Car industry warning, 100 disabled volunteers, Sir Bert warning, Nicklinson potential disaster, Mental Health proposed changes, DLA support, Lazy journalists
Another week underway. England out of the Euro’s, Andy Murray losing it on grass, Duane Chambers not quick enough, I’m pinning all my hopes on Bradley Wiggin in the Tour de France!
Mind you I’ve total confidence in our Paralympians. I like their approach; every British competitor is expected to beat their personal best in their chosen event. If that gets them to the final and a medal then brilliant if it doesn’t what more could they do? To come second knowing you didn’t do your best leaves you wondering “if only”. Seems to me that we need to be the best we can be and to ask more of anyone is unfair. Now back to the England football team? Hope you have a good week.
New report warns car industry to lose out under welfare reform plans
A new report has highlighted the dangers to the UK’s economy following an analysis of the impact of welfare reform on the motor industry.
‘Reversing from Recovery’, published by the WeareSpartacus campaign group, analyses figures supplied by the Department for Work and Pensions and Motability, the organisation that supplies lease cars to disabled people claiming Disability Living Allowance. The report focusses on some of the impacts of the government’s plans to reform Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and its proposal to remove 280,000 disabled people from claiming the higher mobility rate of DLA, which currently qualifies them to lease a car under the Motability scheme.
The analysis estimates that, under DLA’s replacement benefit, Personal Independence Payments (PIP), there will be a 27% reduction in the number of working age disabled people, and a 17% reduction in the number of disabled people overall, qualifying for the Motability scheme.
Motability’s publication ‘Economic and social impact of the Motability Car Scheme’ (2010) identified the scheme’s contribution to the economy through employment generation and tax receipts. The new report shows that welfare reform plans will lead to a domino effect including the loss of
- 3,583 jobs (from 21,080 jobs to 17,497 jobs in Motability-related industries)
- £342 million contribution to GDP (from around £2 billion to £1.67 billion)
- £79 million in tax receipts
- Up to £324 million contribution to GDP from disabled people’s ability to undertake paid work.
Jane Young, an independent disability consultant who co-authored the report, said:
“It’s not just disabled people who will lose out under the Government’s welfare reform plans. Changing from DLA to PIP means fewer people qualifying for Motability cars to the tune of about 31,000 fewer vehicles a year. Less demand means fewer jobs for the car manufacturing industry, a lower contribution to GDP and the exchequer, and a knock on effect on the availability of cars in the second hand market, which also contributes to the economy.”
The report also raises concerns about future investment in the UK by car manufacturers, given the demand for new cars is going to drop as the government phases in its plans.
Rob Parsons, an Open University lecturer who also contributed to the report, added:
“We must remember, of course, that part of this picture is the impact of these changes on disabled people themselves. 85% of Motability car users say the car has a positive impact on their ability to access health services, whilst more than 1 in 3 of those able to work say it maintains or improves their ability to undertake paid employment. 7% of customers’ families say it enables a family member to gain or keep a job.
“We’ll see disabled people less independent, less likely to be able to get or keep a job and more likely to close businesses or give up self-employment. Having welfare reform plans which interfere with employment prospects
is nonsensical. The Government should think again.”
The report is calling on the Government to give further consideration to the wider consequences of disability benefits reform, including consulting more widely, before finalising the regulations under the Welfare Reform Act.
Fewer than 100 disabled volunteers to take part in Paralympics ceremony
Organisers of this summer’s Paralympics opening ceremony have faced heavy criticism after admitting that fewer than 100 of the 3,000 adult volunteers set to take part will be disabled people.
The volunteers will take roles as dancers, actors, percussionists and all-round performers, joining a professional cast of more than 100.
Disability News Service has obtained the volunteer figures from LOCOG, the London 2012 organising committee.
Only just over three per cent of the mass cast of volunteers will be disabled people, compared with about three-quarters of the professional, paid cast.
Michelle Baharier, chief executive of CoolTan Arts, the London-based arts charity run by and for adults with mental distress, said the numbers were “incredibly disappointing”.
