June / July Access Newsletter Update

July 21st, 2013

Some  highlights from the Centre For Accessible Environments June Access Newsletter (don’t forget our associates are able to receive a discount on all CAE training courses and publications obtained through the centre:……contact Inclusion for more details):

The O2 launch 500th Changing Places facility

The 500th Changing Places facility was officially opened at The O2 last month.

Changing Places toilet facilities are designed to accommodate people who need particular assistance and equipment in order to use a toilet.

The 500th toilet at The O2 is a key milestone for the Changing Places campaign, which for the past seven years has been calling for an increase in the number of accessible toilets in public places so that the people who need them can enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else.

For further information, visit the Changing Places website

Access: Access City Award 2014 launched

Last month, the European Commission opened the competition for the fourth Access City Award, the annual European award for accessible cities. The award celebrates cities that are dedicated to providing an accessible environment for all, and for disabled and older people in particular.

Cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants have until 10 September to submit their candidacy for the award.

For further information, visit the European Commission website

Access: Council failed to properly accommodate disabled tenant while trying to save money

A council has been slammed by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) for leaving a disabled man in unsuitable accommodation for three years – because it wanted to save money.

The LGO began an investigation after a complaint was made in November 2010 that Daventry District Council failed to deal properly with the man’s application to adapt his property. The changes were needed to create a downstairs bedroom for the complainant, who is a wheelchair user.

The application met all the criteria for funding but because the estimated cost was in excess of the statutory maximum grant of £30,000, Daventry chose an alternative scheme through Northamptonshire County Council.

The scheme could have paid for the work at no cost to the council but the application was delayed and was ultimately unsuccessful.

The LGO found that the council should have considered making a discretionary grant to cover the shortfall in the initial scheme rather than pursuing the no-cost option for an unacceptable length of time.

As early as October 2011 the housing association offered to top up the £5,000 needed to fund the original build, but the council insisted on pursuing the alternative scheme till as recently as March 2013.

The local authority has been recommended to apologise to the tenant and his partner and pay them £5,000 for the stress and anxiety caused.

It has agreed to start work on the alternations to the complainant’s home which should start in August 2013.

For further information, visit the 24 Dash website

Bedroom tax: Three ways to curb the impact of the bedroom tax on the most vulnerable

The following is a comments piece by Danny Hardie, Welfare Benefits Adviser, Peabody:

It is more than two months since the introduction of the so-called bedroom tax, and the impact on social housing tenants is becoming clear.

The number of people seeking extra help from their local council to meet housing costs has soared, with more than 25,000 people applying for discretionary housing payments to help cover their rent in April, compared with 5,700 in the same month last year.

In my role as one of Peabody’s welfare benefits advisers, I get to see first-hand how the bedroom tax affects our residents. One of the people we work with has a degenerative illness and cannot manage the stairs in her three-bedroom home. She sleeps in the downstairs bedroom while her son and husband sleep upstairs. The property has been adapted and her GP and specialist clinic are nearby. Adapted two-bedroom properties are in short supply and are often more expensive than the three bedrooms they currently have. But there is no recognition of this situation, and the 14 per cent cut to housing benefit applies.

Many residents I meet are cutting back on essentials such as heating and food to make ends meet. The rise in food banks has been well documented, with more than 350,000 people seeking help last year.

The Government must protect the vulnerable while making work pay and I have three suggestions for how this can be done:

  • tackle the low-pay culture that exists in some companies: We understand and support the need to reduce the cost of welfare benefits and the system more efficient, but this must be underpinned by decent work incentives and the introduction of a living wage that makes work pay
  • change how the under-occupation charge is calculated: Basing any reduction on the amount of housing benefit received, rather than eligible rent, would go some way to mitigating the huge impact on the poorest in our communities. Under this system, the percentage of housing benefit received could be reduced as earnings rose, enabling more people to pay their own way, but not so much as to discourage work
  • there is simply not enough affordable housing in London: Investment in housing is investing in the economy, creating more jobs and opportunities, and investing in communities. Lower rents and higher wages means reduced welfare and a growing economy
  • Government could also provide some financial backing to a national mutual exchange scheme – expanding the work housing providers are already doing to help people who want to move. It could recognise the unfairness of the plans as they currently stand by only applying the bedroom tax to those people who have declined a reasonable offer of alternative accommodation.

