Two million denied benefit increases: High Court challenge
On Wednesday 17 November, the High Court will be asked to decide whether it was lawful for the Government not to give nearly two million Disabled people on ESA the same £1040 per year increase that it gave Universal Credit claimants.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the DWP announced a £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit, but this vital increase to support was not extended to those on so called ‘legacy benefits’, the majority of whom are Disabled people.
The High Court will need to decide whether the DWP was guilty of unlawful discrimination by breaching the European Convention on Human Rights through not increasing the rate for 1.9 million ESA claimants by £20 per week.
If the legal action is successful, more than two million legacy benefit claimants should be due £1,500 in back payments from 6 April 2020, when the Universal Credit uplift was introduced, to when it was ended on 6 October 2021.
William Ford, solicitor for the two ESA claimants taking the judicial review action said: “We are pursuing this legal challenge based on the proposition that the pandemic means those dependent upon basic allowances are facing higher basic living costs, and yet despite their very similar circumstances, only some of them receive a Covid-specific uplift to help meet those costs.
“This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million Disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally.
“Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.”
In a September 2021 research report - The Millions Missing out - the Disability Benefits Consortium found thousands of Disabled people on out of work benefits, such as ESA, are facing considerable mental health and physical challenges as the pandemic has left them struggling financially.
The findings from the DBC survey. completed by over 1,800 Disabled people in receipt of legacy benefits concluded that:
- Half (52%) are spending ‘significantly more’ on household bills and utilities than they were before the pandemic, and just under half (46%) were falling behind on rent or mortgage payments;
- Individuals’ weekly income meant they were unable or struggling to eat a balanced diet (67%), attend medical appointments due to public transport, petrol and taxi costs (33%), and pay bills, including their water, gas, and electric (67%).
Over three quarters of Covid child deaths were Disabled people’s
Analysis of 3,000 child deaths during the pandemic by the journal Nature Medicine found that of the 61 deaths of children with Covid, 25 of those deaths were of Covid, and over three-quarters of those children (19) were not ‘healthy’ children.
DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Once again, the media is using figures to whitewash out the impacts of Covid on the Disabled community. The ‘just six healthy children’ quote we have seen in the mainstream press fails to recognise that the risk has been, and remains, very real for Disabled people, especially those with poor immunity and no access due to age or medical conditions to vaccination.”
Minister writes to families with Disabled children
Will Quince MP, Minister for Children and Families, has written an open letter to parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their families and those who support them.
In the letter, the Minister reaffirms his commitment to delivering the SEND Review and the importance of supporting the most disadvantaged children and young people. He outlines his plans to continue to visit schools, nurseries and colleges around the country to directly hear first-hand from children, young people, parents and carers, school, college and local authority staff as well as meet with SEND organisations and experts so they can influence proposals.
Alongside the letter, the Department for Education has published information about the members of the SEND Review Steering Group. The new group was set up to assist the department to conclude the SEND Review at pace and advise on proposals to be set out in a SEND Green Paper to be published in the first three months of 2022. You can find details of the group here.
DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “It’s great that the Minister wants to listen to Disabled children and young people, their families and those providing education services, as radical change and increased investment is urgently needed. Far too many Disabled children with additional needs are not receiving the required support, disproportionate numbers of Disabled children are being excluded following support not being provided and Education, Health and Care Plans are not being delivered. The funding crisis is acute, leading to councils and schools unfairly rationing and limiting support.
The new Minister also needs to review the Government’s approach to inclusive education, as the Government is embarked on a major expansion programme of special schools for Disabled children. Disabled people are part of society and our education system should reflect this.”
Two thirds of UK population clueless about learning disabilities
A new survey has highlighted how despite 1.5 million people in the UK having a learning disability, two thirds of British people don’t know what a learning disability is.
The ‘Talk To Me’ campaign, produced as part of Mencap’s 75th anniversary, highlights the misunderstanding people with a learning disability face from the wider public, and the negative impact this can have on the whole of society.
As well as a lack of understanding, over six in 10 adults (64%) have witnessed someone be rude to or about a person with a learning disability.
The survey shows that representation matters, with two in five people in the UK (42%) having not seen someone with a learning disability in the media in the past year.
Mencap has developed a set of tools and online resources to help with people’s lack of understanding of learning disability, including a pledge to stand up for the rights of people with a learning disability. You can find Mencap’s pledge here and the online resources here.
SEND review ‘must hear from people from other ethnic backgrounds’
Special Needs Jungle (SNJ) is calling for people from non-white British backgrounds to be heard in the forthcoming SEND review. It writes: “the word “inclusive” is often used in the SEND sector, and, just as often, it fails to materialise. For families from ethnic backgrounds, it’s even less likely to be their experience of additional needs support within education.
“The SEND Review needs to hear — and act on — the different needs and experiences of all voices, not just those who find participating easy. The same goes for health, care and local authority policy-makers.
Mala Thapar, the parent of a Disabled 17-year-old autistic boy, told SNJ how “extensive national research has found that Disabled children and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds face stereotypes, assumptions and prejudice from wider society and communities. There is also experience of significant uncaring institutions and negative discriminatory racial and cultural stereotypes.” Read more here.
Sickle cell patients ‘face racism in NHS’
Racism within NHS services is causing harm to people with sickle cell disease, reports The Times.
“Serious failings” in the care of patients is in some cases leading to avoidable deaths, according to a report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on sickle cell and thalassaemia.
Around 15,000 people in the UK have sickle cell, a blood cell disorder, which can cause clumping and blockages in small blood vessels. Patients have severe pain and may need hospital treatment for crises several times a year. It mostly affects people from African, Caribbean and Mediterranean backgrounds.
Haematology departments are of a good standard but: “This is far from the case on general wards or when accessing accident and emergency departments,” said the report.
“This sub-standard care has led many patients to fear accessing secondary care, or even outright avoid attending hospitals.” One patient said he had “been called the ‘n word’ to my face”.
DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “DR UK’s DRILL project with De Montfort University revealed stark inequalities in terms of how people with sickle cell were being treated by employers. We are angry but unsurprised to hear that the same levels of prejudice apply to healthcare. Disabled people from non-white ethnic backgrounds endure a hideous doubled down version of discrimination. They face both disability and racial discrimination on a daily basis. Evidence shows that such discrimination can affect whether they live or die. The government and NHS must act on the findings of this report to ensure such discrimination ends, now.”
The government has produced four new short videos about Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children.
The videos provide a clear and simple overview of what DLA for children is; who can apply for it; what people can expect from the application process and what happens when the child turns 16.
Each video can be watched as a standalone film or in sequence. Watch them on the
DLA Videos playlist here.
The videos are also available as British Sign Language versions using two translators having a conversation in British Sign Language (BSL).
Watch the British Sign Language videos playlist here.
The content of the videos is also available through GOV.UK as Easy Read products.