Damian Radcliffe

Posts Tagged ‘digital inclusion’

December 11: Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month.

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on December 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm
 

1.         Smartphones

  • The Department of Health has reported around 500 responses to its ‘Maps and App’s project to create new smartphone and tablet applications in the healthcare arena. The department has received thousands of comments and votes on the various apps, with one of the most popular being ‘Me, Myself & I’ , an independent self-assessment tool which identifies health and social needs via innovative game play. More here.
  • The Telegraph reported that smartphone adoption is rocketing among young adults and those aged 55-64. Data from Nielsen shows that smartphone penetration among users who are around retirement age jumped by five per cent in the last three months alone. That rate of increase is outstripped only by those aged 18-24. It should be noted however that older people are still only likely to have a modern mobile phone in three out of every ten cases. Nearly two-thirds of those aged 25-34, by contrast, own a smartphone.

On the Nielsen blog, the company wrote that “while only 43 per cent of all US mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone, the vast majority of those under the age of 44 now have smartphones”.

  • High levels of assistance for disabled customers are being pioneered by the new flagship store for mobile network operator O2 in central London. The shop offers in-store advice on the benefits that mobile devices such as smartphones and their applications, features and functions can provide for people with sensory impairments.

All staff have also received sight loss and deaf awareness training in partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and consultancy Positive Signs, and the shop is also home to O2 “guru” Abigail who is deaf and fluent in BSL. Plans are in hand to provide further advice and services for people with motor and learning difficulties

See:  http://bit.ly/vvrCYj for more details (NB: the store is on Tottenham Court Road)

  • A smartphone app offering digital versions of shop loyalty cards will open up card schemes to many disabled people for the first time. The “mClub” app from print and digital directories company Yell – which is free to download –allows retailers to offer deals such as “buy nine cups of coffee, get the 10th free” without using a physical card. A pilot service – available for both the Apple iPhone (http://bit.ly/pDmUyC ) and Android phones ( http://bit.ly/rfB9u6 ) – has been launched in London, Plymouth and Reading, with a BlackBerry service due to be released in the next few weeks.

Although the service was not originally designed for use by disabled people Artur Ortega, senior accessibility developer at Yell, used its potential to influence the design process.

“Before, it wasn’t possible for blind people to use loyalty cards,” … “You couldn’t find the right card in your pocket, and you didn’t know how many stamps were on it. The app is also useful for someone who has reduced mobility in their hands and who might have problems getting a card out of their pocket or wallet.”

Running the app itself was not too hard for blind users, with iPhones coming pre-installed with VoiceOver text-to-speech functionality and Android phones able to run similar software such as the Mobile Accessibility suite from Code Factory. This kind of approach, combined with geo-location technology, is implemented in the new smartphone version of the company’s home page www.yell.com, can be hugely liberating for disabled people,

 “If I need a taxi, I can find one immediately and then call the taxi using the same device, I don’t have to copy telephone number – it’s two clicks away. Or I can order a table in a restaurant – it’s a huge advantage for blind people or people with reduced mobility…. Before, you had to call someone and ask them to put you through to the restaurant. If the line was busy you had to call again and ask them to look it all up again.” (Artur Ortega, via eAccess Bulletin)

2.         Subtitling

  • The Daily Express reported on Deaf viewers’ anger at BBC subtitle gaffes citing errors including calling Labour leader “Ed Miller Band” the Ireland rugby team described as “Island” and Dr Rowan Williams as the “arch bitch of Canterbury”.

The errors are so regular that viewers have set up a website listing all the mistakes. But groups representing the deaf said the problem had led to many complaints.

Emma Harrison, from Action on Hearing Loss, said: “Access to television is really important to people with a hearing loss. We urge all broadcasters to monitor the quality of their subtitling to ensure high standards, and invest in technology to reduce mistakes so people with hearing loss can access television in the same way as hearing people.”

The paper noted that “usually, pre-recorded subtitles are done before transmission and appear in time with a programme However, live subtitles are made by a stenographer typing words phonetically as they listen to a show, or with speech recognition, where someone talks into a microphone while listening to the broadcast, and a computer recognises their words. “

3.         Technology

  • Speakbook is an inexpensive, low-tech communication tool that allows someone to talk with a speaking partner using only their eyes. They claim it is easy to use and takes only seconds to learn. Speakbook was developed by Patrick Joyce, who has motor neuron disease, also known as MND or ALS. Patrick wanted to make his idea as cheap as possible, so speakbook.org is a not for profit organization, and anyone may download and print speakbook, for personal use, free of charge.  More information via this link.  

