Category Archives: Disability

“It’s about including people – as simple as that. Let’s be a shining example of equality in action – it’s what we’re all about isn’t it?!”

The Equality Act 2010 places statutory duties on political parties. It covers:

  • Branches, constituencies, regional and national structures,
  • Staff, officers, candidates, representatives and volunteers,
  • Services to members including meetings, events and campaigns,
  • Political activities, and
  • Positive action.

The duties under the Act are continuing. They are not about doing something once. The duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people is anticipatory. It is not about waiting for a disabled person to ask for changes to be made. It’s very important that officers, representatives, volunteers and staff fully understand how they need to function under the Equality Act.

When this document mentions the Party, it means all Party structures, officers, staff, candidates, representatives and volunteers.

All information in the first section of this handbook is taken from guidance provided by the Human Rights and Equalities Commission.

We are indebted to barrister Catherine Casserley of Cloisters Chambers (cloisters, com) for her pro bono work on this document.

Disability Equality ACT Labour (DEAL), formerly the Party Participation and Disabled People Group, is the campaign for Labour Party compliance with the disability elements of the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act 2010 and the Labour Party.

The Equality Act makes it unlawful for anyone acting on behalf of the Labour Party (or any political party) to discriminate against people with protected characteristics. Being a disabled person is a protected characteristic. The other characteristics are age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

The purposes of the Equality Act can be summarised using the acronym FEAT:

  • Fostering good relations between those with protected characteristics and others.
  • Eliminating discrimination.
  • Advancing equality of opportunities.
  • Tackling prejudice.

The Act preserved the principle of “more favourable treatment” even when it means treating others less favourably. This is unique to disabled people and does not apply to other protected characteristics.

The Party has an obligation to provide reasonable adjustments. If it fails to do so, it is guilty of unlawful discrimination.

It also means the Party must create a comfortable, dignified environment for disabled people. If it fails to do so, it is guilty of harassment. If it fails to do so even when a disabled person isn’t present, it could be guilty of harassment by association.

In addition to the main body of the Act  the following sections apply:

Actions or inactions that result in discrimination against physically disabled people may sometimes be obvious, but that is far from always the case. That is why it’s important to ask people what adjustments they need rather than making assumptions.

Actions or inactions that result in discrimination against people with mental health related impairments or neurological disorders is often about assumed norms within the Party or in wider society. For example, if a branch said that someone could not join, or be a prospective candidate, because they were always late to meetings; and the reason they were late was because their medication made them sluggish in the evenings; and their medication was for a mental health issue, this would be discrimination because of something arising in consequence of disability. This would be discrimination unless the treatment could be justified on other grounds, or the branch did not know that they were disabled.

The Equality Act applies even when Party services, events, campaigns, membership or associate membership are free.

Everyone who is carrying out a function for the Party, including staff, officers, candidates, representatives and volunteer activists, are subject to the Equality Act.

Members of branches, constituencies, regions or national structures cannot override their duties under the Equality Act by voting to act in a way that would put the Party in breach of the Act, or by omitting to do something that would put them in breach of the Act. Chairs of Party structures must rule any such vote results null and void.

Diagram shows a red circle with the Party logo inside. Text in the circle reads: the problems are Party rules, norms and perceptions. Around the outside of the circle are arrows pointing outwards to the issues faced by disabled members in the Party. The issues surround the circle. They are grouped as follows: Rules include: systems, structures, processes, strategies, services, and communication. Perceptions include: assumptions, discrimination, attitudes, disbelief, harassment, stereotyping, prejudice and apathy. Norms include: venues, transport, language, immediacy, the outside, the unknown. At the bottom is a text box that reads: using the Social Model of Disability we see the exclusion disabled members face is caused by the way the Party is run and organised

Discrimination

There are four different types of unlawful discrimination that apply to disability:

Unlawful discrimination can take a number of different forms:

  • The Labour Party must ensure all activities open to members, officers, candidates, councillors or MPs are accessible to disabled members, officers, candidates, councillors or MPs. If they do not, it is direct discrimination.
  • It must not do something to a disabled member in a way that has a worse impact on them and other disabled people than it has on other people. Unless the Party can show that what they have done is objectively justified, this is indirect discrimination. Doing something can include making a decision, or applying a rule or way of doing things.
  • The Labour Party must not treat disabled members in an inferior way because they incorrectly think they are a disabled person.
  • It must not treat disabled members badly or victimise them because they have complained about discrimination or helped someone else complain or done anything to uphold their own or someone else’s equality law rights.

Unlawful discrimination is based on treatment that is meted out because of or related to disability. It is not limited to behaviour, rules or ways of doing things that only impact only on a disabled person. For example, if a non-disabled person, perhaps a personal assistant, carer, family member or supporter, is treated badly because of their association with a disabled person, or because it had been assumed they were a disabled person, they will have been unlawfully discriminated against.

Harassment

Harassment is not only about bullying. Harassment is any conduct that violates a disabled person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for any disabled person.

Harassment is focussed on the environment the Party creates in branches, constituencies or any Party structure, activity, campaign or meeting. It doesn’t just cover verbal abuse, but it could be, for example, the atmosphere created at a meeting when someone is asking for adjustments.

Harassment is based on treatment that is meted out because of or related to disability. It is not limited to behaviour or conduct directed to any disabled person. For example, if a non-disabled person is in a room and hears such conduct they will have witnessed harassment and ideally, will put in a formal complaint about the incident.

Reasonable adjustments

The duty to make reasonable adjustments is an anticipatory duty. The Labour Party must not wait until a disabled person wants to join or participate in meetings, activities, events or campaigns or stand as a branch or CLP officer or as a candidate. The Party is required to think in advance about what people with a range of impairments might reasonably need, such as people who have a reading impairment, a mental health impairment, a sensory impairment, a neurological impairment, a mobility impairment or a learning disability.

The Party must think about reasonable adjustments for disabled members, associate members, guests, and disabled people who are:

  • seeking or might seek to become members, or
  • likely to become guests.

A continuing duty

The duty to make reasonable adjustments is a continuing duty. It is not something to be considered once and then forgotten.

If a disabled person wants to participate in Party activities, events, campaigns or meetings or stand for office but finds barriers not previously identified, then the Party needs to think about reasonable adjustments. This applies whether or not it has already made any adjustments.

If the Party changes what it does, the way that it does it or where, then it needs to review the adjustments it has made. What was originally a reasonable step to take might no longer be enough.

The Equality Act duty contains three requirements that apply in situations where disabled people would otherwise be placed at a substantial disadvantage compared with people who are not disabled. These are called reasonable adjustments.

Changing the way things are done.

The Party has rules and ways of doing things, both written and unwritten, that can present barriers to disabled people. These barriers put disabled people at substantial disadvantage and even stop some people participating in events, activities, campaigns or meetings altogether.

Making changes to premises.

Where a physical feature puts disabled people at substantial disadvantage, the Party must take reasonable steps to:

  • remove the feature;
  • alter it so that it no longer has that effect;
  • provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature; or
  • provide a reasonable alternative way of making the service available to disabled people.

It is better for the Party to look at removing or altering the physical feature or finding a way of avoiding it (such as replacing steps with a ramp or, if it is reasonable for it to do this, a lift) before it looks at providing an alternative service. An alternative service may not give disabled people a similar level of service.

Providing aids and services.

These might include:

  • providing equipment like hearing loops,
  • allowing personal assistants or other support staff or volunteers to attend meetings, events and activities with individual disabled people,
  • online meetings,
  • online voting,
  • giving people additional time to think about decisions at meetings,
  • delaying decisions for later online votes,
  • papers in different formats,
  • papers sent out further in advance than usual, or
  • job sharing by elected officers.

The Party must take reasonable steps to provide aids or services if they would enable or make it easier for disabled people to participate in events, activities campaigns or meetings or to stand for election.

Are disabled people at a substantial disadvantage?

The Equality Act defines disabled people as having a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.

The Act covers conditions like dyslexia, sensory impairments, neurological conditions, personality disorders, severe disfigurements, HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, depression and anxiety and many more.

What is meant by ‘reasonable’?

When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable the Labour Party can consider:

  • how effective the change will be in assisting disabled people in general or a particular member;
  • whether it can actually be done;
  • the cost; and
  • the Party’s resources and size.

The Party can consider whether an adjustment is practical. The easier an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable. If an adjustment costs little or nothing and is not disruptive, it would be reasonable. In deciding if cost is a factor, the Party’s resources must be looked at across the whole organisation. This means, if a branch, constituency or other individual structure can’t afford an adjustment, that cannot be used as a reason not to provide it. It is only if the Party as a whole could not afford an adjustment that cost would come into it.

Who pays for an adjustment?

If an adjustment is reasonable, the Party must pay for it. Disabled people must not be asked to pay for it.

Where councillors, MPs and other elected individuals or staff receive remuneration from the Party to cover administrative and campaigning expenses, the cost of any reasonable adjustments must not form part of that remuneration. This would place disabled representatives or staff at a disadvantage when compared to other representatives or staff and would therefore be discriminatory.

Political activities

The law applies to parties at a national, regional, constituency and local level and to people working for them or making decisions about the party’s membership and activities, whether paid or unpaid.

The Labour Party must not:

  • refuse membership to disabled prospective members or grant membership on less favourable terms because of impairments; or
  • offer membership terms, benefits or services that are discriminatory, whether that is direct or indirect discrimination.

This includes activities that are directly related to political activity, such as meetings, events, activities and campaigns. Conditions put on membership or participation, such as door knocking as a requirement for becoming a candidate, are likely to be discriminatory.

Reasonable adjustments for political activities may include provision of an online option at meetings or allowing extra time for decisions to be taken rather than taking decisions solely at meetings.

Membership

The Labour Party must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in selection processes, elections to branch and Constituency office and in how members, associate members and guests (and prospective members and guests) access services and enjoy membership benefits and facilities.

The aim of reasonable adjustments is to make sure that disabled people are able to join the Party and participate as far as is reasonably possible to the same standard offered to non-disabled people.

Positive action.

Equality law enables the Labour Party to take positive action for any of the protected characteristics. This means the Party could, for example, have physical or online meetings or ongoing forums specifically for disabled members, specify that Disability Officers become voting members on Executive Committees, employ disabled staff to provide support for disabled members at regional and national level, and require all information and publicity materials be approved by disabled members.

Changes to selection arrangements could include steps the Party takes to:

  • encourage prospective disabled candidates to come forward, for example, by holding an event just for them or writing just to disabled members;
  • increase disabled candidates’ prospects of being selected, for example, by giving public speaking training only to disabled members;
  • identify suitable disabled candidates, for example, by reducing the time disabled people have to have been Party members to be allowed to stand for election;
  • Reserving places on electoral candidates shortlist for disabled members; or
  • having disabled members only electoral candidates shortlists.

