A new autisticled taskforce has pledged to addres

first_imgA new autistic-led taskforce has pledged to address the “hypocrisy and injustice” that faces autistic people, and make it easier for them to control their own lives, with the help of a £100,000 grant.The National Autistic Taskforce (NAT) is being funded for two years through the grant from the Shirley Foundation, which was awarded because many of the taskforce’s members had worked as advisers to the National Autism Project (NAP), which is also funded by the foundation.Dame Stephanie Shirley, the foundation’s founder, was so grateful for their work that she provided £100,000 funding for an autistic-led project.The leadership of the new taskforce, and all its founding members, are themselves autistic.The focus of the taskforce will be “to help empower autistic adults, including those with less autonomy and higher support needs, to have a stronger voice in the decisions and direction of their own lives”.It was launched at a House of Lords event this week.In a speech to launch the taskforce, the project leader, the autistic lecturer and consultant Dr Damian Milton (pictured), said that although there have been some improvements in public awareness, educational support, and peer-led community support for autistic people, there were still “many gaps in knowledge and service provision” that can lead to “horrendous consequences”.He said: “Whilst there has been much ‘basic science’ research in the field of autism, good quality research and evidence in terms of support strategies, and how best to help autistic people live fulfilling lives, is far less forthcoming.“In the worst cases, this can lead to ill-informed practices that can exacerbate the difficulties faced by autistic people.“This is all the more pertinent for those who are less able to articulate their needs and advocate for themselves in ‘traditional’ ways.”One of the concerns of the taskforce is that significant numbers of autistic people are being denied their freedom through the application of Deprivation of Liberty rules, with many forced into long stays in assessment and treatment units.Among the taskforce’s tasks will be to examine how autistic people can be given more control over their lives, and how to improve access to independent advocacy services, including support provided by autistic advocates, while it is also likely to focus on the failings of the national care regulators, including the Care Quality Commission.A series of NAT working groups, known as GNATs, will look at key topics such as research, care standards, and effective diagnosis.Non-autistic people are being asked to join the working groups, but all of them will have a majority of autistic members.The aim of the GNATs is to be “productive irritants”, pushing for action on government policies and how they are put into practice.There will also be a new website, AutNav, aimed at autistic people and people with learning difficulties.Although the taskforce is a two-year project, the aim of one of the GNATs is to look at how to make NAT a self-sustaining body.Dinah Murray, a member of the NAT strategy board, and strategy adviser to the taskforce, told Disability News Service: “We are basing our practice on the key autistic strength of atypically strong and pressing interests: we see hypocrisy, injustice, and the failure of the whole legislative infrastructure blatantly before us, in regard to people for whom we have exceptional fellow feeling, and it really fires us up.  “We are also highly solution focussed as part of our autistic dispositions. We want to shake things up and we are not afraid to try.”She said there were “appalling injustices going on” and that they had “the shared expertise, passionate commitment and tough mindedness to drive needed change”.She said there were widespread “negative attitudes and poorly thought out practices”, but “the most gravely abusive treatment is of people with the highest care needs”, such as Connor Sparrowhawk, whose death in 2013 in an NHS care unit led to the Justice for LB campaign.She said autistic people were facing “incarceration, forced drugging, distant re-location, fatal neglect, absent access to communication support, imposed life decisions made without consultation [and] excluded family and friends”.Murray said: “We have sources of deep knowledge in these areas and we have an intensely committed team determined to change things; we are solution focussed, flexible and seeking justice.”She said she believed it was the first time an autistic-led project had been given such significant funding “without specific requirements about how it should be spent”.Murray said the project showed “a shift in the power balance”, and was an example of co-production “based on a history of earned mutual respect”.She said it followed “an acknowledged autistic success” in which she and other autistic members of the taskforce had had enough “common purpose” and “will” to work successfully with the National Autism Project, even though they had originally thought the project was “misconceived”.The National Autism Project aims to provide “authoritative” recommendations on autism research and practice and “raise awareness at government level and among funders” of the benefits of greater investment.A report by the project, published in January, found that the failure to base support for autistic people on the best available evidence came at “an unacceptable human and unsustainable financial cost”.The challenges, it found, were “exacerbated by the limited investment in research to fill the many gaps in that evidence”. Milton told the House of Lords event: “The National Autistic Taskforce is a vital opportunity for the autistic community and its allies to work together to turn the core principles of the National Autism Project into reality.“Namely: personalised actions, choice and control, addressing inequalities, and a life-long perspective.”Dame Stephanie, whose late son was autistic, said: “The National Autistic Taskforce is a hugely exciting project.“It takes us to the next level – a group of independent autistic people determining what they will focus on, who they will bring in and how they will work together.“I’m confident they will have a major impact on how we think about autism as a society.”last_img read more

