Crippen asks why Liz Kendall ignored disabled-led social care plans in major speech

You may remember a blog I did about Keir Starmer’s election campaign and his promise to make fundamental reforms, including a right to independent living enshrined in law.

Well, as reported in Disability News service (DNS) this all seems to have conveniently gone away as the first major speech by Labour’s shadow social care minister Liz Kendall, ignored disabled-led proposals for fundamental reform. In her speech, Kendall made no reference to the idea of free social care, or any of the proposals made by the National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS).

The NILSS proposal, which was drawn up by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), would provide a universal right to independent living that was “enshrined in law”, and would introduce free social care in England, funded by national and progressive taxation.

Labour’s apparent back-tracking on Starmer’s support for NILSS comes amid mounting concern about the current government’s plans for social care reform, and the fact that no proposals were included in the recent Queen’s speech.

Speaking at the spring conference of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services – which Labour had described as her first major speech on social care since becoming shadow minister – Kendall spoke repeatedly about the need for higher wages for care workers and more support for family carers.

She did call for more “power and control” for service-users and families and spoke about the need for more support to enable people to live in their own homes for longer, rather than in residential care.

But Kendall focused through her speech on older people’s care, even though working-age adults account for more than half (PDF) of local authority spending on social care.

Some of the grassroots groups behind the NILSS proposals, including ROFA and DPAC, are set to meet Kendall later this month. I’ll keep you posted on the outcome.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A couple of disabled people are confronting Keir Starmer with his broken promises regarding social care. One of them, a wheelchair user with pink hair  is holding up a placard that reads ‘labour promised independent living to be enshrined in law’. Opposite them stands Starmer and a colleague, both wearing identical grey suits and red ties. Starmer’s colleague is saying: “oh come on – nobody believes election promises!” Starmer is saying: “Naive or what?!” On the floor at their feet are a couple of torn up pieces of paper with ‘free social care’ and ‘broken promises’ printed on them.

Crippen hears about an exciting project run and controlled by young disabled people

An exciting new project, RIP:STARS which was run and controlled by young disabled people, has issued its findings on the quality of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and whether they meet disabled children and young people’s rights.

RIP:STARS, which stands for ‘Research Into Plans: Skilled Team with Ambition, Rights and Strength’, was funded by the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) programme and wanted to find out whether the EHCPs actually prepare disabled children and young people for independent living and help them achieve their dreams for the future. The project is also unique in as much that it is run and controlled solely by young disabled people from Coventry, who were trained in research techniques by Coventry University.

Speaking in the report, a member of the team said: “We have been involved in all of the stages of the research process, from coming up with the questions that were asked in the interviews and group discussions, to doing the fieldwork with professionals, carers and disabled young people. We have also looked at and analysed the information we collected and have developed recommendations from our research findings.

“We have also learned about the Social Model of Disability. This means not seeing young people just as a label such as autism or dyslexia, not treating everybody with that condition in the same way, and instead focusing on removing the barriers that restrict us as disabled young people. We have used the Social Model of Disability in our research. It was important for us to understand the social model to be able to do the research. We wish we had known about the social model when we were younger and are questioning why we were not told.”

As part of this project the Alliance For Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) have provided training sessions where the young researchers have learnt about their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Before this project they had little information about their rights as young disabled people, but now they feel that they have the ammunition to fight back and make changes.

The full RIP:STARS report is available as a downloadable PDF.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A group of young disabled people are confronting a man in a dark grey suit who is holding a copy of the Rip Stars report. Above the young people is a large sign that says special school for special children. One of the youngsters is holding a copy of his EHCP. All of the young people are looking angry whereas the man is looking bemused. One of the youngsters is saying: “So how come we haven’t been taught about the social model of disability?!”

Crippen discovers that outsourcing companies have sent almost no safeguarding referrals to councils

The three companies used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out benefit assessments have been faced with repeated criticisms over their links to deaths and serious harm caused to disabled benefit claimants.

The companies, Atos, Capita and Maximus, have made almost no attempts in the last year to alert local authorities to serious safeguarding concerns. In fact, they have contacted the councils just eight times in total between January 2020 and February 2021 with safeguarding concerns about the disabled people they were assessing, despite carrying out hundreds of thousands of assessments during that period.

The figures have come from disabled campaigner and former safeguarding expert Mike Owen, who collected them through freedom of information requests to every relevant local authority across England, Scotland and Wales. It is the third year that Owen has collated the statistics, and this year about 120 local authorities responded with figures.

Atos, who trade as Independent Assessment Services, and Capita have been continuing to carry out assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) and Maximus, who trade as the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, has been conducting work capability assessments to test eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits. They have been paid more than £2.5 BILLION by the DWP since 2010 to carry out this work.

But between January 2020 and February 2021, Atos made just one safeguarding referral, Capita four and Maximus three to the local authorities that provided figures to Owen.