Earlier this year, she warned that the demands placed on volunteers by LOCOG would be “totally inappropriate” for many disabled people.
She had been among those who warned that LOCOG’s call for volunteers with “huge amounts of energy” would put many disabled people off, while LOCOG had initially been unable to say whether it would fund the travel and support costs of disabled volunteers.
Baharier said this week that LOCOG had failed to make the volunteering opportunity accessible, and pointed to its failure to do “outreach” work with groups of disabled people, which would have allowed potential volunteers to feel more comfortable with the idea of taking part.
Baharier said LOCOG had suggested that volunteers “almost had to be fit enough to do a full-time job”.
She said: “I showed [the communication from LOCOG] to people and they said they couldn’t make that fulltime commitment.”
She added: “Britain came up with the Paralympics and you would have thought we could have done something different at the opening ceremony. It would have been a really good learning curve for other people as well.”
She said she would have liked to see more of a focus on the potential legacy of the ceremony, for example by “empowering disabled people to not be hidden away”, an idea she would have liked to see “run through the whole of London 2012”.
The ceremony’s two disabled artistic directors, Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings, have pledged to bring inclusive practice, equality and empowerment onto the stage in the Olympic Stadium on 29 August.
The theme of the ceremony will also be one of “empowerment”, describing a journey “towards freedom, democracy and enlightenment”.
A LOCOG spokesman said the call for volunteers had been “well-publicised” and that “almost everyone who auditioned who has a disability has been successful in being passed as being a performer”.
But he added: “Obviously we would like more people to have auditioned. We worked hard to make sure that everybody who might be possibly interested was aware of the opportunity.”
When asked why LOCOG thought so few disabled people had volunteered, he declined to comment.
One leading disabled artist said the failure to ensure a more accessible rehearsal programme was “heart-breaking”, as it had deprived so many disabled people across the country of the chance to take part.
Ju Gosling, director of Together!, the disability arts and human rights festival set to take place in east London during the Paralympics, said: “I’m very saddened to hear this, but not completely surprised.
“When the call for volunteers went out, we warned that the rehearsals were being organised in such a way as to make them virtually inaccessible to disabled people, and so it has proven.
“Ironically, the three per cent figure mirrors the percentage of disabled people employed in Arts Council-funded arts organisations.”
She said the figures underlined the need for “widespread and revolutionary change” in how arts activities are organised in order to implement article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on disabled people’s participation in cultural life.
Sir Bert warns of threat to accessible transport if DPTAC is scrapped
One of the original architects of a pioneering government advice body has warned that coalition plans to scrap it would see accessible transport “disappear off the agenda”.
Sir Bert Massie drafted the amendment to the transport bill in 1984 that led to the setting up of a statutory Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), and was a DPTAC member for more than 15 years.
But the Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker wants to push ahead with plans to abolish DPTAC, and has launched another consultation to help him decide how it should be replaced.
Sir Bert, former chair of the Disability Rights Commission, said it was possible to trace nearly every major improvement in accessible transport since the 1980s back to DPTAC.
He said the move to scrap it was further evidence that the coalition did not believe in “properly involving disabled people in decision-making”, and added: “They are reducing opportunities for disabled people to influence policy across government.”
He said the idea that there were accessible transport experts already within the Department for Transport (DfT) was “absolutely laughable”.
He said: “The effect would be that current progress would be slowed down even further and there would be precious few new initiatives. It would simply disappear off the agenda.”
Sir Bert spoke out as both Alan Norton, a DPTAC member – although speaking in a personal capacity – and Labour’s shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle, also called for Baker to think again.
The renewed threat to DPTAC comes as the government plans massive cuts to spending on disability living allowance (DLA).
Norton said this could lead to a “substantial number” of users of the Motability car scheme having to give up their vehicles if and when they lose their DLA mobility support.
He believes this would come at a time when the public transport system was “not in a position to be able to cope” with all those disabled people who would still need to get to work.
