The cards are stacked against us but who is dealing?

One fifth of the population has a much tougher time than the rest and it’s been getting worse.  We are becoming an isolated and impoverished underclass because the law and decades of Government policy just don’t work.    Optimistically, this could simply be due to rather incompetent and poorly coordinated policies that, together, have a disproportionate impact on the weakest in society but others might see it as just cynical targeting of the most vulnerable.

Life is a constant uphill battle for nearly 12 million of us with long-term health conditions and disabilities.  And, it’s official according to the report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/being-disabled-britain-journey-less-equal

If nearly one in five of us have health conditions or impairments, the chances are high that you come within the disability definition or know someone who does.  Here are some of the battles we face:

  • You won’t do as well as others at school, are more likely to be excluded and to drop out of education.  Not surprisingly: “the proportion of disabled people with no qualifications was nearly three times that of non-disabled people in 2015/16”.
  • Your social and community life is probably limited by transport problems.  Alongside, getting health, tax, benefits and other public services has probably become increasingly difficult – not least due to the wide gap in your access to online services compared with other people.
  • You are more likely to face health inequalities, face major health conditions and die younger.  If you have a mental health condition (whether your “original” disability or as a result of it), life is even more difficult
  • You are more likely to have experienced crime and feel unsafe while the criminal justice system still isn’t good at understanding disability hate crime
  • If you are in prison, you are more likely to have a mental health condition than the rest of the general population.  Health and social care detentions have increased but assessment and treatment is still problematic.
  • You are less likely to be in work and Government initiatives such as the Work Programme, Work Choice and Access To Work haven’t made much difference.  Even if you do work, you are likely to be earning less.  With  all of this against you, its not surprisingly you are more likely to be living in poverty  and this has been made worse by the combined effects of the much disputed and criticised benefit changes.   Other changes in the legal aid system have limited your access to justice, for example, there has been a 54% drop in disability discrimination cases going to employment tribunals.
  • Overall, you probably still experience the very obvious negative attitudes towards disabled people throughout Britain and all aspects of our society – and which can be even worse for those with mental health conditions, learning disability or memory impairment.
  • And not much of all this is likely to change while your voice isn’t heard:  it is more difficult for us to vote and we are few and far between in politics or the key decision making roles in our public institutions.

 

It seems that life has become more difficult over many years but we aren’t seeing any coordinated action to make it better.  What are the politicians, the courts, the Commission and all those others with power and influence doing?    I suspect that we can’t rely on morality and conscience to create change.  But the financial imperatives are striking: we are probably the most expensive section of the population and the vast majority want to contribute to society and the economy.  But it’s going to take a much more robust, cross-Government change of attitudes to make a difference.

And I’m not suggesting that any one political party is offering the solution.  We need manifestos that recognise that nearly 20% of voters (and all their families and carers) want big improvements – and solutions that are good for the economy and everyone else too.

Before using your vote, check out each manifesto: do they recognise the full range of problems, have practical answers and the funding to make it all a reality?

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

NHS catches up with equality legislation.

What do you think:

  • Does your GP or hospital always give you information that you can read and understand?
  • If not, does it mean that you miss out on appointments, treatment, care or health checks?
  • Does your health suffer?

It has taken the NHS 21 years, some significant disasters in care and its own internal Standard to take the law seriously: providing accessible information and communications as originally laid down in the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and then strengthened by the Equality Act (2010).

Back in 2014, the Chief Medical Officer reported on the poor health outcomes for people with sensory impairments:  in addition to increased prospects of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, people with blindness or deafness are more likely to have other long-term health conditions, anxiety or stress and have less confidence in managing our health.  I wrote to her and blogged suggesting that our difficulties in getting information from the NHS was probably a significant contributory factor because our contacts with medical care are fewer and probably less successful.

Now the NHS has introduced a new Standard aimed at those involved in health care and adult social care to change how they treat patients, service users, carers and parents, where their information and communication support needs relate to a disability, impairment or sensory loss.

If you have information or communication needs (or look after someone who does):

  • tell your GP practice manager (ideally in writing) and;
  • give them permission to share your requirements with others in the NHS or adult social care (which saves you from repeating it).

Then they should flag your records and take action to meet your needs.

Act Now:  The more of us who ask, the better they should become and then we have more chance of better health in the future.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Official data confirms disability as top discrimination issue.

What do you think:

  • Do disabled people complain most or do we have more to complain about?
  • Disability discrimination causes most calls on Government service.
  • Work is top disability discrimination issue.

Recent data from the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) shows that a massive proportion of all their calls in August (not far off two thirds) related to discrimination concerns for people with long-term health conditions/disabilities.

This isn’t just a flash in the pan but matches trends reported by EASS at their conference earlier in the year: UK wide, disability issues were at 62% across 12 months’ data – at a level of about four times that of race (15%) and eight times that of sex (8%).  (See the year’s data here and search Conference Word)

So disability issues are by far the biggest cause of discrimination concerns within which   work accounts for 55%, followed by Services and public functions at 26% – it is not all about lifts and ramps (premises were only 4%!)

With disabled people being only about 20% of the population, this level of contact with EASS is too disproportionately high to be ignored. There are doubtless some individuals and organisations making full use of the Service but other groups concerned with race, sex etc are likely to be similarly active.  Population proportions aren’t the explanation either as the level of disabled people is not even twice that of black and ethnic minorities (let alone four times) while sex or gender is close to 50:50.

Instead, the data shows that the Service is primarily dealing with disability discrimination and mainly issues to do with employment.  If we want to reduce the numbers claiming sickness benefits, tackling such high levels of workplace discrimination is worth every penny.  Hopefully the House of Lords Select Committee’s review of Equality Act enforcement will add some much-needed muscle.

The EaSS can help resolve concerns informally, including writing to the organisation in issue.  Contact them:

Telephone 0808 800 0082

Textphone 0808 800 0084

Email via website www.equalityadvisoryservice.com

Post to FREEPOST Equality Advisory Support Service FPN4431

Webchat Available via website

BSL provided through partner Royal Association for Deaf People. More information on homepage.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000