Together, these changes would ameliorate the personal cost of the bedroom tax and the huge damage it is causing in our communities. They would improve lives for many thousands of people, help them stand on their own two feet, and reduce public expenditure on benefits.

For further information, visit The Guardian website

Dementia: York’s commitment to create a city that is dementia-friendly

The following is a comments piece by Tracey Simpson-Laing, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for health, housing and adult social services:

York has a large and growing older population: by 2020, the number of residents over 85 will increase by 60 per cent. This means that those who enter residential care will be older, frailer and more likely to experience dementia.

As part of our ambition to create a fair and equal city for all our residents, we are working to make York a dementia-friendly city. We aim to meet the changing needs of an ageing population, enabling elderly residents to live in their own homes and communities for longer.

I took over health housing and adult social services after the May 2011 elections in York. Over the past four years, the major challenge facing the council has been managing an increasing service requirement in the face of a 28 per cent reduction in government funding.

Like many councils that continue to run older people’s homes, our buildings were built in the 1960s, when expectations were different. We had nine excellently-run homes, but the buildings and many of the residents’ individual rooms were not the right size and layout for frail people or those living with dementia.

The challenge was the provision of dementia beds. At the time, we had only 57 dementia beds and 33 ensuite rooms out of 276 rooms in total. Our homes were built when people with dementia were sent to large institutions – my grandmother ended her life at Exminster Hospital in Devon, in the early 1980s, where residents lived 30-people to a room and shared clothes. While our homes were already a definite improvement on this, more changes had to be made.

Since July 2011, we have gathered information and ideas so we can better understand the city’s future needs. The consultations included seeking opinions on the following options to meet those needs:

  • retain the current operating model and provision
  • extend and refurbish the existing homes
  • increase the proportion of beds purchased from the private sector
  • fund the design, build and operation of care homes on three sites, including a community village
  • fund the design and build care homes on three sites but enter a partnership with a commercial developer to fund and build new homes
  • The fourth option, funding the design was the preferred option. However – as with all projects – challenges arose. In late 2012, when architect’s plans were drawn up, the council was informed that one of the three sites we had identified was no longer suitable due to conservation issues. This resulted in a smaller area of developable land, and the change meant we had to reflect on need, finance and provision.

We have drawn on many examples of innovative care and best practice in the UK and Europe, as well as significant work by officers to explore future demand for specialist residential care and the developing supply of local residential and nursing care provided by the independent sector.

Last month, the council announced its plan for the future of older people’s care in York. I am proud that we will still be building a care home and a community village for older people. Evidence tells us a third home isn’t required and, in any case, funding won’t allow it.

However, the community village has been expanded and will provide at least 72 homes, a quarter of which will be affordable housing, providing residents with care support from independent living through to end-of-life care. The new care homes will be designed for those who are older or have dementia. It will be based on the household model providing a home within a home. Residents will live in self-contained households of six to 12 people with similar needs, and have a kitchen, living areas and enclosed garden.

These homes will be a key part of York’s efforts to future-proof the city in line with the changing needs of our residents and the marketplace.

For further information visit The Guardian website

Design: Government to scrap design and access statements for most works

The Government has announced it will scrap design and access statements for the majority of planning applications later this month.

From 25 June, the statements will only be needed for major developments: buildings more than 1,000 metres-squared and housing projects of ten dwellings or more. They will also still be required for listed building consent, though the requirements in conservation areas have been relaxed.

The coalition’s decision has split the profession. Some welcome the plan, described as a ‘more proportionate approach’ to planning applications, while others fear it will leave the public struggling to understand the design intention from drawings alone.

Despite assurances by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, that the relaxation was based on industry-wide consultation – and though the RIBA has backed the shake-up – many architects remained unconvinced by the changes, claiming the public is ill-equipped to judge applications by drawings alone.

Stephen Harding, the RIBA’s former Head of Public Affairs, who worked with Richard Rogers in Parliament to get the statements onto the statute books, said: ‘At best this move is careless. At worst, it is further evidence of the Government’s disregard for design quality. It makes it too easy for local planners to overlook the design elements of planning applications, leaving the rest of us to live with the consequences.’