When approached by Disability News Service (DNS) Capita refused to comment or answer questions about the figures, and Atos refused to confirm the content of its staff safeguarding guidance. A Maximus spokesperson also refused to confirm the content of its staff safeguarding guidance and whether it followed DWPs internal guidance.

You’d think having been paid more than £2.5 BILLION they could be a little more articulate in their responses?!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young white male is sat behind a desk in the office for benefit assessments. He is throwing darts at a notice board which has pictures of benefits claimants pinned onto it. Alongside of the desk is a waste bin full of rejected application forms. He is speaking to someone on his head set and is saying: “You’re feeling suicidal – what makes you think I give a toss?!”

Crippen hears visually impaired users complain after rail websites go grey scale for Prince Philip

For many visually impaired people who recently tried to access National Rail websites it was as if someone had decided to make the sites as inaccessible as they could.

Network Rail and National Rail websites had turned from colour to grey scale overnight rendering them completely useless to people with visual impairments. By the end of the day other train operators, including Cross Country and Northern rail, had also removed colour from their websites.

The reason for this? Well, it was someone’s bright idea to do this as a tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh who had died the week before. However, they soon realised that the gesture had backfired after disabled customers highlighted accessibility issues and complained they could no longer use the websites.

One Twitter user said: “National Rail have coloured their entire website grey to ‘mourn Prince Philip’, rendering the whole website completely useless to people with visual impairments. The UK has completely lost the plot.”

Robin Spinks, the innovation lead for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, added: “As someone who is registered severely sight impaired, good colour contrast on a website is incredibly important. A lack of this makes it difficult for me to read the content and causes headaches and eye strain. It leaves me feeling unwelcome as a customer”.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We temporarily made our website grey scale as a mark of respect following the death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. We’ve been made aware this has caused problems for people accessing the content so it’s now back to its usual look. We’re sorry it’s caused issues and we thank everyone for their feedback.”

I wonder where all of the money they claim to have spent on disability equality training and access really went?!

You can read more about this fiasco in the Guardian or Disability News service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young disabled man is standing in front of an automatic information machine in a train station. He is reaching out to a large button that has ‘press’ printed upon it. A large sign on the machine reads ‘rail network – disabled access service’. Half of the cartoon is in grey scale with half of the young man in grey scale and the rest of him and the station is in colour. A voice from the machine is saying: “Welcome to the colourless and hopeless world of the disabled!” The young man has a large explanation and question mark above his head.

Crippen discovers that the government ‘treats disabled people with contempt’ by handing £2.4 million to charities

The government has been accused of showing “contempt” and “indifference” towards disabled people, after announcing large grants to 13 disability charities but failing to offer a penny to organisations run and controlled by disabled people (DPOs).

Reported in Disability News Service (DNS) the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced this week that it was awarding £2.4 million to charities such as Mencap, Leonard Cheshire, Scope, the National Autistic Society, RNIB and RNID.

The money will fund services that provide advice and support for people affected by the pandemic. But none of the funding will go to DPOs, many of which have provided vital support to disabled people during the pandemic.

Joe Whittaker, a board member of The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said the decision meant it was “business as usual” for the government, which was continuing to fund “the big business charities, rather than listening to the authentic voice of disabled people and their organisations”.

He said the government had yet again failed to engage with disabled people in recent months and continued to “treat disabled people with contempt” by funding “multi-million pound charities”.

He added that these charities were managed by non-disabled people on six-figure salaries “telling disabled people what’s good for them”, which “perpetuates practices that lock disabled people into cultures of dependency”.

This failure to listen to DPOs can only result in the same failed policies and systematic disability discrimination that is perpetuated by the current government. It also prevents society from gaining from the huge contributions of disabled people from around the UK.

NB: You’ll not be surprised to hear that 25 per cent of DPOs have closed over the last five years and many are on the brink of closing due to lack of financial support from local and national government.

You can read the full article in DNS.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two disabled people are facing two charity representatives. One, a wheelchair user, is pointing at the large sacks of money that lay around the feet of the charity reps along with £20 and £10 notes. One of the charity reps, a female, is putting up a new sign that reads ‘charities Inc – doing it to the handicapped because we can’. The other charity rep, a male in a smart suit and tie, is saying to the disabled people: “What?!”

Crippen hears that disabled activist Doug Paulley is taking the government to court again

Fellow disabled activist Doug Paulley is taking on the government again with legal action over its “disrespectful” and “unlawful” approach to seeking our views on the proposed national disability strategy.

Doug, who is taking the legal action along with three other disabled people told Disability News Service (DNS) that the controversial survey, carried out by the Disability Unit, did not give them and other disabled people the chance to say what they really felt about what should be in the strategy.

