A new fund is offering grants to user-led and community groups in England that are providing support to people in mental distress during the coronavirus crisis.
The fund is being run by the National Survivor User Network (NSUN), and offers grants of up to £1,000 for groups working to provide peer support, community action, mutual aid and “other activities that will make a direct difference” to the lives of people living with mental distress during the pandemic.
The NSUN fund is part of the larger Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund, which was set up with £5 million funding from the Department of Health and Social Care and is providing grants of up to £50,000 to larger organisations for projects lasting up to 12 months.
Akiko Hart (pictured), NSUN’s chief executive, said: “We are pleased to launch this vital fund to support the user led organisations and unconstituted community groups who play such a key role in supporting the mental health of their members, but might not be eligible for grants from other funds.
“Designed to be complementary to the main Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund, the grants will help groups to move online, ensuring that these vital lifelines are maintained at a time when other forms of support are being reduced.”
Examples of ways the funding could be used include: paying for an annual Zoom subscription so a peer support group can move online; buying a new laptop so an advocacy group can continue its support activities; or funding a mutual aid group to set up a website to share its services, or to pay petrol costs to deliver food to people with mental distress and other health conditions who are self-isolating.
The House of Commons petitions committee has called on the government to revise its response to a parliamentary petition – signed so far by nearly 20,000 people – that is demanding British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters be provided for televised emergency announcements.
Catherine McKinnell, the Labour chair of the committee, said the government’s response failed to “adequately address” the request made by the petition.
She called for the government to provide a detailed explanation of why it has refused to provide its own BSL interpretation for daily ministerial coronavirus briefings.
Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) revealed that more than 150 Deaf people – a figure which has now reached nearly 300 – had begun a legal class action against the UK government over its failure to provide a BSL interpreter at the televised briefings.
Meanwhile, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, asking him to reconsider his refusal to provide BSL interpretation at its daily briefings.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC’s chief executive, told Johnson in the letter that there were more than 80,000 Deaf people in the UK whose first language was BSL, and that providing an interpreter was “essential for them to understand the information being provided”.
She said the failure to provide BSL interpretation was “a particular concern given the importance of these briefings, and the potentially significant health or even criminal implications if the information is unclear or misunderstood”.
She told Johnson: “Including a BSL interpreter live at your daily briefings would allow you to demonstrate your commitment to equality for all, meeting your obligations to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.”
The government has announced it is weakening the duties of local authorities and health bodies to meet the needs of disabled young people with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
The announcement – which will apply throughout May – means they will only have to make “reasonable endeavours” to meet the support provision detailed in individual EHC plans.
It was issued under the emergency Coronavirus Act and temporarily changes section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014.
The Department for Education said that local authorities and health bodies must now “consider for each child and young person with an EHC plan what they can reasonably provide in the circumstances during the notice period”, rather than having to fulfil all of that plan.
Fazilet Hadi, policy manager at Disability Rights UK, said: “This weakening of responsibilities to meet the needs of children and young people with EHC plans, puts pupils and students at even greater disadvantage.
“How can this be justified by the coronavirus crisis?
“Whilst support may have to be adapted, young people with additional needs should have more support not less.”
The disabled people’s organisation Inclusion London has written to the minister for disabled people to urge him to fix problems with the Access to Work (AtW) system.
In the letter to Justin Tomlinson, Inclusion London says it is concerned about the way the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is running the disability employment scheme during the coronavirus pandemic.
Among its concerns are: a lack of information about temporary changes DWP says it has made to the scheme; a lack of response from DWP when AtW recipients contact the department with questions or concerns; and a lack of information about recipients’ options for managing their support workers during the pandemic.
The consumer rights organisation Which? says it is hearing from a “worrying” number of disabled people who are struggling to access food and other basic supplies.
Which? called this week for a “more coordinated approach” and “much simpler and clearer communication” so people know how to obtain the food they need.
Among those they have heard from are people being forced to stay up until the early hours of the morning to secure a supermarket home delivery slot; those who should be shielding from the virus at home but have been forced to go to a supermarket because of a lack of support; and people with serious health conditions who are unable to secure help from governments or supermarkets.
Last month, DNS revealed that more than 200 disabled people had joined a class action against UK supermarkets over allegations that they have discriminated against them during the coronavirus crisis.
*Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:
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