Standards of behaviour

Sometimes, how someone behaves is linked to the impairment they have. For example, the behaviour of people with Tourette’s Syndrome or those with Asperger’s, Autism, Borderline Personality Disorder or other mental health or neurological disorders can seem unacceptable or disturbing to those who do not understand these impairments.

Standards of behaviour that have a worse impact on people with a particular impairment than on people who do not have that impairment, must be objectively justified. Otherwise, it is indirect discrimination.

The Party must make reasonable adjustments for standards of behaviour to avoid discrimination arising from a specific impairment.

Monitoring

The Party can decide to monitor the number of disabled members it has, but if the Party asks you about your disability, you do not have to answer if you prefer not to.

When monitoring the number of disabled members the Party has, and the reasonable adjustments that may be required, the Party should include people with physical or learning impairments, chronic illnesses and mental health conditions.

Impairments can be acquired at any stage of a person’s life. The continuing duty means that cyclical disability and reasonable adjustment requirements monitoring is appropriate.

Authors:

  • Kathy Bole
  • Emily Brothers
  • Sarah-Jane Brownlie
  • Catherine Casserley
  • Lesley Farrington
  • Henry Foulds
  • Marta Gave
  • Rory Heap
  • Lorraine Harding
  •  Matthew Luke
  • David R S Martin
  • Craig Potter
  • Nikki Ratcliffe
  • Rachel Salmon
  • Fran Springfield
  • Sophie Talbot
  • Sarah Taylor
  • Rona Lisa Topaz
  • Dave Townsend
  • Ruth White

For Disability Equality ACT Labour.

Campaigning document: It’s our Party – Let us in!

This is our campaigning document proposing ways the Party can improve its disability equality performance.

A circle with a map of the world contains the text: The problem is the disabling world. Arrows point outwards from the circle to the barriers put in the way of people with impairments. The Barriers are: Badly design buildings. Stairs not ramps. No lifts. Special schools. Few sign language interpreters. Discrimination. Inaccessible transport. No parking places. Isolated families. Poor job prospects. A text box at the bottom reads: The Social Model of Disability states that the oppression and exclusion people with impairments face is caused by the way society is run and managed

The Equality Act covers each Labour Party branch and CLP as well as every other Party structure. Party structures must not directly or indirectly discriminate; they must ensure all disabled members are able to participate in decision-making, meetings, events, campaigns, standing for office and other activities.

To comply with the Act, Party structures need to identify their disabled members, ask what reasonable adjustments they require and make those adjustments.

Many disabled members are excluded from Party activities, events and decision ­making processes. Some have experienced branches refusing direct requests to make reasonable adjustments. Further, elected officers of Party structures have argued against making reasonable adjustments such as online participation at meetings, or being accompanied to meetings by a carer or personal assistant who may or may not be a Party member, because they require changes to internal custom and practice.

Party structures are not routinely asking what reasonable adjustments disabled members require. When discussing what comprises a reasonable adjustment, many elected officers of Party structures do not understand the issue beyond basic physical changes like ramps for wheelchair users. Little, if any, attempt is being made to use technology and the internet to enable people to access their right to participate.

Many CLPs do not have a Disability Co-ordinator/Officer and there is no equivalent of Party Women’s and BAME Forums or Youth Labour.

Previous Party guidance has attempted to address the Equality Act duties, but this guidance is not being followed. Previous attempts to correct this situation have not succeeded.

Disability equality training for elected officers in Party structures is not currently a requirement.

To comply with the Act elected officers of all Party structures need to be aware of the legal requirements placed on them, and have a good enough working understanding of the ramifications of those requirements.

In order to tackle stigma, The Labour Party should hold itself to more inclusive standards than current practice in wider society, rather than lagging behind. The authors of this document aim to ensure Labour Party compliance with Equality Act duties, informed by current good practice and past Party guidance, is firmly built into Party rules, guidance, systems and structures. We recognise that the Labour Party, as the party of equality, must take the lead in enabling full participation by disabled members.

Monitoring

The only way to identify what reasonable adjustments we need to make is to ask disabled members what they require. Existing disabled members need to be asked in a one off survey, whilst new disabled members need to be asked as they join. Elected officers of Party structures can find contact details of their disabled members from the Party membership database.

If a request is made to make an adjustment to custom or practice that elected officers do not understand, they will need to go back to the individual making the request to discuss their exact requirements and how they can best be provided. Debating whether these adjustments should be made is inappropriate. Consultation is vital, and no elected officer should act on an assumption that they know what is best for anyone.

Party structures should use the following questionnaire which will be made available in print and online in a format suitable for screen reading software, in plain English and Easy English with images suitable for people with dyslexia or learning difficulties, and as an audio described file:

Your response to this questionnaire will enable us to meet our duties under in the Equality Act 2010. Please complete and return to …

  • Name:
  • Membership number:
  • Do you identify as disabled? Yes/No.
  • Do you have an impairment &/or a long term (physical or mental health) concern which impacts on your day-to-day life? Yes/No.
  • Do you have a disabled family member or friend who you live with or provide some assistance to? Yes/No.
  • Are you satisfied with the way we notify you about meetings, events and other activities?
  • If no, how should we change this?
  • Are you satisfied with the way we provide print and online materials?
  • If no, how would you prefer us to do this?
  • Are you able to understand and participate in meetings, events and other activities?
  • If no, what should we do to change this?
  • Are there any other ways we can enable to you participate?
  • If you would like to make any other comments, please add them here:

Any personal information gathered on an individual will be covered by the General Data Protection Regulations which come into effect in May 2018 or before then, the Data Protection Act, and should be treated as confidential unless otherwise agreed with the individual.

CLP development plans should set specific goals towards achieving equality for disabled people. For example monitoring the number of disabled candidates, venues where access audits have been undertaken or meetings where full online participation has been made available. These goals are quantifiable and can be used to monitor progress periodically.

Disability equality training for elected officers of Party structures.

On being put forward for election all potential elected officers of Party structures should be supplied with Party guidance on compliance with the Equality Act, including these proposals.

After election, all disability officers, chairs, secretaries and delegates to conference should be required to attend disability equality training provided by appropriately experienced disabled members so that they can avoid discriminatory actions, omissions or statements.

An inclusion day, open to all members, should be held each year to provide training and opportunities for debate.

Funding

A National Inclusion Fund to which all CLPs can apply for funding equipment which will enable all members with a disability to be able to access all CLP activities. This may include items such as; hearing loops, paying fora BSL signer to be present at meetings, equipment to privately video-cast meetings. (This list is not exhaustive and is to be used to provide guidance only.)

The Fund to be overseen in each Region by Disability Officers and/or disabled people acting as Disability Ambassadors who will be able to advise constituencies on their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

Disability officers

All CLPs should elect a Disability Officer. CLP Disability Officers should automatically become CLP Executive members. Disability Officers should be respresented regionally, at the National Policy Forum, the NEC and all regional and national party structures.

Service Audits

Elected officers of Party structures to be required to carry out an annual audit of the events, meetings and activities to see how disabled people have been enabled to participate.

Elected officers should use the results of the audits to make legally required reasonable adjustments.

Each Party structure to produce an annual report detailing results of Accessibility Questionnaires, audits and reasonable adjustments that have been, or are planned to be, made. These reports to be made available to all members in print and online in a format suitable for screen reading software, in plain English and Easy English with images suitable for people with dyslexia or learning difficulties, and as an audio described file.

Accountability and transparency

Constituencies to produce annual reports compiled from their branches. These reports to be made available to all members in print and online in a format suitable for screen reading software, in plain English and Easy English with images suitable for people with dyslexia or learning difficulties, and as an audio described file.

The NEC to produce an annual report compiled from CLP reports and reports of all other structures. This report to be made available to all members in print and online in a format suitable for screen reading software, in plain English and Easy English with images suitable for people with dyslexia or learning difficulties, and as an audio described file.

Campaigning

Disability Equality ACT Labour is campaigning internally-within the Labour Party- for change. It is vital that all Party structures comply with their legal obligations at the very least, and quickly.

Campaigning is a key activity of CLPs and the Party as a whole. All campaigning activities must be made inclusive and accessible. A model of inclusive and accessible campaigning needs to be produced and used by all Party structures. There is the resource, talent and skill set within our movement to be innovative in our approach.

Electoral slates

Electoral slates are potentially disciminatory because of the danger of not including openly disabled candidates. Slates can be barriers to disabled members standing, substantially weakening the possibility of disabled members being elected to key positions. Careful thought needs to be given to the equality ramifications of slates.

Complaints

Members’ health and impairments should be taken into account when a member has a complaint about the behaviour of other members. Disabled members are often vulnerable and their health can be severely affected by the complaints process to a greater extent than for other members. Complaints from disabled members should be vigorously investigated and pastoral support be given throughout.

Unacceptable language

Comments like “playing the disabled card” made by members against disabled members should be as unacceptable as “playing the female, racist or LGBTQ+ cards” are.

Loss of income

Disabled members in receipt of benefits put themselves at risk of losing income should they stand for office or as a candidate. The Party needs to address this as a matter of urgency.

A Disabled Members Section.

The Party should actively encourage disabled members to set up a section in the same format as the Women and BAME members.

A firm footing.

When these proposals are bedded into the Party, we will be in a position to use our experience of implementing good practice to strengthen our position on equalities and campaign on a firmer footing.

A circle contains the text: The problem is the disabled person. Arrows point inwards towards the circle from the problems presented by the disabled person. The problems are: Is housebound. Confined to a wheelchair. Can't walk. Can't get up steps. Can't see or hear. Is sick. Is looking for a cure. Has fits. Needs help and carers. A text box at the bottom reads: This is a diagram of the Traditional Medical Model of Disability which the Social Model was developed to challenge

 

© Disability Equality ACT Labour 2018.

Download the full version of the document and  alternative formats from disabilityequalityactlabour.org

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When a loved one or you is elderly, various old age problems can appear. It is quite common to see a highly increased reliance on other people and mobility is often reduced. Various day to day struggles appear and independence aids are not going to be enough in so many cases. You can always get personal loans now but there are also other options to take into account. The great news is there are different available grants. The bad news is that most people are not aware of them. This is why you need to learn about the following accessibility grants that are available for the elderly and the disabled.

Government Grants

Disabled Facilities Grants are aimed to help many more than those that have lifelong disabilities. It is also available when health problems appear because of old age. If you qualify for the payout, the scheme is going to offer the money needed to modify the home, thus increasing accessibility and increasing life quality. As an example, you can install grab bars and hand rails in your home or add simple to use electrical equipment. In England you can receive a maximum of £30,000.