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A note from the editor Please consider making a v

first_imgA note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… The Employment Tribunal has dealt with almost 60 claims of disability discrimination taken against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by its own staff over a 20-month period, new research has shown.A database on the Employment Tribunal website shows that, since it began publishing its findings in February 2017, it has dealt with 57 cases that include claims of disability discrimination by DWP across England, Scotland and Wales.The website’s database appears to show that DWP (with an estimated 75,000 staff) has the worst record on disability discrimination of any large government department, with 20 cases against the Home Office (which has about 30,000 staff), 32 against the Ministry of Justice (about 70,000 staff) and 29 against HM Revenue and Customs (about 60,000 staff).Of the 57 DWP cases published by the Employment Tribunal, about 30 were eventually withdrawn.But a leading employment discrimination lawyer said that such cases will “almost certainly” have been withdrawn because the two sides had reached a confidential agreement.It is not possible to produce exact numbers, but of the other cases, at least a dozen appear to be either still ongoing or to have resulted in a finding that DWP had discriminated against a disabled employee, with at least six concerning discrimination against staff with mental health conditions.The number of well-founded allegations made by its own disabled staff should prove an embarrassment to ministers, particularly because DWP is responsible for the much-criticised Disability Confident scheme, which aims to help employers recruit and retain disabled employees.DWP claims to be a Disability Confident “Leader”, the highest of the scheme’s three levels.Dr Minh Alexander, a former consultant psychiatrist and NHS whistleblower, who carried out most of the research, said the figures demonstrated the department’s incompetence and showed that it did not understand disability, particularly mental health.She decided to check the tribunal database after hearing how DWP was forcing charities delivering services on its behalf to sign contracts preventing them from attracting “adverse publicity” to the department.She said: “It made sense that if they are were abusing their power in one area, they were abusing their power elsewhere.“I was staggered at the number of claims. Just the sheer number suggests there is likely to be an issue with DWP as an employer. They are not managing their people properly.“It goes to the heart of the agency’s competency. It just implies so much bullying.”David Gillon, a disabled campaigner and one of the most prominent critics of the Disability Confident scheme, said: “Over and above its Disability Confident Leader status, DWP is the very hub of Disability Confident.“Its performance around disability should be an example to every other employer in the country.“Disabled people as its customers have long known this is not the case, with even DWP ministers admitting it has lost our trust; the data from the tribunal service shows that that failure extends to its own employees.”He added: “Disability Confident, even at its most basic level, commits an employer to work with a disabled employee to retain them in employment.“A Disability Confident Leader should leave no stone unturned in seeking to keep disabled people in their jobs. Every one of these cases is an instance where DWP failed to do that.”Gillon also pointed out that the first six months of the cases on the tribunal website were at a time when the government was still charging employees to take cases to tribunal, with fees even higher for discrimination claims.Those fees were ruled to be unlawful by the Supreme Court in July 2017, and were subsequently scrapped, but the government’s own research had already shown that the introduction of fees in 2013 had seen the number of cases received by the tribunal falling from about 