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17th March 2022

In this week’s edition:

  • City council refers thousands of care charge cases a year to debt collection agencies
  • Work coaches confirm harsher new DWP jobcentre tactics
  • Disabled peers help defeat ‘manipulative’ bid to ‘open the door to assisted suicide’
  • Grenfell: Government repeatedly failed to seek disabled people’s views on evacuation
  • Regulator examines DWP’s ‘shameful’ failure on universal credit WCA stats
  • Hostile assessment system needs fundamental overhaul, MPs are told
  • Disabled women ‘must be involved’ in designing solutions to ‘triple whammy’ of barriers
  • Other disability-related stories covered by mainstream media this week


City council refers thousands of care charge cases a year to debt collection agencies

A local authority is referring disabled people to debt collection agencies more than 3,000 times a year for failing to pay adult social care charges, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) passed on more than 3,500 individual invoices to debt collectors in 2020-21, during the first year of the pandemic, and it is on course to reach that milestone again this year.

The figures add further weight to calls by disabled campaigners for an end to all care charges, and they come amid a growing cost-of-living crisis.

In 2018-19, the Labour-run council made 1,933 referrals to debt collection agencies for failure to pay non-residential social care charges, out of 5,608 people who were being charged for care and support in non-residential settings.

In 2019-20, the last year before the pandemic, this rose to 4,499 referrals, even though there were only 5,423 people paying care charges to the council that year, before falling to 3,505 referrals in 2020-21, against 5,221 people being charged for their care at home.

So far this year (up to 17 February), the council has made 3,271 referrals to debt collection agencies.

It is not year clear how many individuals are being referred every year, as the council said the figures relate to the number of individual invoices sent to the debt collection agencies it commissions.

The council failed to say by noon today (Thursday) whether it was concerned by the figures, if they showed the need for an end to care charging, and what measures it would take to address the thousands of referrals it is sending out every year.

But a council spokesperson said in a statement: “Our commissioned debt collection agencies (DCA) are an extension of Birmingham City Council’s debt collection service.

“Our aim is to contact all clients in debt in an attempt to recover funds owed to the city.

“A light touch approach is used which does not affect the client’s credit history, nor does it involve the bailiffs attending the client’s premises or the removal of goods.

“Where the DCA are unable to contact the client, the debts are returned to BCC.”

Until her victory in the Erdington by-election earlier this month, Labour’s newest MP, Paulette Hamilton, had been the council’s long-serving cabinet member for adult social care.

Cheshire Disabled People Against Cuts (CDPAC), which secured the figures from BCC, called on council leaders and MPs “to act now on the growing scandal of rising care charge debt levels”.

A CDPAC spokesperson said: “Councils are referring disabled people with care needs – on very low incomes, typically their benefit entitlement – to debt collection agencies, when they are struggling to pay the local authority’s bills for their home care needs.”

She said these bills were rising and that many of those affected were disabled people who needed support with dressing, eating, and personal care.

And she said that Hamilton appeared to have witnessed the referral of thousands of people to debt collection agencies for social care charging arrears.

She said: “Paulette was represented to the Erdington electorate during the recent parliamentary by-election as a community champion.

“We suggest she, and all cabinet members for adult social care in England, could better champion disabled people’s rights by working in equal partnership with disabled people’s organisations to implement measures that will help mitigate the cost of living and social care crises.”

This could include the “coproduction of fully accessible information on disability-related expenses, an end to debt collection agency referrals, and the cancellation of care charge debts”, she said.

Jon Abrams, campaigns and justice coordinator for Inclusion London, which is pushing for significant changes to the government’s health and care bill through its #MakeCareFair campaign, said: “We are deeply concerned by the significant number of disabled people caught up in the council’s debt collection process.

“Evidence suggests that the tactics pursued by councils – up and down the country – are pushing people over the edge and exacerbating mental distress.

“Taxing disabled people to make up for central government shortfalls is also unnecessary, as illustrated by Hammersmith and Fulham, who have scrapped care charges.

