Almost half of Grenfell fire deaths were Disabled people and children
Fifteen of the 37 Disabled residents and 17 of the 67 children living in Grenfell Tower died in the fire that killed 72 people in total, according to evidence shared in the latest phase of the Inquiry.
Fazilet Hadi, DR UK Head of Policy said: “Just read those figures again – almost half of those people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire were Disabled people or children. 41% of Disabled people who lived in the Tower died that night. A quarter of all the children who lived in the Tower died that night.
“Disabled people knew they were sitting ducks should there be a disaster. They raised safety concerns which were dismissed time and again. The Inquiry has heard from residents who said they were “bullied” and “stigmatised” when they raised such concerns.
“The disproportionately high death rates of children and Disabled people in the Grenfell Tower fire is truly shocking and heart breaking. The evidence provided on the callous neglect of safety precautions by the Council and Management Company is breath taking.
“Disability Rights UK is calling on the Government to urgently implement the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations, requiring building owners and managing agents to prepare Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans for Disabled people who can’t self-evacuate.”
Three quarters of shielders won’t stop shielding
Research by disability charity Scope has found that 75% of Disabled people do not want to stop shielding. Shielding officially ended on 31 March, but many Disabled people have fears that they will not be able to return to safe workplaces, continue to work from home or procure food and medicine supplies safely.
30 million people have now had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, but less than four million have had a second dose, leaving Disabled people fearful they are still vulnerable to catching the virus.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Shielders need cast iron protections in place – the unequivocable right to work in safe workplaces, to work from home, not just to request it, and to receive benefits if the safety of their work environments cannot be assured. Shielders also need the continuation of food shopping deliveries until the entire population has been fully vaccinated. Priority delivery slots are due to end in June. More Disabled people have died of this virus than any other group, and our safety is not assured until the entire country has been vaccinated with both doses. Less risk is nowhere near no risk. Given our increased risk as a population, the government needs to hear that clinically extremely vulnerable people still need assured protections and adjustments in place.”
UK ‘no longer’ systemically racist – report called into question
The UK is “no longer” systemically rigged against people from ethnic minority backgrounds, according to a review set up by the Government.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said that the structure of families and social class had a more significant impact on life outcomes than race.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “This reads, quite literally, and despite the Commission being made up of people from minority ethnic backgrounds, like a whitewash.
“That ‘anecdotal’ evidence of racism was found, but not ‘systemic’ evidence, shows a lack of understanding of how tickbox culture can be used to mask inequality of experience when dealing with institutions and the people who work within them. It is dangerous to draw a line between anecdotal and experiential evidence and data driven evidence, and claim that the data speaks the louder truth. The old adage about lies, damned lies and statistics appears to be at play here.
“There is not one example of the use of the word ‘Disabled’ or ‘disability’ in this report either, which is indicative of the Commission having no clue about negative intersectionality for people who come from a background of more than one ‘minority’ social classification. We know that people whose lives intersect with non-white ethnic backgrounds, non-heterosexual sexuality, non-binary gender and Disability have less successful life outcomes than people who have less or none of these intersectionalities. The Commission appears to have missed an opportunity to truly explore and amplify the experiences of those from minority backgrounds.”
Read the report here.
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Face-to-face assessments to resume for health and disability benefits
The DWP has announced that, “in line with the latest public health guidance and adhering to strict safety protocols”, it is to begin reintroducing face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits.
Ken Butler, DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:
“The Covid pandemic has meant that benefits face-to-face medical assessments have not happened for over a year, so inevitably a backlog now exists.
“But it will be important for both assessment providers and the DWP to be sensitive and flexible in arranging these.
“Disabled claimants do not have the final say in whether they can be assessed on paper, by phone, by video or face-to-face. This is an assessment provider decision.
“If the DWP decides that a person has not had “good reason” not to attend an arranged face to face assessment then their claim can be closed.
“Many Disabled people who have been shielding as they are extremely clinically vulnerable may be reluctant to attend such an assessment at present, especially as contracts permit assessments to be held up to 90 minutes’ travel from a claimant’s home.
“The DWP should at least suspend its rule on removing benefits if someone cannot show “good cause” for not attending a medical assessment.
“Phone and video assessments have worked well for many during lockdown. People should be able to choose their preferred method of assessment, in line with the reasonable adjustment provisions of the Equality Act.”
For more information see Face-to-face assessments to resume for health and disability benefits available from gov.uk. Read more on this story here.
NAO report lays bare shortfalls in adult social care
Short-term funding and a lack of a long-term vision is hampering planning, innovation and investment in adult social care, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).
The DHSC has not met previous commitments to tackle recruitment and retention challenges for the 1.5 million people who work in care. It has not produced a workforce strategy since 2009, despite committing to do so in 2018. The DHSC does not have a clear strategy to develop accommodation for adults with care needs and does not monitor the condition of current accommodation itself. Funding for new investment is ad-hoc with no co-ordinated, long-term vision across government about how new accommodation will be developed or existing accommodation adapted to meet care needs. Future demand for care is likely to rise in the next two decades.
DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “The lack of DHSC oversight and planning for social care is clearly demonstrated in the NAO report.
“The government is beginning to engage on the shape of social care reform.
“It is vital that reform is based on the right to independent living contained in article 19 of UN CRPD, that it is based on personalisation, parity with health and that it is given the required level of funding.
“Disabled people should also have clear ways of challenging poor decision making.”
Read more here.
Government releases ‘shocking’ new figures on transport hate crime
Disability Rights UK is calling a meeting of key people in the rail industry after the government released ‘shocking’ new public transport hate crime data.
The data shows that between 2014 and 2016, the numbers of disability related hate crime incidents in England reported to the British Transport Police decreased by 37%. But since 2016, the number of incidents has seen an increase of 24%. Only 1.6% of reported hate crimes saw charges brought in 2019-2020.
DR UK Rail Policy Adviser Stephen Brookes said: “After ten years leading work on hate crime, this is a distressing report to read. Hate crime has continued to be an underlying and growing issue, and it is now critical that we look at what is contributing to its increase.
“It is not simply a staffing problem as some unions are suggesting. The solution must involve removing the confusion Disabled people have experienced when reporting such incidents; the actions (or otherwise) of rail and station staff; the fear of escalations and repercussions, and the failure of the justice system to act proportionally on sentencing those found responsible.
“We need joined up and lasting actions and a new multi-agency policy which will make a difference in reducing Disability hate crime on transport”.
Lockdown impacts speech and language therapy
Earlier this month, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists published the findings of its survey into people’s access to speech and language therapy during the first COVID-19 lockdown (March-June 2020). The findings revealed that lockdown had a significant impact on people’s access to speech and language therapy. Many people were not able to access any therapy at all. Of those who could access therapy, many reported it was considerably less than they received before lockdown. Since the March-June lockdown ended, many people have not received in-person speech and language therapy. The new ways of therapy being delivered, for example, over the phone and online via video call, have not worked for everyone. People also said that having less speech and language therapy made their mental health, their education, their home and domestic life, and their social life and friendships worse. To help improve things, 83 organisations wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister on 17 March calling on the Government to improve support for people with communication and swallowing needs. Read more here.