Meanwhile, David Bonnett, formerly a member of Cabe’s Inclusion by Design Group, said the change marked a ‘worrying reversal for inclusive design, especially for housing’ and feared for the future of the Lifetimes Homes standard.

He said: ‘Lifetime Homes Standards, the benchmark for inclusivity in housing, are only reviewed as part of the planning process and are not covered by later approvals stages.

‘This means that Lifetime Homes are now less likely to feature in small projects. ‘I can only hope the minister will change his mind or at least encourage local authorities to adopt Lifetime Homes standards for all projects as part of local planning frameworks. To do otherwise, simply shifts the burden of poor housing, once more, to a future generation.’

For further information, visit the Architects’ Journal website

Design: Scrapping design statements creates confusion

Scrapping design and access statements will fail to cut red tape and instead create additional costs and uncertainty, planners have warned.

Design and access statements will cease to be a statutory requirement for the majority of planning applications from June. But, councils said they will still require the information provided by the statements while planners warned that replacing a standardised approach with ad hoc arrangements at each local authority will merely create confusion.

Westminster City Council’s Director of Planning Rosemarie MacQueen said: ‘It is one of these things where you should be careful what you wish for. It has not been local authorities lobbying to get rid of these things, it’s been the private sector, and getting rid of them means a certain lack of clarity.’

Other councils also said they would continue to seek design and access information. Southwark Council’s Director of Planning Simon Bevan said: ‘Southwark still wants to ensure that the right design standards are met, and therefore we will consider setting our own policy requirements which reflect local priorities.’

The Government has confirmed that councils can set their own design and access policies leaving applicants to explain how they meet these criteria in a proportionate manner.

While some architects said they would continue to submit design and access statements whether they are formally required or not.

For further information, visit the Building Design Online website

Design: Communities to benefit from design toolkit

Local communities will soon be able to benefit from a toolkit that helps them engage more fully with the development process.

The Cabe team at the Design Council and the Good Homes Alliance – a group of building professionals – are working on the resource to support the development of well-designed and sustainable homes.

It will be presented in a way that’s easy to understand by local communities and pull together examples of best practice for building well-designed, appropriately sized and more sustainable homes in England.

John Mathers, Chief Executive of Design Council, said: ‘This is a great new initiative for communities and the developers that build new homes.’

‘It is crucial that we empower communities to engage properly with the development and this toolkit will be a valuable resource in ensuring well designed homes for the future.’

The toolkit is also being produced with financial support from the charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The community toolkit will be prototyped and piloted in three communities across the country before its wider roll-out.

For further information, visit the Inside Housing website

Design: Zaha, Rogers and Adjaye to design accessible dolls’ houses for children’s charity

Disability-aware dolls’ houses for the 21st century, designed by big-name architects, including Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers and David Adjaye, are to be auctioned for charity this autumn.

Developer Cathedral Group has signed up a 20-strong squad of star UK architects to design the one-off miniature structures which are expected to contribute towards raising £100,000 for disabled children’s charity KIDS.

More than 1,500 artists, designers and craftspeople contributed to Lutyen’s 4.5-tonne display, which the venerable architect described as: ‘a flagship of endeavour to ease the nation’s woes’.

In the same spirit, Evans has challenged the 20 participating architects to work with their own artist, designer, and furniture-maker collaborators to make the end products even more special.

Each dolls house – suitable for a 750mm x 750mm plinth – will also include one unique feature to make life easier for a disabled child. All contributions are to be designed and manufactured at the practices’ own cost.

The completed dolls houses will go on public display.

For further information, visit the Architects’ Journal website

Equalities: Measurement Framework

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is currently developing a Measurement Framework to provide an overview of equality and human rights in Britain.

It designed to provide the EHRC with a structure to assess equality and human rights across a range of areas. The framework will cover England, Scotland and Wales.

The framework is based on four major research reports that were commissioned by the EHRC between 2007 and 2010. These looked at the following:

  • equality
  • good relations
  • children
  • human rights

For further information, visit the EHRC website

Legislation: UK Discrimination Law Review – Disability Discrimination (Part Two)

A recent case illustrates the point that an employer or service provider can only be found to have directly discriminated against someone because of disability if they actually know, or suspect, that person is disabled.  The case is also a rare example of a tribunal intervening to prevent a weak discrimination complaint going to a full hearing.