Age Concern Elderly Grants

Age Concern (now known as Age UK) is a respectable national charity offering support and help for older citizens. Various grant schemes are available, offering services and funding at local levels. The main aim is for those that are in twilight years. The grants will not be available for groups of people or individuals through Age Concern. They are offered through local partners. When you need support, the best thing you can do is contact the local partner to see what help is provided where you live. Emailing Age Concern is also a possibility.

British Red Cross

When there is a need for support or homecare through mobility aids, British Red Cross should be considered. It is a charity that will not offer monetary support but free services are available so that day to day challenges become lower. This includes:

  • Home support – Possible through an UK volunteer program offering physical aid and emotional aid to those coming out of the hospital or that need extra care with the goal to avoid hospital admission.
  • Mobility aids – British Red Cross gives you access to mobility aids short term loans like ramps, commodes, bath seats and wheelchairs. This obviously helps you to improve your life and avoid being stuck in your home. Even simple tasks can be tough to complete when affected by disability problems.
  • Transportation support – You can receive transport support, making it a lot easier to go to the hospital for appointments. Trained escorts are available when needed and you can avoid costly taxi fares, making transportation much more affordable.

The UK gives you access to numerous help options when you struggle with independence and cannot afford the costly equipment to perform day to day operations. The government accessibility grants should be your first considered option but the other opportunities highlighted are also great.

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If you are someone who has previously suffered from foot, hip, knee and lower back pain then orthotics may be the optimum solution for your welfare needs. Once you have gone to the doctor and have been advised that you need to wear them to better align your body then you will find that you not only suffer from less pain but also have improved stability and less pressure put on areas where previously too much pressure was applied.

While orthotics are generally very easy to get used to, it is still important that you take the necessary steps to making them more comfortable and worn in. Rushing your feet into a new position is not recommended for the best long term benefits. Here are some of our top tips to make sure you get along with your orthotics as efficiently as possible, regardless of whether you have plantar fasciitis insoles or another variety:

Wearing in period

Your podiatrist should advise you on the optimum length of time that you should be wearing your orthotics to ensure that your body gets used to them. It is generally recommended that you wear your orthotics for one hour per day which should increase by an hour each day after that. This means that after 7 days you should be able to wear your orthotics for 7 hours.

Sporting activities and orthotics

It is typically advised that you refrain from sports until you are able to wear your orthotics comfortably on a day to day basis. Once you have completed your first review, you can then continue to look towards getting back to playing sports. Once you are able to wear your orthotics for an entire day for a week and are comfortable in doing so, then this is generally a good indication that you can play sports.

Cleaning

It is recommended that your orthotics are cleaned with soap and warm water and dried completely before being worn again. Keeping your orthotics clean will allow you to get the best wear out of them and prevent them from getting smelly.

Socks

The saying goes that your orthotics are only as good as the shoes you wear them with so be sure to wear comfortable shoes that are not too low cut to make the most of their power. Similarly it is advised that you wear socks, particularly when breaking them in so that your feet are both as comfortable as possible.

Aches

In the rarest of cases aches might be felt in the initial period of you starting to wear them and this is essentially your body telling you that they are working as they are causing your body to work in a new and better way! Initial discomfort is normal but should it persist, you will be recommended to see your podiatrist. In the meantime, consider pain killers and grinning and bearing it!

Blisters

While orthotic blisters are rare, they can occur but the great thing is there are ways in which you can prevent them. Be sure to speak to your podiatrist if you are seeing blisters emerge so that they can be best managed.

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If you have family or friends who are wheelchair users, then you understand the importance of your home and car being adapted to accommodate their needs. Vehicle and buildings that are not welcoming for wheelchair users and those how have mobility problems can really negatively impact on their everyday lives. It is important that you are able to make the necessary changes needed to ensure that those with disabilities feel comfortable both in their own cards and in other people’s cars too. While making the necessary changes to transform your car into a wheelchair accessible vehicle for those most in need you will find that the investment is very much worthwhile in the long run.

Hand controls

Should someone find it difficult to use standard car pedals for acceleration or braking, it is possible to introduce hand controls in the form of a push/pull device. This allows you to control the speed of your car with your hands. There are various hand controls available out there and they tend to offer the same sort of service across multiple car models.

Electronic accelerators

Those with limited mobility in their legs could find it beneficial to have different electronic accelerators installed to assist them with speed control of an automobile. From a trigger accelerator where you can pull with your finger to accelerate or push away to activate the break to a ghost ring accelerator that is fitted behind the steering wheel and allows you to control the speed with side to side finger movements, there is an option out there for everyone.

Steering aids

Another modification that could come in handy for those looking to make their car more accessible for wheelchair users is a steering aid. This helps if you have difficulty holding onto or turning the steering wheel and offers multiple ways in which you can gain a better control of the car.

Remote controls

Remote control devices are ideal if you are looking to make activating certain car controls that much more easy. From indicators to headlights and so on, remote controls will make operating a car that much more easy. These can also incorporate to accommodate the steering wheel too so that all steering and car operations can be done at once.

Those who use wheelchairs should be able to rely on a method of transportation that accommodates them easily. Cars and vans that offer enough space for wheelchairs have changed greatly in recent years and new features have been introduced that offer maximum comfort and ease of access for those who need it most. Keep an eye out for vehicles that are tested to high standards should you choose to buy a vehicle that already comes pre-altered for wheelchair users. From those that offer lightweight ramps to those that have maximum interior accommodation for wheelchairs to be strapped into place while the automobile is in motion, there are numerous expert companies out there that will be able to help you find the best solution for your needs.

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A manifesto with and for disabled people

Over the last seven years disabled people have borne the brunt of the cuts inflicted on them by the Conservative Government and the Coalition before them. The cuts have had a detrimental effect on the lives of disabled people, cutting living standards and undermining their access to education, social care and to justice.

Two years ago the United Nations  convened a committee to investigate state violations of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). Last year the UN published their report and concluded that the Conservative Government had committed ‘grave, systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities.’ This is a damning indictment of the treatment of disabled people by the Conservatives, one which shames us as a country.

We believe in a social model of disability, a society which removes the barriers restricting opportunities and choices for disabled people. As such we will build on the previous Labour government’s commitment to disabled people in 2009 as signatories to the UN CRPD. A Labour government will incorporate the UN CRPD into UK law.

We are proud of the manifesto we have developed with, and for, disabled people, and would like to take the opportunity of thanking everyone who has taken part in Labour’s Disability Equality Roadshow over the last year. We have crossed the length and breadth of the country to engage with disabled people and their carers, capturing their views on what needs to change for disabled people to live full and independent lives. We will continue to work with disabled people in government, fulfilling our promise of ‘nothing about you, without you’.

Disability Equality

INTRODUCTION

Labour is the party of equality and diversity. The next Labour government will ensure that no-one in our society is held back. We know that fairer societies are better for all of us. To truly achieve this, the next Labour government  will build a Britain for the many: a fairer, more equal and diverse society that treats people of all backgrounds and abilities with dignity and respect.

Over the last seven years, disabled people, including people with physical or mental impairments and long-term health conditions, have been scapegoated by the Conservative Government and the Coalition. A 2016 UN inquiry found that since 2010 the UK Government has been responsible for ‘grave, systematic violations’ of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Conservatives have stonewalled this unprecedented inquiry and refused to enact its recommendations.

Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty compared with non-disabled people in part due to the extra costs associated with their disability. This has not stopped the Conservatives from disproportionately targeting disabled people with their destructive cuts. Currently 4.2 million disabled people live in poverty and new evidence indicates that this number is increasing as a result of cuts in support. According to Scope, the 2012 Welfare Reform Act has cut nearly £28 billion in social security support from 3.7 million disabled people. The 2016 Welfare Act cuts are adding to the real suffering many disabled people are experiencing. And of course this doesn’t include the cuts in social care, or the NHS, or education or transport, all of which have directly affected disabled people.

In 2016, the Labour Party launched the Disability Equality Roadshow, to ensure as we developed new policies for government, we fully engaged with disabled people and their carers, committing to the principle ‘nothing about me, without me’. As part of the Disability Equality Roadshow, we travelled the length and breadth of the country, meeting with thousands of disabled people, carers and stakeholders. We discussed the issues they face and their priorities for the future, focusing on the articles of the UN CRPD. Disabled people who were unable to attend the events were able to submit their views to us online. We have collated and consolidated all of this information in the pledges that we set out here in this manifesto ‘With and for Disabled People’.

Only Labour will champion the rights of disabled people and build a country where disabled people are supported to lead fulfilling and independent lives. We are committed to a social model of disability and will enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People fully into UK law. Labour will do away with the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic process which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether finance, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related. We will reverse cruel Conservative changes to Personal Independence Payments, which are denying 160,000 disabled people the support they need and we will scrap the Conservatives’ punitive sanctions regime. Under a Labour government, disability issues will be incorporated into every single government department. Labour will support disabled people into work, halving the disability employment gap. And we will reverse cuts to the Work-Related Activity Component of Employment Support Allowance, affecting half a million sick and disabled people.

KEY PLEDGES

  • Labour supports a social model of disability. People may have a condition or an impairment but are disabled by society. We need to remove the barriers in society that restrict opportunities and choices for disabled people.
  • Labour will build on the previous Labour Government’s commitment to disabled people in 2009 as signatories to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities . A new Labour Government will incorporate the UN CRPD into UK law.
  • Labour will transform our social security system. Like the NHS, our social security system should be there for all of us in our time of need, providing security and dignity in retirement and the basics in life should we become sick or disabled, or fall on hard times.
  • We will repeal cuts in social security support to disabled people through a new Social Security Bill published in our first year of office.
  • Labour will scrap the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether finance, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related.
  • Labour will change the culture of the social security system, from one that demonises sick and disabled people to one that is supportive and enabling. As a starting point we will scrap the Conservatives’ punitive sanctions regime and change how Job Centre Plus staff are performance managed.

ENSURING AN ADEQUATE STANDARD OF LIVING AND SOCIAL PROTECTION

“ We [disabled people] are treated as being guilty by the DWP until we prove that we are innocent.”
“The current social security system is taking away peoples’ choices over their lives and taking away their fundamental rights.”

Disability Equality Roadshow participants

PLEDGES

  • Labour will transform our social security system. Like the NHS, our social security system should be there for all of us in our time of need, providing security and dignity in retirement and the basics in life should we become sick or disabled, or fall on hard times. We will repeal cuts in social security support to disabled people through a new Social Security Bill published in our first year of office.
  • Labour will reverse the cruel cuts to Personal Independence Payments, Employment Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Group and Universal Credit Limited Capability to Work and we will repeal the hideous Bedroom Tax which has punished so many disabled and non-disabled people. The Conservatives’ punitive sanctions will go too.
  • Labour will scrap the discredited Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether financial, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related.

