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4th August 2022

 In this week’s edition:

  • Government’s long-awaited accessible housing plan ‘does not go far enough’
  • Government’s advisers say ministers’ plans will not deliver an accessible railway
  • Thousands of disabled customers waiting months for cars, Motability admits
  • Commission ‘will hold government to account over pandemic failures’
  • Grenfell: Court challenge for Home Office over rejection of evacuation policy
  • More than half of care homes inspected are failing, says regulator
  • Other disability-related stories covered by mainstream media this week

 

Government’s long-awaited accessible housing plan ‘does not go far enough’

A long-awaited government promise to introduce stricter minimum accessibility standards on new homes does not go far enough, say disabled campaigners.

Ministers have now pledged to introduce new rules that will force all new homes in England to be built to the M4(2)* standard of accessibility, except for cases where this is “impractical and unachievable”.

This will mean that all new homes will need step-free access to all entrance-level rooms, as well as facilities and other features that will make the homes more easily adaptable over time.

But the government has opted not to introduce rules that would ensure a minimum proportion of new homes are built to fully wheelchair-accessible standards, known as M4(3).

Instead, the decision on what proportion of new homes have to be wheelchair-accessible will continue to be left to local authorities in their local plans.

The announcement came through the government’s much-delayed response to its consultation on raising accessibility standards for new homes, which ended in December 2020.

There will now be further delays while the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) consults on the detail of the regulatory changes, and then submits guidance and regulations to parliament for approval.

A DLUHC spokesperson said the consultation would be launched “in due course”.

Of the 413 responses to the consultation, nearly one sixth came from the building and property industry.

But 98 per cent of those who responded to the question still backed the idea of raising the accessibility standards of new homes.

And 31 per cent backed the government’s chosen option, although even more (37 per cent) supported the idea of imposing M4(2) but also setting a minimum proportion of M4(3) homes.

Only six per cent supported the “do nothing” option, which would have seen ministers wait to see the impact of recent government changes to optional technical standards before taking any further action.

Accessible housing experts Habinteg Housing Association warned last year that an estimated 400,000 wheelchair-users were living in inaccessible housing.

Disabled campaigner Fleur Perry, who wrote three years ago to the then housing secretary Robert Jenrick to warn him that his failure to act on accessible housing could be unlawful, said she believed the government’s response had “not gone far enough to make sure there’s enough accessible housing for everyone who needs it”.

She said: “Planning for the right amount of accessible housing is critical to make sure that disabled people can live in a safe and suitable home, are able to move whenever they need to, for example for starting a family, work opportunities, or fleeing domestic abuse.

“It’s a key component of independent living. The shortage is not a problem we can ignore.

“Making category two (adaptable) housing the basic standard will help.

“These are homes designed to be suitable for people’s changing needs over time and to be suitable for a wide variety of people.”

But she said there was “no plan to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible homes”.

Perry said: “The decision that has been made is to continue to expect local authorities to calculate what percentage of homes should be built to wheelchair-accessible standards in their area.

“This has been the expectation for the last seven years, yet very few local authorities have put this in place, meaning very few wheelchair-accessible homes are being built.”

Perry said: “Without urgent action, the shortfall of wheelchair-accessible housing will continue to grow.

“I’d like to ask the developers, planners, architects, builders and policy-makers one question: When you or a member of your family needs to use a wheelchair, where are you going to live?”

Cllr Pam Thomas, a disabled city councillor in Liverpool and the council’s cabinet member for equality, diversity and inclusion, said the government’s decision was “a move in the right direction”.

But she said there was “still a long way to go before disabled people with mobility limitations will have anything like equality in accessing housing”.

She said: “The standards agreed should provide more access and adaptability, but not enough for wheelchair-users.”

She also criticised the government for opting for another consultation, which would delay implementation, despite the many years of research which show “how to achieve accessible housing in practice”.

And she said she expected the home-building industry to “use all their influence” to “delay and minimise” the reforms.

Thomas said the existing rules that mean local councils have to show local demand for wheelchair-accessible housing if they want it to be built plays into the hands of home-builders, because local authorities “probably know that many people are on social housing waiting lists for years on end, but hardly anything about those in the private sector”.

