EHRC calls for government to close ‘legal loophole’ on home care

A legal loophole is depriving hundreds of thousands of older people who receive care in their own homes of protection under the Human Rights Act, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

A report published by the EHRC this week has uncovered “serious, systemic threats to the basic human rights” of older people who receive home care.

They found some older people not being fed, left without access to food and water, or left by their care workers in soiled sheets and clothes, while in “numerous other instances” older people were ignored, confined to their home or bedroom, or put to bed in the early afternoon.

Close to Home: older people and human rights in home care has concluded that the poor treatment of many older people in their own homes is breaching their human rights, while there are “significant shortcomings” in the way care is commissioned by local authorities.

Among the protections offered by the Human Rights Act are respect for dignity and personal autonomy, and protection for family life and social relationships, from inhuman or degrading treatment and for the right to life. 

But courts have made it clear that protection under the act is not available to people receiving state-funded home care from private and voluntary sector agencies, which together provide more than four-fifths of all home care, even though the act does now protect those in private and voluntary sector residential care.

The EHRC report warns that too many older people are unable to voice their concerns or be listened to about how they want to be supported, while a third of local authorities have cut back on home care spending, with another fifth planning to do so in the next year.

The EHRC also said some council telephone contact lines were breaking the law by screening out older people needing home care without passing them on for a full assessment of their needs.

Older people receive less money towards their care than younger people with similar support needs, and are offered a more limited range of services, says the report.

The EHRC called on the government, CQC and local authorities to work together to ensure abuse is detected more quickly and dealt with more effectively.

And it called for new guidance on human rights to be drawn up for both councils and older people themselves.

Baroness Greengross, an EHRC commissioner, said: “It is essential that care services respect people’s basic human rights.

“This is not about burdensome red tape, it is about protecting people from the kind of dehumanising treatment we have uncovered.

“The emphasis is on saving pennies rather than providing a service which will meet the very real needs of our grandparents, our parents, and eventually all of us.”

The EHRC report came as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) announced a new programme of inspections of 250 providers of home care.

The programme aims to develop new ways to inspect home care providers, which CQC hopes will include visiting people’s homes – with their permission – while they are receiving care.

CQC made it clear the new programme would not be restricted to services for older people, but would also target providers of services for working-age disabled people. Many of the services targeted will be those where concerns have been raised about poor care standards.

News provided by John Pring at


VisitWoods and DisabledGo, opening up woods to disabled people!

DisabledGo is working in partnership with VisitWoods to provide online access guides to local woodlands, giving you the information you need before visiting. You can find out whether your local wood meets your particular requirements before visiting and it covers everything from accessible toilets, car parking, visitor centres, even your journey through the wood.

Our team of dedicated surveyors have produced some great guides on a selection of woods across the UK, each guide can provide up to 800 separate pieces of information. The guides describe the journey into and throughout each wood and the surveyor has taken photographs and talked to representatives of the sites to ensure you have independent, reliable information, from which you can decide which woods are right for you.

 So far 21 guides have been produced for woods covering the length and breadth of the country.  So don’t hibernate, get online and find out where you’re nearest accessible woods are and then let us know what you think of them.

 You can get instant access to the woods produced by DisabledGo by visiting VisitWoods dedicated guide to Britain’s best accessible woods and nature trails page;

Alternatively you can find the access information you are looking for by visiting

Please take the time to feedback your experiences and if there are woods near you that have not been covered by DisabledGo please let us know by contacting Rachel Felton, External Relations Manager E: T: 01438 842710

An Experience of a DisabledGo Surveyor – by Pamela Heyfron

I am Pamela Heyfron; I’m 69 years old and live in a village between Basingstoke and Winchester.  I have severe arthritis which means that although I can walk about 40 – 50 yards with the help of crutches, I need a scooter to get around any distance.

At a committee meeting of the Basingstoke Access Committee we were asked if anyone would like to help to ‘survey’ venues to be part of the DisabledGo website for Basingstoke.   It sounded interesting and I asked for my name to be put forward.  After checking out the web site I really wanted to be involved as I was most impressed with the site and the ethos of DisabledGo.

I elected to complete the documentation by email and DisabledGo contacted me and explained the procedure.  The first thing I needed to do was complete an application form and attach my CV.   The form was easy to complete and I was pleased that I have always kept my CV updated – so it was all done quickly.  At this point I told my husband, Rob what I was planning; as he was between contracts, he said that he would be interested in being involved too. Rob is not disabled but is always interested in anything that helps me to retain as much independence as possible and was fascinated by the concept of DisabledGo.

Both Rob and I were both asked to attend an interview. I haven’t had an interview for many years, although I had performed several; I wasn’t worried, but was concerned.  However, I decided that I would present myself as well as possible and if DisabledGo were satisfied, I would get the ‘job’. I shouldn’t have worried. The interview, although informal and friendly was also probing and interesting. We were both told that DisabledGo would like us to become surveyors.

