Five disabled children die by suicide in one county in lockdown
Five disabled children have died by suicide in the last three months in Kent according to a report in The Guardian.
Sarah Hammond, the Children’s Social Work lead for Kent said that normally ‘two or three’ child suicides would be ‘expected’ within a year.
The children had special needs, including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder which may have made it difficult for them to cope without school routines.
New research from the National Child Mortality Database also points to an increase in child suicides nationwide in the first two months of lockdown.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It is heartbreaking and shocking that these children have taken their lives. It is also absolutely appalling that a director of services can ‘expect’ any number of child suicides on their watch.
“We know from speaking to families that they often feel failed by the support, adaptations and provisions offered for their children. Saying that disabled children’s best outcomes are based in schools is wrong. One size never fits all. We know that families too often feel the systemic support offered provides ‘tickbox’ solutions which do not meet their individual needs. We know that parents feel services often zealously apply blanket approaches to children with special needs without considering that what works for one family cannot work for another.
“It is evident that by insisting that attending school would have provided the best outcome for these children, Kent social services has failed to listen to what the families, who know their children best, wanted and needed.
“As long as councils lack the resources to be able to offer the individually tailored support that would offer the best outcomes for children, we will continue to bear witness to these horrific outcomes. With a person-centred approach to solutions, such suicides are avoidable. It’s time for a sea change in children’s services.”
Read more here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/july/five-disabled-children-die-suicide-one-county-lockdown
Domestic Abuse Bill risks sending disabled people “back to the days of the Victorian asylums”
Disability Rights UK has written to the Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC, the Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP about its grave concerns about provision for disabled people in the Domestic Abuse Bill.
The ‘carers’ defence’ legitimises coercive control against disabled people, and undermines disabled peoples’ ability to live independent lives.
Fazilet Hadi said: “As things stand, this Bill would allow carers such as partners and family members to take away the autonomy of disabled people, and to abuse them by going against their will. There is clear scope at the moment for abusers to present themselves as wolves in carers’ clothing and force feed or drug disabled people, and then walk free under the terms of this Bill.
“We have fought for decades for the lives of disabled people to have the same parity of self-determination and independence as non-disabled people. This Bill risks sending us back to the days of the Victorian asylums, where the medical model of disability saw millions of people have what was best decided for them – often to their irreparable harm.”
Read more here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/july/domestic-abuse-bill-risks-sending-disabled-people-%E2%80%9Cback-days-victorian-asylums%E2%80%9D
Legal challenge to essential care charges
A young woman who has Down’s Syndrome has been granted permission for Judicial Review of Norfolk County Council’s policy of charging people for essential care and support.
The 24 year-old claimant has campaigned against Norfolk County Council’s decision to introduce a cut to the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) for working age disabled people. The cut, combined with Norfolk County Council’s decision to include all but one component of SH’s benefits in a calculation of her contribution to care charges, leaves her in real terms, on a permanently depleted income.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It’s shocking that disabled people aren’t given the support we need to live full and active lives. The government’s failure to fund the social care system is resulting in disabled people being second class citizens. We saw through the crisis that social care was not on an equal footing to health care. This needs to change or disabled people will continue to struggle to survive rather than leading independent lives.”
Read more here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/july/legal-challenge-essential-care-charges
Smart motorways legal challenge
The wife of a man killed when he failed to reach an emergency refuge area on the M1 has seen a groundswell of support from the disabled community as she seeks a judicial review into the safety of smart motorways.
Claire Mercer’s husband Jason died in June last year, along with another man, after they were hit by a lorry while exchanging details after a small collision on a stretch of road which used to be a hard shoulder.
Campaign groups, including Disability Rights UK, say they pose unacceptable risks for disabled people, and are backing the legal challenge.
DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “Highways England has failed to recognise the risks posed for disabled people who break down or need to exit their vehicles in emergencies. This lack of consideration is a breach of the Equality Act which discriminates against wheelchair users.
“The advice for drivers who get stuck on smart motorways is to exit the vehicle from the passenger side. For wheelchair users with adapted vehicles, exit is from a ramp, normally to the rear of a vehicle. Without a hard shoulder, it is impossible to deploy these safely.
“Carers who drive cannot exit from the passenger side where the wheelchair is blocking the exit. Disabled drivers would have to run an impromptu and deadly assault course. Is the expectation that disabled drivers, implausibly assuming we can, haul ourselves across the passenger seat, fall out the door onto the tarmac, belly roll to the crash barriers, and then climb over?
“The lack of safe exit strategies for disabled people means we are sitting ducks for other traffic to hit whether we stay in our vehicles or against all odds manage to exit our vehicles. Smart motorways are about as unsafe as it gets for us.”
Read more here:
Improved support needed for disabled university students
DR UK is calling on the Department for Education to scrap the £200 charge disabled students need to pay towards their specialist equipment.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Disability recently highlighted the continuing barriers faced by disabled university students.
Fazilet Hadi, DR UK’s Head of Policy said: “Not only is it harder for disabled people to get to university but when we get there, we still don’t always get the support we need.
