Disability News

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About DNS[edit]

Disability News Service (DNS) is run by John Pring, an experienced journalist who has been reporting on disability issues for more than 20 years. He launched DNS in April 2009 to address the absence of in-depth reporting in both the specialist and mainstream media on issues that affect the lives of disabled people. The news service focuses on issues such as discrimination equality, independent living, benefits, poverty and human rights, but also covers arts, culture and sport.

Coronavirus: Government’s continuing failure on PA guidance ‘will cost lives’

John Pring - 9 April 2020
The government’s continuing failure to produce accessible information and guidance to help disabled people protect themselves during the coronavirus crisis is unacceptable and will cost lives, disabled people’s organisations have warned.

Disabled campaigners spoke out after the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) failed yet again to publish guidance for disabled people who use direct payments and employ personal assistants (PAs) on how to protect themselves and their staff during the pandemic...See more

Staff forced autistic pupils into tiny cupboard after ‘meltdowns’, school admits

John Pring - 14 Novermber 2019
Staff at an academy school repeatedly forced autistic pupils as young as five into a tiny cupboard and then held the door shut after they had “meltdowns” in class, a school has admitted.

Parents of three of the pupils are now calling on the school’s head teacher to resign, after an independent panel upheld their complaints.

The room was just five feet square in size, and the word “Hell” was at one point written in red ink on the inside of the door by autistic pupils who referred to it as the “cupboard of Hell”, although staff called it “the quiet room”....See more

Months of PIP distress ‘hastened my brother’s death’

John Pring - 3 October 2019
The brother of a disabled man who was denied disability benefits when he was dying has launched a petition calling on the government to scrap the outsourcing of all face-to-face assessments to private contractors.

James Oliver, from Hastings – the constituency of former work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd – spent the last few months of his life in despair over the refusal of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to grant him personal independence payment (PIP)...See more

Disabled Rebels call for ‘new blood’ as they prepare for Extinction Rebellion

John Pring - 3 October 2019
A group of “Disabled Rebels” who will take part in next week’s Extinction Rebellion protests in London are calling for other disabled people to join the action and take part in the worldwide attempts to highlight the impact of climate change.

Together with a group called Deaf Rebels, they hope to play a key part in the UK actions, which will include a “central focus” on Westminster and will last two weeks from Monday (7 October)...See more

Tory conference: Leading disabled Tory ‘wouldn’t give UN the time of day’

John Pring - 3 October 2019
A leading disabled Tory has defended his government’s disability policies, dismissing three highly critical reports by the UN and concerns about the impact of Brexit on social care, rights and access to medication.

Barry Ginley, deputy chair of the Conservative Disability Group (CDG), said the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) and its special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights were “not seeing the true Britain” when they criticised the UK government for its policies on disability in 2016, 2017 and 2019....See more

Watchdog to launch project to fund legal actions on transport discrimination

John Pring - 12 September 2019
The equality watchdog is to launch a new project that will provide funding for disabled and older people to take legal action when they have faced discrimination on public transport.

The fund has not yet been officially launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), but it has approached disability organisations and other stakeholders about the project.

It would see EHRC providing funding to pay a solicitor or barrister to represent older or disabled people who would not otherwise be able to afford to pursue legal action against transport providers under the Equality Act...See more

Special school numbers swell, 10 years after Tories’ ‘end the bias’ election pledge

John Pring - 12 September 2019
The needs of many disabled pupils in England are not being met, while councils are under growing financial pressure because more children are attending special schools, parliament’s spending watchdog has warned.

The report from the National Audit Office (NAO) says the number of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who attend special schools or alternative provision rose by more than a fifth between 2014 and 2018.

It comes after nine years of policies from Conservative-led governments that have been aimed at educating more of the 1.3 million pupils in England with SEND in segregated special schools...See more

Will new ‘serious case panel’ probe benefit-related deaths? DWP stays silent

John Pring - 5 September 2019
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) appears to have secured funding to set up an independent panel to examine cases where its own failings have led to the deaths of benefit claimants.

Although DWP refused to provide any details on the plans, the spending round document published by the Treasury yesterday (Wednesday) said the new “independent serious case panel” would aim to improve DWP “safeguarding”.

The Treasury says it will provide funding of £36 million for 2020-21 to fund both the panel and ensure that decision-making on benefit claims is “accurate” and that benefit application processes are “straightforward and accessible”...See more

Concerns grow over police force that shares info on protesters with DWP

John Pring - 5 September 2019
Grave concerns have been raised about what appear to be “discriminatory” and “pernicious” actions by a police force that has admitted passing information about disabled protesters to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Campaigners, including the human rights organisation Liberty, are concerned that Greater Manchester Police (GMP) does not appear to have any guidance in place to explain to its officers when they can lawfully hand such information to DWP.

As a result, they fear that GMP – and probably other police forces – may have indiscriminately passed information to DWP about disabled activists, after assuming they must be committing benefit fraud if they can take part in protests....See more

Trio of disabled peers pledge to fight off no-deal Brexit ‘time bomb’

John Pring - 5 September 2019
Three disabled peers have pledged to do all they can to avert the significant impact on disabled people of a no-deal Brexit, with one warning of a “time bomb” that is now likely to “detonate”.

They spoke out this week as MPs and peers returned from their summer recess, facing the threat of the UK being forced to leave the European Union (EU) without an agreement at the end of next month.

The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson told Disability News Service (DNS) last night (Wednesday) from the House of Lords that a no-deal Brexit would be “disastrous” for disabled people....See more

Rail regulator backs down on access to replacement buses

John Pring - 5 September 2019
The rail regulator has been forced by a disabled campaigner to reconsider its refusal to tell train companies to ensure their rail replacement buses are fully accessible.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) issued guidance to train and station operators in July on what they should include in their new accessible travel policies.