60,000 in the year to June 2013 to about 19,000 in the year to September 2015.Gillon said this suggested that even more cases against DWP would have been taken to tribunal if it was not for the fees.Detailed examination of some of the cases in which the tribunal ruled against DWP show at least six of them involved staff members with experience of mental distress.Only last week, ministers hosted a global summit on mental health, where health and social care secretary Matt Hancock asked the question: “Have we done enough to tackle the stigma, prejudice and discrimination that people with mental health conditions endure?”Hancock also announced at the summit in central London that the UK had joined Australia and Canada in launching the Alliance of Champions of Mental Health and Wellbeing.In one case, the tribunal said DWP had produced no “satisfactory evidence” to explain why its Cumbria and Lancashire district had sacked 10 people in 2016 because of “work-related stress”.The former employee, who described to the tribunal that the way he had been treated by DWP had been “intimidating, demoralising and offensive, degrading, humiliating”, was awarded nearly £50,000 in compensation.In another “serious case”, a tribunal judge concluded that DWP’s behaviour was “contrary” to its own “mission statements” on supporting disabled employees in the workplace.A third case in which the tribunal found against DWP involved a work coach with several impairments, including anxiety and depression, who had been working at a Manchester jobcentre.The panel heard that there had been only eight people in her team when there should have been 12.Another case saw the tribunal find that DWP had discriminated against a disabled member of staff with long-term mental ill-health, postnatal depression and arthritis, while a fifth case saw a tribunal find DWP had discriminated against a personal independence payment case manager with long-term depression.A sixth case of disability discrimination involving an employee with a mental health condition saw the tribunal find that DWP had failed to support the staff member “in any meaningful way”, concluding: “She was not given adequate time to recover; her representations about her return to work were not taken into account nor was the point properly medically investigated.”DWP last night (Wednesday) failed to explain why managers in its Cumbria and Lancashire district had dismissed 10 members of staff as a result of work-related stress during 2016.But in a statement, a DWP spokeswoman said: “DWP is absolutely committed to ensuring all staff, including those with disabilities or health conditions, get the support they need to thrive.“The department has a duty of care to its employees and aims to lead by example when it comes to the protection of employees from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.“It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of disability and all employers should abide by UK law, including discrimination legislation.”DWP also said that the number of tribunal cases was proportionately very small, that it provided a range of mental health support, and had pledged to train another 500 mental health first aiders in 2019-20, taking the total to 700.DWP also claims to have improved the procedures for managing excessive sickness absence by putting employees at the heart of its decision-making, and to have improved its discipline and grievance procedures, while it said it was also working to improve the quality of its internal appeals.DWP said it only dismissed staff after extended sick leave and its occupational health experts had indicated that a return to good health and work was unlikely within a reasonable time period.DWP said it had a comprehensive stress policy and procedures, including a stress self-assessment toolkit and a mental wellbeing toolkit that sign-posts staff to a wide range of support.And it said it provided a comprehensive range of programmes, workshops and e-learning to support wellbeing, mindfulness and resilience in the workplace.last_img read more