She said: “This means home-builders can simply say there is no evidence of local need for wheelchair-accessible homes and dismiss the evidence of national level.”

Liverpool City Council is one of the few local authorities that has introduced strict rules on accessible housing through its local plan (PDF), which was agreed by the city council in January.

This means all new homes in Liverpool must be built to be more accessible and adaptable for those with mobility impairments, and 10 per cent of them must be wheelchair-accessible and adaptable.

This took years to achieve through the local plan process, and was challenged by the home-building industry, Thomas said.

She said: “Thankfully, the planning inspector agreed that Liverpool had enough evidence of need.

“Now we are seeing that it is possible and there is a ray of hope for all those waiting for accessible property in the social or private sector.”

She said the city was already starting to see accessible homes being built because of the local plan.

Habinteg said the government announcement was “a significant step towards tackling the UK’s acute and growing shortage of accessible homes”, but that it regretted the government’s failure to set new rules for a minimum proportion of homes built to M4(3) wheelchair-accessible housing standards.

Disabled blogger Kerry Thompson, who lives in a Habinteg home, said the changes would “make adaptations more achievable and economically beneficial and in the long term will alleviate pressures on health and social care services and budgets”.

She said: “I am looking forward to seeing the progress that comes from these changes because living in an accessible home shouldn’t be seen as a luxury.”

DLUHC said that raising accessibility standards would free local authorities’ attention and focus so they could put their resources into improving their local plans for M4(3) homes.

Eddie Hughes, minister for rough sleeping and housing, said: “Older and disabled people must have homes which are suitable for their needs, and allow them to live comfortably and independently.

“This consultation has made clear raising the accessibility standard of new homes is supported not just by people who use accessible homes, but by industry and wider stakeholders as well.”

Ministers have long been resistant to taking action to ensure new developments have to include a significant proportion of wheelchair-accessible homes.

But such measures have been in place in London for the last six years, with a minimum of 10 per cent of new homes in the capital having to be suitable for wheelchair-users.

In April, Disability News Service reported how the government agency Homes England was set to spend £15 million helping to fund more than 1,000 new family homes across three English counties, but none of them would have to be built to the M4(3) standard, leaving decisions instead to councils and their local plans.

*Homes built to the M4(2) standard have 16 accessible or adaptable features, similar to the Lifetime Homes standard developed in the early 1990s to make homes more easily adaptable for lifetime use, while M4(3) homes are those that are supposed to be fully wheelchair-accessible

4 August 2022

 

 

Government’s advisers say ministers’ plans will not deliver an accessible railway

The government’s advisers on accessible transport have told ministers they do not believe that their proposals for reforming the rail system will be enough to deliver an accessible railway.

The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) says in its response to a public consultation that it welcomes changes being planned under the government’s rail transformation programme.

But it also says in its response that the government’s plans will not be “sufficient to deliver cultural change or an accessible railway”.

Instead, there will have to be “real commitment to change” that “permeates” every level of Great British Railways (GBR), the new over-arching body that will run the rail system.

The Department for Transport (DfT) consultation on the changes in legislation needed to deliver the government’s rail reforms – which include setting up GBR – closes tonight (Thursday).

Among the planned changes will be a new national rail accessibility strategy; a new national accessible travel policy; and an accessibility duty for GBR that ensures accessibility is considered in everything it does.

But DPTAC says in its response: “We have long advocated that accessibility needs to be at the very core of what the rail industry does in the way that safety is currently.”

It offers about a dozen recommendations for how cultural change might be achieved.

They include linking the pay of GBR executives and board members to the “progressive delivery of an accessible railway”; putting in place a clear way of monitoring accessibility, and ensuring these results are made public; and ensuring more disabled people are employed at all levels of the rail industry.

DPTAC – more than half of whose members are disabled people – also wants to see the agenda of every GBR board meeting include a report on accessibility.

And it points out that funding of the railway system is “crucial”, both to ensure physical improvements to stations and carriages, but also in areas such as staffing.

Last week, Disability News Service reported how another DPTAC report – obtained by The Association of British Commuters (ABC) through a freedom of information request – showed that staffing levels on a section of the rail network were “completely inadequate to deliver an accessible railway”.