But accessible transport campaigner Doug Paulley (pictured) pointed out that the regulator had failed to make it mandatory for train companies to provide accessible replacement buses when rail services are disrupted....See more

DWP admits it has no idea how many of its disability champions are disabled people

John Pring - 5 September 2019
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted that it has no idea how many of its 19 “disability champions” are disabled people.

The disability sector champions – covering areas such as banking, gaming, arts and culture, media, music and retail – are supposed to drive progress in breaking down barriers and promoting inclusion.

At least three of the 19 are known to be disabled people – rail champion Stephen Brookes, music champion Suzanne Bull and hotels champion Robin Sheppard – but it appears that many others are not...See more

Trio of DPOs warn government of ‘grave concerns’ over no-deal Brexit

John Pring - 5 September 2019
Three national disabled people’s organisations have told the government of their “grave concerns” about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and Disability Action (in Northern Ireland) are among 85 organisations that have signed a joint letter to prime minister Boris Johnson about the risks of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement.

The letter, coordinated by the Brexit Civil Society Alliance, points to the “growing body of evidence” that shows that a no-deal Brexit would be “detrimental to civil society and the communities that we work with” and would have “drastic and wide-ranging implications”....See more

Council’s planned care charge rises ‘could prove fatal’

John Pring - 22 August 2019
Leading disabled campaigners have warned that a council’s proposals to increase care charges will force them and others to quit their jobs and stop their volunteering work, and will push many others into poverty.

One influential campaigner warned that she could be forced to reduce her care from 63 hours a week to just seven, and might have to consider residential care, if Greenwich council goes ahead with its plans.

Another said the Labour-run council’s changes could force her to quit her job with a disabled people’s organisation in another London borough....See more

Family fight for ‘misdiagnosed’ autistic man who fears being left to die in hospital

John Pring - 22 August 2019
An autistic man who has been kept in locked mental health units for four years has told his mother he fears he will never be released.

The user-led campaign group Autistic UK is supporting the family of Ikram Khan, now 23, who have been fighting since 2015 for the release of their son.

They say he has been wrongly diagnosed with schizophrenia, and has been kept under heavy medication for four years, and kept locked up in a series of mental health units at a cost of £13,000 a week...See more

Failure to fund access costs of general election candidates is ‘denial of democracy’

John Pring - 22 August 2019
Disabled politicians preparing to contest the general election likely to be called within months will be hit hard by the government’s refusal to fund their disability-related campaign spending, a Deaf parliamentary candidate has warned.

Kerena Marchant, who uses British Sign Language (BSL) and is a disability rights campaigner and a TV producer and journalist, will be contesting the Basingstoke seat at the next general election.

But she fears she will not be competing on a level playing-field with other candidates....See more

Tourist attraction could face legal action after ‘years of access failings’

John Pring - 22 August 2019
A world-renowned London tourist attraction could soon be facing legal action after failing for years to address its glaring access flaws, according to a former adviser.

Disabled broadcaster, journalist and access consultant Mik Scarlet said it was “shocking” that a top London tourist attraction like Camden Market was so “unwelcoming and unsafe” for disabled people.

He previously spent more than six years working two days a month advising the market on its access....See more

New figures raise fresh questions over Atos PIP assessments

John Pring - 22 August 2019
he amount of time that nurses and physiotherapists spend carrying out face-to-face disability benefit assessments can vary hugely, depending on where the test takes place, according to analysis of new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures.

Although the figures do not prove that disabled people in some parts of the country are receiving more careful and considered personal independence payment (PIP) assessments than claimants in other areas, they do raise concerns that this could be happening....See more

Disability Labour crowdfunds costs for conference access hub after party ‘snub’

John Pring - 22 August 2019
Disabled delegates who are providing free access and mental health advice and support to delegates at next month’s Labour conference have had to launch an “embarrassing” crowdfunding appeal after they say the party refused to pay for any free accommodation.

At last year’s annual conference in Liverpool, the “disability hub” run by Disability Labour provided support for numerous disabled delegates, with the party paying hotel costs for one volunteer....See more

Jodey Whiting: DWP ignored five ‘safeguarding’ chances before WCA suicide

John Pring - 21 February 2019
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to the suicide of a disabled woman with a long history of mental distress, an independent investigation has found.

The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case of mother-of-nine Jodey Whiting (pictured), who had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a work capability assessment (WCA), and took her own life just 15 days later.

The report is the latest evidence of the institutional failure of DWP to guarantee the safety of disabled people – and particularly those with a history of mental distress – within the “fitness for work” system...See more

Jodey Whiting: DWP continued to phone woman who took her own life, inquiry finds

John Pring - 21 February 2019
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continued to phone and write to a disabled woman who had taken her own life after having her benefits stopped, an independent investigation has found.

The report by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), Joanna Wallace, concluded that the DWP has no system that immediately alerts all the relevant staff that a claimant of employment and support allowance (ESA) has died.

Because of that failure, DWP continued to phone mum-of-nine Jodey Whiting, and leave voice messages for her, and also wrote to her, after she had taken her own life in February 2017...See more

Call for urgent probe into police passing DWP information about protesters

John Pring - 21 February 2019
There are growing concerns and calls for an urgent investigation into admissions by two police forces that they have shared information about protesters with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Both Lancashire and Greater Manchester police forces have now admitted passing on information to DWP about people taking part in protests.

The admissions originally came following claims reported by Disability News Service (DNS) that police forces had been targeting disabled people taking part in peaceful anti-fracking protests across England...See more

Long-awaited Newton meeting confirms confusion over DPO engagement

John Pring - 21 February 2019
Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have raised ongoing concerns about the government’s failure to comply with basic principles of the UN disability convention at a long-awaited meeting with the minister for disabled people.

