Month: July 2019

A disabled campaigner has described how he was kn

first_imgA disabled campaigner has described how he was “knocked for six” after learning that he had been recognised with an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours.Shaun Webster becomes one of a select group of people with learning difficulties who have been recognised with such an honour.Among his achievements are his work with the human rights organisations Change, including a project working with children and young people with learning difficulties in eastern Europe as the long-stay institutions they had been living in were closed down.He said: “I was teaching them how to speak up for themselves, to believe in themselves, how to talk to other people, to be confident.“I gave them confidence and belief in themselves to train to be a professional like me. Every time I came over and trained them, they got more confidence.”Webster also co-authored a book, Leaving Institutions. Voices for Change – published by Change, Enable Housing Association and the children’s charity Lumos – which aimed to help social workers involved in the de-institutionalisation process.He said he hoped that his MBE would “open doors” for him, and help other people with learning difficulties secure a “proper paid job, with proper respect, and be treated equal like we do at Change, not tokenistic”.One of his proudest moments, he said, was speaking at a conference in Austria earlier this year, and being told by a Bulgarian woman with learning difficulties: “I want to be a role model like you.”He said: “People tell me I speak from my heart and I do. I am passionate about giving people and children with learning disabilities a real voice.“Giving someone with learning disabilities an award from the government will make a big difference to adults and children with learning disabilities.“They will think, ‘If he can get an MBE and he is making a difference, why can’t I?’”He added: “I just couldn’t believe it, it knocked me for six. I felt really happy. I felt very proud.”He said he believed he was awarded the MBE because he was a “hard worker”.He said: “I am very passionate about what I believe in, because I work nationally and internationally, because I am a role model.“I give people with learning disabilities a real voice and confidence and belief in themselves because they see what I can do.”Helen Dolphin (pictured), director of policy and campaigns for Disabled Motoring UK, was another disabled campaigner to receive an MBE.She has campaigned for more than 10 years to improve the blue badge parking scheme, and on other motoring and mobility issues for disabled people.She said: “Maybe people have realised I have had quite a big impact in how disabled people can park. I hope that’s what it’s for.”She has also been a member of the government’s advisory body, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, and has volunteered for many years for the charity Meningitis Now, speaking to and visiting other people who have lost limbs through meningitis.Dolphin is also studying for a law degree, and is one of the fastest swimmers in the country in her S5 category.She said she was delighted and surprised by the MBE, but she added: “To a degree as well, life is really difficult for me and it would be easy not to work and it would be easy not to get up at five o’clock in the morning.“I can’t get up quickly, I’ve got to have the carers come in. I have to be home at a certain time.“Life is considerably harder and I don’t think people know what I have even gone through before I have got to the office that day sometimes.”She pointed to the more than six per cent of people recognised in this year’s birthday honours who said they were disabled people, which she said was “on the up, and that too is a good thing”.Another disabled person to be recognised was Paralympian Jordanne Whiley, who said she had to read the letter informing her of her MBE five times before it sunk in.The wheelchair-tennis star said: “I didn’t understand at first what it was and then I was like, ‘Surely not me! It’s the wrong person!’ When it sank in, it was an amazing feeling.”Whiley said she hoped to use her MBE to raise her profile, with the long-term aim of setting up her own charity after she retires from sport.She said: “I want to get my status as high as I possibly can so that I can influence other people to play sport, and be a role model to young children, especially [girls and] women.“I have had a lot of fan mail from children with the same disability as me, saying that I am their idol and because of me they are now playing sport. It is such an amazing feeling to have helped just a few people.”Whiley said she liked to take a one-to-one approach with many of the fans who contact her, often calling them or meeting up with them when she is at home.She said: “I just like it when it’s one-to-one. You can make such a difference in one person’s life if you take one hour out of your day to make them see the person you really are.”The tennis star, who has now won five Grand Slam doubles titles, will be competing in the women’s wheelchair doubles at Wimbledon from 10 to 12 July, with her focus also on next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio.She said that the MBE had “relit a spark” with her training and confidence, and that she was “feeling really good going into Wimbledon”.Other disabled people recognised in the birthday honours include Lorraine Mercer, for services to the community and to charity in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, who said she was “very honoured and excited” by her MBE.She has been a volunteer at The Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath for 18 years, and visits patients on the rehabilitation wards, who are often “coming to terms with losing their mobility and having to use a wheelchair, so I can understand what that is like”. She said: “I like to think that me going in and chatting and having time to spend with people helps them to stay positive.”A former patient who wrote a reference for her described how he had been lying in bed feeling depressed after a stroke, when Mercer arrived in her electric wheelchair with “a very positive attitude – so positive that it was infectious; so infectious that I caught it, and having caught it from then on I began to fight”.Another disabled campaigner awarded an MBE was Mikey Argy, a member of the Thalidomide Trust’s National Advisory Council, who was recognised for services to thalidomide survivors.About 70 recipients of awards in the Queen’s birthday honours considered themselves to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010, about one in 16 of all successful candidates.last_img read more