Over the last seven years, disabled people have borne the brunt of the social security cuts from the Conservatives and the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition before them.

The 2012 Welfare Reform Act has been estimated by Scope to have cut approximately £28 billion in social security support from 3.7 million disabled people in spite of it being well recognised that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people in part by virtue of the extra costs associated with their disability.

The 2012 Act included the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), a new sanctions regime, and new assessment processes for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and PIP. All of these have had serious concerns raised about them, including from the UN inquiry who said there were ‘grave, systematic violations’ on the rights of disabled people, the Information Commissioner concerning the deaths of claimants following their Work Capability Assessment finding them fit for work, and indeed the most recent reviewer of PIP who raised concerns yet again about the quality and reliability of the PIP assessment process where two thirds of decisions are overturned on appeal.

According to the Coalition Government’s estimates, by 2018, 600,000 fewer people will be getting PIP than received DLA. The mental health charity MIND has revealed that 55% of people with mental health conditions transferring from DLA to PIP are being assessed as ineligible for PIP or having their support reduced. These figures are before the disgraceful introduction of new PIP regulations without any debate in Parliament, which overturned two tribunal rulings that people with mental health conditions should receive the higher rate of PIP support. So much for parity of esteem for people with mental health conditions: another broken promise from the Conservatives.

The Conservative Government’s own figures show that since 2010, we are spending less and less in supporting disabled people as a percentage of our country’s wealth (Gross Domestic Product, GDP). Eurostat data from 2012 shows that we ranked 17th out of 32 EU countries in spending on disability support as a percentage of GDP.

In spite of the Conservatives pledging not to cut support to disabled people in their 2015 manifesto, the 2016 Welfare Reform and Work Act did exactly that. In addition to the four-year freeze in social security support affecting disabled people, the 2016 Act cut financial support by £1500 a year to half a million disabled people who had been found not fit-for-work but who may be in the future on the ESA Work-Related Activity Group.

In Scotland, in spite of talking the talk, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has failed to tackle the difficulties disabled people face with the devolved powers at their disposal. The SNP Government had the opportunity to protect disabled people from the full impact of the Conservatives’ punitive social security cuts as the social security budget was due to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act this year. Although they now have control over 11 types of social security support, they have failed to make any discernible difference to the lives of disabled people.

The Conservatives have fostered an insidious culture of fear and blame to justify their programme of cuts, deliberately attempting to vilify social security claimants as the new undeserving poor. Labour will transform our social security system to one that is efficient, responsive, and provides basic support. Time and time again, we have heard how worthless the system makes people feel. For the vast majority of people who have paid into it all their working lives, this is insulting.

Work should always pay more than being on social security; but relying on social security should not leave people feeling worthless and abandoned as it does now.

Labour has already pledged to get rid of the discriminatory and unfair Bedroom Tax, but we will also scrap the discredited Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a system based on personalised, holistic support, one that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether finance, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related. We want to stop the profiteering from these assessments, so we will use public or voluntary sector organisations which are local and accessible to claimants, not those private companies that have manipulated the system for maximum profits.

The Conservatives’ punitive sanctions system must go too, so Job Centre Plus will be reformed and not just assessed on how many people they get off their books. Labour will change the culture of our social security system and how the public see it. Like the NHS, it is based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring our dignity and the basics of life were we to fall on hard times or become incapacitated. It is there for all of us should any one of us become sick or disabled.

WORK AND EMPLOYMENT

“ I declared my mental health condition [when I applied for a job] and even though my experiences and qualifications made me suitable for the position, I didn’t even get an interview. Even though I am similarly or better qualified than others going for the same job.”
Disability Equality Roadshow participant

PLEDGES

  • Labour will halve the disability employment gap by supporting employers retain employees who may have developed a long-term health condition or an impairment. Job Centre Plus will have a new duty to work with local authorities and local employers on recruitment needs and practices. Employees with an impairment or chronic condition will have a new right to flexible working.
  • We will require organisations with over 250 employees to report annually on the number and proportion of disabled people they employ.
  • We will commission a review to explore how we can expand Access to Work support, including for self-employed disabled people.
  • Labour will review specialist employment services and will work with local authorities, unions and the voluntary sector to develop local, alternative employment opportunities for disabled people transitioning into employment or who may need more supportive work environments, such as the social enterprise ‘Enabled Works’ in Morley, Leeds.

The disability employment gap – the gap in employment between non-disabled and disabled people – is currently 31%. In 2015, it was 32%. The Conservatives pledged to halve the disability employment gap in their 2015 General Election manifesto. At the current rate it will take 50 years for this to be achieved. Although four million people with disabilities are working already, there are another three million who are available to and want to work, but are currently unemployed. As the vast majority (90%) of disabled people have worked previously this is a waste of their skills, experience and talent.

There are implications for the economy and society as a whole. Research from the Social Market Foundation has estimated that halving the disability employment gap and supporting one million more disabled people into work would boost the economy by £13 billion a year.

There are many reasons for the disability employment gap including a lack of information and advice for employers. A recent survey showed 15% of disabled people felt they had been discriminated against when applying for a job, and one in five while they were in work. That’s why the next Labour government will work with employers to overcome these issues through stronger laws and proper enforcement of the Equality Act.

The Conservatives’ warm words have not been followed up with any meaningful action. After closing 48 Remploy factories for disabled people in 2013, making 2,000 people redundant in the process, they failed to transfer the money that they had saved from these closures to support disabled people into work. The chaos and inadequacy of the specialist employment support programme, Access to Work, which last year supported just over 37,000 disabled people into and at work, and Job Centre Plus’ Disability Employment service show the Conservatives are not serious about tackling the disability employment gap.

The SNP government in Scotland also promised to reduce the disability employment gap by at least half. However, since they took office they have failed to propose any policies that would help disabled people find meaningful employment and to tackle the disability employment gap.

Labour has already pledged to halve the disability employment gap. Over the next ten years we want to see a cultural shift in attitudes to people with chronic and fluctuating health conditions and disabilities in work and across society as a whole. To raise awareness of disability and work issues, every year we will require organisations with over 250 people to publish the number of disabled people that they employ.

We will support disabled people to stay in work or get back into work by increasing the numbers of disabled people who will be able to receive Access to Work support. We also want to expand Access to Work support to self-employed disabled people. We will ensure specialist disability employment advisers are there to support disabled people as part of our reform of Job Centre Plus.

Labour recognises that for some disabled people it may not be possible to participate in mainstream work; as such more supportive work arrangements need to be developed. We will provide ‘seed corn’ funding for the development of local enterprises such as the co-operative ‘Enabled Works’ in Morley, Leeds. It is over 70 years since legislation was first introduced to prohibit employment related discrimination against disabled people. Labour will lead the charge for a fair deal for disabled people in work and beyond.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

“ Disabled people must be properly supported to access all available education and training opportunities.”
Disability Equality Roadshow participant

PLEDGES

  • Labour will tackle the discrimination against disabled children in accessing education, including in Free Schools and Academies.
  • We will address the disability education gap, which stops disabled children fulfilling their potential, replacing the flawed Education, Health and Care Plan assessment, which has been used to restrict access to support. We will also address issues with skilled support and resourcing, and ensure effective transitioning to adult services.
  • Labour will deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.
  • Labour will make sure that the Modern Apprenticeship programme is open to all, and increase the numbers of disabled trainees included in the programme.
  • • Labour will place a duty on all higher education institutions to ensure that their courses are accessible to disabled students, including through scrapping tuition fees, course support and support for living costs.

The school funding crisis means that disabled pupils with Special Education Needs (SEN) are not only inadequately supported in mainstream schools, but are being excluded from these schools seven times more than non-disabled peers. Often they and their family’s only choice is special residential schools. Labour believes disabled children and their families should be able to attend a mainstream school when they want to.

The Conservative Government has failed to tackle the disability employment gap and has failed to deliver an education policy that enables children with special education needs, physical or learning disabilities (SEND) to reach their potential which would enable them to participate fully in society.

SEND young people are more likely to not be in education, employment or training at 19 years of age. The Conservatives have failed to engage with children and young people and enable them to have more autonomy over their lives and empower them through education and employment. Labour will deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.

Although the 2014 Children and Families Act introduced Education Health and Care Plans (ECHPs) from birth to 25 years providing the potential for a more joined-up needs assessment and care plan, it is clear that the ECHPs are in effect restricting access to support for all but those with the most severe needs. Getting an assessment in the first place requires monumental efforts from parents and teachers alike, and on top of that there are issues with the quality of these assessments.

But help in caring for disabled children has also been hit by the Conservatives. On average, it costs three times as much to raise a disabled child. Families with disabled children face considerable additional expenditure on heating, housing, clothing, equipment and other items compared with other families. And yet the Conservatives’ programme of social security and social care cuts are making it harder for families to cope, let alone thrive so that their children can develop to be the best that they can be. Transitioning to adult services is also still a huge issue, with severe financial pressures facing social care adding to the difficulties of moving from children’s services.

Similarly, young disabled people have found it really hard to get on apprenticeship schemes and with Conservative cuts to disabled students’ allowances (DSA) the onus has been placed on universities or disabled students themselves to ensure that their access needs are supported.

Labour has pledged to tackle the disability education gap and to reform the ECHP process, including improving access to and reliability of assessments, and adequate support to implement the ECHP.

We will make sure that Modern Apprenticeships are open to disabled people, increasing the numbers of disabled apprentices year on year. And we will increase accessibility of higher education to disabled students by placing a duty on all universities and higher education institutions to define in their access scheme how disabled students will be supported, including through tuition fee structures and bursaries for living costs.

ACCESSIBLE ENVIRONMENTS

“ Lack of safe and secure affordable housing is a barrier to disabled people living independently.”
Disability Equality Roadshow participant

PLEDGES

  • Labour will develop environments that enable disabled people to live independently, and not in isolation, reflecting our commitment to Article 19 in the UN CRPD.
  • We will build more accessible and disabled-friendly new homes as part of our affordable housing programme.
  • Labour will stop the expansion of driver-only operation on board trains. Guards are essential for allowing disabled passengers access to trains.
  • Labour will reverse the cut to the funding to the Access to All programme, which was set up to improve accessibility to all of Britain’s railway stations.

Conservative cuts to public transport have disproportionally impacted on disabled people who rely more heavily on it to get around. In particular, cuts to local bus services, especially in rural areas have had a profound impact on disabled bus users, as many disabled people live in a household with no car, and disabled people use buses more frequently than non-disabled people. Fewer than one in five railway stations is fully accessible and train providers have been criticised for the decline in the quality of the services they provide for disabled passengers, including something as basic as toilet facilities.