There has been continuing controversy over the strategy and the survey over the last three months, including why the survey included a question that asked non-disabled people if they would be “happy to have a physical relationship with a disabled person”, and concerns about it being rushed, inaccessible, over-long and poorly-planned.

Doug argues that the survey is unlawful because it offers only limited information about the strategy and does not allow disabled people to provide a “proper and effective response”. They want the consultation to be declared unlawful, and for there to be a new, lawful consultation before the government publishes its strategy.

Doug added: “The secretary of state’s approach to consulting disabled people, on a national strategy which aims to ‘transform’ the lives of disabled people, is immensely disrespectful. This survey has not given disabled people any meaningful opportunity to do so, and therefore any strategy developed from the survey will be imposed on disabled people without their voices being heard.”

In its usual dismissive way the government has apparently told Bindmans, the legal firm retained by Doug and his colleagues,  that the survey is not a consultation – even though the Disability Unit’s own website lists the survey as an “Open Consultation” and the survey is hosted on the unit’s “Consultation Hub” – and that it is not obliged to consult disabled people about the strategy!

We’ll be watching Doug’s progress with this latest legal battle against a government that clearly has a disturbing, not so hidden agenda for disabled people.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Disabled activist Doug Paulley, wearing a red t-shirt with ‘cripes it’s a crip’ printed on it, is coming up behind Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Disabled People, and Boris Johnson, waving a piece of paper with High Court action written upon it. Behind him is a large crowd of people waving banners, one of which reads disability survey farce. Tomlinson is speaking to Boris out the side of his mouth and is saying: “I think we’re in the shit Boris – Doug Paulley has a habit of winning!”

Crippen looks at the many breaches of disabled people’s rights

The so called minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson has refused to apologise for as many as 24 breaches of disabled people’s rights – and probably even more – by the government in the 12 months since the first COVID-19 lockdown.

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and activists this week described to Disability News Service (DNS) their shocked reaction at the number of breaches, and said that each example represented a profound injustice done to disabled people by the UK government. It also provides fresh fuel for calls for an independent inquiry into the disproportionate number of deaths of disabled people during the pandemic.

As previously blogged, Tomlinson failed to carry out meaningful engagement with DPOs during the early months of the pandemic, while his Disability Unit failed to provide updates on its website for months at the height of the pandemic, while thousands of disabled people were dying from COVID-19.

The list of breaches also includes the government’s decision – early in the pandemic – to discharge hospital patients into care homes without testing them for COVID-19, causing the loss of thousands of lives of disabled and older people.

This was later mirrored by the decision of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to draw up a strategy that allows patients infected with COVID to be discharged from hospitals into residential homes, as part of a so-called “safe discharge” scheme regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

The list also includes the decision to place those disabled people seen as clinically extremely vulnerable to the virus as low as sixth on the initial list of priority groups to be vaccinated.

There is also growing evidence – some of it revealed at this month’s TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference – of government departments refusing to allow many disabled staff to work from home during the crisis, forcing them to attend potentially infectious workplaces, and refusing other reasonable adjustments.

Another major breach of disabled people’s rights came with the government’s repeated failure to provide vital COVID-related information to Deaf and disabled people in an accessible format, including the refusal to provide an on-stage British Sign Language interpreter at televised ministerial briefings.

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said that each breach “represents a profound injustice done to disabled people by the UK government”.

She said: “Despite the hardships and tragedies of austerity and welfare reform, at no point in my lifetime has it been so clear as it has become through this pandemic, how dispensable disabled people’s lives are held to be and how quickly and easily our rights can be cast aside when it becomes politically expedient to those in power.”

A complete list of breaches, compiled by DNS, is included in their article.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young black woman is standing alongside of a young white male who is sat at a computer. On the wall is a sign that says ‘disabled people’s organisations’. She is pointing at the screen which shows an image of the disability unit with a photo of Justin Tomlinson. The young man is saying to her: “No there’s nothing wrong with your internet – it’s just that the disability unit’s web site hasn’t been touched for ages!”

Crippen discovers restrictions to disabled youngster’s right to education to remain

It appears that the government is to abandon measures that ran “a coach and horses” through the right to social care during the pandemic. However, similar restrictions imposed on disabled young people’s right to education are set to remain.

The measures were all part of the government’s emergency Coronavirus Act, which became law a year ago today, on 25 March 2020, and will remain in place for at least two years from March 2020, unless suspended or repealed by ministers.

Recently, more than 20 disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) wrote to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to ask him to suspend the so-called “Care Act easements”.

These measures have allowed councils to suspend their legal duty to carry out detailed assessments of disabled people’s care and support needs, and their legal duty to meet all eligible care and support needs.

As reported in Disability News Service (DNS) Ministers said earlier this week that they wanted to end the Care Act easements … however, there is no mention in the review document or a government press release of measures – also introduced through the Coronavirus Act – that have provided powers to restrict disabled children’s rights to education over the last year.

