Coalition on charging publishes some disturbing data on disability related charges
As local authorities face significant reductions in central Government funding it seems that charges for essential disabled services by those councils are likely to skyrocket, creating huge difficulties and potentially a real problem in lack of affordable care for disabled people. The position in England is in stark contrast to that in Wales, where under devolved government there will be a charging cap of only £50.00 per user per week starting this month.
The study covered on 15 England councils found that:
- Disabled people using Derby City Council services face a 78% increase in hourly fees from £8.00 to £14.22 an hour;
- Some disabled people in Lincolnshire are facing a possible 98% rise in weekly payments (from £126 a week to £250);
- Half of all councils plan to increase maximum weekly payments – in Westminster this could result in some disabled people paying over £20,000 a year; and
- Councils potentially breaching obligations by failing to assess Disability Related Expenditure.
- Councils possibly breaching their legal obligations by failing to ‘meaningfully engage’ with the increases without adequate warning, fully assess Disability Related Expenditure, instead using ‘permitted’ amounts as low as £5 without knowing essential outgoings – eg for equipment, higher utility bills or transport costs
All in all, this is extremely worrying news. Yet again, it is those who are most at need in society who appear to be bearing the brunt of economic conditions largely caused by factors completely beyond their control or cause.
New paternity leave entitlements available for fathers of children born after 3rd April 2011 and allowing them up to 6 months off work and to share the mother’s maternity leave and maternity pay if she returns to work early, will cause significant problems for British business according to a survey by the British Chamber of Commerce.
The survey involved 1,300 businesses and 52% of those businesses stated that they anticipated that the new laws would have a detrimental effect on their business.
It remains to be seen how the changes will impact business but what does seem clear is that there will be a lot of administrative work and extra planning required by business at a time when matters are generally already difficult.
DISABILITY FACTS & EMPLOYMENT
3 quick and useful facts ….
- 1 in 5 people of working age are disabled
- 48% of disabled people are unemployed
- Reasonable adjustments, accessible application processes and alternative assessments in recruitment are legal requirements under the Equality Act
The Equality Act 2010 effectively recodifies previous ant-discrimination legislation in many respects, but it is perhaps worth restating the basic principles, particularly as they apply to potential discrimination in the work environment. Perhaps not surprisingly, the new Act has failed to go further than restating the old principles which are on one interpretation vague but which on the other hand are now clarified with the benefit of many court and tribunal decisions by way of clarification.
Recap – the duty to make reasonable adjustments
Setting aside the often difficult issue of what constitutes a disability, the issue then centres on the legal responsibility on an employer to make reasonable adjustments both in terms of job role and workplace for any disabled employees.
The question of what constitutes a “reasonable adjustment” in employment law in turn depends on many factors such as the size and resources of the employer and precise circumstances will of course vary considerably, but common examples worth considering as a non-exhaustive checklist might include :-
- special equipment
- working hours
- disabled employee’s duties
- Giving a disabled person time off for medical appointments or treatment
- Physical adjustments such as ramps, accessible toilets, reserved parking spaces or stair lifts
- The provision of a support worker to help a disabled employee with elements of their role that they are unable to complete alone due to their impairment.
Access to public transport
In the UK, there is still much to do compared to other countries in Western Europe and the US in terms of disabled access to public transport. This is notwithtsanding that the law in England & Wales has for some time outlawed discrimination in access to public transport.
The “get out” relating to disabled access is the defence of justifiable discrimination, which in turmn often involves issues of cost and practicality. Another defence relates to the areas of specific exemption from the general principle outlawing discrimination. Transport by ship is one siuch exemption although it is worth noting that a disabled person must not be treated less favourably at the ferry port. In terms of air travel, airport operators must provide services which allow disabled boarding, disembarkation and transfer to another flight and are not permitted to charge for these services.