The Conservatives’ cuts are also impacting on where disabled people are able to live, affecting their ability to live independently. The Bedroom Tax, cuts threatening the viability of supported housing projects for disabled and older people, and the freeze in Local Housing Allowance are all having a big impact on disabled people being able to afford to continue to live in their homes. This is on top of a national housing crisis with the lowest level of house building in peacetime since the 1920s, and a ballooning of insecure and poor quality private rental housing.

Labour has promised to ensure that we will build more accessible and disabled friendly new homes as part of our commitment to build 100,000 new affordable homes a year.

We will also stop the expansion of driver-only operated trains, which has a direct impact on disabled people’s ability to travel. By removing guards, disabled passengers lose the guarantee that they can turn up and travel when they want; instead disabled people will be forced to give 24 hours’ notice that they wish to travel.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE

“Cuts to the NHS are falling hardest onto disabled people.”
Disability Equality Roadshow participant

PLEDGES

• Labour, in partnership with disabled people, will seek to develop a network of local, ‘one-stop-shop’ independent living hubs to be led by disabled people, reflecting our commitment to Article 19 in the UN CRPD.
• Labour will give the NHS the resources it needs by investing an additional £37 billion over the next parliament.
• Labour will ensure the social care system is fully funded by investing £8 billion in the next parliament, and laying the foundations for a National Care Service.
• Labour will increase the status of domiciliary care workers by introducing training and career pathways for carers to progress. And we will exclude people’s homes from the means-test for domiciliary care.
• Labour will increase Carer’s Allowance to £73 a week, an increase of 16%, in recognition of Britain’s dedicated, unpaid carers.

There is strong evidence that the Conservatives’ austerity measures have had detrimental effects on the health and care of disabled people, as well as their ability to live independently. In addition to failing to deliver ‘parity of esteem’ for people with mental health conditions, the number of specialist learning disability nurses has discernibly decreased. Under the Conservatives there has also been a reduction in training commissions for learning disability nurses.

Since 2010, the Conservatives have cut £4.6 billion from social care which means that across the country, people with chronic health conditions, disabled and older people who go into crisis or have an accident are being admitted into hospital when this could have been avoided had they been better cared for in the community. And the lack of social care in the community means that many people end up staying much longer in hospital than they need because they can’t be safely discharged.

In 2015 the SNP government proposed ‘a real alternative to austerity’ in Scotland. Instead, they have slashed more than £1.5 billion from local services like social care. The SNP has had the powers to top-up Carer’s Allowance since September 2016, but they are yet to use it. Carers are still waiting for the promised increase in the allowance. After two manifesto pledges in 2015 and 2016, a six month feasibility study and endless questions, carers in Scotland are no better off.

Labour is committed to the equal right of all disabled people to live in the community, with choices equal to others as expressed in Article 19 of the UN CRPD. We will work with disabled people and local agencies seeking to develop a network of local, independent living hubs – a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all a disabled person’s needs – to enable this. These would be run by disabled people, foster independence, facilitate peer or advocacy support, as well as providing practical support for disabled people. Several examples of good practice were visited or mentioned at different Disability Equality Roadshow events, including Sheffield’s Centre for Independent Living and Equal Lives in Norwich.

Labour wants to improve the status of domiciliary care work, which we believe for far too long has been seen as low-skilled, low-paid work. We will develop training with career pathways and progression for paid carers.

And we will also support Britain’s unsung heroes; our unpaid carers, who provide millions of hours of unpaid support to loved ones, friends or neighbours every week, and are estimated to save the country over £132 billion a year. A Labour government will increase Carer’s Allowance from £62 a week to £73 a week in recognition of the contribution carers make.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

“ The justice system can leave disabled people feeling scared and alone. Some cases of hate crime have been so bad that disabled people have had to move homes in order for the abuse to stop.”
Disability Equality Roadshow participant

PLEDGES

  • Labour will ensure disabled people have the same access to justice as nondisabled people. We will strengthen the Equality Act in order to empower disabled people to confidently challenge all forms of discrimination and prejudice, wherever it occurs.
  • Labour will ensure annual reporting of the levels of disability hate crime and violence against disabled women, putting into place comprehensive national action plans to stop these crimes.

Disabled people’s ability to access justice has been hit by the Conservatives’ cuts to legal aid support, to local government and to local law centres that provide free legal advice to communities.

Cuts to legal aid mean less support to challenge social security decisions, affecting up to 80,000 disabled people. Although welfare rights agencies have tried to fill the void, the Conservatives have plans in the pipeline to abolish face to face tribunal hearings on social security matters.

In addition to the Conservatives’ legal aid cuts, tribunal fees of up to £1200 introduced in 2013 have made it harder for disabled people to challenge discrimination. As a result, disabled people find it very difficult to challenge employers’ potentially discriminatory behaviour.

The Conservatives have also failed to expand the scope of the law to cover crimes committed against people on the basis of disability, even though these hate crimes are now on the rise.

Given the Conservatives’ continued threats to abolish the Human Rights Act, there are concerns that equal recognition under the law for disabled people may be at risk. Similarly, the Conservatives’ proposed Great Repeal Bill has yet to define what EU legislation will be transposed into UK law, including that which promotes and protects the rights of disabled people.

Labour will ensure that disabled people have equal access to justice as nondisabled people. We will strengthen the Equality Act so that it works better for disabled people. A Labour government will reinstate the public sector equality duties and seek to extend them to the private sector, ensuring all citizens benefit from this Labour legislation. A Labour government will enhance the powers and functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, making it truly independent, to ensure it can support people to effectively challenge any discrimination they may face.

We will ensure that under the Istanbul Convention, there is annual reporting of the levels of disability hate crimes and violence against disabled women, and comprehensive national action plans to stop these crimes are put in place, including training for the police.

PARTICIPATING FULLY IN POLITICAL, PUBLIC AND CULTURAL LIFE

“Disabled candidates are deterred from standing as candidates; they receive very little support or guidance. There’s a complete lack of information on how to participate and stand in local, regional and national elections”.
Disability Equality Roadshow participant

Disabled access

PLEDGES

  • As a political party, Labour will adopt accessible selection processes at local, regional and national levels of political office, and ensure reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates in recognition of the additional costs that they face.
  • Labour will undertake a review of sports, arts and leisure venues to determine how access to people with different conditions and impairments can best be improved.

The Conservatives have failed to build on the work Labour undertook in government enabling disabled people to participate in cultural life.

Disabled people are still under-represented in many walks of life, from drama to sport to politics. Similarly the opportunity for disabled people to participate as spectators and enjoy a football match or concert is too often still denied to them.

Despite the commercial success of the Premier League, a recent study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that just seven out of 20 Premier League teams are providing the minimum recommended space for wheelchair users, and just seven of 20 have adequate ‘changing place’ toilet facilities for disabled people.

Labour will address these issues by undertaking a review of access and inclusiveness in sports, arts and leisure venues, considering the needs of people with different disabilities.

We will also promote the use of British Sign Language (BSL) by developing a BSL National Plan for England, reflecting a similar scheme developed in Scotland by Scottish Labour. The next Labour government will also introduce legislation to give legal status to BSL through an Act of Parliament.

Labour will open up democracy to disabled people, many of whom have felt disenfranchised for too long. We will develop an inclusion and access strategy that ensures disabled members are able to participate fully in all local party activities, and that there is a fair and accessible selection process for all candidates for local, regional and national levels of political office.

As a political party Labour will provide training and ensure reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates in recognition of the additional costs that they will face.

 

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Traumatic brain injuries, as the name clearly points out, are caused by a trauma to the brain. This often presents itself in the form of an external force, applied with violence at the level of the brain. Despite being protected by the sturdy cranial cavity, the brain can be easily damaged in such cases, its overall functioning being affected. Depending on the type of trauma, the injury can be closed or it can penetrate the cranial cavity. The symptoms of such traumatic injuries depend on the area of the brain that has been affected; the type of injury will also dictate the chosen course of treatment.

Brain injuries

Symptoms

The symptoms of traumatic brain injuries, as it has already been mentioned above, depend on the actual type of injury and the damaged area of the brain. Many people deal with brain injury and memory loss, especially after violent accidents. However, it is important to understand that the cognitive functioning can be affected as well; one can exhibit a wide range of other symptoms, related to the emotional, social and behavioral functions of the brain. The more severe the injury to the brain was the more diverse and intense the consequent symptoms are going to be.

Right after the actual trauma, one can lose consciousness or experience life-threatening symptoms, such as lethargy, inability to move or speak. One can experience moderate to intense headaches, blurred vision and inadequate coordination. Nausea and vomiting are frequent, as well as loss of balance, dizziness and tinnitus. If the cognitive functioning has been affected, one will have difficulties responding, speaking or concentrating.

The speech can be affected as well, with patients exhibiting slurred speech, aphasia or dysarthria. They may lose their ability to move and coordinate, especially when balance problems are associated (damage to the cerebellum). Patients who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries may exhibit personality changes, not to mention experience confusion, social behavioral problems and constant agitation.

If the intracranial pressure reaches high levels, life-threatening symptoms can appear. The patient can lose consciousness, experience an abnormally low heart rate or enter in a state of respiratory depression. In such situations, emergency intervention is necessary, in order to prevent sudden death.

Causes

The brain is protected by the tough cranial cavity and it does not become easily damaged. However, in case of trauma, things change. A violent force can cause a lot of damage to the brain, especially in case of vehicle accidents. Traumatic brain injuries are also common in those who engage in contact sports or those who have been involved in work-related accidents (constructions in particular).

Regular sports can lead to traumatic brain injuries as well, especially when violent force is involved. Other recreational activities are responsible for such health problems, especially in children. They are more fragile, as their bones are still developing and, thus, more vulnerable to such injuries. Traffic accidents, involving any kind of motor vehicle, are often responsible for traumatic brain injuries, including in the pediatric population.

Physical violence is one of the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries, not only in children but also in adults. Child abuse and domestic violence are two main causes of such injuries, leading to life-threatening complications and even death. Industrial accidents, such as the ones that occur on oil platforms, as a result of explosions or due to chemical products, are responsible for traumatic brain injuries (more commonly in men). Traumatic brain injuries are often encountered in war zones, being often caused by explosive projectiles, gun attacks and open-fire combat.

Treatment

In all traumatic brain injuries, emergency treatment is essential, in order to prevent life-threatening complications and death. Depending on the severity of the injury, the patient might need intubation (respiratory support). Emergency surgical interventions are performed, in order to reduce the intracranial pressure and avoid the excess swelling of the brain. Surgery is also recommended in case of brain hemorrhages, for the prevention of further complications.

