Protest demonstrates anger over council’s McDonald court win

Activists were set to stage a protest this evening over the treatment of a disabled woman denied the night-time care she needs by her local authority.

The Supreme Court caused outrage earlier this month when it ruled that Kensington and Chelsea council did not break the law by deciding to withdraw night-time support for Elaine McDonald, even though it had assessed her as needing that support.

The council’s decision meant McDonald would be forced to use incontinence pads at night, even though she was not incontinent.

The protest was set to take place outside Kensington and Chelsea’s town hall, while councillors were inside in a cabinet meeting.

Campaigners planned to deliver an open letter to the council, outlining their concerns about McDonald’s case and how she has been treated.

They are also angry that four male Supreme Court judges ruled against McDonald’s appeal, while only the female judge, Baroness Hale, ruled in her favour.

They say that male judges were “undermining a woman’s right to choose how she is helped with personal care” and that night-time personal assistance was “vital to many disabled people’s independence and safety”.

Jenny Hurst, personal budgets coordinator for Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea, one of the disabled people’s organisations taking part in the protest, said they had received support from across the country.

She said there was “real concern” about the council’s decision, and the precedent now set by the courts.

Hurst said that now the council had removed McDonald’s care during the night, there was nothing to stop other local authorities removing such support from disabled people during the day, or even forcing them to be tube-fed twice a day if they needed assistance with eating.

She said: “It is a real human rights issue. It is absolutely terrible for disabled people. Where does choice and control come into it? There is supposed to be a personalisation agenda.”

Claire Glasman, a spokeswoman for WinVisible, the disabled women’s organisation, which was also supporting the protest, said: “Many women feel we have contributed in all kinds of ways and should not be charged or rationed when it comes to needing some care services.

“There has been a fantastic response from all kinds of groups, not only disability groups but also people who feel they will need care in the future and that we need to be supporting each other.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

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Government omits hate crime murder measures from sentencing bill

The government has failed to fulfil its pledge to end the glaring disparity between sentences for disability and other hate crime murders.

Someone found guilty of a race hate murder, or one based on hostility to religion or sexuality, faces a “starting tariff” – which could be increased or lowered due to other factors – of at least 30 years in prison.

But under schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, someone found guilty of a disability hate crime murder faces a starting tariff of just 15 years.

Last December, the Ministry of Justice published a green paper, Breaking the Cycle, which included a pledge to tighten the law on hate crime, including an examination of schedule 21.

Discussing the sentencing framework for murder, the green paper pledged to “replace the current list of groups which attract the statutory aggravating factor in sentencing for hate crime with a general aggravating factor where the offender demonstrates hatred or hostility to a particular group”.

But the government’s response to a consultation on the green paper, published last month, makes no mention of schedule 21 or its hate crime pledge.

And there are no measures on increasing sentences for disability hate crime murders in the coalition’s new legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill, which had its first reading in the Commons on the same day.

The Ministry of Justice said the government had decided to abandon reform of Schedule 21 as a whole but that it still intended to find a way to tighten sentencing laws for disability hate crime murders.

The discrepancy in sentencing provision was highlighted the month before the green paper was published by the case of Martin Mather, who was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to beating a disabled man to death at his flat in Rhyl, north Wales.

Because it was a murder case, the law did not allow the judge to increase Mather’s sentence on the grounds that it was a disability hate crime, even though both the Crown Prosecution Service and North Wales police had treated it as a hate crime. Mather was told he would serve a minimum of just 17 years in prison.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Disabled women ask court to force council to think again over cuts

Two older disabled women have this week taken their fight against council cuts to care and support to the high court.

Lawyers for the two women have argued that Lancashire County Council breached the Disability Discrimination Act by failing to take into account the impact of proposed cuts to its social services budget on disabled people.

Both women rely on council funding to pay for the support they need to live in their own homes.

The judicial review hearing at the high court in Manchester ended today, but the judge will not deliver a judgment for at least a month.

Lawyers for the two women want the council to be forced to look again at its plans to cut its social care budget, tighten eligibility for support, and increase care charges.

They argued that the council had a choice as to whether to cut adult social care services and – if it was forced to make cuts – how much those reductions would be, and could have found savings elsewhere in its budget.

They also want the judge to make it clear that the council’s decision to adopt a policy of only providing support to meet personal care needs – which the local authority has now accepted was illegal – was indeed unlawful.

The county council wants to raise the eligibility threshold for support from “moderate” to “substantial”, saving £2.5 million a year for the next two years; cut spending on personal budgets and home care by £12 million over three years; and increase revenue from charging by more than £5.5 million over four years.

