UN day of disabled people: Cycling benefit fears, public appointments review, and a new ODI network

0

Half of disabled cyclists fear having their benefits cut or removed if they are seen to be physically active, according to a survey released on the UN’s international day of disabled people.

The results of the survey of more than 200 disabled cyclists by the disabled people’s organisation Wheels for Wellbeing showed that of the 49 per cent who were concerned about their benefits, one in six (17 per cent) had been discouraged from cycling, cycled less or given up cycling altogether.

Only two months ago, a report by the disability sports organisation Activity Alliance found that four-fifths (83 per cent) of disabled people surveyed would like to be more active, but nearly half (47 per cent) feared losing their benefits if they took more exercise.

Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing, said: “For disabled people, cycling is a wonderful thing because it mitigates the effects of impairment and enables you to move freely over long distances, improving your overall wellbeing in the process.”

But she said that cycling doesn’t “make your impairment magically disappear” and so to “penalise people because they use a cycle to move around, as well as or instead of a wheelchair say, is just lazy and discriminatory”.

She called on the Department for Work and Pensions to clarify its position on how disability benefits are affected by cycling.

The Wheels for Wellbeing survey was just one of a string of events and publications held and released on the international day on Monday (3 December).

The disabled peer Lord [Chris] Holmes published a review which calls for “urgent action” to tackle the under-representation of disabled people in appointments to public bodies such as NHS organisations, national museums and regulatory and advisory bodies.

He said it was shocking that, last year, just three per cent of people who had previously been appointed to public bodies described themselves as disabled, although the figures are slowly improving, with 6.9 per cent of new appointments who shared their status in 2017-18 reporting that they were disabled.

The Tory peer called for an interim target of 11.3 per cent of all public appointees to be disabled people, while he also called for “reliable, consistent, comprehensive” data on how many disabled public appointees there were, for the government to take “innovative” approaches to recruitment, and for a more accessible applications process.

He suggested there should be less reliance on panel interviews and more open processes such as the use of shadowing current appointees, holding mock board meetings, and making better use of technology, with new efforts to attract and nurture disabled talent, for example by using mentors and role models.

The government makes more than 1,000 appointments to the boards of more than 500 public bodies every year, with those organisations spending more than £200 billion of public money.

Meanwhile, the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) used the UN international day to announce that the government was setting up a new network of “regional stakeholders” who will organise forums for organisations and individuals in nine regions across England.

The forums are intended to “provide a channel for disabled people and their organisations to share their views and experiences about policies and services that affect them and will complement stakeholder relationships that already exist across government”.

ODI said it would publish more information about how to join the regional stakeholder network “shortly”.

The forums appear to be a replacement for the Fulfilling Potential Forum, the Disability Action Alliance and the Fulfilling Potential Policy Advice Service, all of which were set up by the coalition government but have either been scrapped or fallen into disuse.

The minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, also announced that the government was looking for six new “champions” to tackle some of the issues disabled people face as consumers.

The six individuals will be asked to use their influential status as leaders in their own industries to promote the benefits of being inclusive to disabled people across fashion, technology, countryside and heritage, website accessibility, food and drink, and product design.

They will join 14 existing sector champions in areas such as airports, banking, insurance, live music, retail and tourism.

The disabled-led arts organisation Together! 2012, based in east London, announced on Monday that it had been awarded nearly £230,000 lottery funding that will allow it to expand its Clubs creative development programme for disabled people over the three years from 2019.

Together! also held a live-streamed reading of the easy-read version of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, at Beckton Globe Library.

As part of their celebrations of the day, York Independent Living Network and York Human Rights City Network organised a live video link that brought together students from York and Urbino in Italy who had won prizes in this year’s Eleanor Worthington Prize to talk about their work and celebrate the day.

Elsewhere on the UN international day, the Centre for Disability Studies and the Centre for Law and Social Justice at the University of Leeds held a screening of Sanctuary, an award-winning film which follows the relationship between two people with learning difficulties.

The screening was followed by a question and answer session with the director, Len Collin, the university’s Professor Gerard Quinn, and representatives of CHANGE, the Leeds-based, disabled-led organisation that focuses on the human rights of people with learning difficulties.

In London, Merton Centre for Independent Living released a series of short films on independent living.

And in Liverpool, as part of the DaDaFest international disability arts festival, which ends on Saturday, Disability Arts Online held a panel discussion, asking: “Are we in an era post Disability Art?”

Picture: Isabelle Clement after being presented with the Freedom of the City of London in June

 

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…