|Disabled people paying vastly more for care in past two years
Disabled people are being told by councils to pay vastly more for care, according to research from the BBC.
Some adults with learning disabilities are being forced to pay thousands of pounds more, with six councils doubling the amount of money they were previously requesting.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “It feels criminal that Disabled people with the least resources have to somehow magic up vast sums of money to pay for these punitive increases. It is inconceivable that the Government can speak of levelling up, and release a strategy on disability, and still ignore the basic fact that people are living in penury trying to meet the costs of their most basic needs which should, in a civilised society, be met by the State.
“94% of people with learning disabilities are not in work. Those receiving care from their local authorities have met very high thresholds to qualify, showing high levels of need, and low levels of income. That in itself is a sign that they cannot afford to pay more.
“Nobody should be in the position where they have to choose between eating and heating, and care. And that is where we are currently at.” Read more here.
Universal Credit cuts will come as ‘a shock’
Government has failed to properly prepare two million low-income families for October’s £20-a-week cut in Universal Credit, according to leading poverty charities and the Labour party.
Save the Children, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Turn2Us, Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice and the Labour Party have all raised concerns about the £90 per month reduction, with surveys showing that between a fifth and a third of claimants had no awareness that the cut is coming. Letters have not been sent to claimants, with the Government relying on texts and messages in claimants’ online journals to get through instead.
Citizens Advice has also highlighted high levels of anxiety among clients over how they will cope with the loss of income, with half a million people expected to be pushed below the poverty line. Six million people claim the benefit.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “These cuts will hit Disabled people hard. Around 800,000 Disabled people are on Universal Credit. We have campaigned with hundreds of other charities to try to persuade the Government to keep the uplift to these benefits, and to extend the uplift to almost two million Disabled people on legacy benefits.
“This money is the difference between people eating and going hungry. The loss of it is a mighty thunderclap in a perfect storm of fast rising property and rental prices, increased fuel prices, and increased food prices. And yet still the Government won’t listen, instead showing callous disregard for those who live near or beneath the poverty line.” Read more here.
A fifth of a million waiting for doctor assessments to drive
Over 200,000 people are waiting for a doctor’s assessment to renew their driving licences.
Disabled people who need transport to remain mobile are caught up in the backlog which is months behind schedule.
The British Medical Association fears public safety could be put at risk if drivers go to private services offering fast fit-to-drive assessments without access to full medical histories.
The BMA’s Dr Peter Holden told The Times: “By seeking ‘sign off’ from an independent practitioner who only has the patient’s word to go by, there’s a risk that medical conditions may be, either intentionally or unintendedly, understated and this has already had a grave impact on road safety.”
Delays at the DVLA which processes driving licence applications have been blamed on social distancing rules and strikes at its Swansea HQ.
Also, motorists who submitted paper applications are facing delays of around five months.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Transport is a critical part of living for all people, but especially Disabled people. The lack of independence that a lack of transport brings impacts every area of a Disabled person’s life, from shopping to work to getting to medical appointments and exercise. Backlogs like these can lead to significant difficulties for people already struggling to maintain their mobility.”
Winter vaccine schedule for Disabled people unclear
Plans for the universal roll-out of a third booster vaccine are in doubt.
The Government is now likely to propose that only over-16s with immune-suppression, care home residents, over-70s, frontline health and social care workers and people classified as clinically extremely vulnerable may be considered for a third jab.
The news comes as new research shows that fully vaccinated adults can harbour Delta variant virus levels as high as unvaccinated people. There is not yet a consensus on whether this causes greater transmission of the virus, but it does raise concerns.
The current data suggests that people who cannot be vaccinated, and those with conditions the government does not recognise as making them clinically extremely vulnerable, may be at greater risk.
The government is currently funding a study, OCTAVE DUO, to determine the effectiveness of a third vaccine for people with weakened immune systems. The initial OCTAVE trial has published data showing that 89% of immunocompromised people produce antibodies following vaccination, with 60% generating a strong antibody response after a second dose. The remaining 40% show a low or undetectable immune response.
On 1 August 2021, 91% of people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, had received both doses of the vaccine, with 94% having had their first dose.
