Inclusion fears over SEN pilot projects

Campaigners will try to convince local authorities testing out new government policies on special educational needs (SEN) to take an inclusive approach, despite the coalition’s “hostile” stance on including disabled children in mainstream schools.

Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat children’s minister, this week announced 20 “pathfinder” schemes across England that will test out proposals in the special educational needs and disability green paper, which was published in March.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) has warned that measures in the green paper would set the fight for inclusive education back 20 years.

ALLFIE believes the green paper proposals would “dismantle” the framework of support for disabled learners, and cut the number of children identified as needing that support.

It also believes the proposals would create “many more hurdles” for parents to overcome in finding a school and securing an assessment of their children’s needs and funding for support, and would provide fewer opportunities for challenging the system.

The new pathfinder areas cover 31 local authority areas and the councils’ primary care trust partners.

Among the proposals to be tested are plans for disabled children to have their own education, health and care plan, lasting from birth to the age of 25.

Another is for disabled children and those with SEN to have their support delivered through personal budgets.

Tara Flood, ALLFIE’s director, said she and other campaigners felt they were confronting a “hostile situation”, with the coalition having pledged to “end the bias towards the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools”.

Flood said: “The worry for us is the lack of aspiration in the green paper. It is starting from a negative position.

“There are 20 [pathfinders] and we are going to do all that we can to try and push them to include inclusive practice and inclusive thinking as their pilots roll out, but I think it is going to be very difficult because they are working within parameters set by the Department for Education.”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Figures raise fresh concerns over work of Atos

New research by disabled activists has produced fresh evidence of poor performance by the company paid to test disabled people’s “fitness for work”.

The results come from an online survey form hosted by the campaigning website AfterAtos, and cover responses from the last six months.

Although the results are not based on a random sample of disabled people who have undergone the work capability assessment (WCA) as part of their claim for employment and support allowance (ESA), they still provide further evidence of the anger felt by many of those tested by Atos Healthcare.

The AfterAtos website was set up in March by a disabled activist who uses the pseudonym “Aunty”, and provides a database of disabled people’s anonymous experiences of Atos and the WCA.

Her site is one of the internet forums and websites that have received legal threats from Atos over information posted on their sites.

She plans to send the report to Atos, and said it was the company’s failure to enable customer feedback about the assessments that was “bringing them into disrepute”.

She said the findings of the survey were “horrendous and very telling”, and she highlighted figures that showed the financial impact of the assessments, with 91 of the 140 respondents saying their finances had “greatly worsened” as a result of the test.

She also pointed to the findings about the Atos “healthcare professionals” employed to carry out the tests, with 65 of the respondents describing the attitude and behaviour of their assessor as “bad” or “very bad”, compared with 14 who found them “good” or “very good”.

Meanwhile, 92 of the 140 respondents said the assessor’s knowledge and understanding of their conditions were “bad” or “very bad”.

And 86 claimants said their experience of an Atos assessment and the subsequent decision on their ESA claim had “greatly worsened” their mental health.

One described how being found fit for work – and the subsequent lack of support and money – had led to a “mental breakdown”, and eventually to becoming suicidal, followed by admission to an acute psychiatric ward.

There was also evidence of continuing problems with the accessibility of the Atos assessment centres.

When asked how accessible the centre was for parking, 26 people said it was “bad” or “very bad”, while 33 said the accessibility of the building’s entrance was “bad” or “very bad”.

Only two of the 140 said access inside the building was “excellent”, while 36 described it as “bad” and 19 said it was “very bad”.

One claimant described arriving at the centre and finding they were to be interviewed in an upstairs room. “A stairlift is there but was broken awaiting repair on my visit which meant I had to shuffle my way upstairs. Even though it took me ten minutes to get up them the interviewer put that I could walk upstairs with no difficulty!”

Not one of the 140 respondents said the Atos assessment and subsequent support received from the government had improved their employment situation.

Of the 140 who took part in the survey, 110 have already lodged an appeal against the result of their ESA application. Of those who have had their appeal heard, 51 were successful and 35 have had the appeal turned down.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Business Women on a mission to change attitudes and improve deaf awareness

Profoundly deaf since birth, Ruth Fletcher has spent years working to raise awareness of the issues facing people with impaired hearing. She has held roles as Secretary and Chairperson of the Bolton Deaf Society and recently qualified as an accredited CACDP Deaf Awareness Tutor.