In its response to the government consultation, DPTAC says: “The lack of a coherent, long-term strategy for improving the accessibility of the rail network defined and managed by a single guiding mind has been a major obstacle to delivering a more accessible railway.

“This has been exacerbated by an often uncoordinated or partially coordinated approach to the implementation of initiatives to improve accessibility, and a complex industry structure that has undermined and weakened the ability of disabled people and their representative organisations to hold the rail industry to account.

“As a result, the railway remains inaccessible to many disabled people, the approach to accessibility is inconsistent across the rail network and practices that are essentially discriminatory allowed to continue unchallenged.”

It concludes: “The scope of our response highlights the challenges that need to be overcome if a true culture of accessibility, akin to that for safety, is to be embedded in the rail industry.

“Change needs to be comprehensive and pervasive for it to be successful.”

DPTAC also says that it supports the plan to expand its role to also become a statutory adviser to GBR, but it calls for it to be able to set out on its website “how it would work in the future with government, GBR, the DfT and other stakeholders, including the extent to which it would make public its advice to these bodies”.

Alan Benson, chair of Transport for All, the disabled-led organisation that campaigns on accessible transport, welcomed the DPTAC response.

He said: “They have highlighted the need to embed accessibility at the heart of the new organisation and that this should form part of the performance metrics.

“If we are to achieve the necessary culture change and progress then there needs to be
accountability.

“DPTAC have gone some way to suggesting how this could be achieved.

“Essential to improving access on the railway will be the involvement of disabled people and their stakeholders, for which the DPTAC response offers no comment.

“We believe involvement of disabled people will be essential and that this must take the form of proper co-production.”

He added: “The DPTAC response is particularly interesting in the light of their proposed statutory role in the new legislation.

“It offers hope that DPTAC will be able and willing to offer a strong challenge on behalf of
disabled travellers.

“We expect the transparency shown with the early publication of this response will continue and that DPTAC will have the necessary resource to fulfil their role.”

Emily Yates, co-founder of ABC, which first highlighted the DPTAC consultation response, welcomed its comments and praised its track record of advising DfT.

She said: “Under its outgoing chair Keith Richards, DPTAC has an unbroken record of advising the DfT with integrity and independence.

“For example, over six years of warning the government about ‘toxic’ and ‘illegal’ policies of railway destaffing, they have never weakened their position.

“However, the DfT is currently choosing a new chair for DPTAC, as well as reforming the committee under Great British Railways.

“It is vital that this is accompanied by clear safeguards to ensure DPTAC’s independence, including: proper resourcing for it to function autonomously without reliance on the DfT secretariat; and a proactive publishing policy complying with freedom of information obligations.

“As DPTAC itself requests in its consultation response, the rules for publishing and transparency must be clearly set out.

“This is the only way to remove the potential for political pressure, allowing DPTAC to concentrate on its important work and be an effective adviser to Great British Railways.”

Accessible transport campaigner Doug Paulley also welcomed DPTAC’s suggestions, but he said the impetus for achieving cultural change, and “full and equal unstressful and straightforward access for disabled people to the railway”, needed to come from the industry and its managers.

He also welcomed DPTAC’s decision to speak out publicly, but said he was “gloomy” about the prospects for genuine change as a result of the government’s reforms, pointing to the “pitifully small amounts of money supposedly devoted to improving stations”.

He said the reforms were being proposed at a time when unions have warned of proposed £2 billion in cuts to spending on the railways, redundancies, concerns over driver-only operation of trains and destaffing of stations.

Paulley said: “These are all issues that are hugely important for disabled travellers, and make me very concerned that we could well be going backwards in terms of accessibility experience.

“I think that the DPTAC commentary is well-timed, apposite and hits the nail on the head.

“Accessibility must not be seen as of secondary importance, and until there is cultural change in the industry, it will continue to be so.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “Improving journeys for disabled passengers and those with additional needs is at the heart of our Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail and we’re committed to building a railway for all.

“A nationwide accessibility audit of our stations is already underway to drive this transformation and we’ve invested £383 million [over five years from 2019 to 2024] into delivering step free routes at over 200 stations, as well as other enhancements at 1,500 stations through our Access for All programme.

“We welcome the feedback provided by the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and will review all responses to the consultation in detail before responding fully in due course.”

