Disability employment strategy reform in the UK

The government will base its new disability employment strategy in the United Kingdom on the provision of more personalised support to help disabled people into work, it announced this week.

In a paper providing details of “the discussion so far” on the strategy, work and pensions ministers said they wanted to move away from “supporting individuals in separated, segregated employment”, and towards a more personalised approach, with a “wider range of ideas and initiatives”.

One idea is for a new “gateway” to employment support for disabled people, to ensure they receive

“the right support at the right time to enable them to get into or get back into work”.

 Although details were sketchy, individuals will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about their skills and work history, before being placed in one of three categories, according to how much guidance and support they are likely to need in their job hunt.

Those referred for specialist support will be helped by an adviser to develop a personalised employment plan.

The paper suggests specialist support will shift away from the big Work Choice providers such as Seetec, A4E and Ingeus, and towards a more personalised approach, with a greater range of local provision, and supported – rather than sheltered – employment.

There is also an admission that the mainstream Work Programme needs to improve for disabled people.

Much of the rest of the paper focuses on improving advice and support, including a new “one stop shop” for employers, to bring together information on subjects such as Access to Work (AtW), reasonable adjustments and equality law on one website.

Other ideas given prominence include offering help to employment and support allowance claimants much earlier in the claims process, and the need for joint working across agencies to support people with mental health conditions into work.

And there was emphasis on reforming and improving existing schemes, including Access to Work and the Two Ticks programme, which recognises

disability-friendly employers.

But there was also much that was potentially controversial, with an emphasis from Conservative employment minister Esther McVey on the so-called

“biopsychosocial” model of disability, an approach – favoured by the insurance industry – which puts much of the blame for disability on the disabled person.

McVey says in a foreword to the paper: “A person’s belief about what they can do can be as important as other factors, including their health condition, in determining how likely they are to find a job.”

The paper also claims that replacing working-age disability living allowance with the new personal independence payment will help disabled people into work, when many disabled campaigners believe that it will do the opposite.

And it warns that employment support will be rationed, with eligibility criteria used to select which claimants receive anything more than “a basic, universal offer of support”.

In another nod to the biopsychosocial model, the paper suggests that those who have the strongest “beliefs” about their own skills and ability to work might be prioritised.

It also suggests that some disabled people’s organisations and disability charities could do more to promote the idea of work to their own clients, and should ensure that young disabled people about to enter the labour market are made aware of any jobs in their organisations.

The paper also claims that a number of new programmes that are rolling out or will soon be introduced should also boost employment for disabled people, including the key universal credit reforms, the two-year Disability Confident awareness-raising programme for businesses, the Fulfilling Potential cross-government disability strategy, the new “portability” measures in the care bill, a refreshed adult autism strategy, and the Health and Work Service, which is due to launch next year.

Although the paper includes a reminder that the budget for employment support for disabled people has been set at £350 million for 2015-16, some of the major reforms – including those to specialist support – will not come on stream until 2016 at the earliest, because of existing contracts.

Ministers say they will publish a delivery plan for the new strategy next year.

Soruce: http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/12/disability-employment-strategy-reform-rationing-and-a-new-gateway/

John Pring 12.20.2013

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Frist says Corker, Alexander wrong about disabilities treaty

Former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist said Monday that he disagrees with decisions by the state’s current senators not to support a United Nations treaty on disability rights.

Frist said U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander are wrong to oppose the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities because it will not conflict with United States law, including the 1990 Americans with Disability Act. Frist said the treaty is “non-self-executing,” meaning it cannot create a legal cause of action or be the basis of a lawsuit.

The treaty fell six votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for ratification a year ago, but supporters have continued to push for its passage.

“Voting no to this treaty is saying that we do not think the global community deserves an ADA of their own,” Frist said. “U.S. leadership matters. We should be at the table.”

Corker has been seen as an especially influential vote because he is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which held two hearings on the pact in November. But he and Alexander, a fellow Republican, said Friday they had not changed their minds about the treaty.

The Tennessee Disability Coalition also reacted with disappointment on Monday.

“We were shocked and saddened to learn than Senators Corker and Alexander have chosen to ignore the voices of Tennesseans with disabilities,” said Carol Westlake, the group’s executive director. “This is a betrayal of our community — of children and adults with disabilities, veterans, and the families that support them.”

Source: http://www.wbir.com/story/news/politics/2013/12/23/frist-says-corker-alexander-wrong-about-disabilities-treaty/4181019/ 12.23.2013

Shared space bus cases double up for court appeal

The courts are finally set to provide a clear and definitive ruling on disabled people’s right to access wheelchair spaces on buses in the UK.

Two county court cases which saw disabled people take action under the Equality Act against bus companies will now be heard together at the court of appeal, probably next summer.

The first of the cases saw a judge rule that Arriva North East’s

“first come, first served” policy

on the wheelchair space on their buses did not breach the Equality Act.

Wheelchair-user Jane Elliott had described how an Arriva driver refused to allow her onto his bus because there was a pushchair occupying the wheelchair space.

The judge ruled that – although such incidents could potentially breach the Equality Act – Elliott had not experienced “substantial disadvantage” because the incident had taken place in the early afternoon, she was not in an “isolated or potentially dangerous area”, and another bus was likely to arrive in about 10 minutes.

Four months later, a second judge, this time at Leeds county court, ruled that wheelchair-users should have priority over other bus-users in wheelchair spaces, and that First Group’s own “first come, first served” policy had breached the act.

This case had been taken by wheelchair-user Doug Paulley, from Wetherby, who had been planning to travel to Leeds in February 2012, but was prevented from entering the bus because the driver refused to insist that a mother with a pushchair should move from the wheelchair space.

Recorder Paul Isaacs concluded in his written judgment that it was reasonable that “the system of priority given to wheelchair-users should be enforced as a matter not of request, to any non-disabled user of the wheelchair space, but of requirement”.

Now a senior judge has ruled that both cases should be heard together by the court of appeal.

Unity Law, which represents the disabled passengers in both cases, said the appeal was “set to become the first and leading case on accessible transport and will provide clarity for disabled passengers on public transport of all types”.

Chris Fry, from Unity Law, said: “We are pleased that the issue of who should have priority over the wheelchair spaces on buses will now be considered by a panel of senior judges.

“It’s an opportunity for the thousands of wheelchair-users in the UK to finally get a definitive answer on this issue.”

Such a ruling could force other bus, train and tram companies with similar “first come, first served” policies to take action.

Source: http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/12/shared-space-bus-cases-double-up-for-court-appeal

John Pring 12.20.2013