“Disabled people have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, and in light of the surging cost of living, many are facing a stark choice of heating the home or putting food on the table.

“Therefore, we urge Birmingham council to reappraise its care charging and debt collection policies and find alternative ways to balance the books.”

The Labour party failed to comment on the figures this week.

Last month, Labour also failed to comment on figures which showed thousands of individuals had had debt management procedures – although not necessarily referrals to debt collection agencies – taken against them in 2020-21 for unpaid care charges for non-residential care, across just six local authorities in the north-west of England.

17 March 2022



Work coaches confirm harsher new DWP jobcentre tactics

New disturbing evidence has emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced harsher rules designed to force more disabled people with significant mental distress to attend frequent face-to-face jobcentre meetings.

Last week, a work coach told Disability News Service (DNS) that she and her colleagues were being “bullied and harassed” into forcing claimants with significant mental distress into attending work-related meetings.

Many have been waiting months for a work capability assessment (WCA) but in the meantime are being forced to make regular trips to the jobcentre so work coaches can meet their targets for face-to-face appointments.

After the story was published last Thursday, DNS received an anonymous phone message – apparently from another work coach – who said the harsher new approach “was definitely happening”, although DNS has been unable to confirm that they work for DWP.

The Benefits and Work website has also reported hearing from someone who claimed to be a former DWP employee and who said that work coaches were being “named and shamed” by their bosses for not pushing enough claimants out of the support group* of employment and support allowance (ESA) and onto universal credit.

They also claimed work coaches were being bullied into sanctioning claimants.

Two DNS contacts have this week described hearing from people claiming to work for DWP who have spoken of a harsher new approach and a push to force as many claimants as possible to attend one-to-one meetings in jobcentres, although again DNS has been unable to verify these claims.

And two more work coaches – although once again DNS has been unable to verify their claims – spoke of their concerns on the news and discussion website Reddit this week.

One said they had recently resigned after 14 years with DWP, and that the claims made in last week’s DNS story were “all true and then some”, with senior managers only caring about the number of face-to-face appointments that are booked.

He said there was an “endemic culture within DWP of bullying and harassing claimants… perhaps 10-15 per cent of staff who want to help people, the rest are awful people who delight in causing misery and sharing their stories in the tea room”.

The other work coach said their job had “simply turned into a daily rush to book as many appointments in face to face for people that just don’t need them”.

This week, the founder of a national benefits advice service confirmed to DNS that her organisation was hearing from an increasing number of disabled people who experience significant mental distress and are being treated with “contempt” by DWP.

Michelle Cardno, a welfare rights lawyer and founder of Fightback4Justice, which provides advice and support for claimants of ESA, personal independence payment (PIP), universal credit and disability living allowance, said DWP’s actions were “cruel”, “disabling” and “intolerant”.

Not only has DWP’s attitude worsened since the middle of the pandemic – when it eased off on conditionality and sanctions – but Cardno said it was now worse than before the COVID-19 crisis began in early 2020.

She compared DWP’s attitude with the worst days of the department under Iain Duncan Smith and the post-2010 coalition government.

She said: “It feels like things have changed and their contempt for people with disabilities seems to have changed.”

Only this week, a distraught woman with severe anxiety and agoraphobia rang Fightback to say that she was being told to come into the jobcentre every day for two weeks to “discuss her anxiety and get her out of the house”.

She is facing a benefit sanction if she fails to turn up.

Another claimant with severe anxiety has been told he has to attend a group CBT** therapy session in a room with up to 10 people.

A third claimant, with epilepsy, experiences stress-induced seizures every time he leaves his house, but he is still being told to attend the jobcentre for face-to-face meetings.

His dispute with DWP has caused the number of seizures he experiences to increase.

Cardno said DWP was ignoring its duty to provide reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act.

But she said DWP was also ignoring its own “substantial risk” rules, which make it clear that a claimant should be treated as having limited capability for work and work-related activity if there would otherwise be a “substantial risk” to the health of themselves or any other person.