The claimant, Mr Patel, had bipolar disorder. He was interviewed for the position of a full time pharmacy manager during 2011; he identified as disabled in the equal opportunities monitoring form, although this part of the form was not disclosed to the interviewers. This was not the first time Mr Patel had applied for a job with the organisation. In 2008 he was interviewed by a Mr Butt whom Mr Patel did inform of his bipolar disorder. At that time he had been appointed on a short-term basis as a self-employed locum. Following the 2011 application, Mr Butt emailed the manager responsible for the recruitment exercise explaining the employment history and reservations about Mr Patel as an employee but made no mention of any disability.

Mr Patel brought a complaint of disability discrimination, complaining that he had been rejected because of his disability – he had been discriminated against directly.

An employment judge took the unusual decision to strike out Mr Patel’s direct disability complaint without a full hearing of all the evidence, having formed the view that the claim did not have any reasonable prospects of success.  The decision was reached on the basis that, in order to establish direct discrimination, a person must know of the disability and it must influence the decision to subject the disabled person to less favourable treatment, either consciously or subconsciously.  The view of the Judge was that there was no evidence to suggest those on the interview panel knew about Mr Patel’s disability. Therefore, the claim could not succeed; with direct discrimination the disability must be the cause or reason for the action and knowledge (or suspicion of a disability) is therefore a key component. This is different, of course, from claims of discrimination arising from disability or the failure to make reasonable adjustments, where even if a Respondent does not know of the disability, liability can apply if they ought reasonably to have known.

On appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) agreed with the Employment Judge’s decision to strike out the claim. Taking the claimant’s case at its highest, on the material available to the claimant he could establish that:

  • he was interviewed by Mr Butt in 2008
  • he told Mr Butt of his disability; nevertheless, Mr Butt took him on as a locum pharmacist
  • Mr Butt was dissatisfied with his performance of that task and communicated his dissatisfaction in some way to the interviewers before the 2011 interview
  • that fact would not have predisposed the interviewers to taking a favourable view of the claimant or overlooking or allowing for any difficulties that he might have in answering questions based upon his experience as a pharmacist

It would not be possible to draw a reasonable inference from that material that the interviewers knew that the claimant suffered from bipolar disorder, nor that Mr Butt believed that he was unsuitable as a locum pharmacist because of bipolar disorder, or that the disorder in any way contributed to Mr Butt’s dissatisfaction with him in that role. It followed that the prospects of establishing his case on the evidence available to him was low. It was theoretically possible that, in response to skilled cross‑examination, the respondents witnesses might fall over themselves and admit to discrimination for an inadmissible reason. However, the EAT held that it could not be right to allow the case to proceed simply on the basis that ‘something may turn up’.

This is an unusual case as, ordinarily, tribunals will insist that the evidence be tested in a full hearing before a decision is reached on the merits of a discrimination claim.  At the heart of the case in establishing his claim would have been the cross examination of those interviewing Mr Patel.

This case may well be a sign of a firmer approach by tribunals in such circumstances, particularly where under the new Tribunal Rules which will take effect next month, tribunals will be encouraged to manage and reduce the workload by identifying weak cases.

Patel versus Lloyds Pharmacy Limited, UKEAT / 0414 / 12

For further information, visit the Eversheds website

Leisure: Deaf Lounge opens for both deaf and hearing people

A new bar for deaf people comes complete with staff that can sign and a sound system which lets people feel the vibrations of the music.

Paul Cripps, of Edmonton, has been deaf since birth and is the co-owner of the Deaf Lounge, in north London, which opened recently.

The 31-year-old and his business partner Domani Peir have been running deaf social clubs and deaf raves for the past seven years around north and east London. They decided to start the bar after Mr Cripps had problems ordering drinks, talking to fellow clubbers and sometimes even getting into clubs.

The Deaf Lounge has bright lights which allow deaf people to see better, a sound system which allows the music to be felt through vibrations and even have a pool table.

It hosts various deaf clubs such as those from Tottenham and Archway, and offers British Sign Language (BSL) classes for those who wish to learn.