Firstly we had to be trained – a day spent listening and learning – this was like my erstwhile job and I was looking forward to it. We duly presented ourselves for the day and met the only other Basingstoke trainee surveyor, Anne. Our trainer Richard would also be our manager – a friendly, quietly spoken young man.

 At first we were told about the company and explained the proposed format for the day. We spent a short time completing company documents, including handing over a photo which would be part of the identification badge we would need to carry when working. We also needed to confirm the days and hours we were each prepared to commit to the task.  As it was expected that it would take about 3 – 4 weeks to complete the assignment, we needed to be realistic. After this we were taken through an interactive presentation about the task we had to perform. I found it exciting and wanted to get started there and then. After lunch we were guided through the process of completing the forms; and also inputting them onto the web site. The DisabledGo surveyors surveyed the major venues, for example the theatres, cinemas, restaurants and large supermarkets because of the varied and disparate access, movement around the site,  access to services within the site etc. However  we needed to understand how to measure any disabled toilets that we found within some of our venues and that was quite challenging.

Pamela Heyfron - DisabledGo Surveyor

We met with Richard on our start date, in July 2011, in a local coffee shop. He gave us an introduction letter from the council, a supply of forms, a tape measure, a clip board and an identification badge.  As I don’t possess a mobile phone, I was loaned one by DisabledGo; it was hoped that this would help Richard and the other two surveyors keep in touch with me. We then started our ‘surveying’. We first watched Richard complete a couple of surveys, after which we watched each other complete a few surveys.  I didn’t find it as easy as Richard made it look, but I got through the first one and had all the information that was required. The more surveys I did the easier it became and the more enjoyment I got from the experience.

Rob, Anne and I met for lunch on our first day. We sat in the warm sunshine, eating our sandwiches and discussed our experiences. It was good to support each other on that first day. Unfortunately due to circumstances it was the only day we were all able to meet for lunch.

I found the experience in the shops quite enlightening and learned a lot of new things about the place in which I have shopped for over thirty years. Several shops were part of chains and as such the managers needed to ask their head office if they were allowed to take part in the DisabledGo survey. This meant a re-visit.  The DisabledGo documentation required me to keep a  record of which shops I had visited and found. I needed to keep my own additional records to remind me which shops I needed to revisit to complete the forms. I got a lot of pleasure from meeting such a wide array of people in such a short space of time. 

I agreed to work outside surveying from 10am until 4pm and I then worked for an hour or so at home on my computer inputting the information into the DisabledGo system. I did this for three and four days a week – this schedule suited my commitments and my lifestyle as I sit on a few committees and like to swim at least five times a week.

At the end of each week, Richard needed to know some statistics – the number of hours I had worked each day – with a weekly total, how many venues I had visited each day and the weekly total, he also needed to know how many venues had refused. I was most impressed with Richard; he was a great support –helpful, encouraging, and understanding – everything a good manager should be. He usually had an answer to my questions, but if he didn’t he would find out and then contact me. I had to apologise to Richard as I don’t think that I ever answered the mobile phone – I often heard it, but thought it was someone else’s – I did manage to contact him though, when I realised that I had missed his call; so I did stay in contact – much to my husband’s amazement.

After the shopping centre experience, I started surveying local village shops.  This was very different from the modern easy access shopping centre that is Basingstoke. Many of the village shops are housed in old buildings and access can be difficult and even impossible if the venue is only accessible up a narrow, steep, flight of stairs. However, I found that some shops have made arrangements with the shop on the lower, accessible floor so that a disabled client can be served on the lower floor. I was fortunate to see this happening when a lady in a wheelchair was choosing her wedding dress from a selection brought downstairs, into a children’s clothing store. 

I did enjoy my time with DisabledGo and felt sad when my time as a surveyor finished. Whilst doing the surveying I felt that I was helping other folk like me, learning about the place in which I live, seeing new places and shops that I would never have seen and I also found out about DisabledGo.  I would encourage anyone who is thinking about trying out surveying to do so.  You will be supported all the way and will have an interesting and informative time.

Since completing the surveying task, ‘my husband and I’ have had our photos in the local press, been on local radio and we can also be seen on the Basingstoke and Deane Council website.

I am just awaiting a call from DisabledGo to survey somewhere like Barbados or a cruise ship.  Well I can dream can’t I?

DisabledGo to launch new online Equality and Diversity training

DisabledGo are excited to announce the launch of their latest online training package, already being used by 10 development partners.

The training has been designed to answer the needs of public sector organisations needing to make tough financial decisions. The equality and diversity training will help organisations deliver a first class service and help create a cultural change across their organisation in relation to equality issues.