On a professional level, Ruth held a number of office-based jobs before being made redundant in October 2010. In pursuit of a new challenge, she felt it was time to put her personal experience to good use and tackle what she sees as an endemic lack of support for the deaf community.

She explains: “I felt frustrated and wanted to do something proactive to highlight the needs of deaf people across a broad spectrum of settings, such as the workplace or in a leisure environment like hotels.”  I want to show employers or clients what to be aware of when they first meet deaf/hard of hearing people because there has been lots of criticism.

Ruth decided that the best way to instigate positive change was to set up her own business helping organisations to recognise and respond to the needs of deaf people, whether employees or customers. With plenty of valuable insights and guidance to share, what she lacked was the knowledge required to set up and run a company, so she decided to find a course that would teach her these fundamentals.

“When I first left school, I went into my local college for RSA Stage 1 typing. A few years later, I decided to gain more qualifications as Secretarial field at Doncaster College of Higher Education for the Deaf, South Yorkshire for three years”.  Ruth initially investigated options at her local college but her deafness presented an obstacle to learning in a traditional classroom. While researching other routes on the internet she came across Home Learning College’s Certificate in Business Management. 

The course is accredited by EDI – one of the UK’s largest awarding bodies – and covers a wide range of topics including the legal aspects of employment and performance management.

“One of the biggest factors in my decision was the fact that I would get one to one tutorial support, which could be delivered by email or via the Virtual Learning Community,” explains Ruth. “This proved invaluable and my tutor was incredibly supportive and understanding. I was able to discuss all manner of topics and never felt awkward about asking any question. The fact that the course was done by distance learning also meant that I could work at my own pace without any pressure or stress.”

 Since finishing her course, Ruth has been successful in attracting start-up funding and is currently in the process of developing her brand and company website “How To Support the Deaf People within your workplace”.

If you would like more information please contact ruthy@supportthedeafpeople.co.uk

DisabledGo looks ahead to Naidex South 2011 – Celebrating independent living in London and the South East

Naidex South, 19 – 20 October
See the best products and services promoting independent living and get free advice at Naidex South (19-20 October, ExCeL London).
 
The show is FREE to attend and provides a unique opportunity for people in London and the southeast to touch, test and compare all the latest products, services and equipment that can make a real difference to everyday lives.
 
For the second year running DisabledGo will have a stand at Naidex South. The DisabledGo team will be on stand E35. To ensure you don’t miss out! Register for free entry at www.naidex.co.uk/south
For two days you can –
 
  • View the newest wheelchair adapted vehicles in the Car Zone
  • See the latest wheelchairs, mobility scooters, communication and daily living aids
  • Get free help and advice from an OT, Physio, SLT, equality and human rights advisor  and counsellor at Meet the Expert 
  • Visit the Independent Living Show Home and see the best in inclusive design, new technology and telecare products

 Register for free tickets here

The Equality Act – What’s it all about? DisabledGo answers your questions!

The Equality Act came into force in October 2010. At DisabledGo we often get asked for more information about the Act and the protection it provides disabled people from discrimination. Here are some of the most common questions and our answers.

Has the Equality Act replaced the Disability Discrimination Act?Yes.

The new Act has generally incorporated and strengthened previous legislation, which means in the majority of cases your rights as a disabled person have remained the same or have increased from those outlined in the Disability Discrimination Act.

Why is it the Equality Act not a new Disability Discrimination Act?

The Equality Act brings together a range of previous laws about different areas e.g. Age, Sex, Race, Disability. The idea is to make the law around equality issues consistent, clear and easy to follow. As well as covering disability the Act outlines the rights people have on the grounds of –

  • Age

    DisabledGo

  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

These 9 areas are referred to as Protected Characteristics.

Who does the Equality Act apply to?

The Act applies to –

  • Government departments
  • Service providers
  • Employers
  • Education providers (Schools, FHE colleges and Universities)
  • Providers of public functions
  • Associations and membership bodies
  • Transport providers

 What rights do I have as a disabled person under the Act?

The Equality Act has introduced a number of positive changes regarding the protection and rights of disabled people. Our next column will cover this in more detail. However, here is a brief introduction.

