The Scottish government has described the 93 actions it believes will help Scotland meet its obligations under the UN disability convention, and address some of the harm caused to disabled people by the UK government’s “austerity economics” policies.It published its five-year plan, A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People, on the eve of the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and less than a month after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities found the UK government was guilty of “grave or systematic violations” of the convention.The 93 actions are grouped under five headings: independent living; “decent incomes and fairer working lives”; accessibility; legal rights; and “active participation” in society.The delivery plan was described by Dr Jim Elder-Woodward, the disabled chair of the Scottish Independent Living Coalition, as a “sterling start” towards ensuring that the UN convention had a positive impact on the lives of disabled people in Scotland.Among the 93 actions, the Scottish government said it would extend the Independent Living Fund scheme it set up in the wake of the closure of the UK-wide version of the fund, offering it to new members for the first time with the help of £5 million-a-year of new funding, in addition to £47.2 million-a-year for its 2,700 existing Scottish users.It pledged a shift towards care that focuses on achieving independent living, and said it would also improve the “portability” of care – the ease with which a disabled person can take their support package with them when they move between local authority areas.The plan also includes a pledge to halve the disability employment gap, a similar promise to that made by the UK government, although with no date to match the 2020 target set – and then dropped – by ministers in Westminster.It promises a one-year transition to a “voluntary and person-led” employment scheme that will support disabled people from April 2018.And it promises to set up – thanks to new powers devolved to Scotland to control part of the social security budget – a welfare system that “treats people with dignity and respect while applying for, being assessed for, and receiving disability benefits”.New social security experience panels will involve at least 2,000 people with recent experience of receiving benefits to “help to design and test the new system to ensure it works for them”.On accessibility, it promises to ensure that each local authority sets a “realistic target” for building wheelchair-accessible housing, and reports annually on its progress.On legal rights, it will abolish fees for employment tribunals, and ensure that the seven main criminal justice organisations carry out audits of their buildings to “identify any physical access barriers that need to be removed”.The Scottish government also promises to extend its Access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland) to the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2021.The pledge contrasts with the UK government’s version of the fund, which has been lying dormant since the 2015 general election while its effectiveness is supposedly being reviewed.The Scottish version was set to expire in 2017, but the new plan promises to use an evaluation of the fund to “make any necessary improvements to ensure it works for disabled people”, and then extend it until 2021.A Scottish government spokeswoman said the fund would be available for disabled people who want to stand in all Scottish national and local elections between 2017 and 2021, including by-elections, although not candidates standing at UK parliamentary elections, which she said were “the responsibility of the UK government”.Dr Sally Witcher, chief executive of Inclusion Scotland, welcomed the new document.She said: “This plan sets out a positive direction of travel towards a fairer Scotland for disabled people, based on a firm foundation of human rights.“Specific commitments on funding for internships, to promote volunteering and to help address the under-representation of disabled people in politics and public life are particularly welcome. “But the challenge now is to transform ambitions into actions that will, in turn, transform disabled people’s lives and the country we live in.“There is much to be done and no time to lose.”Among other disabled people welcoming the plan was campaigner Chris Baird, who said: “Disability hate crime has sky-rocketed in the last few years, as we’ve been stigmatised and demonised by UK politicians and much of the media.“This disability plan, together with the new social security system, is a chance to put right some of the wrongs and treat people better.”Jamie Szymkowiak, founder of the user-led, cross-party campaign One in Five – which wants to see the number of disabled politicians in Scotland reflect the proportion of disabled people in society – said the extension of funding for the access to elected office scheme was “fantastic news”.He said: “An early announcement confirming financial support for aspiring disabled politicians is exactly what we at One in Five were calling for.“Safe in the knowledge that the financial barrier to elected office has been removed, this early commitment provides disabled people with plenty of time to develop into political representatives of the future.”Social security minister Jeane Freeman, who launched the plan on Friday (2 December) in Glasgow, said: “Over a million disabled people contribute to Scotland’s communities and add talent, diversity and richness to our society.“Our goal is for every one of that million to have choice, control, dignity and freedom to live the life they choose with the support they need to do so.”She added: “At a time when the UK government is undermining the human rights of disabled people with its programme of austerity and welfare cuts and a blatant disregard for the impact it has on disabled people’s lives, we are committing to furthering rights.“Given that the UN declared last month that there was evidence of ‘grave or systematic violations’ of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it’s no wonder disabled people feel this is an assault on their wellbeing, and makes the need for change more pressing.”Discussions with disabled people and their organisations early next year will lead to the Scottish government setting priorities for action and timescales, followed by a Fairer Scotland progress report in 2019.Disabled people’s panels will be set up to cover each of the plan’s five areas, providing advice on implementation of key actions and how to measure progress.A survey of disabled people in mid-2018 will gather evidence on the impact of the actions, while annual disability summits will look at progress, with a “major” disability summit in 2020.A progress report will be laid before the Scottish parliament in early 2021 to determine where the government needs to focus its efforts during the 2021-26 parliamentary session.