 

4.         Telehealth

  • A report from Audit Scotland says the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland should do more to consider telehealth when introducing or redesigning services. ‘A review of telehealth in Scotland’ looks at how the health service is providing care to patients at a distance, using a range of technologies such as mobile phones, the internet, digital televisions, video-conferencing and self-monitoring equipment. The report argued NHS boards must look at new ways of delivering care, particularly as the NHS is facing growing demand. It suggested telehealth has the potential to help deliver a range of clinical services more efficiently and effectively, and boards should be considering it when introducing or redesigning services.

Audit Scotland assessed the use of telehealth to monitor patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) at home. The report concluded that telehealth management of COPD patients at home might help NHS boards avoid costs of around £1,000 per patient per year, mostly through reducing admissions to hospital. The report is here and there is a BBC news item here

  • The King’s Fund has launched a dedicated area of its website for telecare and telehealth topics, which is here.
  • Computer Weekly magazine has published an article outlining the costs and benefits of implementing telecare services, which is available via this link.

 

5.         Older People

  • Interesting item on the ILC-UK Blog pages looking at older drivers and behavioural change: how ‘nudges’ can support the process of self-regulation. See: http://bit.ly/uRonzL

I know my stand has made a massive difference to women in broadcasting. You are seeing more older women on prime time, which is fantastic.

 I’d like to see more older women anchoring programmes, rather than just contributing to them, but hopefully that  will happen.

The BBC is changing. A friend heard a conversation in the loos there the other day, during which one producer said to the other: “Oh, are you going to this Miriam O’Reilly thing?” It turned out the BBC are running workshops to inform people about treating older people fairly and understanding ageism. So the message is  getting through.’

 

  • Ageing research consortium KT_EQUAL has launched a national photography competition which set out to challenge our preconceptions about how older people interact with technology now and in the future. Entitled ‘Left to Our Own Devices’, the contest is run in partnership with Age UK. Entries will be judged not only on their photographic merit but also on how they address issues related to the central theme of older people’s interactions with technology — perhaps by challenging stereotypes, defying expectations or delivering a powerful message. 

The most successful images will be selected from across four categories:  

    1. Gadgets and Gizmos
    2. In the Home
    3. Out and About
    4. An open category

All the selected images will be included in a touring exhibition that will visit the Parliament at Westminster and the Assemblies at Cardiff and Stormont, and finishing at the Scottish Parliament next spring, and one image in each category will also receive a cash prize of £250.

The closing date for entries is 31 January 2012 and there is more information here.

 

6.         Disability

  • Disability Alliance, the National Centre for Independent Living and Radar have agreed to unify to form ‘Disability Rights UK’. Following a year of discussions, the three charities will come together on 1 January 2012. Details here.

 

7.         Accessibility

  • ICT Access Barriers are ‘Common Across Europe’ according to early findings of a survey of policies in 30 nations (the EU countries, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland). Problems encountered include creating accessible content; standards compliance; problems procuring accessible systems; and a lack of awareness and understanding. The project is run by the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education to raise awareness of the issues surrounding accessible information provision for lifelong learning.

“There are an estimated 80 million people in the EU with disabilities of varying sorts and to differing degrees, and as the age profile shifts, so too will the proportion with disabilities”, John Galloway, a consultant working on dissemination of i- access findings. “There is no one solution to the issue of ensuring that any information in an electronic format, whether a web-page, a text message, an on- screen document, or an information film, is available to all of them equally.”

“For each country, we need to find out – what policies do they have, and how do they put them into practice? What are the differences and similarities? The lessons learned from across Europe will be brought together for everyone to share, so this difficult issue can be addressed.”

Full details of the research and a report of a project conference co-hosted by the Danish Ministry of Education in Copenhagen this June are due to be published shortly, with the final project recommendations expected towards next summer.

 

8.         Digital Inclusion

  • The Nominet Trust has just launched their £250k Challenge to support projects that address the recommendations set out in their second State of the Art Review ‘The internet and an ageing population’. In particular, they are looking to invest in projects that work with older people (65+) and involve the internet and other technologies. The minimum level of funding is £1,000. Project outlines should be submitted by the 1 February 2012 and those shortlisted will be invited to submit a full application by 1 March 2012. Find out more here.   
  • In an interview with the Daily Telegraph Esther Rantzen argued: ‘Old folk need to get web-wise’.