The government is also considering reducing the age limit for people who can have vaccines down from 16 to 12 with a view that this will stop the virus from sweeping through secondary schools in the autumn term, and protect clinically vulnerable teenagers.
DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We heard from many Disabled people who were vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus during lockdown who were not in the top priority groups for vaccination. If the Government is going to offer booster jabs to those it considers to be the most clinically vulnerable, it must focus on groups one to six, not just groups one to four. Group six included people with conditions such as kidney disease, learning disabilities, motor neurone disease and ME. We know that hospitalisations and deaths are down as a result of the vaccine rollout, but there are still thought to be over two million people who have developed long covid. This debilitating condition wrecks both lives and the economy.”
Disabled children face digital divide
Disabled children face greater inequality because of lack of access to digital technology, according to a new report from the KIDS charity and the Disabled Children’s Partnership.
Barriers to getting online are creating a digital divide between young people who can access education, services and friends, and Disabled children who can’t.
A new report from the University of the West of England – Locked Out: Digital Disadvantage of Disabled Children, Young People and Families during the Covid-19 Pandemic reveals digital disadvantage happens when families are unable to access computers, phones and broadband for financial reasons or lack of digital knowledge, but also when hardware and software is not designed inclusively or when services do not invest in inclusive technology.
This results in children and young people being locked out from accessing education, health care and a social life at a time when being able to use digital technology is increasingly a requirement for equal participation in society.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of KIDS, said: “Digital access isn’t a luxury, it’s a right, but one denied to many Disabled children. As we move into an increasingly online world we must make sure no child is left behind.
“The pandemic lockdowns have shown the importance of digital technology for young people, and many Disabled people developed their digital skills and confidence. But for those who were locked out by equipment, funding or because of sensory impairments, tech-phobia or dexterity limitations, lack of online access has increased isolation and reduced access to support.”
The report recommends that an urgent recovery programme is put in place to increase digital skills for whole families to stop digital disadvantage resulting in children being permanently locked out; that digital service design should start with accessibility, co-created with Disabled people; accessibility standards must be improved so that Disabled children and young people aren’t locked out from essential information; digital infrastructure should be fast, available and affordable for all, and that digital inclusion should be an explicit part of government policy at every level from disability policy to strategy and reviews.
80k residents could be receiving at-home care – IPPR
80,000 care home residents could be receiving social care in their own homes according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
New IPPR analysis shows that there is a ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to accessing care at home – an option which would often be preferable, and cheaper for people who need care, resulting in fewer people needing to sell their homes.
The IPPR is calling for Government reform to go beyond funding and to enable people to live flourishing lives.
It says that research shows people strongly prefer care in their home – and that home care increases independence, enabling people to lead more fulfilling lives.
It says the analysis shows that levelling up home care across the country would save local authorities in England £1.1 billion per year in social care budgets – costing two thirds less than residential care. Read more here.
Actors ‘too Disabled’ for Disabled roles
Disabled screenwriter Jack Thorne has spoken of how Disabled actors are being turned away from TV roles written for Disabled characters because they are deemed to be ‘too Disabled’. Parts are instead going to non-Disabled actors – a move known as ‘cripping up’ or ‘cripface’.
Giving the McTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, he called for quotas to level up the number of Disabled people seen on screen.
He said that funding for shows featuring Disabled characters is difficult to obtain, Disabled writers are regularly unable to attend script meetings because production offices are inaccessible, and spoke of the time a wheelchair-using friend had to crawl along a muddy floor to reach her desk on a film shoot.
Calling disability the “forgotten diversity”, he said that the situation was just as bad for Disabled people working behind the scenes in TV as well.
He called for production companies to set aside extra money in their budgets to create a dedicated fund to make facilities fully accessible.
“I know the Black Lives Matter movement has a long way to go, and that no one is satisfied with our current state of affairs, but I can’t tell you the difference it has made to casting conversations,” he said. “However, the conversation on disability representation is nowhere near as advanced; I have had conversations about Disabled talent for years where some of the most appalling things have been said.”