  • The Act provides protection for anyone who has, or has had, a disability.
  • It protects people from being discriminated against who are mistakenly perceived to be disabled and it protects a person from being treated less favourably because they are linked or associated with a disabled person.
  • The Act provides protection for people who are discriminated against because of something connected with their disability and introduces protection from indirect discrimination and disability related harassment in accessing services.
  • The law has changed slightly in relation to an organisation’s responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to premises and to policies, practices and procedures. Previously they had to be made by service providers only where it would otherwise be ‘impossible or unreasonably difficult’ for a disabled person to use the service. Now, adjustments must be made where disabled people experience a ‘substantial disadvantage’.
  • Lastly, there is now no need for a person believing they have been victimised to show that they have been treated less favourably than someone who has not made or supported a complaint under the Act. They only need to show that they have been treated badly.

Does the new law protect me as a carer?

Yes. If you’re looking after a disabled person, the law will protect you against direct discrimination or harassment because of your caring responsibilities. This is because you’re counted as being ‘associated’ with someone who is protected by the law because of their disability. If you are a carer you would have previously been protected from discrimination and harassment if they happened at work, but the Equality Act has now extended protection to not only cover work but –

  • when you shop for goods
  • when you ask for services
  • when you get services
  • when you use facilities like public transport.

Where can I go for advice about my rights?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides advice to individuals and organisations around the Equality Act and cases of discrimination. The commission also has powers that enable them to enforce the law. These powers include helping individual people with their legal cases; and taking legal action against organisations that appear to have broken the law.

If you have a question or topic you would like to see featured in this column in future please contact anna.borthwick@disabledgo.com

Research questions improvements to ‘fitness for work’ tests

New research has raised doubts over whether changes to the government’s “fitness for work” tests have made the assessments any fairer for disabled people.

The survey of welfare advisers by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) comes nearly 10 months after the publication of an independent review of the work capability assessment (WCA) called on the government to improve “every stage” of the much-criticised tests.

A report based on the DBC results has been sent to Professor Malcolm Harrington, who is now preparing his second annual review of the WCA, this time examining the need for further improvements and how the recommendations in his first review have been implemented.

Although the DBC said it welcomed Harrington’s recommendations, it said it was “clear that the reforms are taking time to translate into improvements for claimants”.

It says the key recommendation emerging from its members and the welfare advisers who took part in the survey was that greater efforts should be made to collect “additional medical evidence” about each benefit applicant, and that this should be “given more weight” by assessors and the civil servants who make the final decisions on the applications.

The consortium also calls for greater transparency in the assessment process, and improved training for assessors – employed by the private company Atos Healthcare – particularly on mental health and fluctuating conditions.

And it calls for changes to the “descriptors” – which describe the tasks or activities the claimant is asked if they can perform – to ensure they “more closely reflect someone’s ability to work”.

The consortium said it was “extremely disappointed” that applicants in only one part of the country – Wrexham, where a pilot scheme is taking place – are receiving a summary of their assessment that they can discuss afterwards with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

More than 90 per cent of the welfare advisers who took part in the survey said they “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” that major changes to the “descriptors” – introduced by the government in March after an internal review – had made the test fairer and more accurate.

These changes were criticised by the government’s own benefits advice body, the social security advisory committee, as well as disability organisations, peers and MPs.

One respondent to the survey said: “I’ve been completely astonished at the severity of disability that some clients have and are still being scored ‘zero’ points.”

The DBC called for the descriptors to be revised, particularly to improve assessments of those with mental health and fluctuating conditions.

It also noted that there continued to be a “high degree of mistrust” of Atos, while more than 87 per cent of those surveyed said the accuracy of reports by Atos assessors had not improved since the start of 2011.

Meanwhile, new research for the DWP has shown how few successful ESA claimants are eventually finding jobs, even if placed in the “work-related activity group” for those disabled people found able to return to employment in the future.

The report says just nine per cent of those who were not in employment before their successful ESA application were in work a year to 18 months after their initial claim.

For those who had been in work before their claim, about a quarter had returned to work by the time of the follow-up survey.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Liberal Democrat conference: New scheme should see more disabled MPs

A new programme aims to help the Liberal Democrats increase the number of disabled people – and other under-represented groups – elected to represent their party as MPs.

The Liberal Democrat leadership programme was launched by the party’s leader, Nick Clegg. The first eight candidates have already been selected.

The programme is designed to support about 50 future parliamentary candidates through training, mentoring, and shadowing existing elected officials.