Rantzen argued that community-minded neighbours could help to solve two real problems for elderly people: loneliness and lack of technological expertise. She recently wrote a piece about how lonely she is, as a widow of 10 years, and said that the article had had “an amazing response”.

“Perhaps there are older people living near you that you could identify. Why not bang on a door, or pick up a phone? What many people miss most is the chance for a chat and a cuppa, and all of that could lead to mentoring, or a friendship. Maybe you could help people to get online to do banking. What is they say – don’t bank on it? Well I say – let’s bank on it.”

The article also cited recent research from the Payments Council which shows that, “although the over 65s are savvier about energy efficiency grants and loft insulation that their younger counterparts, they do not use technology or switch brands often – meaning that they could be spending far more money than they need on basic utilities.

Over a third have not checked if they are on the best rate for their utility bills in the past year. Fewer than a third of current account holders over 65 use internet banking, while under a quarter bank by phone. Despite falling cheque usage, older people still rely on their chequebooks to send payments, and few use direct debits to clear regular debts, even though this can help them to avoid fees and penalties. “

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Belated summer round up: stories and issues relating to older and disabled people

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on November 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm

1.      Whitehall

·     Jeremy Moore has been appointed as the new Director of Independent Living and the Office for Disability Issues (ODI). Jeremy’s remit will encompass all disability issues, including employment, rights, benefits and ODI, reflecting a more joined-up approach across Government.

See: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2011/jul-2011/dwp084-11.shtml   

2.        Smartphones

·     Cross Research claim Apple’s Siri voice-recognition technology, which is available on its new iPhone 4S, could prove a landmark in consumer technology. Analyst Shannon Cross said: “We believe the use of natural language and potentially the ability to distinguish between voices could one day change the way we interact with electronic devices and provide a substantial technology advantage to Apple. Quite simply, we have not seen a demonstration of comparable AI in any other consumer system.”

More: http://allthingsd.com/20111010/siri-game-changer-not-gimmick/?reflink=ATD_mktw_quotes

·     A new iPhone app enables wheelchair users to access the Internet through their wheelchair controls. Dynamic Control’s iPortal is designed to allow powerchair users to surf the internet, make phone calls, access social networking sites, play music, send text messages and emails, take photos, read ebooks and also use the speech assistance functions, all without needing to touch the device. There is more about the iPortal here: http://www.dynamiccontrols.com/iportal/ and a report by Medtech Business is here: http://www.medtechbusiness.com/news/2011/09/From-wheelchair-to-Web 

 

·     NHS Bristol is rolling out a new telehealth service for patients with long-term conditions. The primary care trust has signed a £1.4 million contract with technology company Safe Patient Systems, which will see 600 patients with either chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure issued with smartphones loaded with a health application.

See the report by E-Health Inside: http://www.ehi.co.uk/news/EHI/7034/nhs-bristol-uses-phones-for-telehealth

 

·     Trials have been successfully run of a prototype open source live document translation system that allows users to transfer files between devices while simultaneously converting them into more accessible formats including audio versions and larger text sizes. ‘MyDocStore’ uses cloud computing to allow people to convert files easily, including to mobile devices such as smartphones.

See: http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/news/detail/2011/SBRI_result

 

3.        Health

·      A non-emergency telephone number for NHS services is to launch across England. The 111 number, which has been tested in four areas, will be available nationally by April 2013.The service will replace NHS Direct, which the government announced it was scrapping last year and will give health advice and information about services such as out-of-hours GPs, walk-in centres, emergency dentists and pharmacies.

More at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15138597?dm_i=4X7,K44V,3EI9TZ,1MVOH,1. 

 

·      In an article in the Daily Telegraph, the medical director of the NHS says that patients will routinely be able to consult with doctors over the internet from their own homes within ‘a year rather than a decade’, and that telehealth services will be useful for those who need to see a specialist about a chronic condition such as diabetes, or people with visible conditions like skin complaints.

Read the article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8623517/Doctors-to-see-patients-by-video-link.html?dm_i=4X7,GY6S,3EI9TZ,1DSRY,1

4.        Disability

 

·      The Employers’ Forum on Disability has launched the new Disability Standard, an online management and benchmark tool which enables business to measure and improve on performance for disabled customers, clients or service users, employees and stakeholders. EFD has piloted the new standard with 19 organisations from across the private and public sector. The evaluation process will run until June 2012, with the Disability Standard Awards taking place in late 2012.