Cardno said all of those they were supporting would eventually be found not fit for work when they had their WCA.

But in the meantime, she said, DWP was “ticking boxes to try and get as many people in as possible”.

She said: “There seems to be no real purpose behind it other than making them do something and tick a box.”

A DWP spokesperson declined to confirm its new policy, or to say whether it had assessed the risk of harm to the disabled claimants it was apparently subjecting to the new measures.

She said the department would not add to last week’s statement, when a spokesperson had said: “Not all claimants need to come into the jobcentre and work coaches take a flexible approach for those with long-term health conditions to best meet the individual’s need.

“This includes considering their circumstances when agreeing achievable work-related activity and whether appointments should be carried out in person or via phone or their online journal.”

*Those with the highest support needs, who are not expected to carry out any work-related activity

**Cognitive behavioural therapy

17 March 2022



Disabled peers help defeat ‘manipulative’ bid to ‘open the door to assisted suicide’

Four disabled peers have helped defeat attempts to hijack the government’s health and care bill and use it to secure a change in the law to legalise assisted suicide.

The Conservative peer Lord Forsyth, a former secretary of state for Scotland, had proposed an amendment to the bill that would have forced the health and social care secretary to publish a draft bill that would “permit terminally ill, mentally competent adults legally to end their own lives with medical assistance”.

But his amendment was defeated last night (Wednesday) by 179 to 145 votes, after speeches opposing it by four disabled peers, the crossbenchers Baroness [Jane] Campbell, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson and Baroness [Susan] Masham, and the Conservative Lord [Kevin] Shinkwin.

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness [Sal] Brinton, spoke in favour of the amendment.

A separate attempt at legalisation, through Baroness Meacher’s private members’ bill, is still alive but is thought certain to fail because of a lack of time for its next stage in the Lords.

Baroness Campbell, who made a rare appearance in person in the Lords to speak against the amendment, following months of contributing virtually as she shielded from the pandemic, told fellow peers that opening the door to legalisation “would be a monumental change in the criminal law with potentially lethal consequences”.

She said that using the health and care bill to “force the government’s hand” was “a blatant manipulation of the parliamentary process” and set “a dangerous precedent and should be resisted”.

She said: “This is the wrong bill, the wrong time and the wrong way in which to debate one of the most fundamental issues that we face as a society.”

Baroness Grey-Thompson said hundreds of people – from both sides of the argument – had written to her about the amendment, which would – if passed – “fundamentally change the political and societal landscape for disabled people”.

She said: “If people have not read it, they should look at the article by… Lord Shinkwin this weekend about how disabled people are encouraged to think that they would be better off dead than live with an impairment.

“Even in this chamber, we hear about things such as incapacity and incontinence and all the things that people fear.

“I push back on that, and I push back on the view that public opinion is overwhelmingly in support of this.”

She added: “For all those arguing in favour of this tonight, I really look forward to them supporting my private members’ bills asking for things such as good education, work, social care and access to trains, which are the things for which disabled people are arguing.

“This is not it: this is not the right time and not the right place.”

Baroness Masham said that many disabled and older people were frightened by the prospect of legalised assisted suicide.

She said: “Many vulnerable people feel that, if the assisted dying law is changed, they could be pressured into assisted dying because they feel that they are a nuisance and because they need looking after.

“Whatever… Lord Forsyth says, this bill should be about care, not killing. There should be compassion and palliative care for all those people who need it.”

Baroness Brinton, who spoke in favour of Lord Forsyth’s amendment, said it would not actually change the law on assisted suicide.

Instead, she said, it would “ensure that some proper parliamentary time is made available, as in Scotland, within 12 months of the bill passing into law, to ensure that there can be a planned and proper debate with the wider public and with MPs and peers that is just not possible in the private members’ bill process that we have in our parliament”.

But Lord Shinkwin told fellow peers: “If this amendment were passed tonight, I firmly believe that in years to come, we would look back and say that today – 16 March 2022 – was a pivotal moment.”

