The government is failing in its legal duty of care to disabled people

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The House of Lords Select Committee
on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability investigating the Act’s impact on disabled people has concluded that the Government is failing in its duty of care to disabled people. From taxi drivers refusing to take disabled people, to “disgraceful” accessibility at sports grounds, to pubs and clubs failing to provide disabled toilets, the report, entitled The Equality Act 2010: the impact on disabled people, says practice in all areas must be improved.

Comment of Baroness Deech, Chairman

“Over the course of our inquiry we have been struck by how disabled people are let down across the whole spectrum of life.

“Access to public buildings remains an unnecessary challenge to disabled people. Public authorities can easily side-step their legal obligations to disabled people, and recent changes in the courts have led to disabled people finding it harder to fight discrimination.

“When it comes to the law requiring reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination, we found that there are problems in almost every part of society, from disabled toilets in restaurants being used for storage, to schools refusing interpreters for deaf parents, to reasonable adjustments simply not being made.

“In the field of transport alone, we heard of an urgent need to meet disabled people’s requirements – whether it’s training for staff or implementing improvements to trains and buses – and we’re calling for all new rail infrastructure to incorporate step-free access in its design from the outset.

“The Government bears the ultimate responsibility for enabling disabled people to participate in society on equal terms, and we believe it is simply not discharging that responsibility. Not only has the Government dragged its heels in bringing long-standing provisions of the Act into force, such as those requiring taxi drivers to take passengers in wheelchairs, but has in fact repealed some provisions which had protected disabled people. Intended to reduce the regulatory burden on business, the reality has been an increase in the burden on disabled people.

“The Committee would like to see changes right at the top of Government and is calling for the Minister for Disabled People to be given a place on the Cabinet’s Social Justice Committee. 

“It’s time to reverse the attitude that disabled people are an afterthought. Many of the changes we suggest are simple and do not require legislation. We hope the Government will implement them quickly.”

Findings in the report include:

Transport

The Government should bring into force immediately provisions in the Act obliging taxi drivers to take passengers with wheelchairs. In cases where taxi drivers fail to comply with the Act local authorities should withhold the licences of drivers.

All new rail infrastructure must build into its design step-free access; retrofitting of stock with audio/visual annunciators must be prioritised; training for all rail, bus and coach staff must be made a legal requirement.

Sports grounds

These have been described as “disgraceful” by the Minster for Disabled People and new measures are needed. Ministers must report on the progress made on stadia, following the Premier League’s promise to upgrade all their stadia by August 2017.

Housing and public spaces

Many restaurants, pubs and clubs are difficult to access, with many not providing basic facilities such as a disabled toilet. Local authorities should be allowed to refuse to grant or renew these premises’ licences until they make the necessary changes.

The design of new buildings is another area where local authorities could require new buildings to be wheelchair accessible or adaptable, simply by revising their planning policies.

Communications and democratic inclusion

Communications is an area where disabled people are still being failed. We recommend that all Government departments, local authorities and public bodies review how they communicate with disabled people, and that disabled people must be involved in this process.

The law and enforcement

Developments in recent years have made fighting discrimination more difficult for disabled people. New tribunal fees, less access to legal aid, and procedural changes have combined to create barriers to the effective enforcement of disabled people’s rights. Changes are recommended to combat this.

The Equality Act 2010 was intended to harmonise all discrimination law and to strengthen the law to support progress on equality.

Over the past nine months the Committee has been examining the Equality Act 2010 and in particular its impact on disabled people, looking at areas such as:

·    Implementation
·    Enforcement
·    Reasonable adjustment
·    Transport
·    Communication
·    The Equality and Human Rights Commission
·    Discrimination and the judicial process

During the course of the inquiry the Committee received nearly 180 pieces of written evidence and heard from more than 50 witnesses, among them the Government Equalities Office, the Office for Disability Issues, Disability Rights UK, RNIB, Scope, MIND, British Deaf Association, the Bar Council, Law Society, Discrimination Law Association, Law Centres Network, People First Advocacy, Business Disability Forum, Association of Convenience Stores, Trade Unions Congress, Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, campaign group Transport for All, NHS England, Care Quality Commission, Ofsted, the Independent Parental Special Educational Advice, Association of Train Operating Companies, Confederation of Passenger Transport, Housing Law Practitioners Association, Lewisham Shopmobility Scheme, National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Carers UK, and officials from the Department for Transport, Department for Education, Department of Health, Department for Communities and Local Government, and Department for Work and Pensions.

The Committee took evidence from Government ministers Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, Department for Education; Justin Tomlinson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People, Department for Work and Pensions; and Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport. 

The Committee also heard first-hand testimonies from disabled people as well as visiting a user-led support organisation for disabled people, Real.

Watch the Chair of Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee Baroness Deech and member of Committee Baroness Campbell of Surbiton discuss the findings of the report, ‘The Equality Act 2010: the impact on disabled people.’ Film with British Sign Language.

Government inaction is failing disabled people

Summary of the Committee’s recommendations.

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12 thoughts on “The government is failing in its legal duty of care to disabled people

    1. It`s not not just the disabled people, that the Government is failing in it`s duty of care, there`s also the carers of the disabled people. In this day and age, when carers are saving the economy some £132 Billion annually, and the Government has just launched the ” National Living Wage” for hard working people, at £7.20 an hour, why is it that Carers Allowance is paid at less than £1.78 an hour ?

      Liked by 1 person

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