After the success of the disability equality training DisabledGo’s equality and diversity package is designed to give managers, staff and students a complete and digestible introduction to equality and diversity and more specifically, a thorough understanding of the 9 protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.

With 10 partnering FE colleges already signed up, demand for the newest training package has been high; one of those colleges to come on board and pilot the training after already purchasing the disability equality training is The Barnfield Federation, speaking about the training, Soomitra Kawal, Equality and Diversity Manager commented;

“At last we have found a training programme that gives a better understanding of equality and diversity in a clear, simple and jargon free language. It specifically makes you aware of the issues faced by people who may have different needs and what could be done to meet their needs.

My organisation will definitely benefit from this programme as it provides the right messages in raising awareness and confidence in dealing with equality and diversity matters, particularly the different protected characteristics. I think it’s brilliant.”

Sally Box, Director of Support Services at Sandwell College also explained why she signed the College up to DisabledGo’s equality and diversity training;

“Sandwell College is committed to ensuring staff and learners are treated with respect, in an environment which values diversity. This equality and diversity training package will give our colleagues the knowledge and confidence required to ensure the service we deliver is of the highest quality and accessible to all.”

If you are looking for a cost effective way of developing your staff while meeting legal duties please contact Colin Fisher, Training Development Manager E:  T: 01438 842710) to discuss our training package options and Early Adopter Rates.

Equality and Diversity Training

Progress has been made on ‘fitness for work’ test, says review

Disability organisations have welcomed the second annual review of the government’s much-criticised “fitness for work” test, but have warned that progress on improving the assessment has been too slow.

Professor Malcolm Harrington, who has carried out both independent reviews for the government, said he believed “real progress” had been made in improving the work capability assessment (WCA), although he said he would “not for one minute claim that things are perfect”.

Harrington’s first review concluded that changes were needed to all stages of the assessment – which assesses eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA) – to make it a “fairer, more effective and more humane process”.

But the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) said progress on improving the test had been “slow”, while there were still “fundamental problems” with the WCA.

Harrington’s new review proposes a number of new recommendations to improve how the WCA operates and the “transparency” of the face-to-face assessment, and to develop new guidance for the professionals from Atos Healthcare who carry out the assessments and the civil servants who make decisions on eligibility.

Harrington also warned that the programme to reassess about 1.5 million existing claimants of old-style incapacity benefit would “place considerable demands on every part of the WCA process”, and showed the need for “the right decision about a claimant’s eligibility for ESA to be made first time”.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance and a member of the DBC steering group, called on the government to make a “more significant effort” to ensure further improvements to the WCA were made “as swiftly as possible” so as to “reduce avoidable expenditure on appeals”.

He also called for more government support for disabled people to get and keep work, including greater use of the Access to Work programme.

The consortium also warned that measures in the government’s welfare reform bill would impose a one-year time limit for most people on the contributory form of ESA, a move which it said would “undermine the effectiveness of the benefit and deny support to hundreds of thousands of disabled people”.

And it urged the government to learn lessons from the WCA to “avoid repeating the mistakes” in its planned reform of disability living allowance.

Chris Grayling, the Conservative employment minister, said the government would implement all of Harrington’s recommendations.

He said: “It is in everyone’s interest to get the system right. We want the assessment to be as fair and consistent as possible. This is the first step on a journey back to work for many people and we want it to be positive.

“The system is far better than it was two years ago but there are still improvements and refinements we can make.”

News provided by John Pring at

Government rewrites history for UN report

The government appears to have left out any mention of the brutal cuts to disabled people’s benefits and services in a crucial report about how it is implementing the United Nations (UN) disability convention.

The report was submitted today (Thursday) to the UN by the UK government’s Office for Disability Issues, and describes measures that are being taken to implement each of the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

But an initial analysis of the report suggests the government has omitted any mention of its planned 20 per cent cut to spending on disability living allowance (DLA), and of other cuts, such as plans to impose a one-year time limit on most claimants of the contributory form of employment and support allowance (ESA).

In the section on article 28 of the convention, which describes disabled people’s right to an adequate standard of living, the government’s report admits that twice as many disabled adults in Britain live in “persistent poverty” as non-disabled adults.

But it makes no mention of how the DLA cuts, the impact of ever-tightening eligibility criteria for care services being introduced by councils, the cuts to ESA, or the closure of the Independent Living Fund to new members are set to attack people’s standard of living.

Even in an annex summarising responses from disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to May’s draft version of the report, it appears to skate over the public spending cuts.

The annex says: “Disabled people believe that in the approach taken to reform, and the government’s ambition to reduce public sector spending, government should avoid steps that might result in disproportionate impact on them when compared to non-disabled people.”