For further information, visit the Haringey Independent website

Technology: Disability still a major factor in determining UK internet use

Disabled adults in the UK are still three times less likely to have used the internet than non-disabled people, a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown.

The figures in the latest Internet Access Quarterly Update, released every four months, show that at the first quarter of 2013, there were 3.7 million disabled adults who had never used the internet, representing 32 per cent of all disabled adults in the UK.

The total amount of adults who had never used the internet at the first quarter of 2013 was 7.1 million (14 per cent), meaning that more than half (53 per cent) of this figure were disabled people.

Age is another key factor in determining internet use, the report shows. Only 34 per cent (1.6 million people) of adults over-75 had used the internet, meaning that the 3.1 million people aged 75-and-over who had not gone online made up 43 per cent of the total of 7.1 million non-user adults.

The figures in the Internet Access Quarterly Update are derived from the ONS Labour Force Survey, a continuous household survey of employment circumstances of the UK population conducted in England, Scotland and Wales.

For further information, visit the ONS website

Technology: Habinteg lead European technology project designed to help disabled and older tenants live more independently

Habinteg Housing Association will lead on a major European research project aimed at providing technological solutions to everyday issues for disabled and older people in social housing.

The social landlord represents the UK on the I-stay@home project with partner organisations from France, Germany, Holland and Belgium and will take charge of the practical research phase of its work. 180 tenants from the participating countries, including 20 Habinteg tenants, will test out a selection of ICT products and measure their effectiveness in a household setting. Potential products that could be tested include special sensor technology to prevent falls and a high tech blood pressure monitor. This phase of research will go live from early 2014 and the results can be expected in the summer of 2014.

A recent I-stay@home survey of 200 European tenants showed that older people are keen to use new technology to help them lead more independent lives, provided that the products are affordable and user friendly. The survey revealed that 60 per cent of older people were open to using new technologies with the potential benefits including a reduction in care costs as everyday tasks become simpler and increased time available to see friends and family.

The survey also revealed that older tenants’ most frequent concerns were the ability to get around, see, hear and communicate; the ability to care for their home and looking after their health care and wellbeing. These issues present significant challenges for some people as they get older but these are concerns that technology may be able to help address.

For further details of the I-stay@home project, I-stay@home partnership website

For further information, visit the 24 Dash website

Welfare reform: Government rolls out new disability benefit across UK

A new system of benefits being extended across the country will better reflect today’s understanding of disability, the Government has said.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which was introduced to the north of England in April – is today replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working age claimants across England, Scotland and Wales.

However a charity has warned 428,000 people who require mobility assistance to get to work are at risk of being denied benefits.

PIP will introduce face-to-face assessment of claimants, alongside regular reviews.

Looking at an individual’s ability to complete a range of actions, PIP will use face-to-face reviews and regular meetings to assess entitlement.

Most DLA claimants will not be reassessed until 2015, following publication of the first independent review into the reforms in 2014. In October this year, existing working age claimants will be reassessed if their circumstances change, existing awards end, or if an individual reaches 16.

Esther McVey, Minister for Disabled People said: ‘DLA is an outdated benefit introduced over twenty years ago and was very much a product of its time.

‘The PIP has been designed to better reflect today’s understanding of disability, particularly to update our thinking on mental health and fluctuating conditions.’

Charity Disability Rights UK has warned the Government that the independence of new claimants will be jeopardised under the changes, particularly if they lack independent information on their rights to PIP.

Disability Rights UK Chief Executive, Liz Sayce, said: ‘Our members tell us they face an incomprehensible maze of benefits changes: the bedroom tax, housing benefit changes, changes to social care eligibility, and the introduction of PIP.

‘When benefits provide a bit of support, like an adapted car or a travelling companion for someone with a learning disability, it can make the difference between the person living for decades isolated and out of work or making a full contribution to society.’

For further information, visit the Local Government News Online website

Call for papers: College of Occupational Therapists 38th Annual Conference and Exhibition

The College of Occupational Therapists (COT) 38th annual conference will take place in Brighton, from 3 to 5 June 2014.

In light of the social care legislation changes taking place, the college is now inviting papers from occupational therapists working in social care to submit abstracts, share their experiences, knowledge and best practice.

For further details, visit the COT website