Before administering any kind of treatment, the patient will undergo imaging investigations. This will determine what part of the brain has been affected and also guide the further treatment measures. The patient will receive analgesics or sedatives, in order to relieve the pain. Hypertonic saline solutions are administered to reduce the swelling at the level of the brain and also the electrolyte imbalances that might cause heart failure.

Fluids are administered intravenously, in order to maintain the blood pressure at a stable level. Medication, such as benzodiazepines, is administered in order to protect the brain against seizures and further damage. Craniotomy might be performed in case of excessive brain swelling or to reduce the intracranial pressure.

Once the acute phase has passed, the treatment will be concentrated on the rehabilitation of the patient. Physiotherapy is essential in the chronic phase, as it can improve the functional outcome and guarantee the best possible recovery from the trauma. Patients can also benefit from speech and language therapy, especially if they have suffered injuries to the parts of the brain responsible for speech. Other treatments include occupational therapy, psychological counseling and NeuroGum supplement.

It is important to understand that the recovery from a traumatic brain injury can spread over several years. In some cases, the recovery is not possible and the patient has to learn how to live with the remaining functioning potential. The support of family and other caregivers is essential for these patients.

Conclusion

Traumatic brain injuries can lead to permanent disabilities, affecting a person’s overall quality of life. The faster one receives treatment in the acute phase, the better the overall prognosis is going to be. Additional therapies, such as the ones mentioned above, can guarantee a faster and better recovery from the respective injury. The living environment often has to be adapted to the needs of the patient, with occupational therapy playing a very important role in the matter. Moreover, the patient has to benefit from regular counseling, in order to deal with feelings of anger, symptoms of depression and frustration in an effective manner.

AUTHOR BIO

Katleen Brown is a health, beauty and fitness writer. She loves to publish her articles on various health related websites. In her spare time, likes to do research to bring awareness.

Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and outlook, she helps empower women to tune into their innate & inner wisdom to transform their health and truly flourish.

Get in touch with her on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

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While we have certainly come a long way when it comes to reducing the stigma associated with mental and physical disabilities, it is safe to say that there is a lot more work to be done in eradicating it all together. At the time of the last check, there were 6.9 million people with disabilities making up the UK population- that is a significant figure. If we all took the time to gain a better understanding and educate ourselves on the difficulties that people with disabilities face, we should be better able to reduce the stigma they meet on a daily basis.

Educate yourself

One of the most important things anyone can do when it comes to battling disability stigmas is to simply take the time to find out more about mental and physical health problems. Education is the first step to solving problems in every aspect of our lives, so why not find out more about disabilities so that you can separate facts from stereotypes and myths.

Be supportive

Treating people with dignity and respect is so important when it comes to reducing the stigma of disabilities. Consider the way that you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. If you have any co-workers, friends of family members who have mental or physical disabilities, always try to find wants to reach out and help them in whatever way possible, even if it is to help them with charging their mobility scooter batteries.

Check your attitude

It would be impossible to say that we have not witnessed in one way or another some form of judgemental behaviour at some point in our lives. Education should help to ditch any stereotypes and prejudices and work towards you seeing people are individuals rather than the labels that they are often pigeonholed under. Through seeing a person beyond their mental illness you will be able to establish a better understanding of their personality and personal attributes.

Spread positivity

Remaining positive when dealing with people with mental and physical disability is important as it will help to see people are more than their health conditions. Applauding positive contributions made by those who are disabled will help to remove the stigma of disabilities as it will better highlight their positive contributions to society.

Be careful with your words

The way that we speak and the language we use can have a significant impact of reducing the stigmas associated with disability. We tend to use derogatory language without thinking about it and this can not only be hurtful when directed at someone but can also slow progress when it comes to challenging the stereotypes that have been established by other people.

Be inclusive

It is illegal in many countries to discriminate against those who have mental health problems which means that it is illegal to not offer someone a job, healthcare or housing based on their disabilities. This ideology can be carried forward into your everyday life- make sure that you are always being as inclusive as possible when it comes to dealing with all individuals, whether they are different to you or not.

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We only realize the importance of things once they are gone. Same is the case with health. We take our health for granted. Once it gets deteriorated, we regret the decisions made earlier. Adjusting to life with disability can be a difficult task but it is not impossible. The world has witnessed many personalities who have fought their disabilities and left a positive impact on us. No matter how severe your disability is, control is still under you. Overcoming the challenges seems impossible at some point in life, but it is not. Adjusting emotionally and physically will make your life move on.

Emotional Adjustment

If you can control your mind, you can control everything. The first thing to tackle is adjusting yourself emotionally. Learn about your disability and its possible consequences. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How long will the disability last?
  • What are the direct and indirect ramifications?
  • Are there any emotional and physical support organizations for assistance?
  • Will the treatment permanently cure the disability?
  • What adjustments will you have to make with your regular life routine? How will you manage your work or studies? How will the disability affect your mundane activities?

Answering these questions will give you a clear way ahead and prepare you for the challenge. More mentally stable you will become, faster the chances are of recovery and adjustments. There are some things in life that cannot be changed. Embrace the present and focus on the future. Do not let the present depress you. You can take inspiration from speakers like Nick Vujicic who was born without arms and limbs but yet happens to be one of the best motivational speakers in the world. A positive mindset can do miracles. All you have to do is believe in yourself and emphasize more on your strengths. Use your positives to create a favorable future.

Find Support and live your life

Once you are mentally prepared to live an impaired life ahead, seek for support when necessary. Do not be embarrassed to ask for help. Consult therapists if they can give you relevant medications. You can even go for animal companions for constant companionship. Group therapies might be of help. You can use suitable mobility scooters to eliminate the movement restrictions. There are many organizations as well offering complete support to disabled people.

Most important part is to live your life. Live your disability. There are numerous examples of disabled people who have outstood in the society. Stick to the things you like. Killing your hobbies and interests is not the solution. In fact it will make your life worse. Continue doing things you love. Further ruining your health will do nothing but worsen your disability. Remain healthy and fit. Maintain a balance diet, meditate and spend your life in a healthy manner. Do not let disability act as a barrier.

Emotional and physical adjustments will make you feel normal. Once you get used to it in a positive manner, the disability will only look like a word.

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The government promised to help disabled people back into work. They’re failing – and now it looks like their Welfare Reform is targeting those who need higher levels of support.

The Government published its long-awaited ‘Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability’ Green Paper at the end of October 2016 after originally promising a White Paper in 2015. The White Paper was supposed to define how disabled people would be supported into work and meet the Government’s manifesto pledge of halving the disability employment gap of 34% by 2020 (currently it stands at 32%).

The employment gap was used to justify further draconian cuts in social security support for disabled people in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill published last summer. In particular, the Bill announced cuts of approximately £1,500 a year in Employment and Support Allowance to half a million people in the Work-Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) – those people who had been found not fit for work, but who may be in the future – to be introduced in April 2017.

The 2016 Welfare Reform and Work Act followed the 2012 Welfare Reform Act which Scope estimated by 2018 will have cut nearly £28bn of social security support to 3.7m disabled people. Of course this doesn’t include £4.6bn cuts in social services support since 2010 or the NHS crisis, both of which affect disabled people.

The Green Paper, the consultation for which closed on 17th February just 6 weeks before the ESA WRAG cuts come into place, makes the bold claim that ‘…employment can…promote recovery.’

The issue I have with this statement, and the tone of the Green Paper as a whole, is that this implies that disabled people and people with chronic conditions would recover if only they tried a bit harder, or their doctors weren’t such soft touches. It doesn’t mention ‘shirkers’ directly but comments on how some people with the same condition languish in the ESA Support Group whilst others “flourish at work”, making it clear that’s what they’re thinking, ignoring their own rhetoric about “not treating everyone in a one-size-fits-all way”.

As a former Public Health consultant who researched into the health effects of work and worklessness, I agree that some work is good for health, but I don’t agree with the Government’s flawed thinking underpinning this: that it’s OK for people to return to work when they are still not fit, because it may help. This is not just unsound, it’s dangerous.

The scapegoating of disabled people, which includes people with physical or mental impairments and long-term health conditions as defined under the 2010 Equality Act, has been a hallmark of this Government and the previous Coalition. But even the conclusion of the United Nations inquiry that the UK Government has been responsible for ‘grave…systematic violations’ of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2010, has been met with Government stonewalling.

It is already well established that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people as a result of the extra costs associated with their disability. Currently 4.2 million disabled people live in poverty and I have been informed from unpublished analysis by an Economic and Social Research Council research project that this is getting worse.

The Government has refused to stop the cuts to ESA WRAG and Universal Credit’s Limited Capacity to Work which come in this April, which will undoubtedly increase the numbers of disabled people living in poverty, threatening their health and well-being. Various discretionary funds may be available, for example the Flexible Support Fund, but there is no guarantee of support and they are quite specific in what they can be used for.

The timing of these cuts when there has been a negligible reduction in the disability employment gap is quite shocking. The Green Paper rings alarm bells that people in the ESA Support Group are the next to be targeted by Welfare Reform. Linked to this, the new Work Capability Assessment criteria which the Government announced last September (after I committed to scrap the Work Capability Assessment) will be published later this year. These will give a clear indication what the Government’s real agenda is.

The Green Paper also talks about employers and the need for them to invest more in workplace health and occupational health support. This is, of course, very important; 90% of disability and long-term health conditions are acquired, so it is absolutely right to examine what can be done to reduce the risk of employees falling ill and how employers can make reasoned adjustments to support an employee to stay in work if they become disabled. But Access to Work helped only 36,000 disabled people stay in or access work in 2015 out of the 1.4m disabled people who are fit and able to work.

Welfare Reform

To date, the Disability Confident Campaign launched in 2015 has been a dismal failure making a negligible impact on the disability employment gap. Changes in employer attitudes and behaviour needs practical support, including Access to Work. But what is the Government doing to support employers, especially small businesses given that nearly half the workforce is employed by them? How can a small business access affordable, timely occupational health support? With the NHS in crisis and waiting times for non-urgent treatments escalating, how will timely interventions to help people back to work be delivered?

As always with this Government and the previous Coalition, they are happy to point fingers at everyone else without taking any responsibility themselves. They talk about the impact of work on health and the need for ‘culture change’ and to ‘reinforce health as a work outcome’ but what about the impacts of the social security system on the health of claimants? Their policies have a direct impact on people’s health in the punitive, humiliating way they are too often implemented, but also through the real, enduring poverty and hardship people are forced to live under.