Representatives of six of the UK’s leading DPOs met with minister for disabled people Sarah Newton and senior civil servants last week to discuss the government’s track record on engaging with disabled people and their user-led organisations.

It was the first time that Newton (pictured) had met with the group of DPOs – members of the UK CRPD Monitoring Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations – since she took up her post in late 2017...See more

Watchdogs’ comments boost hopes for rail access improvements

John Pring - 21 February 2019
Powerful warnings from two watchdogs about the barriers faced by disabled passengers have been welcomed as a “wonderful step in re-instating access to rail for all” by a leading accessible transport expert.

One of the two watchdogs, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), warned the government and train operating companies that two major elements of the rail system could be discriminating against disabled passengers.

In a letter to MPs on the Commons transport select committee, EHRC chair David Isaac says the commission is concerned about the impact of “ongoing transport policies”, particularly the move towards running more trains without a member of customer services staff on board – driver-only operated (DOO) trains – and an increase in unstaffed stations...See more

Tory conference police force admits sharing information on protesters with DWP

John Pring - 14 February 2019
Disabled activists have demanded an inquiry after a police force that has patrolled four Conservative party conferences since 2010 admitted sharing information about protesters with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has now become the second police force to admit sharing information about people taking part in protests with DWP, following a similar admission by Lancashire police.

But GMP has also admitted having a “sharing agreement” with DWP, even though the department explicitly stated two months ago that it had no such arrangements with any police force...See more

Ministers block release of ‘no deal Brexit’ social care recruitment plans

John Pring - 14 February 2019
Ministers are refusing to release information that would show what extra plans – if any – the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has put in place to deal with an adult social care recruitment crisis in the event of a “no deal Brexit”.

With just 43 days until Britain faces the possibility of leaving the European Union without a deal in place, DHSC claimed that “premature” release of the information could put at risk “effective policy formulation and development regarding our exit from the EU”.

Instead of releasing its records, it has pointed to “high level” plans published just before Christmas, but they suggest that ministers have no plans in place to deal with an adult social care recruitment crisis...See more

MPs hear of ways to save benefit claimants from harm… or even death

John Pring - 14 February 2019
Disabled activists and shadow ministers at a parliamentary meeting have been told of ways they could help to reduce the appalling damage caused by the government’s hated “fitness for work” assessment and other social security cuts and reforms.

Academics, researchers, politicians and campaigners spoke at yesterday’s (Thursday’s) meeting (pictured), which was hosted and organised by Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell as part of a lobby of parliament.

The First Do No Harm lobby focused on the continuing refusal of ministers to ensure that sufficient medical evidence is gathered before decisions are made on claims for out-of-work disability benefits, particularly for people with mental distress...See more

Launch of Neurodivergent Labour ‘could be milestone in fight for rights and equality’

John Pring - 14 February 2019
The launch of a new user-led political organisation is set to be a “landmark event” for neurodivergent people in the Labour party.

After three years of lobbying, discussions and consultation, disabled party members launched Neurodivergent Labour in central London on Saturday.

Janine Booth, co-chair of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, who played a key role in its formation, told the launch event it would be “a milestone in the fight for acceptance, rights and equality for autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic and otherwise neurodivergent people through the Labour party”...See more

MP speaks of pride at being dyspraxic at launch of Neurodivergent Labour

John Pring - 14 February 2019
A disabled MP has spoken of her pride at being able to speak openly about being dyspraxic, after having to hide her diagnosis from employers for years before she entered parliament.

Emma Lewell-Buck (pictured) was previously a social worker but was “acutely aware that if there were any job cuts that would come around, it would be used against me and I would be the first one in the dole queue”.

She said she used to take work home with her at weekends, work late into the evening and start early in the morning because, like many other disabled people, she felt she had to “go the extra mile” and “work that little bit harder to prove yourself or keep up”...See more

‘Disability Confident’ Arts Council England’s job stats shame

John Pring - 14 February 2019
The Arts Council has admitted that only two per cent of its directors – and just three per cent of its managers – are disabled people, despite having achieved “Disability Confident Employer” status under the government’s discredited disability employment scheme.

Arts Council England (ACE) has now become the latest employer to achieve the top two levels of the Disability Confident scheme – including government departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions – despite their own troubling records on disability employment.

The figures came in ACE’s fourth annual diversity report (pictured), which showed figures for 2017-18...See more

‘Delight’ over breakthrough on Welsh independent living scheme closure

John Pring - 14 February 2019
Disabled campaigners have welcomed measures that aim to address concerns over the imminent closure of the Welsh government’s independent living grant scheme.

Julie Morgan, the deputy minister for health and social services, has written to council leaders to ask for an immediate “pause” in the closure programme and its replacement with a system of council-funded support.

There will now be new independent assessments for any former recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme who are unhappy with the new support packages allocated by their local authority.

The new measures came just two weeks after Nathan Lee Davies (pictured), who has led the campaign to save the WILG scheme, sent an 80-page dossier of evidence about the closure to Welsh Labour’s new leader and first minister, Mark Drakeford....See more

Parents who home educate disabled children ‘scapegoated’ by commissioner

John Pring - 14 February 2019
Families forced into home educating their disabled children because of the lack of support from mainstream schools are among parents who are being “scapegoated” by the children’s commissioner, according to a disabled mum and campaigner.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, published a report last week that calls for action to address the lack of knowledge about the standard of education and safety of the tens of thousands of children currently being home educated...See more

‘Shocking’ PIP death figures ‘show assessment process is unfit for purpose’

John Pring - 7 February 2019
About 1,600 working-age disabled people are dying every year after having their claim for disability benefits rejected, the government has been forced to admit.