Plans to scrap DPTAC were first announced in October 2010, as part of the coalition’s so-called “bonfire of the quangos”.
Now, after listening to advice from disabled experts, disabled people’s organisations – nearly all of which appear to want to retain DPTAC – and other groups, the DfT has published six options for how it can obtain “consensual, pan-disability advice” in the future.
Although one of the options is to retain DPTAC – the only option that would continue to see disabled experts being paid for their advice – Baker has told parliament he wants to scrap it.
Norton, chief executive of Assist UK, a charity which promotes independent living, said he believed DPTAC’s role was “absolutely crucial” at a “turning point” for disabled people, and called on disabled people to respond to the consultation.
But he warned that DPTAC had to be properly resourced.
The consultation document shows DPTAC’s budget for 2010-11 was less than £500,000, with 19 paid members and just six civil servants. Since 1 January 2011, this has been cut to 12 members and two civil servants, with the budget set to fall to £363,000 in 2014-15.
DPTAC members’ payments are often used to support the organisations they work for, and they frequently donate many extra hours to meet the workload demands, said Norton.
He said he believed it was “tokenistic” to ask disabled people to “offer their services without payment”, and added: “This can make them feel worthless and not recognised. Many people on DPTAC are professionals and their contributions need to be recognised.”
Sir Bert said the government appeared to believe that improvements to society can only be made by paying million-pound bonuses, except with disabled people “who are the only people in society who work for free”.
Eagle, Labour’s former minister for disabled people, pledged this week that a Labour government would “restore DPTAC to its rightful place at the heart of decision-making” if it was abolished by the coalition.
She said: “The abolition of DPTAC is not only a backwards step in itself, but it is also symbolically extremely bad because DPTAC was a pioneer in the involvement of disabled people.”
Norton said she was “absolutely right”, and added: “It was a real model of what could be done and where disabled people were listened to, respected and actually saw some action.”
Baker’s preferred option is to set up a new “wide-ranging” panel of experts from which members could be drawn when specific advice was needed, combining this with input from Equality 2025, the government’s existing high-level advisory body of disabled people.
Other possible options include setting up a “stakeholder forum”, which again could be asked for advice when needed.
Baker told MPs: “I am seeking to ensure that any successor arrangement will continue to provide my department with consensual, pan-disability advice in a flexible way, and that any arrangement represents value for money.”
Nicklinson legal victory ‘would be safety catastrophe’ for tens of thousands
Anti-euthanasia campaigners have warned that a disabled man’s legal bid to allow a doctor to end his life without fear of prosecution would have a “catastrophic” effect on the safety of tens of thousands of other disabled people.
Three high court judges this week heard the case of Tony Nicklinson, from Wiltshire, who is seeking to give doctors the power to kill him at a time of his choosing.
Nicklinson has spoken of his wish to end his own life, but because he has “locked-in syndrome” – and is paralysed from the neck-down – would need a doctor or another person to carry out the act.
It is just the latest in a string of legal cases and parliamentary actions aimed at increasing pressure on MPs, peers and the courts to move towards weakening the laws on assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Nicklinson wants the court to declare that it would be legal – on the common law grounds of “necessity” – for a doctor to kill him at a time of his choosing, if sanctioned by the courts in advance. At present, such an act would be seen as murder.
Nicklinson’s lawyers have also argued that criminalising euthanasia is incompatible with his right to respect for his private life under article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, of the disabled people’s organisation Not Dead Yet UK, which campaigns against legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide, expressed sympathy with Nicklinson’s situation, but said the legal changes he was seeking would be a “catastrophe” for other disabled people.
He spent several hours interviewing Nicklinson for a Channel 4 documentary that was aired this week, and said it was clear that he had no understanding of the danger that a legal victory would pose for other disabled people.
And he said that Nicklinson and his wife “absolutely denied” increasing evidence of concerns about the true impact of such laws that has been coming from countries where euthanasia has been legalised, such as the Netherlands.