The two women are being backed in their legal action by the disabled people’s organisation Disability Equality NW (DENW).

In her witness statement, Melanie Close, DENW’s chief executive, said the council decided to reduce disabled people’s support packages before a consultation on proposed cuts had even started.

And she said the council had agreed its new budget on 17 February, despite its consultation not being due to finish until 11 days later.

After the case, Close said: “It is really difficult to know which way the judgment will go. The judge was knowledgeable and both sides made really good arguments.”

But she welcomed the council’s decision to accept that only providing support for personal care was unlawful.

Mike Calvert, the council’s cabinet member for adult and community services, said in a statement: “We recognise that this is a complicated issue. However, our view remains that we have complied with disability discrimination legislation and the decisions taken in February were entirely within the law.”

The court case was the latest in a series of legal challenges over decisions by public bodies to slash services and spending following huge cuts to government funding.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

DisabledGo train BT Volunteers as part of a nationwide initiative

The entire Board of BT South East came out in force on Friday 10th June in Aylesbury as part of a nationwide initiative to train volunteers from within BT’s staff to undertake simple format access guides to their town centres.

The volunteers have been trained to collect information about access to shops and services by DisabledGo who invested time developing a training programme specifically for the BT volunteers that can be rolled out as part of a nationwide BT scheme. BT sees this work as an essential part of creating a legacy from their sponsorship of the Paralympics.

Rich Duggan photographer - Bucks Herald

The information that is being collected follows the same template as the information found on www.disabledgo.com. It has been developed by DisabledGo to ensure the information is accurate, useful and reliable and will be fed to Tourism for All’s OpenBritain initiative www.openbritain.net, to create national coverage of accessible facilities.

The team of volunteers in Aylesbury were able to collect information to 64 premises which will help visitors and citizens alike find out more information about access to venues and services in their towns depending on their own specific requirements.

If you would like more information about the BT Volunteering Initiative, OpenBritain or DisabledGo please contact Rachel Felton, External Relations Manager, DisabledGo.                

E: rachel.felton@disabledgo.com T: 01438 842710

DisabledGo’s new access guide to Bexley goes live!

London Borough of Bexley has joined over 85 other local authorities across the UK and Ireland including over 20 London Borough’s to join www.disabledgo.com providing a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to know more about access in the area.

The guide to Bexley covers over 1,000 venues including – cinemas, hotels, parks, leisure centres, council offices, high street stores, restaurants, tourist attractions – the list goes on and on.

DisabledGo-Bexley launch at Inspire Community Trust

The guide, which launched on Monday 4th July at the Inspire Community Trust will enable people to find out whether venues have, adapted toilets or parking close by but also specific details such as whether there are tactile or Braille markings in lifts or on doors, the dimensions of toilets, the positioning of fixtures and fittings and whether you can request large print or Braille information.

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, Cllr Colin Campbell said; “I am pleased that we have been able to work with our partners at Inspire Community Trust (Inspire) to bring the ‘DisabledGo’ guide to the Borough. 

“The guide provides access information on the Boroughs facilities, from libraries to leisure centres, parks to shopping centres. We are committed to providing the highest quality environment for our residents and this guide will be a well-used resource that will assist disabled residents and visitors to enjoy to the full, all that we have to offer”

DisabledGo launch the guide to London Borough of Bexley

Ranjit Bhamra, Co-Chair of Inspire said, “ I am delighted that Inspire, as a “user-led” organisation has been able to facilitate consultation with disabled people and their involvement in surveying a number of venues included in this website. This site will open up a whole new world of accessible venues for disabled people in the borough”.

The online guide will provide benefits for business too, helping them reach more customers by publicising the access they offer. Current figures estimate that there are 11 million disabled people in Britain who spend £80 billion each year, numbers that every business should take notice of.

If you would like more information about DisabledGo or DisabledGo-Bexley please contact Rachel Felton, External Relations Manager, DisabledGo T: 01438 842710

E: rachel.felton@disabledgo.com

The DisabledGo supported Ready, Willing & Mobile Competition finds its 2011 winner

Zainab is top of the ‘tree’ with her woodland pack

The national Mobility Roadshow which took place at the East of England Showground, Peterborough, on the 30 June 2011 – have announced the winners of the national schools’ Ready Willing & Mobile competition with disabled Desperados and Eastenders actor David Proud there to present the awards.