It is also careful not to mention the word “cuts” in the annex section on independent living, instead reporting that disabled people had “suggested” that “changes” to local authority spending would lead to councils “focusing provision on the services which they have a legal obligation to deliver”.

Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, said the report was “an important milestone” and “sets out the progress we have made across the United Kingdom and the approach to delivering the government’s commitment to equality for disabled people”.

She added: “Going forward, we will maintain this momentum through a new disability strategy. We will use the convention as a starting point to focus all our energy on ensuring that disabled people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”

The UK Disabled People’s Council is leading a project – Disability Rights Watch UK – to compile a separate, independent report to the UN based on evidence from disabled people and their organisations, while the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission will also submit reports to the UN.

News provided by John Pring at

Gemma Hayter murder: Review highlights missed opportunities to offer protection

A new report has highlighted the missed opportunities and failures of local agencies in the lead-up to the “truly abhorrent” hate crime murder of a young disabled woman.

The serious case review, published this week, concluded that there was “no evidence” that Gemma Hayter’s murder could have been prevented by the many agencies that dealt with her in the years leading up to her death.

But the review details a series of missed opportunities for the local council, police, health and other agencies to have taken action to protect her from a string of hate crimes.

Gemma Hayter had been diagnosed with learning difficulties and autism as a child, and attended a special school and residential college, but her diagnosis was over-turned as a young adult.

This lack of an “official diagnosis” became a “key factor” in preventing her receiving “timely and effective social care support” during the last four years of her life, the review concludes.

It describes how Hayter’s life became increasingly “risky and chaotic”, with several contacts a month with the police during 2008, mostly because “friends” – although not the five young people later convicted over her death – were repeatedly stealing from her, forcing her to give them money, and exploiting her.

At one stage, in 2008, Warwickshire police referred her to social services for a “safeguarding referral”, but their concerns were not investigated.

No “safeguarding” action was taken to protect her, despite “clear evidence that she was at risk of significant harm”, says the review, while there was “little evidence” that the various agencies were working together and sharing information about her case.

Effective intervention might have prevented her from becoming “sucked into the company of people who were leading such chaotic lifestyles and who were not going to be mindful of her welfare”, the review adds.

On 9 August 2010, Hayter was lured to a flat in Rugby, Warwickshire, where she was subjected to a horrifying series of physical assaults.

During the four-hour ordeal at the hands of five young people she thought were her friends, she was violently and repeatedly assaulted, including being head-butted, hit with a mop, and forced to drink urine from a can of lager.

She was later led to a disused railway line, where she was again violently beaten, stabbed, kicked, stripped and had a plastic bag placed over her head. Her badly beaten body was found the next morning by a jogger.

Three of the five young people who attacked her – Daniel Newstead, Chantelle Booth, and Joe Boyer, all of Little Pennington Street, Rugby – were found guilty of murder. Two others – Jessica Lynas, of Little Pennington Street, and Duncan Edwards, of Rounds Gardens, Rugby – were convicted of manslaughter.

The review makes a series of recommendations for local agencies, including Warwickshire County Council, Warwickshire police, various health bodies, and Warwickshire Safeguarding Adults Partnership Board (WSAPB), which described the crime as “truly abhorrent”.

They include recommendations on safeguarding, care assessments, the need for agencies to work together more effectively, and community safety and disability hate crime.
A county council spokeswoman accepted that it should have carried out a safeguarding investigation in 2008, but the system at the time “placed too much emphasis on formal diagnosis, and… did not easily identify multiple vulnerability concerns”, a system which it said has since changed.

Wendy Fabbro, WSAPB’s chair and the council’s strategic director of people services, said there was “a shared determination amongst all agencies to learn the lessons from this review and act upon the recommendations”.

She said the council apologised “sincerely” for the failings identified in the report “and are determined to do everything we can to work with other agencies and the community to improve the safeguarding of vulnerable adults”.

A Warwickshire police spokeswoman said the force had “appropriately” recorded and investigated each alleged offence against Hayter, while there was “no indication that the crimes reported were disability hate crimes so they were not investigated as such”.

She said: “Officers did, however, recognise that Gemma was potentially at risk of harm due to her circumstances, details of which were referred to the appropriate agencies.

“The serious case review acknowledges this but has recommended that in future those referrals from the police should be followed up to ensure that action has been taken.

“It also recommends that when advice is given to an individual reporting a crime we should record exactly what advice has been given [rather than just recording ‘advice given’, as the review states].”

She added: “There is no evidence that Gemma’s murder could have been prevented or predicted, but the safeguarding adults partnership, which includes Warwickshire police, agrees that if she had had better support from all the agencies the risk of her being harmed by people who took advantage of her vulnerability would have been reduced.

“Warwickshire police fully supports and accepts the findings of the serious case review and will implement the specific recommendations within it.”

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