The Department for Work and Pensions figures (DWP) reveal that 7,990 disabled people who lodged a claim for person independence payment (PIP) in the five years after the new benefit was launched in April 2013 had died within six months of registering their claim, while also having that claim rejected...See more

‘Ill thought out’ bill needs stronger safeguards, minister told after meeting

John Pring - 7 February 2019
The government must introduce “stronger and more effective safeguards” to protect the rights of service-users who face having their freedom restricted by health and care providers, disabled campaigners have told a minister.

Inclusion London wrote to care minister Caroline Dinenage yesterday (Wednesday) about the government’s mental capacity (amendment) bill, which is currently awaiting its Commons report stage.

The letter followed a meeting between Dinenage and representatives of Inclusion London and People First (Self Advocacy) this week, and an open letter to Inclusion London published by the minister last week...See more

DPO welcomes ‘ground-breaking partnership’ with elected mayor

John Pring - 7 February 2019
A ground-breaking new partnership between disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and Greater Manchester’s elected mayor could become a “template” for future work with local authorities across the region, according to one leading DPO.

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) said this week that it believed that Greater Manchester was the first combined authority in the country to establish a formal partnership between DPOs and the elected mayor.

The authority, led by Labour’s Andy Burnham, is now set to approve funding this month which will ensure that the lead of a new disabled people’s panel will be a paid position...See more

New charter aims to put dignity and respect at heart of local services

John Pring - 7 February 2019
Disabled campaigners have launched a new charter that aims to persuade organisations – and individuals – in their local area to treat people with dignity and respect.

Ken and Tracy McClymont have spent four years working on the Dudley Dignity Charter, which lists 10 key principles for how people should be treated, focusing on areas such as communication, privacy, choice, control, advocacy and fairness.

The McClymonts, both key figures in Dudley Centre for Inclusive Living (Dudley CIL), have worked on the charter with another local disabled people’s organisation, Disability In Action, with support from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Healthwatch Dudley...See more

Minister seeks recruits for new disability network… but refuses to pay them

John Pring - 31 January 2019
The minister for disabled people is refusing to pay the chairs and members of nine new regional groups she is setting up to bring the views of disabled people and their organisations closer to government.

The refusal to pay for their work and time has angered disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and follows a string of embarrassing failures to engage with disabled people and their user-led organisations in what critics say is a clear breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

When the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) announced last month that it was setting up a new Regional Stakeholder Network, it said it wanted to “provide a channel for disabled people and their organisations to share their views and experiences about policies and services that affect them”...See more

Your right to peaceful protest is under attack, disabled activists are warned

John Pring - 31 January 2019
Disabled activists have been warned that their right to peaceful protest is under attack, as police forces across the country appear to be attempting to restrict the rights of certain groups of protesters.

The warning comes as concerns mount over the admission by Lancashire police that it passed information and video footage of disabled anti-fracking protesters to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), in an attempt to have their disability benefits removed...See more

DPAC warns Labour to rethink support for universal basic income

John Pring - 31 January 2019
Campaigners are warning the Labour party to rethink its support for a radical new benefit system because of risks that its introduction would further isolate and impoverish disabled people.

In a new report, UBI: Solution or Illusion? The Implications of Universal Basic Income for Disabled People in Britain, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) says support for universal basic income (UBI) has been growing steadily among those both on the left and the right of politics...See more

DWP refuses to reveal police forces that share information on disabled protesters

John Pring - 24 January 2019
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is refusing to say which police forces have passed it video footage and other information about claimants of disability benefits who have taken part in anti-fracking and anti-austerity protests.

DWP’s attempt to hide its links with police forces has caused fresh anger among activists, who have this week called on disabled people to complain to their MPs, as well as police forces and DWP itself.

They have also called for disabled people to support those activists affected by such police actions...See more

Lobby aims to persuade MPs that DWP must First Do No Harm on assessments

John Pring - 24 January 2019
Disabled activists are hoping to use a parliamentary meeting next month to persuade more MPs that action must be taken to prevent further deaths caused by the government’s much-criticised fitness for work test.

The First Do No Harm lobby on 13 February aims to expose the continued harm caused to disabled people by government social security reforms.

And it will focus on the repeated failure of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure that the “further medical evidence” needed to demonstrate a disabled person’s eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits is always collected, particularly for claimants with mental health conditions...See more

Care watchdog criticised over abandoned bid to replace service-user contracts

John Pring - 24 January 2019
The care watchdog is facing heavy criticism after being forced to abandon a year-long attempt to find organisations to run a programme that sends expert service-users to assist on inspections of care homes, hospitals and care agencies across England.

The Experts by Experience (ExE) programme is currently run by two contractors, Choice Support and Remploy, but disabled people and other service-users who take part in the scheme have been pushing the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for years to dump Remploy because of its poor performance.

A process to find new contractors began in August 2017, with an invitation to tender released in August 2018, but CQC decided to terminate the process last November...See more

MPs’ online abuse report: Disabled people ‘exposed to horrendous abuse’

John Pring - 24 January 2019
An inquiry by a committee of MPs has revealed the “horrendous, degrading and dehumanising” abuse that disabled people are exposed to when they use the internet.

The inquiry heard from disabled people who face abuse not just on social media but also through online games, web forums, and comments on news stories on media websites.

The House of Commons petitions committee has now published its final report on this abuse, and has concluded that self-regulation of social media has failed disabled people...See more

Universal credit protest as high court hears ‘discrimination’ case

John Pring - 24 January 2019
Disabled activists have protested outside the Royal Courts of Justice to draw attention to the continuing harm caused by universal credit, as the high court hears a legal challenge that aims to brand the government’s policy “irrational” and “discriminatory”.