At least two candidates from the programme will be shortlisted to fight each priority seat, if enough of them apply. Ten per cent of the places on the scheme will be reserved for disabled people.

Greg Judge, a disabled activist from Coventry, was among the first eight party members selected for the leadership programme.

Judge, an executive member of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association, said he believed the programme would lead eventually to more disabled Liberal Democrat MPs.

And he said that other parties could be watching the success of the new programme closely.

He said: “It gives us the assured knowledge that we will at least be put in front of a panel and have a consideration of what we have to offer local parties.

“It gives us the leg-up we need in order to overcome the limited representation that diverse demographics currently have in the UK.”

Last week, the government announced that – following a consultation – it had decided to go ahead with five of six proposals aimed at supporting more disabled people to become local councillors and MPs.

Most of the £1 million-a-year package will go towards setting up a fund to help disabled people with the impairment-related costs of running for office, and providing them with training and development opportunities.

But the government will also work with political parties, the Local Government Association and disability organisations to raise awareness, and work with parties to promote their legal obligations under the Equality Act and analyse their existing access policies.

The government said that the sixth proposal – to set up a network of disabled MPs and councillors to act as role models –would not go ahead, because of the comparative lack of support for it during the consultation and the level of funding required.

The Government Equalities Office is to work with other organisations to develop the five proposals.

The announcement came more than 18 months after the cross-party speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation reported on ways to increase the number of disabled, female and minority ethnic MPs.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Festival will put disability arts and rights near the centre of London 2012

Disabled people are to hold a major international disability arts festival to run in parallel with the London 2012 Paralympics.

The free festival will take place in and around a park in east London, less than two miles from the main Olympic Park, and will probably start and end on the same days as the Paralympics opening and closing ceremonies, on 29 August and 9 September.

The Memorial Recreation Ground is run by Newham council and is a short walk from West Ham station, one of the “gateway” stations for the 2012 games, which is on the accessible Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee tube line.

In contrast to the annual one-day Liberty disability arts festival in central London, which no longer focuses on rights issues, the new event – currently titled The Together Festival – will put disability rights at its heart, and will be led by the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC).

Organisers hope to share some work with the major Liverpool-based disability arts festival DaDaFest, which will take place from mid-July to early September, and to build close links between Newham and the city of Liverpool.

The disabled artist Ju Gosling, who will direct the festival, said there would be a “strong rights-based element to the festival”.

She said: “London used to have a four-week long disability arts festival and a four-day long international disability film festival.

“Now there is just Liberty, which is in central London, and now positions itself as just an arts festival, without any emphasis on disability rights.”

She added: “We see it as an opportunity to showcase the accessibility of Newham, which is probably the most accessible borough in the country and led the way on inclusive education.”

Jaspal Dhani, UKDPC’s chief executive, said: “We feel the Paralympics next year will be the ideal platform to draw attention to disabled artists and their work.”

But he said it was also a “way of bringing the disability rights message into the public domain”.

He said the festival would be a “great opportunity” to promote the work of UKDPC, but also a chance “for the movement as a whole to be showcased and profiled”.

He added: “This is our opportunity to be seen, to be heard, to be visible.”

The festival will include a two or three-day international symposium looking at how the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can be used to improve disabled people’s access to art, culture and sport.

Disabled people will also be able to access information and advice about jobs, education, transport and other aspects of independent living.

Gosling hopes visitors to the Paralympics will come to the festival before or after watching 2012 events at the Olympic Park, and that Paralympic athletes will “hop on the train and come down” from the athletes’ village.

It is hoped the festival will feature a big screen, so visitors can watch live coverage of the Paralympics in between sampling the performances and exhibitions.

Gosling now wants to hear from all disabled artists with work they would like to include in the festival.

The Together Festival has already won the backing of Newham council, West Ham United Football Club, the two local Labour MPs, Stephen Timms and Lyn Brown, and Richard Barnes, one of Boris Johnson’s deputy mayors.

It will be branded as part of the 2012 cultural programme being run by the five Olympic and Paralympic “host boroughs” – Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest – and will be the focus for cultural events taking place in Newham during the Paralympics.

Although it will have no official connection to London 2012, the festival will be branded as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Gosling said it was hoped to pay for the free festival entirely through sponsorship and other funding, without having to ask Newham council for any financial support.

She said: “Our goal is to show it is possible to fund the festival as a commercial event, because that would make such a difference to the future of disability arts.”