He described how he had been rushed to hospital seven weeks ago for an urgent blood transfusion, and had experienced “unbelievable pain”, helplessness and an “acute sense of vulnerability”.

He said: “If the amendment were passed, would I have felt any safer? Would I have felt any less vulnerable as I lay in agony only seven weeks ago?

“The answer is unquestionably no.

“In the culture to which this amendment would inexorably give rise, with its nuanced assumption that my impaired quality of life somehow made my life less worth living, would I still be here? I do not know.”

17 March 2022



Grenfell: Government repeatedly failed to seek disabled people’s views on evacuation

The government repeatedly failed to seek the views of disabled people and their organisations about how residents with physical impairments could evacuate tower blocks in an emergency, six years before the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Louise Upton, who was head of fire safety policy at the time for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), admitted to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry this week that she and colleagues ignored repeated opportunities to consult disability groups on how to ensure disabled residents would be able to evacuate their homes safely.

She was being questioned about the process of producing a fire safety guide* for the Local Government Association**.

When the guidance was published in 2011, it stated that it was “usually unrealistic” to expect landlords to put arrangements in place for disabled people to evacuate mainstream blocks of flats in an emergency.

Six years later, with the guidance still in place, 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire, including two-fifths of its disabled residents.

Upton, who was on the guide’s project group and reference group, along with representatives of other organisations, said there were no disabled people on either group.

And she said DCLG made no attempt to seek the views of organisations of disabled people about the guide’s conclusion that it was “usually unrealistic” to expect landlords to put arrangements in place to allow disabled people to evacuate a tower block.

When Andrew Kinnier QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked Upton if anyone from DCLG had sought the views of a disability specialist or an organisation representing disabled people, she said: “Not as far as I’m aware in the department.”

He also asked her about a report – discussed by the project group – which concluded that some disabled people could not escape unaided from blocks of flats and that the problem was “well recognized” but that “no solutions have been suggested”.

When Kinnier again asked her if this prompted the project group to consider seeking advice from a disability specialist or someone representing disabled people, she said: “Not as far as I’m aware.”

When he asked if the project group sought to commission research or further consultation on the unresolved issue of how disabled residents were expected to evacuate their tower block homes in an emergency, she said again: “Not as far as I’m aware.”

Upton was also asked about concerns raised by the Chief Fire Officers Association, which had said that to “ignore and eliminate advice on disabled access and evacuation” was a “fundamental error” of the guidance.

When she was asked if she or other members of the project group had acted on these concerns, she said: “No.”

She was also asked about a letter (PDF) written by fire safety consultant Elspeth Grant, who had warned in August 2011 that the guidance was unlawful and discriminated against disabled people, and who called for it to be withdrawn and amended before it led “to an unnecessary tragedy because plans were not in force”.

Again, Upton said she believed that no-one had suggested that specialist advice should be sought on the issues raised by Grant, although she was later shown an email which showed that she had asked the project manager – from the Local Government Association – for the views of its lawyers, particularly any specialists in disability discrimination.

But she said she could not remember any response to this email.

Upton was also asked about an exercise to evaluate the guidance in 2012, which led to questions about its failure to address the concerns around evacuating disabled people.

When asked whether DCLG had taken action to address these concerns, Upton became tearful and told the inquiry: “We recognised the concerns but the risk was less in general needs housing because obviously we never anticipated a Grenfell…”

She then said that the government “couldn’t produce guidance which would impose regulatory burdens particularly easily”.

At the end of her evidence, she was asked if she would have done anything differently or better in her time in the fire safety policy department.

Again becoming tearful, she said: “I think we could have had more resource.

“I think we genuinely didn’t understand the risk, and my team got smaller and smaller, and the emphasis was really on restructuring workforce relationships and governance of fire and rescue authorities and a kind of reform agenda which was obviously based on austerity and cutting regulation wherever.”

She added: “There wasn’t always a sense of proportionality around the regulations that could go, it was a very business-led agenda… obviously you could easily lose sight of a lot of very important issues.”