DfT will consult further on its accessibility proposals.

It has already audited 1,500 of about 2,500 rail stations in Britain, with the findings set to form part of the development of the government’s national rail accessibility strategy.

4 August 2022

 

 

Thousands of disabled customers waiting months for cars, Motability admits

Thousands of disabled customers of the Motability scheme are facing many months of delays before they can take delivery of the vehicles they ordered, because of problems in the global car industry.

Many disabled customers are even being told that the cars they ordered months ago through the disabled people’s car scheme are now no longer available.

Motability* has admitted that some models are being removed from the scheme at short notice, while it has also told customers that many advance payments have increased, adding to the cost-of-living crisis many disabled people are facing.

Some customers appear to be waiting up to a year to take delivery of the cars they ordered, although Motability Operations, which runs the scheme, has said delays vary according to different manufacturers and models.

Motability Operations told Disability News Service (DNS) this afternoon (Thursday) that “thousands of Motability scheme customers are affected by the vehicle supply and delivery delays”.

It told customers earlier this week: “Although we are working hard to keep the scheme as affordable as possible, you may notice that there are fewer cars available than in previous years and in many cases, advance payments are higher than you may be used to.

“Vehicles are also being removed from the scheme at short notice at the request of manufacturers and dealers are often struggling to get reliable information on delivery dates due to the various factors affecting new car supply.”

Motability is due to hold a live Facebook question and answer session about the delays tomorrow.

It says the key issue affecting delays is a worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips, expected to last until the end of 2022, with factories also affected by staffing shortages linked to the Covid pandemic.

DNS had been contacted this week by Michelle Maher, a leading disabled activist and a long-term Motability customer.

She had been waiting since last November for the Mini Countryman she ordered through the scheme.

Like other Motability customers, the higher rate mobility support she receives through personal independence payment is used to cover the monthly lease payments and other costs associated with leasing a car.

She made a £1,749 advance payment, which was matched by the charity, when she took delivery of a Mini Countryman last November.

But she soon realised that the car did not have the electric wing-mirrors she needed, and she paid a £250 administration fee to place an order for a slightly more expensive model.

She needs electric wing-mirrors because she lives on a road in Brighton that is so congested with parked cars that she needs to close them every time she drives along the road, and she has a progressive myopathy that makes this increasingly difficult.

After a nine-month wait, she was finally told last week that the car had been delivered to her local dealership, but that she would not be allowed to collect it.

Maher, co-founder of the WOWcampaign, said the car dealership, Mini and Motability had all blamed each other for this decision not to allow her to collect the car.

She has been told by a Motability adviser that thousands of other customers have had problems with their orders.

She said: “I think Motability have dealt with it horrendously. They have sent me around in circles.”

She said Motability had failed to communicate with its customers about what was happening.

Although she said both Motability and Mini warned customers last summer to order their cars early because of delays, she said the communication this year had been non-existent.

She said: “No-one sent me a letter saying, ‘I’m sorry, the car you ordered is not going to be available anymore.’

“Why aren’t they writing to people? I only heard about this when my car arrived.”

She was told yesterday, less than a day after DNS raised her case with Motability, that she would now be able to take delivery of the car.

A Motability Operations spokesperson said: “The global automotive industry is impacted by shortages of key components, and this is causing delays in delivering vehicles.

“Whilst it’s difficult to know when the situation will improve, experts predict it will continue for the rest of the year.

“Due to the global manufacturing and supply challenges, some people who have ordered a new car, including Motability scheme customers, are having their orders amended, as manufacturers are no longer able to supply the specification of the vehicle.

“This might be because the product offer has changed from the time the customer placed their original order with the dealer.

“A small number of Motability scheme customers are impacted by this.

“Motability Operations works hard alongside manufacturers to minimise the knock-on effect to our customers.”

She said that Motability provided regular emails, social media question-and-answer sessions, and updates on its website to keep customers informed.

She added: “We are also auto extending existing vehicle leases where we are unable to provide a new car to our customers, so they remain mobile.”

A spokesperson for BMW, which owns the Mini brand, said: “We’re sorry to hear about these issues within the Motability scheme.

“Like most car manufacturers, we have been forced to restrict the production of certain models due to well-publicised, industry-wide parts supply constraints.

