Three disabled peers have asked a panel of senior

first_imgThree disabled peers have asked a panel of senior civil servants why the government appears to have failed to enforce the Equality Act since it became law five years ago.The peers were questioning civil servants from the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) and the Government Equalities Office (GEO), in the first evidence session of a committee set up to examine the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on disabled people.Members of the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee – set up on the prompting of the disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas – repeatedly asked the civil servants why the government had taken so few steps to enforce the act, one of the final pieces of legislation introduced by the last Labour government.The hearing came days after GEO published a memo setting out key developments since the act was introduced five years ago.The memo reveals that of all the enquiries made to the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS), which was set up in October 2012 to replace the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) helpline, 62 per cent related to disability, compared with 15 per cent on race, and eight per cent on gender-related concerns.The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell – in a week that saw her given a lifetime achievement award by the Bevan Foundation – suggested that the government’s decisions to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) and place a cap on payments from the Access to Work fund were “very much against government policy on halving the employment gap” between disabled and non-disabled people.And she suggested that the moves could have breached the government’s public sector equality duty, under the Equality Act.Baroness Thomas said that the government’s own Fulfilling Potential disability strategy pledged to transform the care and support system in order to promote wellbeing and independence and achieve choice and control for disabled people.But she said that that promise “does not sit very well with the closure of the Independent Living Fund”, and asked: “How are you going to monitor what the closure of the ILF means for disabled people?“Are you going to talk to local authorities to see how they are fulfilling their part of the bargain, which is what disabled people are very, very worried about?”When Pat Russell, ODI’s director, said the ILF closure was the responsibility of the Department of Health, Baroness Campbell suggested that her answer appeared to contradict ODI’s supposed “enabling” role and its “cross-government responsibilities”.Baroness Thomas asked the trio of civil servants what the government had done to ensure that the duties under the act to make reasonable adjustments were “actually applied in practice”.She said: “We all know about the theory, but what about in practice?“Those of us who are disabled feel that there’s a great deal that is not being done in this area.“How well do you think service-providers and employers know what a reasonable adjustment is and know what their duties are?”Of the roughly 2,200 enquiries a month made to EASS since 2012, 24 per cent have been about a failure to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person, according to the GEO memo.Charles Ramsden, head of the GEO’s equality framework team, said the government was “aware of concerns” about reasonable adjustments, particularly in terms of access to buildings.He said that case law had built up over the 20 years since reasonable adjustments were introduced through the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), and he said EHRC had produced guidance on reasonable adjustments and was frequently involved in key legal cases.Russell pointed to schemes such as Disability Confident and the Accessible Britain Challenge as evidence of government action.But a third disabled peer, Labour’s Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins, said: “What you have been talking about are educational campaigns, which is what we had before we had the DDA and the Equality Act.”She said: “The act is supposed to be enforcing things, not educating the public. Where is the enforcement?”Baroness Campbell said she was “really worried” by the government’s emphasis on Disability Confident, when the Business Disability Forum (BDF) had been doing similar work for the last 10 years.She said: “Why are we reinventing the wheel… when you could actually be doing the enforcement practice on employers who are confident but still do not undertake the reasonable adjustments so [disabled] employees can come to work every day?“It seems that we are spending a lot of time on awareness campaigns that already exist, and not enough time enforcing the Equality Act.”Russell said that enforcing the act was not the role of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which is responsible for ODI, and that colleagues were working alongside the BDF rather than replicating its work.She added: “It is not the department’s policy responsibility to look at enforcement… that enforcement function sits elsewhere.”Ramsden said that, although there were concerns that EHRC had lost some of its functions, it retained its Equality Act enforcement role, and was still able to assess compliance with the public sector equality duty, carry out investigations, and help people taking cases to court.He said: “The nub of the issue, and an extremely difficult one, is trying to get some kind of handle on enforcement but at the very earliest stage before in effect there has been any kind of dispute.“Clearly that is the $64,000 question and the element that is invariably the most difficult to solve.”last_img read more