He said: “The simple truth is that if Tony Nicklinson succeeds in changing the law on murder... for the first time in our legal history people will be legally able to think: this person’s life is not worth living and I can kill them.
“That is catastrophic. It will change forever the relationship between doctors and patients.”
He said: “What Tony Nicklinson will achieve (if he succeeds) as an individual for himself will have an impact on thousands and tens of thousands and maybe even millions of lives.”
He added: “Our deepest wish is that with all our understanding of the despair that Tony Nicklinson faces, the court will find this Rubicon impossible to cross and that parliament will reject any attempt to change the law of murder in this country, because it will mean that the door... will be thrown wide open for attacks on vulnerable people.”
Nicklinson said in a statement released before the start of the hearing: “I am pleased that the case is finally being heard. It has been a long and painful journey for me. This is literally a matter of life and death for me and I cannot emphasise how much it means to me.”
The court’s judgement is not expected before the end of next month (July).
MP’s bill would scrap mental health laws that ‘shame’ UK
An MP has introduced a bill that aims to scrap laws that discriminate against people with mental health conditions in business and public life.
The mental health (discrimination) bill would overturn discriminatory mental health legislation affecting MPs, school governors, company directors and would-be jury members.
The bill was introduced this week into the Commons as a private member’s bill by the Conservative MP Gavin Barwell, but is not expected to be debated in the Commons until 14 September.
Its introduction today (Thursday) came less than a week after four other MPs – Labour MP Kevan Jones, and Conservative MPs Charles Walker, Dr Sarah Wollaston and Andrea Leadsom – described during a Commons debate their own experiences of mental health distress.
Barwell told MPs during last week’s debate that his bill would “remove the last significant form of discrimination in law in our society”.
He said: “To our shame... the law still discriminates against those with a mental health condition.
“An MP or a company director can be removed from their job as a result of a mental health condition, even if they go on to make a full recovery.
“Many people who are perfectly capable of performing jury service are disbarred from doing so.
“If my private member’s bill is approved by the House, we will look back in a few years’ time and be amazed that the nonsense I have described was on the statute book in 2012.”
His bill would mean MPs would no longer automatically lose their seat if they were detained under the Mental Health Act for longer than six months, while people with mental health conditions would no longer be disqualified from serving as school governors if they had been detained under the act.
The bill would also mean that anyone with a mental health condition would no longer be automatically ineligible for jury service, or to act as a company director.
The government has already dealt with the school governor ban by changing regulations, and last year it pledged to introduce legislation to scrap the automatic ban on MPs who have been sectioned for at least six months.
Barwell said: “A school may have a pupil with a mental health condition; in a court case, the accused’s state of mind may be a key issue. How much better will that school be if a governor has experience? How much better will that court case be if there is a juror with the necessary experience?
“The bill will directly help a relatively small number of people, but it also sends a clear message that discrimination is wrong: people have a right to be judged as individuals, not labelled or stereotyped.”
A similar bill has been introduced in the Lords by the crossbench peer Lord [Dennis] Stevenson.
Paralympian stresses need for DLA, and praises activists
A member of Britain’s wheelchair tennis squad for this summer’s Paralympics in London has spoken passionately about the importance of disability living allowance (DLA) to her and other disabled people.
Louise Hunt was speaking to Disability News Service as she was named in the ParalympicsGB team to compete at London 2012.
The announcement of the squad came just hours before disabled people gathered outside parliament to protest at how cuts to DLA are likely to make disabled people’s mobility even more difficult.
Hunt, who is 21 and has been playing tennis since she was five, said: “I think it is great that there are people who are standing up for us.”
She receives the higher rate mobility component of DLA. “I think it’s important for people to know that that money is used to buy me a wheelchair, to buy medical things, to basically help me stay alive, and live a normal life, so I greatly appreciate the money I receive.
“That bit of money does help. That money I do receive goes towards helping me live my life in a wheelchair. It really does make a difference.”