The festival has tentatively been named in honour of the words of the disability rights campaigner, and mayoral adviser, David Morris – “Together we can change the world” – who died last year.

The festival was originally the idea of Morris, Gosling, and Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair.

Any disabled artists interested in taking part in the festival, and individuals or organisations considering funding or sponsorship, should email UKDPC at info@ukdpc.net.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Crown Prosecution Service to look again at abuse allegations failure

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is to investigate why it refused to prosecute any of the NHS staff accused of abusing 18 disabled people at a day centre.

The decision not to bring any charges over the alleged abuse at the Solar Centre in Doncaster was made just three days after the head of the CPS, and a leading chief constable, spoke publicly of their determination to correct their organisations’ past failures in dealing with disability hate crime.

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, and Stephen Otter, the equality and diversity lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers, spoke out last week at the launch of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) major report into disability-related harassment.

The report accused public bodies of a “systematic, institutional failure” to recognise such harassment.

The latest decision by the CPS in south Yorkshire follows a three-year battle for justice by families of former users of the day centre.

An internal NHS investigation, which reported in 2008, found evidence of 44 incidents between 2005 and 2007, involving abuse of 18 people with learning difficulties and high support needs.

The report by the trust which runs the day centre, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) – which was leaked to the media last year – provides few details of the incidents, although it makes it clear that nine different members of staff claimed they had witnessed abuse.

But Disability News Service (DNS) has seen safeguarding reports into the abuse of two of the 18 service-users, which detail clear evidence against at least three former staff members.

These two reports raise serious questions over why the police and CPS have twice failed to bring any prosecutions against the three members of staff, referred to as “A”, “B” and “C”.

In 2007, South Yorkshire Police investigated allegations of physical assault, but the CPS said there was “insufficient evidence” to bring charges.

Last year, after the RDaSH report was leaked, the force reopened its investigation. This time it investigated possible allegations of ill-treatment under the Mental Health Act, after DNS questioned why such charges were not considered in 2007.

But last week, the force said it had been told by the CPS that there was still “insufficient evidence to proceed” with any charges.

Now, after DNS questioned why no charges were possible when RDaSH appears to have taken at least nine witness statements describing ill-treatment, the CPS has agreed to re-examine its decision.

Martin Goldman, the chief crown prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humberside, has told DNS that his deputy will “look into the issues”.

A CPS spokeswoman said that Naheed Hussain, who is responsible for the South Yorkshire area, would examine whether the statements detailed in the RDaSH report were passed to the CPS by the police.

Some relatives of former users of the Solar Centre are now considering seeking a judicial review of the decision not to bring any charges.

And at least three of the families are likely to lodge complaints with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Adrian Milnes, step-father of Richie Rowe, one of the disabled men allegedly abused at the day centre, said: “The trust, the Care Quality Commission [the care watchdog], the police and the CPS have all behaved absolutely atrociously.”

He accused the authorities of “trampling over the human rights” of Richie and other former users of the Solar Centre.

Valerie Kirsopp, mother of Robert Kirsopp, another of the men allegedly abused, said she was “absolutely devastated” by the latest CPS decision.

She said: “The abuse was so blatant and continued for three long years. To think what he went through on a daily basis. I just think Robbie has been really let down.”

The uncle of another former service-user said he had “no faith” in the police and “wasn’t surprised” by the latest decision.

He said: “I feel let down that someone hasn’t done their job, whether it is the police or the CPS.”

Meanwhile, South Yorkshire Police has refused to answer crucial questions about its latest “investigation”, including whether it made any efforts to interview service-users themselves.

It is also unclear what action the force took over the RDaSH statements described in the two safeguarding reports.

A police spokeswoman said the force was “unable to provide any further details of the actual investigation, any evidence/allegations brought forwards and any witness statements taken”.

This week, a spokeswoman for Keir Starmer also refused to comment on the case, despite his pledge at the EHRC launch.

Below, DNS can summarise some of the allegations detailed in the two safeguarding reports.