The government has been criticised over its commitment to independent living by a disabled member of the UN committee investigating the UK’s record on disability rights.The criticism came during a public examination in Geneva of the UK’s record in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).Civil servants from eight UK government departments, and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, were being grilled yesterday and today (Thursday) by members of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD).Robert Martin (pictured, speaking), a CRPD member, asked the UK government to explain why it had cut funding for disabled people’s services and support.He said: “I would like to know why you have cut access to funding in services, including benefits and advocacy services, especially for people with what you call mild or moderate disability.“If you cut funding in services, the people will lose the ability to live independently in the community. And that is not a way forward if you want to implement the convention.”One of the committee’s vice-chairs, Danlami Umaru Basharu, also asked the civil servants to explain the consequences of the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).None of these questions appeared to be answered by the UK government delegation.Disabled activists conducted a high-profile campaign to keep the fund open but it finally closed in June 2015, with research later showing that many former ILF-users subsequently experienced substantial cuts to their care packages.After it closed, non-ring-fenced funding was transferred to councils in England and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland. Scotland has since set up its own fund.Basharu asked the UK government representatives how the government would ensure that disabled people “are not negatively affected” by this transition.This question was also not answered by the UK government.The committee have asked questions on a huge range of issues affecting disabled people’s rights under the convention, including discrimination in the housing market; the “disproportionate” levels of violence and abuse experienced by disabled women, and the support available to them; the “high levels of poverty” experienced by disabled people; the availability of accessible information; and the shortage of British Sign Language interpreters.Other questions raised included the institutionalisation of children with mental health conditions; the economic impact of Brexit on disabled people; the impact of cuts and reforms to legal aid and the introduction of employment tribunal fees on disabled people’s access to justice; and the levels of bullying experienced by disabled children.
A note from the editor:For nine years, Disability News Service has survived largely through the support of a small number of disability organisations – most of them user-led – that have subscribed to its weekly supply of news stories. That support has been incredibly valuable but is no longer enough to keep DNS financially viable. For this reason, please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please remember that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring, and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… User-led groups and service-users are set to raise grave concerns about the work of the team reviewing mental health laws on behalf of the government, including its refusal to take a “full human rights-based approach” to reform.An alliance of user-led organisations, mental health service-users and survivors, and their allies, are to write for a second time to the Mental Health Act Review (MHAR), which is examining the Mental Health Act 1983, which covers England and Wales.More than 120 organisations and individuals – led by the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) – wrote to the review in May raising alarm about its reluctance to recommend full rights that comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).The letter called on the review to address the concerns raised by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, after it investigated the UK’s implementation of the UN disability convention last year.The UN committee said in the “concluding observations” to its examination of the UK that the government should “repeal legislation and practices that authorise non-consensual involuntary, compulsory treatment” and the detention of disabled people “on the basis of actual or perceived impairment”.Two NSUN representatives met the review team last month to discuss their letter, but they said they did not think their concerns were taken seriously, while the response from the review’s chair – Professor Sir Simon Wessely – and his three vice-chairs “fell well short of what we might have