*Disabled campaigners launched legal action last month over the government’s decision to award a crucial fire safety contract to the consultancy that drafted and edited the guide

**At the time, LGA was known as the Local Government Group

17 March 2022



Regulator examines DWP’s ‘shameful’ failure on universal credit WCA stats

The UK statistics regulator is examining the “shameful” failure of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to provide figures that would show how disabled people seeking to claim universal credit are experiencing the work capability assessment (WCA) process.

Despite ministers launching universal credit in 2013, it has yet to provide any statistics to show how many claimants have been put through the WCA, how long they have had to wait for a WCA, and what level of benefit they received following their assessment.

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is now examining concerns raised by Disability News Service (DNS) to see if it can take any action.

Even though the WCA system has been closely linked to countless deaths of disabled people over the last decade, DWP produces only statistics relating to employment and support allowance (ESA) and the WCA.

Most disabled people are now receiving universal credit rather than ESA, which is slowly being phased out.

Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people at the time, promised three years ago that DWP would soon be publishing official WCA universal credit statistics.

But those figures were never published.

And when, Chloe Smith, the new minister for disabled people, was asked a related question last December, she claimed that it would be too expensive, even though the same figures are published for ESA claimants.

DNS has now approached OSR to ask it to investigate DWP’s failure to provide the figures.

An OSR spokesperson said the regulator was “taking a look at the issues outlined” by DNS.

Stephen Timms, a Labour MP and chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “The DWP’s refusal to honour its commitment to publish these figures is just the latest example of its current unwillingness to be open with the public.

“The department needs to realise the harm this is doing to its reputation with disabled people.

“The first step in rebuilding trust will have to be adoption of a new openness.

“The OSR’s decision to look into the matter should now act as an urgent wake up call to the DWP to be far more transparent.”

Freedom of information campaigner John Slater said: “The DWP talks about being committed to transparency for universal credit (UC).

“However, in reality that means only publishing information that it believes reflects UC in a positive light.

“Information that doesn’t suit this narrative is either blocked from publication or delayed for years before being released.”

He pointed to the 1998 white paper Your Right To Know (PDF), which led to the Freedom of Information Act, and which opens with this paragraph: “Unnecessary secrecy in government leads to arrogance in governance and defective decision making. The perception of excessive secrecy has become a corrosive influence in the decline of public confidence in government. Moreover, the climate of public opinion has changed: people expect much greater openness and accountability from government than they used to.”

Slater said: “Refusing to produce and publish statistics that are likely to reveal the number of disabled people being unfairly found fit for work, whilst claiming that all is well within UC, is a perfect example of excessive secrecy, arrogance and defective decision making.”

Ken Butler, welfare rights and policy adviser for Disability Rights UK, said: “It is shameful that the DWP is unwilling to spend the money to compile figures to identify delays and award levels relating to universal credit work capability assessments.

“Given UC is IT-based, why has this capability not been built into its system?

“How can the DWP manage, assess, improve and rectify failures in its service without compiling the information it needs to do so?”

Butler said that disabled claimants are now waiting several months or longer for an assessment.

While they wait, they are at risk of sanctions from unreasonable work-related commitments and “needlessly placed at risk of harm or worse”, he said.

He added: “This state of affairs has filtered down from the secretary of state for work and pensions, who maintains that the DWP has no statutory duty of care to the people it serves.

“The interest of the OSR in this issue is very welcome as is the hope it can take speedy action to ensure that universal credit WCA statistics are published.”

A DWP spokesperson declined to respond to Timms’s comments or OSR’s decision to look at the concerns raised by DNS.

But she said: “We support millions of people every year and our priority is they get the benefits to which they are entitled as soon as possible, and to ensure they receive a supportive and compassionate service.”

17 March 2022



Hostile assessment system needs fundamental overhaul, MPs are told

Disabled leaders have told MPs that there needs to be a fundamental overhaul of the “hostile”, “harmful” and “traumatic” system that assesses disabled people for their eligibility for benefits.