More details at: http://www.thiis.co.uk/news-snippets/new-disability-standard-sept11.aspx and  via : http://www.efd.org.uk/

 

·      The first ‘Try before you buy’ centre has opened at Disability Action’s Headquarters in Belfast. The centre will showcase products, specifically designed for people with disabilities, and is part of a network of more than 200 centres across the UK offering people of all age groups the chance to try out products designed to suit their own individual requirements. It is a partnership between the charity and BT. Visitors will benefit from the expertise of professionals and volunteers who work in the centre and in return BT gathers feedback on what works well and what doesn’t.

More: www.btplc.com/inclusion/TrybeforeYouBuy .

 

 

5.        Subtitles

·      People who are deaf or hard of hearing complain that going to watch a film can be an unsatisfactory experience, with subtitled films on at unsociable times and often suffering from technical problems. A BBC News item (NB: it’s video) about the development of special glasses which allow the wearer to see subtitles directly in front of their eyes is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14654339 

6.        Video Relay

·           BT is piloting BSL access via video relay for its own Deaf customers who prefer to communicate with them in British Sign Language.  BT will start the pilot in November, subject to internal testing, and it will run for 6 months in order to demonstrate that the service works for our customers.  The facility will link to the SignVideo telephone interpreting service.

7.        Digital Inclusion

·     The Guardian reported on an initiative which sees schoolchildren being recruited in care homes to make sure that older people are not left behind in the digital age.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/sep/20/adopt-a-care-home-internet-older-people?INTCMP=SRCH

 

·     They also provided a list of “The 10 best apps for Older People”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2011/sep/21/apps-for-older-people

 

·     Organisations from across the voluntary, private and public sectors have formed the Age Action Alliance, with the aim of working which will work together to improve the lives of older people and help transform communities into a better place to grow older. It will tackle several issues relevant to older people, including public health and active lifestyles, safe warm homes, improving the lives of excluded groups, combating loneliness and isolation, working on age-friendly neighbourhoods, promoting digital inclusion and new attitudes to ageing. 

Visit: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2011/sep-2011/dwp113-11.shtml

 

8.        Web Accessibility

·     The RNIB is set to conduct its largest ever manual website accessibility testing exercise later this year, when it will check all 433 UK local authority sites against a specially-devised set of criteria.

 

The project will form the charity’s latest contribution to the annual ‘Better Connected’ review of UK council websites conducted by the public sector Society of IT Management (Socitm).

 

In previous years RNIB has run initial automated accessibility tests on all the sites, only carrying out more detailed manual assessment on those passing a certain threshold. This year, however, it will carry out manual checks on all sites based on attempts to perform three practical tasks on each such as paying council tax or renewing a library book online. A few other random top level pages will also be checked.

 

‘Better Connected’ reviews are carried out in November and December, with all results including accessibility test results due to be published at the end of February 2012.

 

·     The WebAIM site (Web Accessibility in Mind) has a wide range of articles on web accessibility, including user reviews of assistive technology products and tips for ways to improve website navigation for people with both cognitive and physical disabilities. The resources are maintained by the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University: http://webaim.org/about

 

·     Betagov Standard: The forthcoming ‘beta’ version of the new digital platform for UK government services – due to launch in January 2012 – is to be one of the first major websites to be designed in compliance with the British Standard BS8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice, the project’s accessibility consultant Léonie Watson has revealed. The site’s developers will be documenting all accessibility-related decisions taken throughout the lifecycle of the beta site, as well as carrying out extensive user testing and consulting with various disability organisations, Watson told E- Access Bulletin’s sister publication E-Government Bulletin.

 

9.        Other

·     The Royal National Institute of Blind People has launched a campaign to get Britain’s banks to enable their cash machines to talk and has published a report on this issue.

More details here: http://www.rnib.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/yourmoney/cashmachine/Pages/cash-machine-campaign.aspx

Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on April 7, 2011 at 7:28 pm

1.         Disability

  • Dr Rachel Perkins has been appointed by the Minister for Disabled People to the Chair of Equality 2025. She will take up her role from 1 April 2011 for a three-year term.