Disabled members of the Conservative party have la

first_imgDisabled members of the Conservative party have launched their own investigation into the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), following widespread concerns about its impact across the country.The Conservative Disability Group (CDG) has issued an appeal to former ILF-users and those who had friends or relatives who were recipients of ILF funding to help with the research.Disabled campaigners have accused the government of trying to “wash its hands of all responsibility” for meeting the social care support needs of former ILF-recipients, with the transition process hit by reports of cuts to their care packages. ILF was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and when it closed on 30 June 2015 it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred through DCLG to councils in England, and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland.CDG – which provides a forum for party members with an interest in disability to raise concerns and make suggestions that can be passed on to Tory MPs and councillors – plans to write a report to share with the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson.Wayne Henderson, a member of the CDG executive, has told members the project will examine how well the transition has been managed.He has asked for evidence of how the process has worked in different parts of the country, whether there have been any problems, and whether people’s care packages have been protected by their local councils.He told Disability News Service that it was CDG’s “first call for evidence in recent years” and that they were “using our limited resources to investigate one of the most current areas where there are reported problems in order to find out the facts”.But he said it was too early to say if he or other CDG members were concerned about how the transition from ILF closure had been managed.He said: “We are doing this because we have heard that the transition varies considerably from area to area and we want to get more facts to inform our consideration and thence to pass on information and suggestions to the parliamentary group.”A spokeswoman for Inclusion London welcomed CDG’s decision to carry out the investigation, but said it was a surprise.She said: “People haven’t felt listened to by the Conservative party. It shows that it is such an important issue that they are choosing to research in this area. It shows an awareness that the transition has not gone smoothly.”A Conservative party spokesman said: “The CDG are an independent organisation, so it is up to them what research they choose to undertake.”In October, figures obtained by Inclusion London through a freedom of information request showed that in one local authority, Waltham Forest, more than a quarter of disabled people who previously received ILF support had had their social care packages cut by at least half since it closed.Meanwhile, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has finally confirmed – following weeks of requests for information from Disability News Service (DNS) – that it will provide some funding to councils to compensate them for the extra costs of providing support to former ILF-users in 2016-17.DCLG had insisted that any grants to support councils with the costs of former ILF-users in 2016-17 would depend on the outcome of the government’s spending review, and later said it would provide details once last month’s local government finance settlement had been announced.A DCLG spokeswoman has now finally told DNS: “Local councils are now responsible for meeting all of the eligible needs of former Independent Living Fund recipients.“The government is committed to ensuring councils meet their duties under the Care Act 2014 to former fund recipients.“We will be providing a grant to councils to fund former ILF recipients. Full details will be published in due course.”Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “I would be surprised – although delighted – if there really was continuation of the separate ILF grant determination.“The delay in releasing this information means that local authorities will continue to plan ahead on the basis there won’t be, leading to re-assessments going ahead meanwhile on the basis of a need to cut costs.”This week, DPAC issued an appeal for donations to set up a fighting fund to help former ILF-recipients challenge cuts to their care packages.Clifford said that cuts to the extent of those seen in Waltham Forest “mean robbing disabled people of independence, dignity and equality”.Changes to legal aid mean some former ILF-users are no longer eligible for help with their legal bills, but cannot afford to fund court action to challenge cuts to their care packages.Clifford said: “Legal challenges are an important way of testing out the rights of former ILF recipients under the Care Act 2014 and making examples out of local authorities that are not meeting their legal duties.“This is why we need a fighting fund available to support legal challenges by former ILF recipients not eligible for legal aid.”Meanwhile, the Welsh government has confirmed, in an email to a former ILF-user, that it has allocated £27 million for 2016-17 to a fund it set up as a result of ILF’s closure.The Welsh independent living grant (WILG) funding will ensure that former ILF-users continue to receive their existing level of financial support for social care until at least March 2017.In the email sent to campaigner and former ILF-user Nathan Lee Davies, the first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said the Welsh Labour government’s draft budget for 2016-17 “contains £27 million to enable the WILG to continue to March 2017 as planned”.He added: “I understand that the minister for health and social services will shortly be engaging with representatives of stakeholders to identify the best way of providing support in future.“This will be in the light of the public consultation held earlier this year. This is to ensure that future arrangements are in place for when the current grant concludes in 2017.”Davies said on his blog that this response was “the best Christmas gift I could have asked for as now I have it in writing that WILG will continue to March 2017 as planned”.He added: “I must keep my eye on the ball and continue to fight to secure long-term assurances for disabled people, but I can now forge forward with hope in my heart.”A Welsh government spokesman said: “The UK government’s decision to close the ILF caused anxiety among those who receive support, and their carers.“The Welsh grant scheme to replace the ILF came into operation on 1 July 2015. It allows local authorities to pay existing recipients their current level of funding.“The actions the Welsh government has taken to ensure this important source of funding continues to be delivered by our local authorities means people who currently receive ILF payments will still be able to get direct payments to sustain their levels of care and support under a new made-in-Wales process.”The Scottish government has set up its own Independent Living Fund, for both existing and new users in Scotland.Picture: Activists campaigning to halt the closure of the Independent Living Fund taking part in a protest in the grounds of Westminster Abbey in 2014last_img read more