hoped”.Wessely made it clear that he and his vice-chairs would not recommend full implementation of the UN convention.Now NSUN is set to write to the review for a second time next month, in response to the views expressed by Wessely and his vice-chairs at the meeting.The follow-up letter is likely to stress again the importance of a human rights-based approach to reform which gives mental health service-users the same rights as everyone else, and express strong dissatisfaction with the review’s dismissal of the concerns.The letter is again expected to secure significant support from user-led organisations, mental health service-users and survivors, and allies.Among the other concerns raised by the NSUN alliance in the first letter are that service-users, survivors and user-led organisations have been outnumbered in key parts of the review structure, leading to a “tokenistic” approach.And they say the review has been “incredibly rushed”, with the review brief being to produce recommendations this autumn, ahead of NHS England’s 10-year funding plan, which is expected later this year.This has caused “significant barriers to service user and carer involvement” in the review.And they want to see a greater effort to reach those with lived experience of detention and compulsory treatment, with an adequate focus on those from particularly disadvantaged groups, including those from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, people from disadvantaged socio-economic groups, people with learning difficulties and people with physical impairments.They also want the review to place more of a focus on social models of mental distress, and to examine alternatives to clinical services and provision of resources for these alternatives.They also have major concerns about the quality of the interim review report, which was published in May, because of the reporting and reliability of the data it used, and the lack of clarity on the evidence for its findings.Dorothy Gould, freelance researcher, trainer and consultant for NSUN, said: “It is utterly wrong that the 21st century has been reached without people with mental health diagnoses/in mental distress having the same human rights as everyone else – and now, to compound this, the review chair and vice chairs are not willing to recommend that we do even now.”Sarah Yiannoullou, NSUN’s managing director, said the review team had made it “quite clear” that that they were not going to recommend any move towards mental health legislation which was fully compliant with UNCRPD.Yiannoullou said the review was incredibly important because it was likely to be the basis for the last major reform for the next decade.She said: “Whatever recommendations there are, that’s it for the next 10 years.”A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the key points made by NSUN, as the review was ongoing, but said in a statement: “We’re determined to ensure the Mental Health Act works better for patients and their families, which is why we commissioned a review of the act and will be considering the final recommendations of the review when it reports later this year.”But DHSC also said that a service users’ and carers’ group was embedded in the governance of the review, and that every working group established by the review had at least one service-user or carer as a full member.DHSC said that more than 2,000 people and organisations had provided views for the review through a call-for-evidence, a survey and face-to-face meetings.The department also said that 30 small focus groups had been held with service-users and carers, with participants including those with experience of low, medium, high security and forensic services, autistic people and those with learning difficulties, and those from BAME communities.A further two workshops with service-users, carers and professionals have just been held, while at least 15 more focus groups will be re-run in early autumn to test the review’s thinking.For more information about NSUN’s campaign, or to offer support, contact Dorothy Gould ([email protected]), NSUN’s lead on the review, or Sarah Yiannoullou ([email protected])Picture: NSUN members discuss the Mental Health Act at last year’s agm