“Disabled people and Disabled stories tend to be relegated into two camps – heroes or victims, preferably both. Inspirational crips climbing up a mountain on their hands while we all applaud. Sometimes they’re funny, an acerbic best friend; mostly they’re just sorrowful.” Watch the lecture here.
C4 privatisation is a threat to Paralympics, says Ex-Chief
Channel 4’s decade of Paralympic coverage on prime-time TV could be abandoned by its new owner, says a former CEO.
The channel is broadcasting a record 1,300 hours of coverage of the Tokyo Games, treble that of the BBC’s Olympic coverage, securing its place as the world’s leading Paralympic broadcaster.
Channel 4 was set up by the Conservative government in 1982 as an editorially independent broadcaster to provide a culturally challenging alternative to the then other three terrestrial channels. It is publicly owned but commercially funded, mainly by advertising.
“The way that Channel 4 was set up gives it the ability to do things unlikely to be achieved by any other broadcaster,” said Lord Burns, who chaired Channel 4 when it took over the Paralympic TV rights from the BBC. “The Paralympics was made for a TV station like Channel 4, with people who can take risks, people whose remit requires something that is different.
“I think it is unlikely another broadcaster would do the Paralympics on the scale of Channel 4,” he said. “Certainly not with the same determination and investment. It is a commercially riskier activity.”
DR UK slams ‘disability freakshow’ dinner
A company attempting to host a series of dinners at which a replica of the body of Joseph Carey Merrick would be dissected has been slammed by disability campaigners.
ITAE, run by Sam Piri, was featured on Dragons’ Den in 2018 for its innovative idea of dissection dinners, mainly for healthcare professionals.
But its latest venture has been strongly criticised for the way in which it is portraying Merrick, a Victorian Disabled man who gained worldwide fame for having the condition Proteus Syndrome, resulting in severe physical disability including facial differences which led to him being derogatorily nicknamed ‘The Elephant Man’.
The events have been scheduled for the Halloween period, and will be held in a circus big top. The website promoting the event reads: “Roll up roll up, step into our… big top tent for a night of human anatomy as we take you back to 1885 and inside Joseph Merrick…. Encounter the incredible story of the Remarkable Joseph Merrick, who wanted to be just like everybody else.”
Mandy Sellars and Tracey Whitewood-Neal, who run charities supporting those living with rare overgrowth conditions said: “We have been told by the company that this is an educational event, but by their own admission, they have done no research in to Proteus syndrome, which is the condition that doctors now believe affected Joseph.
“In its original marketing campaign, the ITAE used logos of both the BBC and the University of Cambridge, whom we contacted to ask about their endorsement – they subsequently wrote to ITAE asking for their logos to be removed.
“Additionally, we contacted the original venue, Gosforth Rugby Club, which has withdrawn from hosting the event due to the concerns raised.
“The marketing of the event has really outraged and shocked our members suffering from the condition and the wider community of people affected by overgrowth disorders.
“We initially tried to engage with the company through their social media pages but were removed and blocked.”
The pair managed to speak to Mr Piri at the end of July with the aid of a BBC Leicestershire journalist. At the meeting, Mr Piri agreed to look at suggestions around how to market the event without ableism.
Despite this, the website is still themed around circus, the events are still scheduled in the three days preceding Halloween and on Halloween itself, images of a man with an elephant’s head are still being used on a vintage poster on the site, and the language used is still identifiable as relating to circus culture and positions Merrick as someone to be objectified.
DR UK’s CEO Kamran Mallick said: “While dissection and dinner might not sit well together for most people as an entertainment concept, there is an education market for that. What there absolutely should not be a market for however is a disability freakshow.
“It is absolutely disgusting that in 2021, companies think it’s ok for the sake of entertainment to literally revive the worst excesses of Victorian culture which demonised, objectified and exploited Disabled people.
“The whole theme of the event is tantamount to a hate incident. In UK law, there is no recognition of disability hate crime, despite hate crimes being recognisable for other protected characteristics. It is hateful and discriminatory, deeply hurtful to those who live with these conditions, and is exactly the kind of event which ensures that society continues to believe in and perpetuate damaging stereotypes of Disabled people.”
One mother whose daughter has an overgrowth condition, has started a petition which has over seven thousand signatures to try to get this event stopped.