Members of grassroots groups WinVisible, the Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts spoke of the harm caused to disabled people by universal credit (pictured).

Inside, barristers representing the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in the judicial review were describing the severe financial impact of universal credit on a disabled woman and on a woman and her disabled daughter...See more

Disabled pupil fights at high court for full school inclusion

John Pring - 24 January 2019
Inclusive education activists were at the high court in London this week to support a disabled pupil in her legal fight to secure full participation in all aspects of life at her mainstream school.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) is one of the organisations supporting Anna’s* mother in her claim that their local authority is failing to ensure that her daughter has the support she needs at school.

She approached ALLFIE last summer for support with their court case...See more

Shock and anger at government’s failure to invite DPOs to disability workshop

John Pring - 17 January 2019

Campaigners have been left “shocked and appalled” by the government’s decision to hold a workshop on the barriers facing disabled people without inviting a single disabled people’s organisation (DPO) to take part.

The Cabinet Office workshop is due to take place tomorrow afternoon (Friday), and its purpose is to “convene leading external experts and officials to discuss the key issues facing disabled people and identify opportunities to address these”.

But it has failed to invite representatives from organisations such as the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) – which represents many leading DPOs – or The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), and then snubbed their requests to take part when they found out about the event.... See more



Universal credit forces wheelchair-user who can’t heat home further into poverty

John Pring - 17 January 2019

A disabled benefit claimant with high support needs who has lost more than £40 a week after having to transfer onto the new universal credit – forcing him into even greater poverty – has challenged the government to defend its drastic cuts and reforms.

Mark Golden, from Yorkshire, estimates that he paid more than £100,000 in income tax and national insurance during his working life before he was forced to leave his job by a serious injury at work.

Now the wheelchair-user is having to confront the reality of the impact of the introduction of universal credit on disabled people, after being forced off employment and support allowance (ESA) and onto the new system.... See more



Surprise PIP report raises concerns over ministers’ spending plans

John Pring - 17 January 2018

Disabled campaigners have been left bemused and concerned by a report from an independent fiscal watchdog which shows the government’s introduction of personal independence payment (PIP) has led to a sharp rise in spending on disability benefits.

Tory chancellor George Osborne (pictured) announced in 2010 that the new coalition government planned to cut spending and the number of claimants on disability living allowance (DLA) by 20 per cent by introducing a new working-age benefit.... See more



DPOs call for support in battle to make ministers think again over attack on rights

John Pring - 17 January 2019

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are calling for urgent support to prevent the government “bulldozing” through parliament a “potentially dangerous” bill that will affect the lives and welfare of hundreds of thousands of disabled people.

DPOs including Inclusion London and People First (Self Advocacy) say they are “deeply unhappy” about the flawed mental capacity (amendment) bill, which began its committee stage in the House of Commons this week.

They say the bill will significantly weaken existing rights, and that it will not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.... See more



Equality watchdog needs further legal powers, MPs are told

John Pring - 17 January 2019

The equality watchdog should be given greater powers that would allow it to take more legal cases against organisations that breach the Equality Act, a disabled former commissioner has told MPs.

Mike Smith, who chaired the disability committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) between 2009 and 2012, told the Commons women and equalities committee that it was impossible for many people to take legal action to enforce their rights under the Equality Act 2010.

Smith (pictured, centre), who is now chief executive of the disabled people’s organisation Real, said: “For many disabled people it’s de facto impossible to achieve justice in many areas.”... See more



Double legal victory for access campaigner over underground discrimination

John Pring - 17 January 2019

A court has found that London Underground twice discriminated against a disabled campaigner by failing to warn him that vital lifts that would allow him to complete his journey on the capital’s tube network were out-of-order.

Doug Paulley found himself stranded and confronted with inaccurate and incomplete information and unhelpful staff on trips to London in October 2016 and May 2017.

A district judge has now ruled that London Underground breached its duty to make reasonable adjustments for its disabled customers by failing to let Paulley know about lift closures on its network... See more



Project highlights need for museums to take ‘radical’ action on disability employment

John Pring - 17 January 2019

Museums need to take radical action to address the “woeful” under-representation of disabled people in their workforce, a parliamentary event has heard.

The call was delivered by Esther Fox, the disabled leader of the Accentuate programme, at a House of Commons event held to mark the end of the three-year History of Place project, which has charted the lives of disabled people across eight heritage sites and 800 years.

Accentuate also called for moves to ensure that deaf and disability history becomes part of the country’s collective history, with more museums and heritage attractions giving this “equal prominence” in their displays and exhibitions.... See more



Home Office’s ‘inhumane’ deportation decision poses ‘risk to life’

John Pring - 10 January 2019

Autistic rights campaigners are calling on the government to reverse its “inhumane” decision to ignore detailed, independent medical evidence and force a young disabled man with high support needs and his family to return to India.

Disabled activists from Autistic UK say the medical evidence proves that Gopul Anand is not well enough to make the journey and that the UK government’s attempt to deport him and his family is a “grave breach” of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Gopul is autistic, and also has schizophrenia, epilepsy and learning difficulties, and his family insist – backed up by evidence from experts including social workers and his mental health team – that he is too ill to travel because of the risk both to his own health and the safety of other passengers.... See more



ROFA lays out plans to make the right to independent living a reality

John Pring - 10 January 2019

Campaigning disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have set out their demands for a new national independent living service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support, and finally make the right to independent living a reality.