A disabled peer has criticised Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable for backing the “discriminatory” campaign to legalise assisted suicide.Cable hadspoken out after the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) decided to move to aposition of “neutrality” on the issue, even though half of its fellows andmembers still oppose legalisation.RCP’spolicy-making council had decided ahead of the survey results being publishedthat it would move to a neutral position unless those calling for it to supportor oppose a change in the law secured 60 per cent of the vote.Neither sideachieved that figure, although those calling on RCP to oppose a change in thelaw easily outnumber those who think it should support legalisation.The results of the RCP survey show that 43 per cent of nearly6,900 RCP fellows and members said RCP should be opposed to a change in thelaw, just one percentage point lower than when the survey was last conductedfive years ago.Theproportion of those saying it should support a law change increased, from 25per cent to 32 per cent, while just one in four said RCP should take a neutralstance.But afterthe survey results were published, Cable said the vote was “reassuring” andthat legislation was now “overdue”.He backedlegalisation last month, in an article in the Daily Mail, in which he said that he had changedhis position, despite previously being persuaded that legalisation was unsafeby the deaths of his first wife from breast cancer, and his mother, who had haddementia.Despite hisbacking, legalisation is not party policy as it has not been approved bymembers, while Cable has announced that he will soon step down as party leader.Cable welcomedthe RCP survey results, and said in a Liberal Democrat press release: “Assomeone who has recently been persuaded of the merits of allowing properlyregulated assisted dying with safeguards, it is reassuring that many medicalprofessionals are also making the same journey.“Opinion ischanging and it is now overdue that legislation should come forward to addressthis important social issue.”But thecrossbench disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, co-founder of NotDead Yet UK (NDY UK),criticised his comments.She said: “ForVincent Cable to referred to the Royal College of Physicians as the reason whythis should now be looked at again is very weak as we all know that the way thepoll was conducted was highly flawed.”She pointedout that there were fewer people supporting a position of neutrality than therewere the other two options, which makes RCP’s position “dishonest”.She said: “It’sso depressing that disabled people, who have so many other battles to fight forsupport to live with dignity and respect, have now got to fight thisdiscriminatory threat again. “It feelslike a relentless battle to stay safe and alive.”Asked torespond to Baroness Campbell’s concerns, Cable’s spokesperson declined to doso, but said in a statement: “Vince Cable has recently expressed support for achange in legislation based on the principles and safeguards established inrecent years after previous attempts to change the law. “Theseinclude offering assisted dying only to those who are medically certified ashaving a terminal illness, certified as being mentally capable, and where ajudge and two doctors are satisfied that the request is voluntary.”Thosepersonally supporting a change in the law in the RCP poll increased from 32 to41 per cent, while those opposing it fell from 58 to 49 per cent, compared with2014.But therewas only a small change in the proportion of those who would be prepared toparticipate in assisted suicide if the law changed, with those saying theywould rising from 21 to 25 per cent, and those saying they would not fallingfrom 58 to 55 per cent.ProfessorAndrew Goddard, RCP’s president, said that adopting a neutral position wouldallow the body to “reflect thediffering opinions among our membership”.He said RCP would not be focusing on the issue in its work but wouldinstead “continue championing high-quality palliative care services”.Last year,the latest legal bid to change the law – this time taken by Noel Conway, who isterminally-ill with motor neurone disease – was rejected by the court of appeal.NDY UK hadintervened in the case, raising concerns such as the danger that disabledpeople might be at risk of coercion if it was legalised.In a witnessstatement, Baroness Campbell had told the court that a ruling in favour ofConway would “damage beyond repair the way in which society views the elderly,sick and disabled to the point where the Equality Act itself and the protectionwhich it provides becomes fundamentally defective”.Three seniorcourt of appeal justices had highlighted this concern and also pointed in theirjudgment to a report by the Royal College of General Practitioners whichexpressed fears that a “right to die” could very easily become a “duty to die”,particularly “when financial considerations were a factor and the individualfelt like a burden to their family”. Theyconcluded that there could be “no doubt that Parliament is a far better bodyfor determining the difficult policy issue in relation to assisted suicide”than the courts because of the “conflicting, and highly contested, views withinour society on the ethical and moral issues and the risks and potentialconsequences of a change in the law”.Parliamenthas repeatedly rejected attempts to change the law on assisted suicide,including the latest effort by Labour MP RobMarris, in 2015.A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…