SHANNON McDonnell grabbed a hattrick as Saints fi

first_imgSHANNON McDonnell grabbed a hat-trick as Saints finished their Super 8s campaign with a 32-12 victory over Wakefield Wildcats.The treble eased his side to a six-try win and a semi final with Warrington Wolves next Thursday.But they know they’ll have to play a lot better if they are going to progress.After an opening stalemate with handling errors on both sides, Jonny Lomax produced a crucial try-saving tackle on Craig Hall.That was as threatened as either try-line got until Saints opened the deadlock after 20 minutes – Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook showing great strength to stretch over after a short ball.Luke Walsh kicked the conversion and then almost fashioned another chance for LMS and Jordan Turner on the very next play.But Craig Hall crossed on 27 minutes following some great handling close to the goal line.Both sides toiled to create anything definitive but Saints increased their advantage courtesy of a superb ball from Lomax two minutes before half time.He’d been unlucky earlier in the set with a darting run, but he certainly made no mistake with a long cut out pass for Jack Owens to cross for his sixth of the season.Liam Finn making it a six point game as the hooter sounded with a penalty.Saints thought they’d scored first in the second half as Jon Wilkin and Theo Fages combined to put Joe Greenwood over.But the move was bizarrely called back for obstruction.Wakefield threatened on 50 minutes but a big tackle from Alex Walmsley stopped the threat.Saints then turned defence into attack.Turner found himself free on the left hand side and fed McDonnell on his shoulder.The winger then duly took on Bill Tupou, produced a worldie of a stop start step to bamboozle his opposite number, and flew over from 40 metres.Tom Johnstone finished well on 58 minutes to keep the visitors in the hunt but McDonnell crossed for his second seven minutes later.Again, it was another flowing move – Fages and Turner linking for the winger to pick it up off his bootstraps.His third wasn’t too long in coming either.On 70 minutes Amor put in a barnstorming run to get Saints in field position and McDonnell picked another one off his laces for his hat-trick.Saints had their tails up and completed the match right on the stroke of full time.Amor was again involved; offloading for Fages to show great feet and dart under the posts.Match Summary:Saints:Tries: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Owens, McDonnell (3), FagesGoals: Walsh (4 from 6)Wildcats:Tries: Hall, JohnstoneGoals: Finn (2 from 2)Penalties:Saints: 6Wildcats: 8HT: 12-6FT: 32-12REF: Joe CobbATT: 9516Teams:Saints: 1. Jonny Lomax; 23. Shannon McDonnell, 4. Mark Percival, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 22. Jack Owens; 3. Jordan Turner, 7. Luke Walsh; 11. Atelea Vea, 28. Morgan Knowles, 10. Kyle Amor, 20. Joe Greenwood, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 17. Luke Thompson. Subs: 8. Alex Walmsley, 12. Jon Wilkin, 19. Theo Fages, 26. Oliver Davies.Wildcats:21. Max Jowitt; 2. Tom Johnstone, 14. Reece Lyne, 18. Joe Arundel, 3. Bill Tupou; 25. Craig Hall, 7. Liam Finn; 11. Michael Simon, 20. Mikey Sio, 35. David Fifita, 19. Jon Molloy, 17. Matty Ashurst, 13. Anthony Tupou.Subs: 16. Tinirau Arona, 22. Jordan Crowther, 28. Andy Yates, 31. Jason Walton.last_img read more

Photos Czechs stage biggest antigovernment protest since communist era

first_imgA demonstrator wearing an EU flag attends a protest rally demanding resignation of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis in Prague, Czech Republic, June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Milan KammermayerA demonstrator wearing an EU flag attends a protest rally demanding resignation of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis in Prague, Czech Republic, June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Milan Kammermayer Czechs turned out in their thousands on Sunday in Prague to call for the ousting of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, in the biggest show of public discontent since the 1989 Velvet Revolution which overthrew Communism.The rally in Letna park was the culmination of a series of demonstrations in recent weeks against Babis, who has faced investigations over alleged fraud and conflicts of interest.Organisers said they believed that about 250,000 people had attended Sunday’s rally, from all around the country, but this figure could not be verified.Some carried banners saying “Resign”, “We’ve had enough”, and others waved Czech or EU flags. Many families brought children to the protest, which was peaceful so far as were other recent protests against both Babis and his justice minister.Police proposed in April that Babis, a billionaire businessman-turned-politician sometimes likened to U.S. President Donald Trump, should be formally charged for fraud in tapping a European Union subsidy a decade ago to build a hotel and conference centre outside Prague. He denies any wrongdoing.The appointment of a new justice minister just after the police announcement prompted rallies by demonstrators suspicious that Babis was trying to influence proceedings. Babis has also vigorously denied that claim.Filip Rubas, who joined protests in 1989 against the then communist regime, said he turned out on Sunday to send a message to politicians that they will be held accountable.“We think that our leaders need to be reminded very strongly that they do not own our country, that they are not above the law (or constitution) and that there are still enough caring people who are not brainwashed by hateful propaganda,” said Rubas, 50.He travelled to the rally with his wife and a group of friends from Brno, the country’s second city, 200km from Prague.Sunday’s protest was organised by civic group Million Moments for Democracy, founded by students. Politicians were not invited to speak at the rally which began at around 16.30 (1430 GMT).Babis suffered another setback from leaked preliminary results of an audit by the European Commission, which determined he is in conflict of interest as the beneficiary of trust funds where he had transferred his business valued at $3.7 billion (£2.90 billion) by Forbes.Babis insists the audit is wrong and this would be proven in the final conclusions, expected late this year or early in 2020.Babis has said people have the right to protest but has firmly refused to step down. His populist ANO movement remains the most popular party, although its support has dipped slightly in the past two months to 27.5%, according to a poll by Kantar agency released on June 9.Babis also has enough backing in parliament, where a no-confidence vote planned for the next week is likely to fail. WhatsApp SharePrintcenter_img <a href=’;cb={random}’ target=’_blank’><img src=’;cb={random}&amp;n=ab2c8853&amp;ct0={clickurl_enc}’ border=’0′ alt=” /></a>last_img read more