The Independent Living for the Future document has been developed over the last 14 months under the banner of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), whose members include Disabled People Against Cuts, Inclusion London, People First (Self Advocacy), Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, The Alliance for Inclusive Education and Shaping Our Lives.

ROFA will now seek support for the document from its members, political parties, disabled people, DPOs and other organisations.... See more



Rudd has not delayed roll out of universal credit, DWP confirms

John Pring - 10 January 2019

The roll out of the government’s much-criticised universal credit benefit system has not been delayed and will proceed as planned, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed.

Reports at the weekend suggested that new work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd had decided on a significant overhaul and planned to delay the process of moving about three million claimants of existing “legacy” benefits, including hundreds of thousands of people on employment and support allowance (ESA), onto universal credit.

Some commentators and politicians subsequently praised Rudd for listening to critics of the new regime, which has been blamed for driving many claimants into poverty.... See more



Nine journeys in one day expose ‘sham’ of National Express ‘accessible’ coaches

John Pring - 10 January 2019

A disabled campaigner who took nine journeys on the same day to check the accessibility of the services provided by the UK’s largest coach operator experienced significant problems on all but one of them.

Wheelchair-user Doug Paulley had booked assistance in advance for services between Leeds and Bradford provided by National Express.

But all but one of last week’s nine journeys threw up serious problems, with malfunctioning lifts, drivers who did not know how to deal with the equipment, or staff failing to clamp Paulley’s wheelchair in place correctly and safely.... See more



Ministerial disability group met just three times… and then was scrapped

John Pring - 03 January 2019

A cross-government group of ministers set up to “encourage and stimulate progress” towards the inclusion of disabled people in society met just three times before it was scrapped, the government has been forced to admit.

Information released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the government spent nearly four years without any cross-departmental group of ministers working to improve the lives of disabled people.... See more



Backlash over ‘disgraceful’ police force that passed video footage to DWP

John Pring - 03 January 2019

A Labour police and crime commissioner is facing criticism from within his own party for endorsing his force’s “disgraceful” decision to pass video footage and other information about disabled anti-fracking protesters to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Wayne Blackburn, co-chair of Disability Labour but also a borough councillor in Lancashire, has written to police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw to express his alarm and shock at the tactics of Lancashire police.

Cllr Blackburn is among scores of disabled campaigners who have raised similar concerns since Disability News Service (DNS) revealed last month that the force had passed information and footage of disabled protesters to DWP – in an apparent attempt to have their disability benefits removed – and then claimed that it had “a duty” to do so.... See more



Bungling DWP announces seventh review of disability benefits errors in a year

John Pring - 03 January 2019

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced to launch its seventh costly trawl through the records of disabled people unfairly deprived of benefits following years of serious errors by senior civil servants.

The minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, announced on the last day before parliament’s Christmas recess that her department would begin another new review this month.

It follows six other reviews launched by her department during 2018 to find disabled people who had been wrongly deprived of their disability benefits.... See more



Traumatised child rape survivor harassed again by DWP as he waits to give evidence

John Pring - 03 January 2019

A traumatised benefit claimant has accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of “sheer malice” after it again broke its promise to stop harassing him while he waits to give vital evidence in a child abuse trial.

DWP’s contractor Maximus sent David* a text message last month telling him that his employment and support allowance (ESA) could be at risk if he failed to attend an assessment set to take place just two days after Christmas.

Disability News Service (DNS) has been reporting on DWP’s continuing harassment of David* since 2016, when former minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson threatened to stop David’s benefits if he failed to co-operate with an Atos personal independence payment (PIP) reassessment.... See more



Government broke freedom of information laws over access to 10 Downing Street

John Pring - 03 January 2019

The government has broken freedom of information laws by refusing to release documents that could reveal why it has failed to ensure there is a wheelchair-accessible front entrance to 10 Downing Street.

The information commissioner has ruled that the Cabinet Office breached the Freedom of Information Act by failing to release reports to Disability News Service (DNS), including any documents that mention the two steps leading to the iconically-inaccessible front door.

DNS has been trying for more than a year to discover what discussions have taken place about removing the steps.... See more



OBE ‘is overdue recognition of importance of inclusive education’

John Pring - 03 January 2019

A disabled campaigner says the decision to award him an OBE is an overdue recognition of the importance of inclusive education.

Anthony Ford-Shubrook, a youth ambassador with the charity AbleChildAfrica and a trustee of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, was among the disabled people recognised in the new year honours.

Ford-Shubrook, who has campaigned for inclusive education both in the UK and Africa, was awarded the OBE for services to disabled children in Africa.... See more



Police force admits passing footage of disabled protesters to DWP

John Pring - 20 December 2018

A police force has admitted passing video footage and other information about disabled anti-fracking protesters to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Disability News Service (DNS) reported last week that forces including Lancashire police had been accused of repeatedly targeting and assaulting disabled people involved in peaceful anti-fracking protests.

Many of the allegations concern the policing of peaceful protests about the drilling activities of the energy company Cuadrilla near Preston New Road, on the edge of Blackpool.... See more



Labour and Greens call for inquiry into claims of police abuse of disabled protesters

John Pring - 20 December 2018

Two senior political figures have called for an inquiry into claims that police have targeted and assaulted disabled people taking part in peaceful anti-fracking protests.

Both the co-leader of the Green party, Jonathan Bartley, and Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, have called for an inquiry into the actions of Lancashire police.

Bartley said he was “incredibly concerned” about what he had been told, and that it was clear disabled people had been “abused” and were being subject to discriminatory treatment by Lancashire police.... See more



Anger over latest delay to social care green paper

John Pring - 20 December 2018

Disabled people’s organisations have reacted angrily after the government admitted that it will break its promise to publish its long-delayed adult social care green paper by the end of this year.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed this week that the green paper would now only be published “at the earliest opportunity” in 2019, as parliament continues to struggle to find a solution to the Brexit crisis.