The report on the abuse allegedly experienced by Richie Rowe describes how:

  • Witness H reported seeing A “turn Richie Rowe…in his wheelchair to face the wall using pillows to stop him moving” for up to 15 minutes
  • Witness Q saw A and C “kick Richie’s wheelchair whilst he was sat in it from one side of the room to the other causing Richie to crash into patients and the walls”
  • Witness Q saw A and C “lift Richie out of his chair and throw him onto the floor”
  • Witness E saw A and C each grab one of Richie’s arms and legs and “throw him onto trampoline and say ‘oh look he’s hit his head’”

A report on the abuse allegedly experienced by Robert Kirsopp describes how:

  • Witness E saw A “grabbing and forcing Robert to the floor to clean up a spilt drink”
  • Witness J saw A “pushing Robert around the room and pricking him with a needle”
  • Witness E saw A “pinning Robert against the wall” and hitting his head
  • Witness G saw B “push Robert to the floor to clean up a spilt drink” and smack his face

Witness F saw B “punch Robert in the head”

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

EHRC harassment inquiry: ‘Culture of disbelief’ is preventing justice

Hundreds of thousands of disabled people are being subjected to disability-related harassment every year, but a “culture of disbelief” is preventing authorities from addressing the problem, according to a major new report.

The Hidden in Plain Sight report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which comes at the end of an 18-month inquiry which collected tens of thousands of pages of evidence, concludes that public bodies are guilty of a “systematic, institutional failure” to recognise disability-related harassment.

Mike Smith, chair of the EHRC’s disability committee and lead commissioner for its inquiry, told an event held to launch the report of a “culture of disbelief” that disability-related harassment could be happening.

He said: “It’s not just some extreme things happening to a handful of people: it’s an awful lot of unpleasant things happening to a great many people, almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands each year.”

Official figures show there were 1,567 disability-related hate crimes recorded by police in 2010-11, which Smith said was “a drop in the ocean compared to the stuff that is really going on out there”. Official figures suggest about 1.9 million disabled people were victims of crime in 2009-10, although not all of these crimes would have been disability-related.

Smith also said there was “significant under-reporting”, often because disabled people “do not believe that anything can and will be done”.

The harassment can include damage to property; theft; cyber-bullying; sexual violence; domestic violence; physical violence; and institutional abuse.

Smith told the launch that harassment causes many disabled people to “limit their own lives”, which “limits their ability to participate as equal citizens within our society”. He said that society “has to change in its attitude towards disabled people”.

Smith, who describes his own experiences of disability-related harassment in the report, says another shocking conclusion is how little information about the problem is collected by schools, local authorities, health services, and the criminal justice system.

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), welcomed the report, which he said was “an important benchmark for the challenges facing us”.

He said: “Many disabled people feel inhibited from coming forward to report disability-related harassment and when they do come forward their cases are not always recognised as disability-related crime by the police, the prosecutor, or both.”

He said the CPS had raised its game but there was “a lot more to do”.

Stephen Otter, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall police and the equality and diversity lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers, described the report as a “really important moment”.

He said the police needed the “same kind of learning” that occurred after the 1999 publication of the inquiry into how the police investigated the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The report also suggests that the failure to include disabled people in society – including the history of forcing disabled people to live in institutions, and segregated employment and education – has helped to cause disability-related harassment.

The report offers seven “core recommendations”: the need for strong leadership; better data on the “scale, severity and nature” of harassment; a more accessible and responsive criminal justice system, including action on sentencing of disability-related crimes; better understanding of the motives of perpetrators; improved attitudes towards disabled people in society; research on how best to prevent and respond to harassment; and improved staff training.

The EHRC now aims to consult widely and produce a “manifesto for change” next spring, which will outline the steps agencies are taking and the outcomes the commission expects to see over five years.

It has already laid out measures it believes should be taken by individual public bodies, such as the police, the CPS, the courts, schools, local authorities, health services, housing and transport providers.

There are also recommendations for government departments, including the Office for Disability Issues, the Department of Health, the Home Office, the Department for Education, and departments in the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

Although there was disappointment expressed by disabled activists at the failure of a government minister to attend the launch, the EHRC insisted that it had decided two months ago not to invite any ministers in order to ensure the event was “non-political”.

Meanwhile, MPs and peers on the all party parliamentary disability group (APPDG) have pledged to push for a parliamentary debate on the report.

Anne McGuire MP, the APPDG co-chair, said she would seek a debate after author and campaigner Katharine Quarmby told a joint meeting of the APPDG and the parliamentary learning disability group that she believed there had never been a full parliamentary debate on disability hate crime.

Quarmby talked in the meeting about her new book Scapegoat, which investigates some of the most shocking disability hate crimes of recent years.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com