“Specifically this has stemmed from the war in Ukraine, which is a significant supplier of automotive components, and the worldwide shortage of semiconductors.

“Naturally this restriction of production had an impact on delivery dates.

“The average lead time for built-to-order Mini models has reduced in recent weeks and is now approximately three months, although this will vary by model and by retailer.”

*The charity Motability, which oversees the work of Motability Operations, is a subscriber to Disability News Service

4 August 2022

 

 

Commission ‘will hold government to account over pandemic failures’

Six leading disabled people of colour are to play a key role in an inquiry that aims to hold the government to account for failing disabled people during the Covid pandemic.

The commission will gather evidence and examine how the worst impacts of COVID-19 fell on disabled people, and particularly on those from Black, Asian, and minoritised ethnic groups*.

Its work will focus on the experience of disabled people of Black and Asian ethnicity, based on evidence of disproportionate levels of harm during the pandemic, and the history of racial discrimination they have experienced within the health and social care systems.

The Commission on Covid-19, Disablism and Systemic Racism will be led by the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), which represents charities that work with disabled people.

VODG said that people with a learning difficulty from an Asian/Asian British background have been three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white British people with a learning difficulty.

In care homes, it said, Black and Asian people who died were more likely than white people to die with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, with 31 per cent of Black people and 30 per cent of Asian people who died in a care home having confirmed or suspected COVID-19, compared to 23 per cent of white people.

But many of VODG’s members are themselves providers of services to disabled people, including through running care homes and providing support services.

The commission’s chair, Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, promised Disability News Service (DNS) yesterday that they would not ignore any evidence that implicated service-provider charities.

He said the commission would “take the same approach with the evidence if related to charities” and would be “independent and transparent in our findings”.

He said: “I want to hear from disabled people from Black, Asian and other minoritised communities of their experience.

“We want to understand the root causes that led to our communities experiencing significant harm and loss.

“The commission is independent of service-providers, and is made of up individual accomplished commissioners with personal intersectional lived experience.”

Julie Jaye Charles, executive director of Start Change, insisted that if the commission uncovered any racism or disablism at service-provider charities during the pandemic it would not be ignored.

She said: “I would say to people that if I do smell a rat, I’d let everyone know.”

She said that any evidence relating to charities or service-providers “has to” come out through the commission’s work.

She said she had agreed to join the commission to “make a difference”, and she added: “A lot of people are accessing some of those charities and some of the charities may not be up to what we would expect for a human being.”

Amo Raju, another commissioner, and chief executive of Disability Direct, told DNS that “if there are lessons to be learnt, service-provider charities should be treated the same as any other providers”.

He said: “So far we have only had one meeting but my initial observations confirm that the project will be led by disabled people from BAME* communities who have the confidence of user-led organisations across the country.

“We are pretty much in the driving seat of the call for evidence… and all other aspects of the project.”

He said service-providers would be contacted, but the commission’s aim was to ensure that disabled people were the main source of data.

A VODG spokesperson added: “The commission is calling for a wide range of views and experiences to be shared.

“The commission will be transparent in reporting the themes and perspectives generated by this call for evidence on whatever topics are raised.”

The year-long project aims to look at the impact of long-term and “systemic” neglect of social care, the government’s “confused” approaches during the pandemic, conflicting guidance, and “poor implementation” of policy.

It will particularly “scrutinise” the actions of the Department of Health and Social Care, and how systemic racism may have further worsened outcomes for disabled people of colour.

VODG said it hoped the commission would suggest solutions that would provide “transformative and sustainable change” in social care, and that its work would feed into the COVID-19 public inquiry.

Although VODG will be leading the commission, the six commissioners will “oversee and steer” and support its work.

The other commissioners are Clenton Farquharson, chair of Think Local Act Personal and director of Community Navigator Services; Deborah Williams, an artist and consultant, and executive director of the Creative Diversity Network; and Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of The Runnymede Trust.

Mallick said: “I lived through the pandemic and experienced first-hand the impact of decisions made by government that negatively impacted on me.”

He added: “The very worst impacts of COVID-19 have fallen on disabled people and even more so on disabled people from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic groups.