It originally promised that the green paper would be published by the end of 2017, and then July this year, before delaying it to the autumn and then the end of 2018, and now to 2019.... See more



MPs hear of ‘despair’ of austerity’s victims in second WOW debate

John Pring - 20 December 2018

The experiences of disabled people whose lives have been devastated by austerity-related cuts were discussed in parliament last night as MPs took part in a long-awaited debate on the impact of eight years of cuts to disability support.

The backbench debate was the result of months of lobbying of cross-party MPs by the disabled-led WOWcampaign, which has been pushing for six years for the government to carry out an assessment of the impact of all of its cuts to disabled people’s support.

Last night’s was the follow-up to a high-profile debate that took place in the Commons nearly five years ago, after nearly 105,000 people had signed a WOW petition calling on the government to carry out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA).... See more



Hancock comes up empty on ‘no deal Brexit’ social care recruitment plans

John Pring - 20 December 2018

The health and social care secretary has failed to produce any evidence that he has put extra plans in place to deal with an adult social care recruitment crisis in the event of a “no deal Brexit”.

Despite the ever-increasing likelihood of Britain crashing out of the European Union in March without a deal, Matt Hancock’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has again been unable to point to any plans it has drawn up to deal with the likely recruitment crisis in social care if there is a no deal Brexit in March.

Disabled people who use personal assistants (PAs) have warned repeatedly of the risk that any form of Brexit could mean their access to PAs from EU countries could dry up, with a no-deal Brexit making this even more likely.... See more



Move to universal credit could be ‘disastrous’ for disabled people, say MPs

John Pring - 20 December 2018

The government’s new universal credit benefit system could have “disastrous” consequences for disabled people if ministers fail to make a series of major changes, according to a committee of MPs.

A report by the Commons work and pensions committee highlighted major flaws in the government’s plans to move disabled people onto universal credit.

Frank Field, chair of the committee, warned that the introduction of the new system risked forcing disabled people “further into poverty, deprivation, miserable hardship”.... See more



Rights of disabled children in Scotland ‘not protected’ over seclusion and restraint

John Pring - 20 December 2018

Local authorities and the Scottish government are failing to protect the rights of disabled children and young people – and others with support needs – who are being restrained and placed in seclusion at school, according to a children’s rights watchdog.

A report by Scotland’s children and young people’s commissioner suggests that some schools and councils may be breaching both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Some schools could be acting unlawfully over their use of seclusion, it adds.... See more



‘Kicked, punched, knocked unconscious, tipped out of wheelchairs’: Campaigners describe repeated police targeting of disabled anti-fracking protesters

John Pring - 13 December 2018

Police forces are repeatedly targeting and assaulting disabled people involved in peaceful anti-fracking protests, campaigners have told Disability News Service (DNS).

DNS has seen video footage of a string of incidents in which disabled campaigners taking part in peaceful protests have been injured, manhandled or put at risk of injury by police officers.

It has also spoken to three disabled protesters, and two other eye-witnesses, who have all experienced or witnessed serious and repeated incidents of police brutality targeted at disabled people.... See more



Police targeting of disabled protesters is ‘an outrage and a scandal… and it’s set to spread’

John Pring - 13 December 2018

The targeting by police of disabled people involved in peaceful anti-fracking protests is an “absolute outrage” and “a scandal”, but such tactics will soon be rolled out to other protests and other parts of the country, a leading activist has warned.

Andy Greene, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), spoke out as Disability News Service (DNS) revealed “extremely disturbing” evidence that police forces in England have been repeatedly targeting and assaulting disabled people involved in the protests (see separate story).

Some of the most serious concerns reported this week relate to the actions of officers from Lancashire police in dealing with peaceful protests about the drilling activities of the energy company Cuadrilla near Preston New Road, on the edge of Blackpool.... See more



Mixed response to government’s plans to improve access to air travel

John Pring - 13 December 2018

A trio of disabled peers who have all been fierce critics of the discrimination faced by disabled air passengers have delivered a mixed response to the government’s proposed new “passenger charter”.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Friday (7 December) that a planned consultation on a new aviation strategy, expected by the end of the year, would include plans for the new charter.

A draft version of the charter, seen by Disability News Service (DNS), includes a series of proposals aimed at improving the way disabled passengers and others with reduced mobility are treated by the air travel industry.... See more



Fresh Motability criticism after watchdog’s report

John Pring - 13 December 2018

The company that runs the Motability car scheme and the charity that oversees its work are facing fresh criticism from disabled campaigners, following a watchdog’s report that criticises the company’s huge financial reserves and excessive profits and executive pay.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report concludes that the Motability scheme has delivered “excellent service” and “remarkable satisfaction levels” (99 per cent in 2017-18) among its more than 600,000 customers.

But it also says that the scheme has generated “substantial cash surpluses”, while Motability Operations – the company that runs the scheme – has failed to disclose more than £1.5 million in bonuses that were due to be paid to its chief executive, Mike Betts.... See more



Disabled facilities grants need fresh approach and fairer formula, says review

John Pring - 13 December 2018

The government should implement major changes to the scheme that provides funding for disabled people in England to make access improvements to their homes, according to an independent review.

Among the suggested improvements, the review says the government should increase the upper limit on disabled facilities grants (DFGs) from £30,000, although only in line with inflation.

