|Disabled People Still Facing Mask Discrimination – DR UK writes to Chair of Police Chiefs’ Council
Police officers are still wrongly claiming that people with disabilities must carry paperwork proving they are exempt from wearing face coverings.
Disability Rights UK has joined with Big Brother Watch, Mencap, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and the Survivors Trust to write to the Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt outlining concerns about the treatment of people who are legally exempt from the requirement to wear face coverings, citing “widespread confusion” among police officers.
Government guidance has been contradicted by senior police figures including Ken Marsh, Chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation who told press: “If you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask, you now have to print off a clarification that proves you have an exemption.” No such requirement exists in law.
West Midlands Police Force has twice had to apologise for its officers, after an asthmatic man was handcuffed and issued with a fine for failing to supply evidence of his condition, and another man was escorted out of a supermarket for having no proof of his exemption.
A West Midlands Police officer was recorded telling an individual that supplying evidence of a disability would not prevent officers from issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice and that people would have to prove their exemption in court. The force has still not apologised for this,and issued a statement of support for the actions.
A DR UK survey last year found that 60% of disabled people ‘feared being challenged if they did not wear a mask’.
A recent Department of Health campaign stated: “you should never challenge anyone for not wearing a face covering. Not all disabilities are visible.”
Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at DR UK said: “At this time of rising panic about the virus, resulting in calls for increased enforcement, it is even more vital that all police officers understand that some disabled people are exempt from wearing face coverings, due to physical or mental conditions.
Disabled people who can’t wear face coverings already experience high levels of anxiety and have faced hostility from members of the public. It is important that police officers demonstrate understanding and uphold the exemptions set out in the regulations.
“We are urging police chiefs to clarify the legal exemptions on face covering requirements to officers, amid fears that disabled people will be disproportionately impacted by the latest crackdown on Coronavirus laws.”
Read the letter to Martin Hewitt by clicking here. The letter can be accessed via a link at the bottom of the news article.
New UK Poverty Report Recommends £20 Per Week Increase to Universal Credit Be Made Permanent – With The Lifeline Extended to Employment & Support Allowance
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is insisting that the benefits system must be strengthened and that at a minimum, the temporary £20 per week increase to Universal Credit must be made permanent and extended to ESA and all other legacy benefits.
In its annual UK Poverty Report, it highlights early indications of changes to poverty levels since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, as well as the situation before the outbreak.
JRF found that half of all people in poverty either have a disability themselves or live with someone who does, compared with a third of people in households not in poverty.
Over half (57%) of people in receipt of income-related benefits live in families where one or more members is disabled, so that families containing a disabled person are disproportionately affected by poverty.
Social security plays a key role in helping cover the additional costs of disability.
The report says that the temporary £20 per week increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit have been enough to reverse the fall in the value of that part of these benefits seen since 2012/13, with the basic rate now 7% higher than in 2012/13 in real terms for couples and 16% higher for singles.
However people still in receipt of the benefits that Universal Credit replaced, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), have been left behind. The report says: “Recipients of those benefits have not seen the temporary uplift. Their benefits have lost around 9% of their value in eight years and at the same time people are facing increased difficulty in getting a job in a very depressed labour market and facing potential extra costs of coronavirus such as home schooling.
“If the lifeline of the temporary increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit is not continued, these benefits will be 9% lower in real terms in 2021/22 than they were in 2012/13.”
Read more here.
Complete the Survey to Help Keep Universal Credit £20 per week Increase & Extend it to ESA
Related to this, the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), of which DR UK is a member, has launched a survey to get up to date figures on how the current rates of benefit impact on disabled people, especially given the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and restrictions (and now with the new national lockdown in place).
The DBC says: “In April 2020, the Government increased the rate of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £20 per week (a £1,000 a year). However,it did not increased ‘legacy benefits’ including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) in the same way.
“The Government has not yet said if it will keep the £20 per week uplift beyond March 2021.
“The DBC is calling for urgent action to make sure the two million disabled people not receiving the £20 increase and others on legacy benefits are not left behind.
“The Government should extend the Universal Credit £20 per week uplift beyond March 2021 and to extend it to legacy benefits.
“To keep this campaign in the spotlight, we’d like to hear about your experiences during COVID-19 so we can show the Government what an extension of this £20 per week lifeline would mean to you.
“Anything you’re able to share with us will help with this campaign to #IncreaseDisabilityBenefits.”
The DBC survey is available to complete here, and will be open until 18th January 2021.
Mental Health Act – Major Reforms in the Pipeline
Major mental health reforms are being planned to empower individuals to have more control over their treatments. The reforms aim to deliver parity between mental and physical health services and put patients’ views at the heart of their care.
The current mental health system is notorious for inequalities affecting black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and people with learning disabilities and autism, including disproportionate levels of detention.
The Reforming the Mental Health Act white paper builds on the recommendations made by Sir Simon Wessely’s Independent Review of the Mental Health Act in 2018.
The government will consult on a number of proposed changes, including:
* introducing statutory ‘advance choice documents’ to enable people to express their wishes and preferences on their care when they are well, before the need arises for them to go into hospital
* implementing the right for an individual to choose a nominated person who is best placed to look after their interests under the act if they aren’t able to do so themselves
* expanding the role of independent mental health advocates to offer a greater level of support and representation to every patient detained under the act
* piloting culturally appropriate advocates so patients from all ethnic backgrounds can be better supported to voice their individual needs
* ensuring mental illness is the reason for detention under the act, and that neither autism nor a learning disability are grounds for detention for treatment in themselves
* improving access to community-based mental health support, including crisis care, to prevent avoidable detentions under the act – this is already underway backed by £2.3 billion a year as part of the NHS Long Term Plan
Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “The publication of the white paper to reform the Mental Health Act is a hugely significant milestone in a long struggle for change. Many people will take for granted their right to have choice and control over the medical treatment they receive. But thousands of people every year who are severely affected by mental illness and who are detained under the act lose those rights and temporarily their liberty.
Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, said: “We are pleased the government has accepted the majority of the recommendations made in the Independent Review in their long-awaited Mental Health Act white paper. At the moment, thousands of people are still subjected to poor, sometimes appalling, treatment, and many will live with the consequences far into the future. Change on the ground cannot come soon enough.”
Whilst there has been much support for the proposals, some mental health campaigners feel that there has not been a sufficient move away from enforced treatment and institutionalisation and that the proposals don’t fully implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
To read the White Paper please click here.
Minister Outlines Recent Changes to Statutory Sick Pay Entitlement Rules
In answer to a written parliamentary question, the Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has outlined recent changes made to statutory sick pay (SSP) entitlement rules.
Mr Tomlinson said: “Individuals are eligible for SSP, from day one – rather than day four where they are unable to work because they are:
*Sick, displaying symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus;
*Self-isolating because they, or someone in their household (including an extended or linked household), is displaying symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus;
*Self-isolating because they have been notified by the NHS or public health authority that they have come into contact with someone who has Coronavirus;
*Self-isolating because they have been advised to do so by their doctor or health clinician before being admitted to hospital for planned or elective surgery;
shielding because they live or work in an area where shielding is reintroduced and they have been *Advised to do so by their doctor or health authority …”
*The Minister did not answer a question regarding whether the Government intends to raise the level of SSP.
Read more here.
Shielding Guidance Updated
The government updated its advice for shielders on Wednesday 13 January. You can find the latest guidance