She says she is “passionate about disability rights”, but until the games are over her focus will be solely on her sport.
After her career is over, she hopes to follow in the steps of Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who has moved from elite Paralympic sport into campaigning for disability rights.
Hunt is an ambassador for the charity Get Kids Going, which supports young disabled people to participate in sport, and which has Baroness Grey-Thompson as one of its vice-presidents.
She said: “I look up to her quite a lot. I want to go down her pathway. I want to do well in my tennis career but Tanni, she did really well, and after that she used it to make a really big difference.”
She said she saw London 2012 as an opportunity “to change people’s attitudes, not just to disability sport but to disability in general”.
She said: “We get to showcase our talent and how hard we have worked on a world stage.
“I want to change that old-fashioned perception that disabled people cannot do anything. I am here because I have worked equally as hard as an able-bodied athlete. I have trained and trained and trained.”
Hunt, who lives near Swindon, only secured her place at the games by winning last month’s Israel Open, which lifted her world ranking into the top 20.
She said she was “absolutely buzzing” and “screaming from the rooftops” when she was told she had been selected.
But she is not setting any targets for London 2012, other than for her performance. “As long as I leave there knowing I have played the best tennis I have ever played, that’s my aim.”
Disabled artists fear ‘lazy’ journalists could disappoint at London 2012
Leading disabled artists and commentators have raised concerns about how journalists will report on the high-profile disability arts and sport set to take place this summer around the London 2012 Paralympics.
The Headlining Disability: Arts, Sports, Disability and the Media seminar at London’s Royal Festival Hall focused on how disabled people are represented in the media.
The leading disability arts figures who organised the event believe that how journalists write about the Paralympics and the disability arts that will feature during the 2012 Cultural Olympiad will provide a “unique opportunity to re-imagine the way the public see disabled people”.
Michael Shamash, the disabled researcher and lecturer, said it was not yet clear what impact the Paralympics themselves would have on the representation of disabled people in the media.
But he pointed to Paralympian swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who because of her gold medal-winning exploits at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics was “seen as a very good thing” and helped to “take small people away from the realms of the ludicrous and ridiculability, into somebody who has achieved something”.
In a discussion with Shamash, writer Will Self said many reality and other factual television programmes were guilty of “exploiting the age-old freak show”, but in a way that was “insidious”.
He added: “The capacity for television and now internet-based media to masquerade as being sympathetic when in fact they are being voyeuristic has never been greater than it is now.”
He said he constantly noticed references to disability in the media that were “actually offensive to somebody who is disabled”.
And he suggested that Ricky Gervais’s BBC comedy Life’s Too Short, which starred disabled actor Warwick Davis, was “exploitative”, and had featured a short person in the starring role so the audience could “laugh at somebody being disabled”.
The seminar was organised by Shape, the disabled-led arts organisation, and the Leading Through Change network of senior figures in the disability arts world.
Tony Heaton, chief executive of Shape, told Disability News Service after the seminar that he feared journalists this summer would focus on the impairments of disabled artists and Paralympians, instead of their work.
And he pointed to the widespread concerns about reporting of disability benefits cuts and reforms and the use of rhetoric about “benefits scroungers” in the mainstream media over the last year.
He said he was disappointed with the failure of non-disabled journalists to take part in the seminar – despite advertising it widely, including a plug on Self’s widely-followed blog – with most of the participants disabled people from the arts and media.
He said: “Disabled people really want to have an intelligent debate about the way journalists report on the work of disabled artists and the performance of disabled athletes.
“Have journalists even engaged with that notion? Possibly not. The outcome is likely to be that journalists will respond in an incredibly lazy way.”
Asked if he thought there would be a problem with how disabled people are represented by the media during London 2012, he said: “I think there will and we will be disappointed as disabled people by the reporting.
“It feels to me that we have been saying this for a long time and nobody has grasped the idea that it could be problematic.”
Colin Hambrook, editor of Disability Arts Online (DAO), has written a blog about the Will Self discussion on the DAO website.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com