Members of the Commons work and pensions committee heard that the work capability assessment (WCA) and the assessment process for personal independence payment (PIP) fail to capture the barriers that disabled people face or their disability-related needs.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, told the committee that disabled people experience assessments as “a hostile, tick-box exercise that just crudely labels people” and causes harm to claimants.

She was giving evidence to the committee yesterday (Wednesday) as part of its inquiry into the assessment processes for disability-related benefits.

Lazard said: “We definitely believe a fundamental overhaul is needed.

“Neither PIP or WCA actually accurately understand or capture the needs and the barriers that disabled people experience.”

She said the current process was “based on very medicalised descriptors”, and what was needed instead was a process “that understands the barriers that disabled people experience, the systematic barriers that discriminate and exclude us”.

Lazard said that disabled people’s organisations have reported that the medical evidence disabled people provide to DWP is ignored and their own evidence is not believed.

And she said that access to independent advice and advocacy at every stage of the assessment process was “absolutely vital”, but provision of those services was currently “really inadequate”.

She was also critical of the culture within DWP, where there was a lack of transparency about the reasonable adjustments the department was willing to make to ensure the assessment process was accessible to claimants.

She said: “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that the DWP meets its duties under the Equality Act.”

Lazard said the current system was a “huge waste of money”, and she added: “We need to be open and transparent about the fact that we are not getting this right and we need to work with disabled people to get it right.”

Jane Hunt, chair of The Association of Disabled Professionals, said the healthcare professionals who carry out the assessments often fail to reflect what the disabled person has told them.

And she said that DWP needed to improve the accessibility of the assessment process, including allowing applications to be submitted online, although she warned that attention would need to be paid to the many disabled people who were digitally excluded.

She also warned that disabled people’s living costs were rising at a faster rate than benefits.

She told the committee: “I definitely think the WCA needs to be updated to reflect the modern era.”

She said: “I think all assessments should be recorded because some people have said that when they get the assessment report it’s totally different to [what they said] in the interview, and some parts of the report have been copied and pasted from another report.”

She said that recording all assessments* would be a “crucial” part of addressing this issue.

Catherine Hale, director of Chronic Illness Inclusion (CII), said people with energy-limiting conditions faced particular problems with how they were judged during face-to-face assessments.

Attending an assessment can often use up a claimant’s entire reserve of energy for a week “because of the physical effort of getting there, but also the mental effort of communicating”, she said.

She said the claimant’s behaviour or appearance during the assessment provided a “false impression of [their] capability because the assessor isn’t seeing the impact of the assessment and how incapacitated people are afterwards”.

Last December, CII published the results of a major survey of people with energy-limiting conditions, which revealed the “invalidation and disbelief” they faced from social security professionals and others.

Hale told the committee this week: “Virtually everyone we’ve spoken to through research has experienced a deterioration or a relapse in their health condition, in their physical health condition, as a result of the stress of the entire process, the worry and the fear leading up to it, the assessment itself and very often the appeals process they have to go through to get the benefits they need to live on.”

She spoke of the “trauma” caused in the assessment process by “being disbelieved and of your testimony being twisted and framed to imply that you’re lying”.

This was often happening at a time of “acute financial insecurity” in people’s lives, she said.

Hale said that the “constant financial insecurity, knowing that you’re going to be reassessed constantly – and it all depends on whether your assessor tells the truth or not, as to whether maybe you’ll be able to keep your home – all these factors combine to create huge, huge amounts of stress and anxiety.”

She added: “We invariably see people’s health deteriorating and actually they are moving further away from the labour market than they might have been otherwise if the process had been supportive rather than hostile.”

*Some assessments are already recorded

17 March 2022



Disabled women ‘must be involved’ in designing solutions to ‘triple whammy’ of barriers

Disabled women must be involved in designing solutions to the “triple whammy” of barriers they have faced during the pandemic, according to a new report by a Scottish disabled people’s organisation.

Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) said disabled women had faced “particular inequalities” caused by being disabled, being women, and having to deal with COVID-19.