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The rail industry is breaching its duties under th

first_imgThe rail industry is breaching its duties under the Equality Act by failing to ensure that vital buttons and other fixtures and fittings on different trains are always positioned in the same location, say disabled trade unionists.Union members called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to ensure that rail companies standardise the positioning of key features on their trains, such as buttons and levers on external and internal doors and door-locking levers on toilet doors.Their failing design policies are acting as a “major barrier” to promoting independent travel for disabled passengers, they said.Delegates at the TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference in Bournemouth said DfT needed to ensure that its procurement policies led to a standard approach to design across the whole rail network.They also expressed their “disgust” that Great Western Railway (GWR) had been allowed to introduce inaccessible new class 800 intercity express carriages built by Hitachi (pictured).Delegates also backed an amendment from the RMT union that supported the need for a guard on every train, and adequately staffed stations.John Haynes, from the TSSA transport union, said standardisation would “give people confidence” to know where to find buttons, levers and how to open doors.He said: “Accessibility is not just about getting on and off, it’s about having the confidence to travel, to take away the barriers, to give people the right to independence.”He said the new GWR trains only had two accessible toilets, one of them in first class, with the other in a standard class carriage that had no spaces for wheelchair-users.He said: “That is disgraceful in this day and age. Questions need to be asked: how did that design come about?“This motion condemns those people who allowed that train to come into service.”He said this was “a step back 40 years” and was “a disgrace” because wheelchair-users would be forced to travel in the vestibule at the end of the carriage if they wanted access to the accessible toilet.Andy Worth, from Unite, also called for standardised access on all trains, both new and old.He said: “For too many years, the trains we use have had different provision and facilities.“This makes it very difficult and confusing for disabled passengers to have a comfortable journey.“We have been campaigning for standardised access for a long time.“Disabled passengers can get on a train with buttons on the right-hand side and get on another one with buttons on the left-hand side.“We need to continue to make this demand for standardised access across all trains and across all stations.“We need to campaign to make sure DfT makes it a mandatory requirement that all rail stock and stations have standardised access provisions and facilities, including all fixtures and fittings.”Emily Brothers, from the GMB union, said the rail industry had successfully lobbied in the 1990s for a lengthy implementation period for rail access regulations, as part of the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act.She said: “Twenty-odd years later they are still procrastinating and not bringing in carriages, rolling stock that are standardised or accessible, as we have seen with Great Western and Hitachi. That is not acceptable.“It is time for disabled people to be able to freely travel when they need to, to have the support of guards on all trains, to have a way in which they can find access on the train but also to get off the train on any station and get onto another or access the local environment.”A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…last_img read more

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RUGBY League World Cup 2013 announced today that t

first_imgRUGBY League World Cup 2013 announced today that the England v Ireland game at Huddersfield is the first game to sell out. Organisers are confident that the tournament will be the best attended Rugby League World Cup ever.Since the Super League and NRL Grand Finals, interest in RLWC2013 has grown massively with ticket sales rising day by day as the tournament rolls out the final stages of its marketing strategy. RLWC2013 Tournament Director Nigel Wood said: “The immediate pre-tournament period was always seen as crucial to the success of RLWC2013 and I am delighted that our marketing team have succeeded in getting the tournament talked about everywhere and in every medium.“More than 35,000 people are visiting the RLWC2013 website every day, and we have had to disappoint some people as, quite frankly, certain category tickets are simply sold out.”In addition to the sell out at Huddersfield, fans have also been clamouring for tickets at other venues.There are no seating tickets left  at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington where New Zealand take on Samoa, nor the Workington games where Scotland take on Tonga and Italy.In addition the Main Stand is completely sold out at Rochdale where Fiji play Ireland.And at Langtree Park, where Australia take on Fiji on November 2, tickets are going well.Wood added: “It’s not just the smaller venues that are going well. The three flag ship, premium, events are well on the way to setting new records.“The event at Cardiff is really one not to be missed. An amazing Opening Ceremony is followed by arguably the biggest game in international Rugby League when England take on Australia and co-hosts Wales play a fascinating-looking Italy team. All this under the closed roof of the Millennium Stadium points to an extraordinary opening day for this tournament.“The Rugby League World Cup Final also continues to attract huge numbers. 60,000 tickets have now gone for the event at Old Trafford on November 30 as it also heads for a sell-out. We have already had to open up new parts of Wembley for the double header semi-final.”RLWC2013 Marketing Manager Mark Foster added: “Fans are catching World Cup fever and the level of interest in the England team has been enormous as Huddersfield shows. The good news is fans can still get great value for money tickets to see them at their games in Cardiff and Hull.“Fans can also get to many other fantastic games across the country. I’d say to both Rugby League fans and lovers of great sport: The best players in the world are coming to play in your back yard. Be there and be part of it.”To make sure you’ll #bethere buy now at www.rlwc2013.com/tickets or call the 24-hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.last_img read more