The competition, organised by charity Mobility Choice, aims to encourage young people from the age of seven to think about those less able than themselves. In this its seventh year, a new outdoor theme was introduced, seeking ideas to help people with disabilities to gain easy access to and maximum enjoyment from our woodlands and forests.

Ready, Willing & Mobile 2011

With her bright idea for a young person’s woodland backpack designed to be fun, exciting and educational, 11 year old Zainab Khan, a pupil at Perry Hall Primary School in Bromley was announced outright winner from a field of over 300 entries in two aged groups: 7-11 and 12-16 years.

Extremely close as runner-up was 12 year old Becky Costello, a student at Sacred Heart of Mary Girls’ School in Upminster. Becky impressed the judges with her concept for a brightly coloured, informative pack of bird watching cards that incorporated both touch-button audio and Braille descriptions for blind people.

Winner, Zainab, also had partially-sighted children in mind when devising her backpack, which included bright, bold alphabet badges featuring woodland creatures; butterfly and pond nets and a collection pot, together with a magnifying glass to aid identification. The judges were impressed with her entry, which they felt was ‘very practical and something that many young people would be very pleased to have and use; not only those partially-sighted’.

Presenting the prizes David Proud said: “It is wonderful that through the Ready Willing & Mobile competition, hundreds of young people in schools and clubs throughout the UK have wanted to help people with disabilities. Having joined the judging panel for the first time, I was particularly excited to announce this year’s winners, keen to learn if the entry that gained my top mark had won outright.”

Jacqui Jones, Executive Director, Mobility Choice said the charity was delighted that over the years many schools has used the competition to reinforce issues such as social integration, disability awareness and inclusive communities. “The creativity of young people seems boundless. Each year we are amazed at the variety of ideas put forward and the desire to help others.”

As outright winner Zainab bags for her school the top prize of £1,000 cash for equipment, £300-worth of STAEDTLER art and crafts materials, £100-worth of Penguin books and a year’s school membership of the Woodland Trust Nature Detectives’ Club. For herself she wins an overnight stay for four at a Holiday Inn in London with a trip on the London Eye.

Ready, Willing & Mobile 2011

Both girls have already won a digital camera, Penguin books and the Woodland Trust Nature Detective’s Club membership as reward for winning their relevant age categories in the competition.

The Ready Willing & Mobile 2011 competition is supported by DisabledGo, Aspire, Holiday Inn, Penguin, Phab Kids, the Royal College of Art, STAEDTLER, Vauxhall and the Woodland Trust.

DPO funding is welcomed, but is still a ‘drop in the ocean’

The government has launched a scheme designed to support the growth of local disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, was at West of England Centre for Inclusive Living in Bristol to launch the programme, which was first announced in May and will invest £3 million over four years in helping DPOs improve how they are run.

Miller announced that Rich Watts, director of policy and development for Essex Coalition of Disabled People, had been seconded part-time to the government’s Office for Disability Issues to lead the Strengthening Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations programme.

Campaigners have increasingly been raising concerns that the local authority spending squeeze – largely caused by the government’s deficit reduction plan – has been putting the future of many local DPOs at risk.

DPOs can now bid for “modest” amounts of money – expected to be a maximum of £10,000 and up to £30,000 in total over the four years of the scheme – to fund specific projects.

Stephen Lee Hodgkins, director of Disability LIB, which was itself set up to build the capacity of DPOs, welcomed the appointment of Watts, who he said was “the right person for the job”.

He said the funding was welcome but “a drop in the ocean” when measured against the huge financial strain facing DPOs as a result of government cuts.

He also said that funding was likely to be awarded for projects that fitted the government’s agenda, rather than the agenda of DPOs.

But he welcomed the decision that any money that was needed to meet access requirements – such as BSL interpreters – would not be counted as part of the maximum funding DPOs could receive through the scheme.

As part of the same programme, the government has appointed 12 “ambassadors” to “promote the cause” of DPOs and “encourage mutual sharing and support”, although the Department for Work and Pensions was unable to say how many of them were disabled.

Hodgkins said he was disappointed that it had not been made more explicit which of the ambassadors were disabled people as that would have helped them in their role.

The government is now seeking volunteer “experts” who are willing to share their skills with DPOs, in areas such as human resources, financial management, IT and business planning.

In a statement, Watts said: “Leading this programme is a great opportunity to raise the profile of disabled people’s user-led organisations and to sustain and share the successes they achieve, including providing the support that disabled people really need.

“Working with a team of ambassadors, we will share our skills and experience with other organisations, as well as learn from them and pass it on, to ensure that disabled people have their voices heard at every level.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com