“It is not acceptable that disabled students have to pay for their own reasonable adjustments. The government recognises the need for adaptations in the workplace and provides free of charge equipment and support for employees under the Access to Work Scheme. Disabled students, who lack the benefit of a salary, should be given the same parity of experience in the form of necessary equipment, free at the point of need.
“Given the shift to online learning this year, the contribution must be discontinued to give disabled students their best shot at a high quality education.”
Read more here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/july/improved-support-needed-disabled-university-students
Disabled single mother wins ‘no DSS rule’ legal case
A disabled single mother has won a court case against the ‘No DSS’ rule implemented by thousands of private landlords across the UK.
For decades, landlords have been able to discriminate against prospective tenants in receipt of housing benefit, arguing that they are less likely to keep up with rent payments. Many of those people are disabled.
Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark ruled that “rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex and disability, contrary to […] the Equality Act 2010”.
DR UK’s Kamran Mallick said: “Housing is one of people’s most fundamental needs. It is absurd that disabled people are discriminated against on the basis that they are on state benefits. We hear time and again of people with exemplary references, with a solid record of regular, on-time rent payments, being refused tenancies solely because they receive benefits. We welcome this ruling. But the government needs to go further to ensure that disabled people cannot be discriminated against when securing somewhere to live.”
Read more here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/july/disabled-single-mother-wins-%E2%80%98no-dss-rule%E2%80%99-legal-case
Disabled people still facing discrimination over face coverings
Disabled people are not being listened to when it comes to exemptions from wearing face masks, DR UK has told the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP.
In a letter to Mr Tomlinson, DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi wrote: “Disability Rights UK is horrified at the media coverage on face coverings. The message is that face coverings are compulsory with no mention of exemptions for disabled people or children. The talk is of police fines and criminalisation for those that don’t comply.
“We would welcome any support you can give to prevent hostility towards disabled people.”
In a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, the Minister for Health, Matt Hancock today announced that mask wearing would be compulsory in shops. He said: “Face coverings should be mandatory in shops and supermarkets. Under the new rules people who do not wear a face covering will face a fine of up to £100 in line with the sanction on public transport. And just as with public transport, children under eleven and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.”
Fazilet Hadi said: “We hope that this marks the start of a shift in messaging around face coverings. We strongly urge national media channels to do their bit to ensure that the general public is aware that disabled people do not necessarily have to wear a face covering. Disabled people are bearing the brunt of aggressive public challenging on masks. It’s been a tough three months for us in lockdown. Coming out to hostility from people who are unaware of the exemptions is not helping us to get back to leading full, independent lives.”
Read more here:
BAME groups’ mental health worse during pandemic
A survey of over 14,000 adults by the mental health charity Mind has revealed that existing inequalities in housing, employment, finances and other issues have had a greater impact on the mental health of people from different black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) groups than white people during the coronavirus pandemic.
The online survey of over 25s in England and Wales found:
Almost one in three (30 per cent) BAME people said problems with housing made their mental health worse during the pandemic, compared to almost one in four (23%) white people.
Employment worries have negatively affected the mental health of 61% of BAME people, compared to 51% of white people
Concerns about finances worsened the mental health of 52% of people who identified as BAME, compared to 45% of those who identified as white.
Other issues saw a similar pattern, including getting support for a physical health problem (39% vs 29%) and being a carer (30% vs 23%).
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “This survey yet again underlines the significant inequalities experienced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people. Whether it is employment, housing, finance or getting support for a physical health problem, the challenges faced by BAME groups are worse than those within the wider population. Disability organisations must do more to reach out to BAME disabled people, engage people in what we do and support people’s voices to be heard.”
Read more here:
Northern regional people’s panel assesses Coronavirus impacts
The Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel (GMDPP) created a survey to find out how disabled people in Greater Manchester were managing during the pandemic. The Panel is unique – no other city region has managed to establish one – it is made up of 14 disabled people’s organisations.
936 people responded, making it one of the largest surveys by and for disabled people during the pandemic.
Some key findings were:
- 90% of respondents said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.
- 80% of respondents were not included in the official shielded group, yet 57% of those had support needs. For example many could not get online supermarket food delivery despite needing to shield.
- 56% of respondents had experienced some difficulty sourcing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- 62% of respondents have experienced one or more health visit being stopped due to Covid-19.
- Accessibility of the hubs was a problem, 46% found them inaccessible with deaf people being the worst excluded.
- Disabled people are less satisfied with their care plans since the outbreak of Covid-19. Prior to the outbreak, 23% were dissatisfied, this dissatisfaction increased to 43% during the Pandemic.
- 37% said that their housing was not accessible or only partially accessible.
- 83% of disabled people were worried about how they would be treated in hospital because of attitudes to disability.
- 47% found government advice unclear and many commented that the lack of a British Sign Language interpreter or conflicting language made official announcements inaccessible.
- Digital exclusion was a problem, especially as a lot of the emergency response used digital platforms.
- A third of disabled people believe that their local authority is not doing anything significant whilst 76% of disabled people are dissatisfied with the help provided by the government.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and other regional leaders have shown a willingness to listen and engage with the issues.
The full report, a summary and alternate formats are available from the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel website.