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But more importantly it was a chance to put the ra

first_imgBut more importantly it was a chance to put the rather scratchy performance in the South of France behind them and start to play with a degree of confidence.This they did in style with an eight try 40-12 demolition of the Wolves at a fleeingly cold Ruskin Drive on Sunday.Watched by Head Coach Justin Holbrook, the Saints got off to the best of starts with Tom Nisbet going one better than his counterpart Sean Croston by scoring in the left corner.Croston was inches away from converting Jack Welsby’s neat grubber in the opposite corner but on the next set, aided by a couple of penalties, Nisbet took Welsby’s floated miss pass to open the scoring in the corner.The best try of the afternoon was ruled out for a dubious forward pass. Callum Hazzard’s great short pass put Elliott Jenkins through and he put Cameron Brown on a 50 metre sprint to the sticks before the intervention from the touch judge.Undaunted the Saints pack, led by Alex Eckley and Jorge Lewtas, continued to pound the visitors and it was Hazzard who again broke the line sending Chris Follin on a 30 metre run. His quick play the ball gained another penalty which, when taken quickly, gave Welsby the chance to dummy his way over. Hazzard was finally close enough to negotiate the swirling wind and convert the score.There was still time enough for the Saints right side to butcher a try before the interval.Within five minutes of the restart all of the first half dominance was wiped out as the Wolves strolled in for two converted tries which gave them all the confidence in the world to bring the fight to the Saints.The Saints needed to re-boot and get back to first half basics which is exactly what they did.Ten minutes in, aided by three penalties on the trot, quick hands saw Josh Simm go over down the left and the Wolves were teetering.A few minutes later and the bubble burst as Chris Follin, having his best game for a while, ran a great line to score by the posts.On the hour wonderful goal line desperation from Jenkins and Simm saved a certain try by holding their much bigger opponent up over the line.As the time went on the Saints superior possession in both halves finally took its toll on the Wolves as they conceded three tries in the final quarter of an hour.Firstly, hooker Paul Nash spotted a gap close to the line and nipped over for a smartly taken try.Then Cam Brown ran 50 metres to the line to finish off a smartly taken interception from the hugely impressive Jorge Lewtas. Despite being roared on from the side lines the big prop took the sensible option looking for the speedster outside.The Saints’ eighth and final try fittingly saw full back Welsby chime into the line for his brace. As he had done numerous times, he ghosted through the line before sublimely standing up the fullback with a delightful in and out move beating him to the line.Two matches in to a long campaign no-one is going to get carried away but there were huge positives to take away from today’s victory.Elliott Jenkins showed maturity and a fine degree of deft handling controlling the middle along with hookers Nash and Brandon O’Neill.Welsby chiming into the line was a constant thorn in the Wolves side.Alex Eckley and the resurgent Follin took the line forward but the stand out players exhibiting newfound discipline combined with the usual powerful running, Jorge Lewtas and a leadership and eye for a gap, Callum Hazzard.Match Summary:Saints U19s:Tries: Sean Croston (7), Tom Nisbett (18), Jack Welsby (29 & 73), Josh Simm (50), Chris Follin (57), Paul Nash (65), Cameron Brown (69). Goals: Callum Hazzard 4 from 7, Tom Nisbett 0 from 1.Warrington U19s:Tries: Jack Wright (42), Joe Edge (45). Goals: Joe Edge 2 from 2.Half Time: 14-0 Full Time: 40-12Teams:Saints: 1. Jack Welsby; 5. Sean Croston, 3. Cameron Brown, 4. Josh Simm, 2. Tom Nisbett; 6. Jake Wingfield, 7. Elliott Jenkins; 8. Alex Eckley, 9. Paul Nash, 10. Jorge Lewtas, 11. Chris Follin, 12. Sam Royle, 13. Callum Hazzard. Subs: 14. Brandon O’Neill, 15. Joe Sharratt, 16. Christian Kellett, 17. Matty Foster.Warrington: 1. Joe Edge; 2. Liam Brinksman, 3. Liam Jones, 4. Lewis Hall, 5. Henry Collins; 6. Riley Dean, 7. Ritchie Westwood; 8. Jacob Chamberlain, 9. Brad Pinder, 20. Jack Wilson, 11. Cole Oakley, 12. Fynn Stanley, 13. Ellis Robson. Subs: 14. Elliott Windley, 15. Jack Wright, 16. Taylor Brown, 17. Eribe Doro.last_img read more

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