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Tuesday, 29 July 2014
Disabled people in Britain face a hidden housing crisis, charity warns
Disabled people are experiencing a hidden housing crisis, says a new report suggesting that many are having to wash in their kitchens and sleep in their living rooms because their homes are ill-designed for their needs.
The charity Leonard Cheshire Disability claims that as many as five million people now need a disabled-friendly home, a number set to rise as the population ages. A survey for the charity's Home Truths campaign finds that almost three-quarters of people with mobility problems do not have an accessible door into their building. More than half say their buildings do not have doors and hallways wide enough for a wheelchair.
The report cites the example of Sue Frier, 52, a wheelchair user. Unable to get upstairs, she has been confined to the ground floor of her house, sleeping in her lounge and washing at her kitchen sink. Once a week she pays £30 to have a bath at a Leonard Cheshire care home. She cannot use her garden because her housing association refuses to provide a ramp.
'Not adapting homes condemns people to the misery of Victorian strip washes and ultimately possibly to leaving their homes and incurring massive care costs, when they would prefer to live independently,' said Clare Pelham, the charity's chief executive.Of those people with mobility problems, more than half say they find it difficult to sleep in their bedrooms, while one in five say they find it very difficult to use their stairs.
Another case study featured in the report is that of 'Elizabeth', who has multiple sclerosis and is unable to use the stairs in her house and was only able to move home after receiving advice from a solicitor. 'I waited nine years for suitable housing,' she said. 'Being washed in the kitchen is no fun.'
Leonard Cheshire Disability is calling for all new homes to be built to 'Lifetime Homes Standards', with wider doors and walls strong enough to take grab-rails. It also wants 10% of all new homes to have full wheelchair accessibility standards and a commitment from all political parties that any new settlements, such as the planned garden cities, are built with disabled-friendly housing.
The number of disabled people in the UK has risen from 10.1 million in 2003 to 12.2 million in 2013. There are currently around 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK, a number is expected to increase.
A recent report by Habinteg and South Bank University estimated that there was an unmet housing need for wheelchair users in England of almost 80,000 homes.
Tribunal fees awllowing employers to get away with ‘unlawful sackings’, says charity
The introduction of employment tribunal fees has contributed to a 73% fall in tribunal claims, new research from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) reveals today.
Since the coalition government introduced employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 last year, figures suggest that the number of claims brought against employers dropped by 73% between October 2013 to March 2014, on the same period the previous year.
Citizens Advice claim that the new fees are deterring employees from bringing forward legitimate claims against employers and are allowing bosses to get away with “unlawful sackings and withholding wages”.
An analysis of 182 employment cases brought to the CAB between June and July 2014 found that only 31% of potentially successful claims were likely to proceed to tribunal. In over half of cases people said that employment tribunal fees, and other costs, were deterring them from taking their case forward.
The analysis also found that a quarter of employment claims worth less than £1,000 were not pursued and a fifth of all claims were based upon alleged employer discrimination.
CAB say that unfair dismissals, withholding wages and holiday pay were the most common reasons given by workers for considering legal action against employers.
The charity has witnessed a 42% rise in people visiting its website seeking employment advice and employment tribunal searches are up 54% on last year. This comes as people say they are fearful of retribution and losing their job if they take legal action against their employer.
A case study included as part of the research tells the story of a kitchen porter known as Jack. The CAB say that Jack was denied £300 holiday pay he was entitled to and sought assistance from the charity. Jack was advised that because his partner was working he would not qualify for remission of the Employment tribunal fees. On being informed that taking his case forward would cost £390 in tribunal fees, Jack understandably decided that it would not be ‘cost-effective’ to continue with the claim.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said:
“Employers are getting away with unlawful sackings and withholding wages. People with strong employment claims are immediately defeated by high costs and fees.
“The risk of not being paid, even if successful, means for many the Employment Tribunal is just not an option. The cost of a case can sometimes be more than the award achieved and people can’t afford to fight on principle anymore.