Among the issues they faced during the pandemic were in accessing healthcare and social care, and coping with poverty, barriers to employment, social isolation, and attacks on their human rights.

GDA’s new report, Triple Whammy: Disabled Women’s Lived Experiences of Covid-19, says disabled women are “frequently voiceless and invisible”.

GDA ran 16 events between February 2020 and February 2022 to try to capture their lived experiences, voices and priorities.

The report was shaped by those who attended these events, surveys of more than 2,500 disabled people, and by thousands of other disabled women GDA spoke to and supported during the pandemic.

Some disabled women described how they had been left in pain when routine medical interventions were suspended, while others faced unequal access to COVID-19 treatments and were pressured to sign “do not resuscitate” notices.

Many disabled women saw their social care packages cut or completely withdrawn, and now fear that they will not be reinstated.

Many of those GDA spoke to said they feared they would be left more in debt at the end of the pandemic, and that they would struggle to survive financially.

The report says the pandemic’s impact on poverty, education and employment had hit disabled women the hardest and had “supercharged” pre-pandemic inequalities on access to work and to qualifications.

And it found that many disabled women had experienced digital exclusion and a lack of accessible information which left them lacking the knowledge they needed to stay safe and access support, and experiencing increasing social isolation and loneliness.

They also experienced attacks on their human rights, with many feeling “dispensable” when compared with non-disabled people, “as if they were an accepted, inevitable casualty of Covid-19”.

They also felt that measures taken during lockdown, such as travel restrictions and increased street furniture, failed to take account of their needs, and made it more difficult to access public spaces.

The GDA report says that those in power, and those designing and planning policies and services, must “develop better understanding and analysis of the interrelated barriers which disabled women experience”.

And it says that disabled women and those in power “must work together” to co-design policies, services and actions.

Tressa Burke, GDA’s chief executive, who wrote the report, said: “GDA’s report demonstrates that, during the pandemic, disabled women have faced myriad difficulties – a ‘triple whammy’ of barriers which exacerbate existing inequalities and create new threats.

“To build back better, we must recognise the long history of exclusion and discrimination which has blighted the lives of disabled women and made them more vulnerable and at higher risk – not only directly in relation to health outcomes of the virus, but also in terms of the areas we uncovered such as access to services, increased poverty, social isolation and human rights regressions.

“Overwhelmingly disabled women are ready and willing to be actively involved in co-designing solutions, including shaping post-pandemic priorities, policies and actions.

“It is vital that those planning responses understand correctly the interrelated nature of barriers and that policy solutions are coherent and responsive to this.

“Action now will prevent widening inequalities for disabled women and will improve lives, opportunities and positive outcomes for disabled women and their families.”

17 March 2022



Other disability-related stories covered by mainstream media this week

Some care homes have “no choice” but to allow workers who have Covid to deliver care, a public health official in Somerset has said. According to Public Health England, cases are rising the fastest in Somerset. As a result, care homes in the county are struggling to safely staff their services and schools are seeing a rise in staff sickness. Somerset Council said ensuring vulnerable residents received care was “lower risk” than them being infected: Read The BBC article on care home staff

Disabled people will face “impossible choices in order to survive” amid a perfect storm of soaring energy prices, increasing fuel and food costs and cuts to government support, charities have warned: Read The Guardian article on the cost of living crisis impact on Disabled people

An NHS trust has ended the use of a monitoring system that continuously records video of mental health patients in their bedrooms, amid concerns it allows trauma to resurface in sexually abused women. Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust discontinued use of the Oxevision system after female patients and staff warned that it undermined the care of victims of sexual abuse and assault: Read The Guardian article on Oxevision 

Tributes have been paid to a prominent disabled campaigner who has died. Simon Green, from Bridgend, raised thousands for charity and campaigned for disability rights: Read The BBC article on Simon Green (see also Disability Wales article)

Three family members who stole almost £150,000 from a relative with learning difficulties to fund lavish holidays have been jailed: Read The BBC article on the case 

17 March 2022


News provided by John Pring at