Labour will hold this Conservative Government to account on all these areas, developing meaningful, alternative, approaches with disabled people, employees, and employers as part of our Disability Equality Roadshow. If this Government is committed to a fairer society, they should stop trying to rebuild the economy off the backs of poor, sick and disabled people.

Labour believes, like the NHS, our social security system should be there for all of us in our time of need, based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity.

First published by Open Democracy

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In 2013, there were estimated to be over 500,000 physiotherapists working in the EU. That figure is thought to have increased since then, with physiotherapy continually expanding and becoming more advanced for a variety of different health problems.

Many people just assume the role of a physiotherapist is to help with sports injuries and back problems. Whilst this is true, physiotherapists are certainly not limited to just that. In fact, qualified physiotherapists are able to provide treatment for a huge variety of other conditions too, including an array of injury, disease or age-related issues. And, with some physiotherapists being able to prescribe essential medication without having to consult a doctor, it’s clear to see how much of a positive impact physiotherapists can have.

If you or someone you know thinks they may need the help of a physiotherapist and would like to know more, read on to discover what physiotherapy is, what it does, and how it can successfully alleviate painful symptoms and make people feel better on a long-term basis.

What actually is physiotherapy?

In its simplest terms, physiotherapy is the professional practice of providing treatment for physical problems and pain from a range of sources. These can include injuries, disease, and age-related ailments.

A physiotherapist’s main role is to not only alleviate painful symptoms that may have arisen, but to also restore the optimum functioning of the affected area and hopefully give their patient a long-term, lessened effect of their issue. Physiotherapists are not only present in hospitals and can be found in a variety of other places such as healthcare facilities, gyms, schools and even in some workplaces.

Due to the significant amount of different injuries and issues physiotherapists have to face, they often specialize in a number of areas. Physiotherapy is therefore split into three main areas of expertise:

  • Neurological – Treats disorders and pain associated with the nervous system. The most common injuries seen by physiotherapists in this area are brain and spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease and MS (multiple sclerosis).
  • Musculoskeletal – Also known as orthopedic physiotherapy, this area treats the largest variety of conditions. These include arthritis, back pain, sprains, and an array of sports-related injuries.
  • Cardiothoracic – Treats disorders such as emphysema, asthma and bronchitis.

What do physiotherapists do?

In order to successfully complete their main job role, there are a variety of tasks and strategies that physiotherapists can take dependent on their patient’s specific circumstances.

In your initial appointment, the physiotherapist will fully assess your physical condition and make an appropriate diagnosis. A bespoke treatment plan will then be created to ensure you receive the best possible care for your specific injury or condition. In many cases, physiotherapists may have to retrain their patients to walk again with the assistance of walking frames or crutches.

It’s also the job of a physiotherapist to properly educate patients and their families on exactly what their treatment is providing, and how to lead a healthy lifestyle and prevent further injury or discomfort.

To find out even more about the specific roles and responsibilities of a qualified physiotherapist, take a look at Bodyworks Edinburgh for extra information.

physiotherapists

How can they help?

No matter what injury or condition you may be facing, a physiotherapist will always provide a tailored treatment plan that is specific to your circumstances. This is what makes the expertise of physiotherapists stand out against general doctors.

There are many types of therapies a physiotherapist can administer depending on their patient’s individual requirements. Some injuries may simply require an exercise program to strengthen muscles and regain posture, and some may need manual therapy that can include joint manipulation and resistance training.

However, some injuries and disorders may require long-term, consistent therapy to re-configure everyday repetitiveness. For example, back pain can often be caused by repetitive, manual activities in the workplace. So, in order for the pain to be permanently fixed and helped, the physiotherapist must establish which specific activity is responsible and give their patient a safe but effective alternative they can use instead.

Offering much more than just treatment for sports injuries, qualified physiotherapists boast a vast and specialist skill-set that can be applied to a huge array of disorders, injuries and painful ailments. And, since they can often be found in a wide variety of different locations from your local sports centre to your child’s school, getting in touch with a professional and seeking help couldn’t be easier if you’re suffering from any of the conditions discussed above.

Nicki Llewellyn is the founder of Bodyworks Edinburgh, a massage and physiotherapy clinic in Edinburgh, U.K. Founded in 2013, Nicki and his team set out to help clients improve muscular issues, sports performance and any injuries to bring them back to full health.

Image credit

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  1. Introduction

As a nation we have made huge steps tackling issues around inequality and discrimination against disabled people in our society, from passing the historic 1995 Disability Discrimination Act to becoming signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009 and to defining protections afforded to disabled people under the Equality Act 2010. While progress had been made, disabled people still continue to face discrimination and disadvantage.

The Labour Party is the party of equality and that is why we launched the Disability Equality Roadshow (DER) on 11th November 2016 in Manchester with the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The principle behind the DER is that future social security policy needs to be co-produced with its stakeholders including disabled people and their carers, service providers and the public at large.

Our aims are to engage with stakeholders and hear their views and experiences of social security policy, in addition to a wide-range of other policy areas. Disabled People Against Cuts proposed the road show and together with Disability Labour, TUC Disability lead, Disabled People’s Organisations and Charities have been instrumental in setting up the Disability Equality Roadshow.

The Disability Equality Roadshow will involve deaf and disabled people, their carers and service providers at engagement events across every region of the country, and each nation state. In addition we will ensure anyone who may not be able to attend events in person can still engage with the process online via written, audio or video submissions. Live streaming will also be available for some events.

The Disability Equality Roadshow will start from a position that values our social security system, not denigrates it or its users, and, like the NHS, starts from principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity and the basics of life, giving us a hand up, not a hand out, should any one of us become ill, disabled or fall on hard times. It will also be essential to engage with the wider public on what a new social contract will look like.

We are seeking to develop policies that enable disabled people to lead full and rich lives, reflecting a social model of disability, so contributing to our obligations as signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Labour takes these obligations seriously, which is why we will be travelling across the country to hear your views.

The DER will be supported by the Disability Equality Commission, which will pull together the evidence from all the events as well wider evidence. It will also be responsible for drafting a report on this to Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.

Disability Equality Roashow

The report and recommendations will be incorporated into our wider policy development process through our National Policy Forum. In conjunction with the DER, we will also be launching Disability Equality Watch (DEW) – a platform for you to share the impacts of this Government’s so-called welfare reforms. You will be able to send us your evidence of the impacts this Government’s social security policies are having on you and your families.

2. The Disability Equality Roadshow events

Debbie Abrahams and other members of the Shadow Work and Pensions team will attend each DER event. Approximately 30 DER events will take place over the coming year; information on each event will be published on the Labour Party Policy Forum website. Each event will be will be free to all participants and open to deaf and disabled people and their carers. Anybody with access needs should specify their requirements at least two weeks before the event. During the event, there will be a number of round discussion tables where participants will explore their experiences and priorities for change under the following themes:

  • Adequate standard of living and social protection
  • Health and social care
  • Education and training
  • Work and employment
  • Independent living
  • Access to justice
  • Participation in cultural, political and public life

These themes reflect articles from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

3. The questions

For anyone who may not be able to attend the events but would like to submit evidence to the Disability Equality Roadshow, you can do this on the Labour Party Policy Forum website .

The questions we would like your input on are:

Adequate standard of living and social protection:

  1. What have your personal experiences of the social security/protection system been? Points to Consider:
  • What are your experiences with Employment and Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit, Work Capability Assessments, Personal Independence Payment or Disability Living Allowance, the Work Programme/Work Choice, Universal Credit or other support?
  • How was the process of applying and being assessed for social security support?
  • What are your experiences of sanctions?
  1. What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to reshape social security so that it is better suited to your needs?

Health and Social Care:

  1. What have your experiences of health and social care been like? Points to consider:
  • Which health care providers did you see, e.g., GP, nurse, consultant, mental health specialist, occupational health?
  • How quickly did you get specialist care?
  • What was the process like to get specialist care?
  • How would you rate the quality of care you received?
  • What communication did your healthcare providers have with DWP?
  • How did your condition and treatment affect you and your family, including anybody who had to care for you?
  1. What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to ensure the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health of disabled people?

Education and Training

  1. What have your experiences of mainstream/non-mainstream education and training been? Points to consider:
  • How is the reform of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities improving the educational outcomes of disabled children, including Education Health & Care Assessments/Plans?
  • What have your experiences been with post-16 training/experiences such as apprenticeships, further/higher education and vocational courses?
  1. What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to ensure disabled people have access to the same educational and training opportunities as non-disabled people?

Work and Employment:

  1. What have your experiences of work and employment been? Points to consider:
  • How have you found employers and colleagues in relation to your disability?
  • What were your experiences of the NHS or occupational health providers in helping you to stay in employment?
  • What are you experiences of the DWP in providing social security support to help stay in employment?
  • What have your experiences been of asking employers to make reasonable adjustments?
  1. What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to enable sick and disabled people to stay in and/or to return to work?

Independent living:

  1. What have your experiences of living independently been? Points to consider:
  • What are your experiences of housing, housing adaptations and independent living?
  • What are your experiences of transport, particularly public transport and independent living?
  • What are your experiences of social care both formally and informally to help you live independently?
  • What have your experiences been of the social security system and how did they impact on your ability to live independently?

10.What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to ensure disabled people are able to live independently?

Access to justice:

11.What have your experiences of accessing the civil and/or criminal justice system been like?

Points to consider:

  • What are your experiences of dealing with the police for example to report a crime, particularly disability hate crime?
  • Have you ever applied for legal aid, what was the experience like?
  • What are your experiences with discrimination in employment and employment tribunals or Social security tribunals?

12.What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to ensure access to justice for disabled people?

Participation in Cultural, Political and Public Life:

13.What have your experiences of participating in cultural, political and public life been? Points to consider:

  • What are your experiences of engaging in sports and other physical activity?
  • What are your experiences of engaging with the Arts?
  • What are your experiences of political engagement, at a local, regional and national level?

14.What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to help ensure disabled people are able to participate in cultural, political and public life?

4. And finally

Labour’s commitment to people-powered politics means that the Disability Equality Roadshow  process involving Deaf and disabled people, carers and service providers, will feed into our National Policy Forum. We are mindful of our commitments to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and are working across our Shadow Teams to incorporate disability issues into all policy development. Through this consultation we will incorporate your views into evidence based policies for disabled people. Together with your help we can transform our social security system, based on the principles of dignity, independence and support.

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 Magical thinking or evidence-based policy?