These measures gave the education secretary the power to amend parts of the Children and Families Act (CFA) 2014 so that a local council only had to use “reasonable endeavours” to provide the education, health and social care needs named in a disabled pupil’s education health and care (EHC) plan. They also gave the education secretary the power to amend CFA so that a school would no longer have a duty to admit a disabled child if that school was named in the child’s EHC plan.

Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator of the The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said yesterday that the government’s decision to keep the education powers but scrap the Care Act easements was “absolutely inconsistent”, and she called on Williamson to “do the right thing and remove the CFA easements immediately”.

She said the last year had been “dire” for many disabled children and young people and their families because they have not been receiving the support they need to access mainstream education, because of both the pandemic and the CFA easements. We are hearing that whilst those measures may not be put in place, local authorities are still getting the message that they are able to depart from their duties by not arranging provision.

“It is very serious in terms of the impact. It could end up with more and more children being out of school, being denied access to education and falling behind in the progress they could be making, and not having the same opportunities. We could be finding ourselves with a lost generation of disabled people as a result of this.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A family comprising of a young white couple with a young child are standing in the desert wearing ragged clothing. Alongside of them is a large cactus with a sign on it saying, education desert. A large cow skull is set in the sand at their feet and the sun is beating down on them creating long shadows. Also, at their feet is a torn up document that reads EHC Plan. In the distance are two people. One is an Asian man dressed in a suite, the other a white woman in similar clothing. The woman is holding a placard that reads ‘your right to an education’. Another sign is being held by the man that reads ‘education secretary’. The air is also moving around these two figures. The young man is saying to his partner: “They’re just a mirage I’m afraid!”

Pandemic backlog means PIP claimants could lose support while waiting in queue

Latest catch-22 scenario from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) comes to light as claimants of disability benefits who successfully overturned decisions at tribunal are being told their support could still be cut off.

This means the government is effectively “punishing people for having asserted their right to a fair hearing in court”, according to one welfare rights expert reported in Disability News Service (DNS).

Apparently, because of a shortage of assessment personnel and a backlog of claims caused by the pandemic, the process to get the tribunal rulings enforced is grinding to a halt. Claimants of personal independence payment (PIP) who previously secured awards at benefit tribunal hearings are being told their payments will stop if their new PIP claim has not been approved by the time their award ends.

They are also being told that if PIP assessment providers Atos and Capita are not able to complete their assessments and pass their recommendations to DWP by the end of their fixed term, their payments will automatically stop. Which means that if Atos and Capita don’t do what they’re paid obscene amounts of money to do, these multi-million pound companies get off Scott free whilst the claimants gets penalised.

Finn Keaney, welfare rights team lead for Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest, said: “The government should not be punishing people for having asserted their right to a fair hearing in court, but that is exactly the effect that current policy has.”

Yet another story highlighting the moral bankruptcy of the DWP … why are we not surprised?!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young black male is stood in front of a desk clutching a back-dated benefits tribunal award. A sign on the wall says ‘we don’t give Atos’ indicating that they are in the office of the infamous benefits assessment company used by the DWP. Behind the desk is a smug looking white male in a suit and tie. The desk has several in-trays all stacked with PIP awards. An out-tray is empty. Behind the Atos man are two large sacks of money with a label attached saying ‘from DWP’. The young black male is saying: “So let me get this right – because you can’t be bothered to do your job, we lose our benefits!” The Atos man replies: “And your point is?!”

Crippen hears that Scotland could be set for ‘ground-breaking’ move on UN convention

We hear through Disability News Service that disabled people in Scotland could be set for “ground-breaking” improvements to the “protection, progression, and promotion” of their human rights, after their government pledged to incorporate the UN disability convention into Scottish law. 

The promise came as the Scottish government accepted the 30 recommendations made in a report by the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.

Among the taskforce’s recommendations is to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – as well as three other UN human rights treaties – into Scots law, although it recognises that there would have to be a “progressive” realisation of these rights.

Heather Fisken, Inclusion Scotland’s director of policy and research, said: “Disabled Scots have been calling for full and direct incorporation of the convention for years.

“This is ground-breaking stuff, and it signals greater protection, progression, and promotion of our human rights. We will be calling on the new Scottish government to ensure that disabled people are closely involved in the development of the bill and that this happens as early as possible in the next parliament.”

As you’ll be aware, UNCRPD is currently not incorporated into UK law. This means that its protections, including article 19, which provides a right to independent living, are not legally binding in the UK, although they can influence UK court decisions.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young Asian female wheelchair user is looking rather cheekily at a young white male wearing a tartan kilt. At their feet is a piece of paper with ‘Scotland to include UN convention in law’. He is standing with his hands on his hips, striking a pose, and is saying: ”Well if it means wearing a kilt to get our full human rights – then I’m your man!”