SAINTS will be aiming to avenge last year’s defeat at London when the sides lock horns on Saturday.Nathan Brown’s injury ravaged side lost 21-14 at the Stoop.Saints have won 37 games against the Broncos in the Super League era and Adam Swift has scored a try in each of our last three meetings with London.2014 Meeting:St Helens 48, London Broncos 18 (SLR11, 1/5/14)Super League Summary:London Broncos won 6St Helens won 37 (includes win in 2003 play-offs)2 drawsHighs and Lows:London Broncos highest score: 40-6 (H, 2002) (also widest margin)St Helens highest score: 62-16 (H, 2003) (Widest margin: 54-0, A, 2008)Club Milestones:Paul Wellens needs seven points to reach 1,000 for St Helens.His total of 993 has been reached with 228 tries, 40 goals and 1 field goal in 481 games for the club since 1998.Super League Milestones:Paul Wellens needs three tries to draw level with Keith Senior in second place in the list of all-time leading try-scorers.1 Danny McGuire (Leeds, 2001-present) 2142 Keith Senior (Leeds/Sheffield, 1996-2011) 1993 Paul Wellens (St Helens, 1998-present) 1964 David Hodgson (Hull KR/Huddersfield/Salford/Wigan/Halifax, 1999-present) 1685 Leon Pryce (Catalan Dragons/St Helens/Bradford, 1998-present) 1656 = Ade Gardner (Hull KR/St Helens, 2002-present) 152 Ryan Hall (Leeds, 2007-present) 1528 = Rob Burrow (Leeds, 2001-present), Kirk Yeaman (Hull FC, 2001-present) 14810 Pat Richards (Wigan, 2006-2013) 147Consecutive Appearances:Hull FC’s Joe Westerman has the longest run of consecutive appearances amongst Super League players, with 37.Westerman last missed a Hull game on 25 May, 2013 – a 22-16 Magic Weekend win against Hull KR at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium.His streak then started on 31 May, 2013 – an 18-6 home win against Leeds.1 Joe Westerman (Hull FC) 372 Tom Makinson (St Helens) 343 Kyle Wood (Huddersfield Giants) 304 = Matt Cook (London Broncos), Sia Soliola (St Helens) 27Career MilestonesMark Flanagan could make his 100th career appearance in the match.First Utility Super League Leading Scorers:Tries:1 Joel Monaghan (Warrington Wolves) 212 = Morgan Escare (Catalan Dragons), Tom Makinson (St Helens) 184 Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos) 155 = Justin Carney (Castleford Tigers), Elliott Whitehead (Catalan Dragons), Jamie Shaul (Hull FC), Mason Caton-Brown (Salford Red Devils), Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors) 1410 = Michael Shenton (Castleford Tigers), Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors) 13Goals:1 Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants) 772 Marc Sneyd (Castleford Tigers) 763 Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors) 744 Luke Walsh (St Helens) 665 Travis Burns (Hull Kingston Rovers) 636 Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos) 627 Chris Bridge (Warrington Wolves) 578 Danny Tickle (Widnes Vikings) 569 Thomas Bosc (Catalan Dragons) 4610 Jarrod Sammut (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) 41Goals Percentage:1 Jamie Ellis (Castleford Tigers) 100.00 (10/10)2 Luke Gale (Bradford Bulls) 92.30 (24/26)3 Jordan Rankin (Hull FC) 90.47 (19/21)4 Sam Williams (Catalan Dragons) 86.66 (13/15)5 Jarrod Sammut (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) 82.00 (41/50)6 Jacob Miller (Hull FC) 81.81 (9/11)7 Luke Walsh (St Helens) 78.57 (66/84)8 Jamie Foster (Bradford Bulls) 78.37 (29/37)9 Marc Sneyd (Castleford Tigers) 78.35 (76/97)10 Chris Bridge (Warrington Wolves) 78.08 (57/73)Points:1 Marc Sneyd (Castleford Tigers) 1742 Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants) 1683 Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors) 1564 Luke Walsh (St Helens) 1535 Chris Bridge (Warrington Wolves) 1506 Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos) 1447 Travis Burns (Hull Kingston Rovers) 1408 Danny Tickle (Widnes Vikings) 1209 Jarrod Sammut (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) 10610 Thomas Bosc (Catalan Dragons) 97
Tom’s widow Leonie has flown over from South Africa to present the match ball, exactly as the great winger did at the opening of our stadium in 2012.She will be accompanied by daughter Lynne and granddaughter Kirsty.The matchday programme’s cover is dedicated to the legend too – with a number of tributes inside – including one from his former coach Joe Coan.And there will also be a minute’s applause before the game kicks off at 7:45pm.Tickets for Friday’s game are on sale from the Ticket Office at the Totally Wicked Stadium, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.