“To own the discourse is to win the argument”
The Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability  was published online late afternoon of Monday 31st October.  The DWP had been briefing since the Saturday before, that a major reform was proposed to the Work Capability Assessment and that all the evidence was that work is good for people’s health.
Newspapers and television news highlighted the proposals but no-one actually saw the document until news media had been running the DWP storyline for almost 48 hours  The BBC initially intended to film some interviews at a London disabled people’s organisation on Monday afternoon but cancelled it as by then the story was no longer news.
The consultation on the Green Paper is running until 17th February, long enough for individuals and organisations to get to grips with what is really being proposed.
I’ve focussed in this blogpost on three important contentions made in the Green Paper, on which some of its proposals are based.  I’ve tried to get behind the spin which accompanied its launch to see what exactly is being proposed.
Contention No 1:  There is a causal relationship between work and health, such that if someone moves from unemployment into work their health will improve.
The Green Paper opens with the statement that “The evidence that appropriate work can bring health and wellbeing benefits is widely recognised”. The reference for this is the major review of evidence, published by the DWP in 2006.
On the face of it, this is a fairly uncontentious statement.  The word ‘appropriate’ recognises that not all work has a positive impact and the phrase ‘can bring’ indicates that this is not a claim of a unilinear causal relationship.  Indeed, early on in the Green Paper the complexities of the relationship are acknowledged:
…….whilst work is good for health in most circumstances, the type of work matters. Many factors such as autonomy, an appropriate workload and supportive management are important for promoting health at work.
This reflects the conclusions of the 2006 review.  The Green Paper could also have drawn on more recent longitudinal research from Australia which found that low paid, insecure jobs, characterised by a lack of control, were associated with poorer health than that found amongst those people who remained out of work.
Getting a high quality job after being unemployed improved mental health by an average of 3 points, but getting a poor quality job was more detrimental to mental health than remaining unemployed, showing up as a loss of 5.6 points.
This is an important finding, particularly bearing in mind the conclusion of the DWP’s 2006 literature review that: “After leaving benefits, many claimants go into poorly paid or low quality jobs, and insecure, unstable or unsustained employment. Many go on to further periods of unemployment or sickness, and further spell(s) on the same or other social security benefits”.
Unfortunately, the tone of the rest of the paper and its proposals assume a straightforward unilinear relationship between being in paid employment and good health, as illustrated by what the DWP calls an ‘infographic’ on page 4 of the Green Paper.  This shows two circular relationships, good health and work on the one hand and worklessness and poor health on the other.
The Green Paper would have been more accurate if it had concluded that, while paid employment can increase your standard of living, social interaction and self-esteem, it can also be bad for your health and can create or worsen illness or impairment. Whether work is good for your health will depend on your state of health and the nature of the job. As, according to the DWP’s own evidence, people leaving benefits often go into poor quality jobs, they are less likely than the average person to find that paid employment has a good impact on their health.
Contention Number Two:  Withdrawal or reduction of income (or the threat of withdrawal) will increase entry into employment.
The payment of out of work benefits has always been conditional but since 2010 the conditions have increased and withdrawal or reduction of payment can now last from four weeks to three years.The assumption is that this threat of, or the actual experience of, withholding income will make it more likely that a person will take steps that increase entry into employment.
The recent decision to reduce, by almost £30pw, the money paid to people who have been assessed as being unfit to work but able to take on work related activity (the ESA Work related activity group) is based on the same assumption: the DWP claimed it will “remove the financial incentives that would otherwise discourage claimants from taking steps back to work”.
In an earlier blogpost I examined the evidence that DWP relied on to make this claim.  It’s worth reiterating that there is no evidence of a causal relationship between a reduction in benefit levels and an increase in employment amongst disabled and sick people.
There is, in fact, a more convincing case to be made that reducing or withdrawing income will make people less able to gain employment. An evaluation of the impact of benefit reduction found that the more benefit was removed the less likely they were to move into employment.  A study which carried out four ‘natural’ experiments in the US and in India concluded that poverty undermined people’s ability to think clearly, carry out tasks and to make good decisions (a conclusion which is perhaps obvious to anyone who has experienced the pressures that come with even short-term financial difficulties):
The poor must manage sporadic income, juggle expenses, and make difficult tradeoffs. Even when not actually making a financial decision, these preoccupations can be present and distracting. The human cognitive system has limited capacity. Preoccupations with pressing budgetary concerns leave fewer cognitive resources available to guide choice and action.
The widely disseminated conclusion from this study was that, because people living in poverty expend more of their mental capacity on managing with a low income, government programmes aimed at helping them should not impose what some called a ‘cognitive tax’ – such as complicated forms, frequent monitoring systems, onerous requirements to prove eligibility.  As the Behavioural Insights Team argue:
“The worries involved in making ends meet every day already deplete [cognitive] bandwidth so government services aiming to tackle disadvantage – such as savings schemes, employment advice and parenting programmes – should be required to pass a cognitive load test to ensure these services do not make it harder for people on low incomes to make good decisions for themselves.”
The Behavioural Insights Team is an organisation originally set up by the government (the ‘Nudge Unit’) and still partly owned by them. This study was carried out in partnership with the Cabinet Office.  We would normally expect their conclusions to be treated seriously but that does not appear to be the case in this instance.
Contention Number Three: ‘Employment support’ will reduce the numbers of people on long-term out of work benefits
The Green Paper indicates an intention to reduce the numbers of people in the ESA Support Group. These are people who have been assessed as having limited capability for employment and also limited capability for work-related activity – meaning that they are exempt from complying with requirements to take ‘steps back to work’.  Concern that there are ‘too many’ people claiming this type of benefit dates back to the 1990s when Invalidity Benefit was replaced by Incapacity Benefit.   A series of changes since then in the method and process of assessment have not had the desired effect of reducing numbers qualifying for long term sickness and disability benefit.
The Green Paper proposes yet another change in the assessment regime and an extension of ‘employment support’ to people who have been assessed as not able to either work or to engage in work-related activity.  Instead of one assessment (the Work Capability Assessment) there would be two: the WCA would assess financial entitlement and then everyone on ESA, whether in the Support Group or not, would be subject to a “separate process” which would decide whether “someone should engage with Jobcentre Plus or specialist programmes”.
People would be required to have continuing contact with a ‘Work Coach’ who: could have full discretion to tailor any employment support to each individual claimant. This approach would be truly responsive, allowing the work coach to adjust requirements and goals dependent on changes in a person’s condition or circumstances.
While Damien Green previously announced that those in the Support Group would not have to undergo repeated WCA assessment, this new system could potentially require repeated and continuing ‘discretionary’ assessment by a work coach as to what a person should be required to do.
So let’s look at whether there is any evidence that the ‘support’ to be offered by this new system is likely to increase employment amongst disabled people or people with long-term health conditions.
The first thing to point out is that the assumption underpinning the Green Paper’s proposals is that people who are unfortunate enough to experience ill health and/or disability and unemployment are not capable of – or are not to be trusted to – make decisions in their own best interests.  Instead it is the role of a State employee or contractor to do this.
So the Paper proposes that “trained work coaches could have discretion to make case-by-case decisions about the type of employment support a person is able to engage with” (para 132).
The second thing is that anyone entering this system gives up all right to privacy about personal information held on them by the “NHS, the adult social care system or through other benefit applications, such as from a Personal Independence Payment application” as the assessment for financial support (the current WCA) and the work coach would draw on these sources of information (para 135).
A third point is that the employment support programmes have not in the past been very successful at helping people on long-term out of work sickness/disability benefits to find and retain paid employment.  Only 12.5% of ESA new claimants on the Work Programme get a job outcome within two years. The equivalent figure for people moving onto ESA from Incapacity Benefit is 4.7%.  Work Choice, the specialist programme aimed at disabled people has a higher rate of success but less than 1 in 5 of participants are on ESA with the majority being on Job Seekers Allowance, so the programme has not proved its effectiveness with people on ESA.
As the government has previously announced, the Work Programme and Work Choice are being discontinued and replaced with a new Work and Health Programme.  However, this will only have 20% of the funding previously invested in employment support.
The Green Paper also proposes that the:
“earlier engagement between an individual and a work coach in Universal Credit will also serve as a gateway to a wider, integrated system of support offered by the Department for Work and Pensions and other agencies, such as the NHS and local authorities”. (Para 84)
This “wider, integrated system of support’ is called Universal Support and is intended to “assist people with their financial and digital capacity throughout the life of their claim”.
“Through Universal Support we are transforming the way Job centres work as part of their local communities to ensure they more effectively tackle the complex needs some people have and support them into sustainable employment”. (Para 85)
Unfortunately, this transformation is not borne out by the DWP’s own evaluation of Universal Support in the trial areas.  The evaluation, published in July this year, concluded:
“the results suggest that participation in USdl had no statistically significant impact on either digital or financial capability…..Overall, the estimated annualised cost of the eleven trials was just over £4 million. Staff costs made up £2.7 million of the total.”
So £4 million was spent with no resulting improvement in claimants’ ability to engage with the UC system or with managing their finances. (Incidentally, the Green Paper also holds up the Troubled Families programme as ‘another example of an integrated approach’.  It’s surprising that they infer that this programme makes any difference as the evaluation published recently “was unable to find consistent evidence that the programme had any significant or systematic impact”)
It is unlikely therefore that there will be sufficient assistance available through the specialist employment support programme.  And Universal Support is unlikely to be of much assistance in terms of helping people to navigate the complexities of the system. So what will be offered to people in the Support Group as part of the ‘claimant commitment’?  The Green Paper does not spell this out explicitly but it would seem that the intention is that Work and Health coaches will decide what kind of health-related intervention someone needs.
How long before part of the ‘claimant commitment’ includes a requirement to participate in a ‘health intervention’ of some kind and sanctions are attached to non-compliance?
It isn’t really employment support that is on offer – rather we are on the road to a situation where people who are too ill or disabled to work are required to subject themselves to health interventions that an employee (or contractor) of the DWP decides is good for them.
In summary….
It’s important that responses to the Green Paper home in on what is actually being proposed, rather than merely respond to the questions posed by the DWP.  The proposed changes are merely the latest in a long line of attempts to reduce the numbers of people qualifying for long-term out of work sickness/disability benefits.  If the assumptions on which the proposals are based are not backed up by evidence then they will be unlikely to have any more impact on reducing the disability employment gap than their predecessors.
And finally…..
Magical thinking refers to the false attribution of causal relationships. In the context of psychology it refers specifically to the belief that one’s thoughts by themselves can bring something about – or that thinking something is the same as doing it.
Not only does this Green Paper ascribe a fallacious unilinear causal relationship between work and health, but it replicates a common feature of government policy – the assumption that saying something will happen makes it happen.
This is the fourth time in my engagement with social policy that a government has complained about the number of people ‘languishing’ on long term out of work benefits.  The fourth time that proposals are made which will supposedly reduce these numbers.  Any bets on how soon we will see a fifth?
First published on Jenny’s blog
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