“Citizens Advice wants to see a fair and robust review of the Employment Tribunal system to make it work for all people and employment abuses eradicated.”
Monday, 28 July 2014
Watchdog launches probe into Seetec fraud claims
The public spending watchdog has launched an investigation into claims of fraud by a company paid to find jobs for disabled people.
Only last week, MPs on the Commons public accounts committee quizzed Robert Devereux, permanent secretary in the Department for Work and Pensions, about the way his civil servants had dealt with the allegations against Seetec.
Now, as a result of that evidence session, the National Audit Office (NAO) has decided to investigate the claims, which were first made by two whistleblowers to Disability News Service last year.
They claim Seetec artificially inflated the number of jobs it said it was finding for disabled people through the specialist Work Choice jobs programme.
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) completed its investigation into the claims and cleared Seetec of fraud without interviewing either of the whistleblowers.
Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee, told Devereux last week that that there were “definitely issues with Seetec”, and pointed to evidence from a third whistleblower who has raised concerns – also investigated by the NAO – about the company’s performance on the mainstream Work Programme.
Now the NAO plans to meet Perveen Sud to discuss the issues that she and the other Work Choice whistleblower have raised.
Sud said: “It is very encouraging that the NAO has made a decision to investigate such serious matters.
“This is a very important step forward as Margaret Hodge… clearly identified that there are very serious issues with Seetec.”
A spokeswoman for the NAO said: “It is a matter of private correspondence and we can’t really say anything else.”
Anger as rule change set to cost disabled people £35 a week
A change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments means many could lose as much as £35 a week.
Anyone who can walk more than 20 metres (65ft) will no longer be entitled to the £56.75 enhanced weekly mobility allowance and could be offered the standard rate of just £21.55.
Before UK Government welfare reforms, a distance of 50 metres was used as a measure of significant mobility impairment.
A group of 50 charities known as the Disability Benefits Consortium launched a High Court challenge based on claims that a UK Government consultation was unfair.
Lawyers for disabled Steven Sumpter argued the consultation did not mention the new limit would be reduced to 20 metres.
However, Mr Justice Hickinbottom ruled the process had been lawful.
Karen Ashton, Mr Sumpter's solicitor, described the judgement as 'very disappointing'. She added: 'We will be looking carefully at the possibility of an appeal.'
It has been estimated as many as 80,000 working age disabled people in Scotland will lose some or all of the mobility allowance as a result of the changes.
Iain Workman, from Greenock, a 52-year-old father-of-three who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago, said: 'They are talking about phasing this in, but I do not know how long it will take. It will be something I will be up against in the coming months.
'It has the potential to affect every single person on Disability Living Allowance. We are going to have to jump through hoops for them and be performing monkeys. It's terrifying.'
Claire Nurden, co-chairwoman of the Disability Benefits Consortium, said: 'Personal Independence Payments are intended to help those most in need, but it is exactly these people that are set to lose.
'The benefit is alifeline for people - many use it to pay for their mobility scooter or adapted car so they can remain independent and travel to work, education or medical appointments.
'We would strongly support an appeal of this decision.'
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: 'We are pleased with the judgment and welcome the clear statement that how public money is distributed is a matter for the Secretary of State and Parliament and not for the courts.'
Friday, 25 July 2014
Disabled people pay £550 'penalty' each month
A commission has been launched into why disabled adults spend around £36bn a year on extra costs due to their disability.
It comes after new research conducted with ITV News found people pay a 'financial penalty' of an average £550 per month when it comes to living costs.
The study from Scope suggests one in ten people with a disability pay £1,000 extra per month.
The organisation's Priced Out report also found that disabled people:
Are twice as likely to have unsecured debt amounting to more than half of their household income
Are three times more likely to use doorstep loans
Have £108,000 fewer savings and assets than non-disabled people on average
Have smaller pension pots - among 55-64-year-olds, non-disabled people have on average £125,000 more in private pension savings
Are often turned down for insurance - six in ten rejected for cover said it was because of their disability.
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