“The evidence cannot be ignored and compels us all to learn from these experiences, to collectively seek out solutions and identify what must change.

“I am delighted to be working together with my fellow commissioners to address these important issues and progress this critical agenda.”

Jaye Charles, whose organisation aims to address the multiple discrimination endured by intersectional communities, said she had joined the commission because she was interested in its focus on disablism and systemic racism.

She said: “The injustice these communities experience is significantly higher than non-racialised people’s experience of life in our society in the UK.”

Farquharson said he hoped the commission’s work would “point to a support system that is fairer, more inclusive, relationship-based – and above all more human – and for our recommendations and input to be taken seriously”.

The commission, which is being funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, is now urging disabled people and people with long-term health conditions from Black, Asian, and minoritised ethnic groups to share their views about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It wants to hear how people were affected by the pandemic and the government’s response, including any additional challenges or harm they experienced as a disabled person from a Black, Asian or minoritised ethnic group.

But it also wants to hear what should have been done differently, and what needs to change to tackle inequality and discrimination and prevent further harm for those communities.

The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Friday 30 September.

*Black, Asian and minority ethnic

4 August 2022

 

 

Grenfell: Court challenge for Home Office over rejection of evacuation policy

Two campaigners are seeking the high court’s permission to challenge the government’s refusal to ensure disabled people can evacuate safely from high-rise blocks of flats in emergencies.

Three years ago, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry called for all owners and managers of high-rise residential buildings to be legally required to prepare a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP) for all residents who may find it difficult to “self-evacuate”.

But home secretary Priti Patel rejected the recommendation on the grounds of “practicality”, “proportionality” and “safety”, even though prime minister Boris Johnson had promised to implement all the recommendations from the first phase of the inquiry.

The rejection came even though those who responded to a consultation on the PEEPs proposal overwhelmingly supported their introduction.

The Home Office is instead consulting on its own “alternative package” of measures, which it calls Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing, which does not go as far as PEEPs and which will only apply to the minority of buildings that have been assessed as being “at higher risk”.

Now Georgie Hulme and Sarah Rennie, co-founders of the disabled-led leaseholder action group Claddag, have applied for a judicial review of the home secretary’s decision, through solicitors Bhatt Murphy.

The Grenfell fire led to 72 people losing their lives, including 15 of Grenfell’s 37 disabled residents, on the night of 14 June 2017.

This followed years of failure to plan for how disabled people living in Grenfell would evacuate if they needed to.

Claddag believes the Home Office PEEPs decision breaches its duty to protect life, and its duty not to discriminate against disabled people, under the European Convention on Human Rights.

It also believes the decision breaches the government’s public sector equality duty, under the Equality Act.

And it says the consultation process on the PEEPs proposal was unfair because the Home Office held follow-up meetings with representatives of local authorities and housing associations after the responses had been received, allowing concerns to be raised to which Claddag and others had no chance to respond.

Hulme and Rennie also argue that the Home Office has failed to understand the inquiry’s reasons for recommending the PEEPs proposal.

Rennie told Disability News Service: “Having our right to survive a fire being debated so coldly is hard enough, but meetings behind closed doors which provoke a U-turn in policy is something else entirely.

“People with lived experience must always be at the heart of developing policy and exploring solutions.

“The Home Office’s approach is not only condescending to our community but deeply dangerous and so, for that reason, we must challenge the lawfulness of the process.”

Rennie and Hulme hope the court will consider the case urgently and they expect to hear next month whether they have been granted permission to proceed with a judicial review.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

4 August 2022

 

 

More than half of care homes inspected are failing, says regulator

More than half of the care homes inspected in the last month were found to be inadequate or to require improvement, but the care watchdog has refused to say if it is concerned by the figures.

The figures show that of 423 care homes that had a fresh rating published in the previous month, 182 (43 per cent) were said to require improvement, and another 38 (nine per cent) were found to be “inadequate”.

This is far higher than the overall proportion of failing care homes, where just 227 (1.5 per cent) out of more than 15,000 regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) are said to be inadequate, with about 2,500 (16.5 per cent) needing improvement.

This means the proportion of failing homes among CQC’s most recent inspections (52 per cent) is nearly three times higher than the failure rate among all care homes (18 per cent).