The governments new universal credit benefit syst

first_imgThe government’s new universal credit benefit system could “wreak havoc” and has created a “digital barrier” that prevents many disabled people and other disadvantaged groups from accessing the support they are entitled to, according to a UN human rights expert.Professor Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the government’s “test and learn” approach to universal credit risked treating such groups “like guinea pigs” and could “wreak havoc in real people’s lives”.And he said that the preparations being made by local authorities and charities for the rollout of universal credit had “resembled the sort of activity one might expect for an impending natural disaster or health epidemic”.He said: “They have expended significant expense and energy to protect people from what is supposed to be a support system.”Alston was speaking to journalists at the end of a 12-day visit to the UK, as he published a preliminary statement on his findings. He will present a full report to the UN Human Rights Council in June.Earlier this month, Disability News Service reported how written evidence submitted to Alston’s inquiry described how a man with learning difficulties had died a month after attempting to take his own life, following a move onto universal credit that left him hundreds of pounds in debt.Alston said in his report that a key feature of universal credit was the imposition of “draconian sanctions”, even for minor infringements. He said: “Endless anecdotal evidence was presented to the special rapporteur to illustrate the harsh and arbitrary nature of some of the sanctions, as well as the devastating effects that resulted from being completely shut out of the benefits system for weeks or months at a time.”Alston also warned of the impact of the government’s decision to make universal credit the first major government service that is “digital by default”, with the expectation that claimants will rely on an online service rather than human interaction with DWP staff.He said: “We are witnessing the gradual disappearance of the postwar British welfare state behind a webpage and an algorithm.“In its place, a digital welfare state is emerging. The impact on the human rights of the most vulnerable in the UK will be immense.”Asked about Alston’s concerns about universal credit, the new work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, told MPs on Monday that she had been “disappointed, to say the least, by the extraordinary political nature of his language” in the report.She said: “We on the Conservative benches will always engage with professionals, experts and non-governmental organisations – we are not so proud that we do not think we can learn as we try to adjust universal credit for the benefit of everybody – but that sort of language was wholly inappropriate and actually discredited a lot of what he was saying.“We look forward to working with experts in the area to make sure that we get the right outcome for the people whom we want to look after.”She later described her new department as “a force for good”, but she admitted that there were “problems with universal credit, despite its good intentions”.She said: “I have seen them for myself. I will be listening and learning from the expert groups in this area who do such good work. I know it can be better.“I will make it my role to ensure that we deliver that through our discussions within the DWP and through discussions with the Treasury.“We will have a fair, compassionate and efficient benefits system.”In response to Rudd’s comments, Alston said on Twitter that the government had “a set of talking points about poverty and employment” that fail to address poverty, use “carefully chosen and misleading statistics to paint a rosy picture” and “ignore the horrible situation in which a large number of Britons live.He added: “That’s not the way to find solutions.”He also told Disability News Service: “I am hoping the secretary of state’s criticism of my report is not a substitute for a more systematic policy response to the many issues I have raised. “My report recounts in some depth the many problems experienced by adversely impacted groups, and especially by people with disabilities, and I would hope that DWP will seek to improve the system so that it does not cause such hardship and make already very difficult situations even worse.” 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