It also suggests renaming the grant as part of a national awareness-raising campaign, with a new name that is “up to date and easily recognisable”; producing a fairer and more transparent funding formula; and introducing a national accreditation scheme for builders and tradespeople carrying out adaptations.... See more



ALLFIE calls for halt to MPs’ ‘sham’ SEN inquiry

John Print - 22 November 2018

A disabled campaigner has called for a “sham” inquiry by MPs into the special educational needs and disability (SEND) system to be halted until it agrees to address the increased levels of segregation of disabled students and cuts to their support.

Tara Flood, director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), spoke out the day after she gave evidence to the Commons education committee’s inquiry.

She told an event held in parliament last night (Wednesday) to mark the University and College Union’s (UCU) first national day of action for disability equality in education that the committee was refusing to “discuss the increased levels of segregation, refusing to discuss what needs to happen for this country to be more inclusive, is refusing to discuss cuts to SEND support services”.... See more



MPs hear of DWP’s ‘unacceptable’ failure to provide accessible papers to shadow minister

John Pring - 8 November 2018

Work and pensions ministers have received a humiliating dressing-down from the Commons speaker after their “unacceptable” failure to provide an accessible version of vital new universal credit papers to a disabled shadow minister.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had failed to provide the long-awaited managed migration draft regulations (see separate story) in an accessible format to Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people.

Instead she was told she would have to wait four days to receive them... See more



‘Chaotic’ universal credit led to disabled man’s death, sister tells UN poverty expert

John Pring - 8 November 2018

A UN expert has heard how a man with learning difficulties died a month after attempting to take his own life, following a move onto the government’s “chaotic” universal credit benefit system that left him hundreds of pounds in debt.

An account of the tragedy, written by the man’s sister, Maggie, is just one of scores of pieces of written evidence submitted to an inquiry being carried out by Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

He began a 12-day factfinding visit to the UK this week as part of his investigation into the government’s record on eradicating poverty... See more



Minister says stopping benefit sanctions would do disabled people ‘a great disservice’

John Pring - 8 November 2018

A minister has suggested that the government would be doing a “great disservice” to disabled people if it stopped sanctioning their out-of-work benefits.

The comment by Alok Sharma, the employment minister, came in correspondence with the Commons work and pensions committee as part of its inquiry into the government’s “harmful and counterproductive” benefit sanctions regime.

The committee’s report, published this week, calls on the government to “urgently re-assess” the regime... See more



McVey’s universal credit refusal could see hundreds of thousands lose all income

John Pring - 8 November 2018

The failure of ministers to make a key change to the way the government will move existing benefit claimants onto universal credit could see hundreds of thousands of disabled people left without any income at all, campaigners fear.

Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey (pictured) this week published the government’s draft regulations on the migration of millions of claimants of benefits such as employment and support allowance (ESA) and jobseeker’s allowance onto the new benefit system.

According to government estimates, more than a third of those migrating will be sick and disabled people who currently receive ESA... See more



Exhibition chronicles six years of fighting back on austerity and discrimination

John Pring - 8 November 2018

A new exhibition is charting how artists have fought back against attacks on disabled people’s rights and financial support over the last six years.

Shape Arts’ retrospective, Cumulative Effect: Disability and the Welfare State, looks at how that work has reacted to both government policy on social security and the way society continues to discriminate against disabled people.

The retrospective re-examines key works from the last six years of Shape Open, an annual exhibition of work on a disability-centred theme which is run by the disability arts organisation Shape.... See more



Atos threatens to call police after claimant questions PIP assessor’s mental health training

John Pring - 1 November 2018

Staff working for a discredited benefit assessments contractor threatened to call the police after a claimant asked about the mental health qualifications of the nurse who was assessing his eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP). Atos has now launched an investigation into what happened at the assessment centre in Leeds, which saw the nurse abandon Kris Weston’s assessment after just a couple of minutes.

She did not realise that Weston, a composer and trained sound engineer, had been recording the assessment.

Weston began the assessment last month by telling the nurse that he had stayed up all night because of the extreme anxiety he experiences when he has to deal with institutions... See more



Welsh government’s independent living decision ‘threatens support of hundreds’

John Pring - 1 November 2018

The Welsh government’s decision to close its independent living grant scheme and pass the funding to local authorities could see cuts to the support packages of hundreds of disabled people, new research suggests.

Disabled campaigners say that information released by local authorities in Wales has created “extreme cause for concern” about the transition process, which is seeing funding from the interim Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) passed to the 22 councils.

WILG was set up by the Welsh government – with UK government funding – as a short-term measure to support former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) when ILF was closed in June 2015... See more



DWP refuses to say if it followed death review advice on ‘threatening’ universal credit

John Pring - 1 November 2018

Ministers are refusing to say if they acted on the recommendations of a secret review that linked the death of a benefit claimant with the “threatening” conditions they were forced to accept when signing up to universal credit.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has breached freedom of information laws by failing to say whether it followed the recommendation by one of its own internal process reviews to make universal credit’s so-called “claimant commitment” less threatening following the death.

DWP’s failure came as the chancellor, Philip Hammond, attempted in this week’s budget to calm concerns about the rollout of the troubled new system by announcing extra funding of £1 billion over five-and-a-half years that he said would help the migration of claimants of other benefits onto universal credit from next year.... See more



Budget 2018: Chancellor’s billions ‘will not halt universal credit humanitarian crisis’

John Pring - 1 November 2018

The chancellor’s decision to pump billions of pounds into universal credit will not halt the “humanitarian crisis” that will be caused by its systemic flaws, disabled activists have warned.

Philip Hammond announced in this week’s budget that he had found £1 billion – spread over five-and-a-half years – to ease the delayed “managed migration” process that will see about three million claimants of “legacy” benefits such as employment and support allowance (ESA) moved across to the new universal credit.

He also promised another £1.7 billion a year to pay for more generous work allowances for universal credit, which combines six income-related benefits into one.... See more


 


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