more than 100 tribunals to appeal against being turned down for employment and support allowance, personal independence payment and disability living allowance, with a success rate he estimates at more than 80 per cent.
He pointed out that hardly any MPs bother to ensure their staff attend such tribunals to advocate for their disabled constituents.
He said: “This was something I very specifically set up, though there was no allocated budget, training or emphasis that we should do this.”
He was a member of the work and pensions select committee and of several disability-themed all-party parliamentary groups, where he was, he says, “a constant advocate for equality of opportunity for disabled people”.
And he said that, as a constituency MP, he did all he could to “fight for people who clearly were assessed inaccurately”.
He said: “I do not think it wrong that people should be assessed – some after many years – as to their suitability for work, but [I] was a constant critic of Atos’s poor record.”
He added: “Leaving people for years on the assumption they will never work is inherently wrong, in my view.
“If after assessing they can be helped into work that has to be a good thing. The key – where my team came in – was to make the assessments fair.”
4 February 2016
Security industry silent on flaws in disability equality training for bouncers
By Raya Al Jadir and John Pring
The security industry is facing accusations that its training and policies take almost no account of disabled people, and risk subjecting them to repeated discrimination at the hands of bouncers and other security staff.
Disability News Service (DNS) has discovered that key documents laying out what the industry regulation body expects from “security operatives” make no reference to disabled people at all, while others make only fleeting references.
The concerns were raised in the wake of an incident in which disabled campaigner Gary Mazin was allegedly assaulted by a door supervisor and refused admission to a bar in London because he was with his guide dog Gibson.
A bouncer kept shouting “no dogs” at him, even after being told Gibson was a guide dog, and then pushed Mazin in the chest as he tried to move forward.
After other customers supported Mazin, the doorman agreed to consult the bar manager and he was eventually allowed inside to join his friends.
Following the incident on 8 January at The Fire Station bar, near Waterloo station, Mazin told DNS the experience had convinced him that there was widespread, unlawful disability discrimination by security staff.
The user-led charity he works for, Enhance the UK, has now launched a campaign to ensure that security operatives receive the same disability equality training as staff inside venues such as bars and nightclubs.
Mazin, the charity’s head of marketing, said: “This is clearly a big problem and one that is making lives of people with disabilities even harder, when trying to access the same services as everyone else.”
The Security Industry Authority (SIA), which regulates the private security industry on behalf of the Home Office, told DNS that disability equality issues were covered by the specifications it has laid out for training security operatives, in documents on its website.
But a detailed examination of those documents by DNS has shown almost no mention of disability or disabled people.
The document relating to information that all security operatives need to know makes just one mention of disability – in the appendix – pointing out that they should not discriminate, including on the grounds of disability.
The specialist module for door supervisors also makes only one mention of disability, stating that candidates must be able to describe the “additional considerations” they need to take account of when searching disabled people.
But the section relating to door supervisors in the “communication skills and conflict management” module has no mention of disability at all, while the physical intervention module also makes no mention of disabled people or disability.
An SIA spokesman said: “The development of the training specification for SIA licence linked qualifications has been made following consultation with the private security industry.
“We will continue to collaborate with those we regulate to improve the quality of our work.”
He added: “We are committed to tackling equality and diversity issues. We carry out regular monitoring to ensure that our equality processes are working.”
He then admitted that SIA reviews its training only every five years, and that the consultation for the latest review had already closed.
When asked whether SIA believed that it needed to improve the disability equality elements of training within the industry, he repeatedly refused to answer.
The Home Office, to which SIA reports, had – by noon today (4 February) – refused to say whether it was concerned about the lack of focus on disability in SIA’s training documents, and whether it would take any action to ensure the industry improves its record on disability equality.
Mazin is now pushing SIA to hold talks about the issue.
He said: “This problem lies with the governing body, who are responsible for ensuring that people they give the qualifications to have the bare minimum of the awareness of the law.
“I’ve been in touch with the SIA myself and it seems there’s a long way to go to ensure that the SIA are more compliant with the law.”
He added: “It’s quite shocking that this has been allowed to slip through and it really should be addressed as soon as possible.”
TSS Security, which manages the door staff at The Fire Station, said the training specifications laid out by SIA included no reference to “any kind of training on how to manage a situation involving a less able bodied individual”.
But TSS’s own one-page “disability policy” appears to be years out of date and repeatedly refers to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), and makes no mention of the Equality Act, which replaced the DDA in 2010.
A TSS spokesman said: “I am aware that the Equality Act 2010 and its last update 2015 replaced the DDA.
“I am not aware that our policy does not cover all areas nonetheless and it is reviewed annually.”
Meanwhile, TSS Security has apologised for any distress caused to Mazin, although it disputes the allegation that he was shoved, but admits that “the security operative in question was suspended from the site pending further investigation”.
The Fire Station has “apologised unreservedly” to Mazin for the “temporary misunderstanding” which was “absolutely not in line with our policy in any way whatsoever”.
But the bar claims the incident at the door took “less than one minute” before it was resolved, and that Mazin was then allowed to enter and join his friends inside.
4 February 2016
Atos, Maximus and Capita forced to admit assessment failures
The three companies that carry out disability benefit assessments for the government have all been forced to admit regret at the poor quality of their work, while giving evidence to a committee of MPs.
Senior executives from Maximus, Atos and Capita were providing evidence to the public accounts committee, following a highly critical report into their work by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Last month’s NAO report said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had failed to achieve value for money from the health and disability assessments it had contracted out to Atos, Maximus and Capita.
In 2014-15, DWP spent about £275 million on assessment contracts, but this is expected to more than double to £579 million by 2016-17.
The NAO report showed that, in August 2015, 36 per cent of Capita’s personal independence payment (PIP) assessment reports failed to meet standards agreed with DWP, compared with the four per cent target set in its contract.
In the two regions in which PIP assessments are carried out by Atos, eight and nine per cent of assessments did not meet the necessary standards.
For Maximus, nine per cent of its work capability assessment reports were below par in August 2015, five months after taking over the contract from Atos, against a target of five per cent.
Chris Stroud, divisional managing director of Capita, said his company’s failure to meet the targets by such a wide margin “had not been acceptable”, but he said there was a “quality improvement plan in place”.
David Haley, PIP client executive for Atos, said the figures showed that the quality of its reports was improving and that the relevant figure was now about seven per cent.
When Conservative MP Nigel Mills asked why Atos was not “a little apologetic” that it was still missing its targets by such a wide margin three years into its PIP contract, Haley said he was “not happy” that his company continued to miss the target.
Leslie Wolfe, general manager of Maximus UK, said she also was “not happy” that her company was not meeting its quality target, although she said it was continuing to improve.
Between April 2015 and March 2018, DWP expects the three companies to carry out about seven million assessments, at an estimated cost of £1.6 billion.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror has reported that DWP has paid consultants £200,000 to carry out a feasibility study into the possibility of privatising the Access to Work programme.
The memo seen by the newspaper apparently advises ministers not to make a public announcement about the plans.
4 February 2016
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com