The figures were obtained from the CQC website by Disability News Service after initial concerns about the latest inspection results were raised by disabled artist-activist Jess Thom, who questioned whether they could be the “tip of a horrific iceberg of dangerous care”.

She said: “I’m extremely concerned by the volume of care providers who are failing CQC inspections and by the details found within these reports.

“This is not about minor failings or excessive bureaucracy, it’s about the safety and quality of life of thousands of disabled people.

“There are systemic issues at play across the social care sector that are going largely unnoticed and unchecked.

“This matter requires urgent attention, action and analysis to understand what is happening and to prevent unsafe services becoming deadly.”

Eight years ago, CQC introduced a new method of regulation, based on “ratings and risk”, which means it is more likely to inspect those institutions where concerns have been raised by whistleblowers, relatives of residents and service-users.

It also paused routine inspections during the pandemic, and now appears mainly to inspect care homes that it considers “very high risk”.

But figures showing that more than half of those homes that are inspected are failing to achieve even a “good” rating are still likely to alarm many disabled people.

This week, the commission declined to say if it was concerned by the new figures, or to say how the latest results compared with pre-pandemic figures on inspections, although it stressed that it would expect its new regime to produce a higher proportion of failing institutions than if it carried out routine inspections of all homes.

Kate Terroni, CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said CQC had carried out more than 12,000 inspections between 23 March 2020 and 1 July 2022.

She said: “The majority of care homes are good or outstanding and this reflects the incredible efforts of carers and providers who have gone above and beyond to provide high quality care over the course of the pandemic and since lockdown measures have been relaxed.

“However, where concerns are brought to our attention we will not hesitate to act.

“We will always follow up on information of concern, and where there is risk we will inspect to ensure that people are safe and receiving high quality care.

“Where we find people are at risk we will take further regulatory action to ensure people’s safety and human rights are upheld.”

She added: “CQC made a decision to pause routine inspections during the pandemic in part to limit the number of people entering care homes in order to slow the spread of virus and keep people in care safe, however as part of our new strategy we have continued to inspect based on risk and the intelligence we hold on providers.

“As well as risk-based inspections, during the pandemic CQC have also conducted over 12,100 calls to providers as part of our emergency support framework and we have continued to monitor providers through our monitoring approach established in 2021.”

*An “inadequate” rating means the care home is “performing badly” and CQC has taken enforcement action against its provider, while “requires improvement” means the care home is “not performing as well as it should” and the watchdog has told it how to improve

4 August 2022

 

 

Other disability-related stories covered by mainstream media this week

A compensation payment of at least £100,000 should be paid to all infected blood victims and bereaved partners across Britain, the chair of the inquiry into the scandal has said. The Infected Blood Inquiry was established to examine how thousands of patients in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s. In an interim report, Sir Brian Langstaff said that the money should be paid “without delay” to those affected: Read The Independent article 

England’s “ravaged” adult social care sector urgently needs more money from the government before the year is out, MPs have warned. A cash injection and a long-term plan is needed to help the sector meet immediate cost pressures and become sustainable over the coming years, the levelling up, housing and communities committee said. The Commons committee said the pressures of the pandemic have exacerbated underlying challenges of rising demand, unmet need and difficulties in recruiting and keeping staff: Read The Independent article 

A woman was found dead after she became anxious she had claimed too much in benefits, an inquest heard. Margaret Tyszkow, from Worcestershire, was a parish councillor for Badsey and a volunteer for Age UK, and was reported missing on 24 November last year, but her body wasn’t found until 27 January. Worcestershire Coroner’s Court heard how the 68-year-old had told the parish council clerk “she’d done a terrible thing and would be sent to prison”, but it later transpired she only needed to pay back £4.55 to the Department for Work and Pensions: Read The Mirror article 

Beyoncé is to re-record one of the songs on her new album, after facing criticism from disability campaigners. The song Heated contained a derogatory term that has often been used to demean people with cerebral palsy. The star’s publicist told the BBC the word, which can have different connotations in the US, was “not used intentionally in a harmful way” and “will be replaced in the lyrics”. The backlash came just a couple of weeks after US pop star Lizzo apologised for using the same word in her song GRRRLS: Read The BBC article 

4 August 2022

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com