Equality 2025 is a non-departmental public body of publicly appointed disabled people, which was established in December 2006.   The group offers strategic, confidential advice to Government on issues that affect disabled people. It reports to the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller.

See: http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/docs/abo/eq2025-chair-110328.pdf

 

  • Disability and ICT charity AbilityNet has launched the first Technology4Good awards. The awards scheme aims to  celebrate the hard work of the many charities, businesses and individuals across the UK who use digital technologies to help change our communities for the better.

 See: http://www.technology4goodawards.org.uk/

Nominations are open until 5pm on Monday 9th May, with the winners announced at an Awards Ceremony on Tuesday 7th June.

 

  • The British Stammering Association welcomed the success of the Oscar winning movie ‘The King’s Speech’, calling it ‘a golden opportunity to talk openly about stammering’. See the views here: http://www.stammering.org/kspoints.html

 

  • Scope’s latest Disabled People’s Panel survey focuses on the attitudes and behaviours that disabled people experience in everyday life. They are asking for people who are disabled or the parent of a disabled child, to participate in a short online survey. The survey should take around 10 minutes to complete and responses will remain anonymous. To take part visit: http://www.scope.org.uk/news/attitudes-towards-disabled-people

 

  • Monday 2nd May to Sunday 8th May 2011 is Deaf Awareness Week.  This year the week will ask you to ‘Look At Me’ aiming to improve understanding of the different types of deafness and the many different methods of communication used by deaf, deafened, deafblind and hard of hearing people, such as sign language and lipreading.

Supported by over one hundred deaf charities and organisations under the umbrella of the UK Council on Deafness, Deaf Awareness Week involves a UK wide series of national and local events. More at: http://www.deafcouncil.org.uk/daw/index.htm

 

  • Writing in the Observer, Aleks Krotoski, asked how the internet affects society and the way we live today, with a focus on disability. She noted:

 “The web has transformed the personal experiences of disabled people by creating a playing field for empowerment with access to information, connections and a platform for change. Yet we must reflect on our social attitudes to disability in the offline world instead of ignoring what we can’t see online. Only then will the web’s effect on disability become truly clear.”

See the full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/06/untangling-web-aleks-krotoski-disability

 

 2.         Third Sector

  • The Media Trust has closed their Community Newswire service as a result of changes in their funding following the Government spending review.

 

  • The Public Sector Equality Duty came into effect on 5 April. The Duty replaces the three existing public sector equality duties covering disability, race and gender. It also extends to other protected characteristics covered in the Equality Act 2010.

 

3.         Public Sector

The Duty has three aims. When developing or implementing policy, it requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010
  • advance equality of opportunity between people from different groups
  • foster good relations between people from different groups.

This means that public bodies need to consciously consider these three aims when making decisions that will affect the public. For example, the Duty covers how a public authority acts as an employer, how it develops policies, how it designs and delivers services and how it procures services.

‘Due regard’ means to consciously consider these three aims when making decisions about policy or practice which would affect people.  For example, the duty covers:

  • how a public authority acts as an employer
  • how it develops policies
  • how it designs and delivers services
  • how it procures services.

 

If a public authority fails to give due regard to the duty, it could be challenged through a judicial review made by an individual or by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

For more information visit: http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/disabled-people-and-legislation/disability-equality-duty-and-impact-assessments.php

  • The Department of Health’s Care Networks are being closed and the last telecare e-newsletter went out in February which is here (pdf – 902Kb) or here (doc – 1.22Mb). The DH Care Network’s telecare website will close by 31 March and the Telecare LIN website will be hosted by Telecare LIN Ltd here.

The Department is exploring how it can help ‘third parties communicate latest policy and practice information on telecare and telehealth in the future’.

In the meantime, the WSDAN (Whole System Demonstrator Action Network) website hosted by the King’s Fund will continue. This provides a portal to the latest news on three large-scale telehealth and telecare pilots and the evidence-base on telehealth and telecare.

Recent publications include: 

  • an update on telecare users and expenditure
  • PCT weblinks for telehealth and the telehealth Google map
  • Evaluating telecare and telehealth interventions

The Kings Fund website is at: http://www.wsdactionnetwork.org.uk/

A blog on the King’s Fund website looks at how local authorities and the new GP commissioners can be convinced of the need to invest in telehealth and telecare. Find out more: http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/blog/the_future_of.html

 

4.         Accessibility

  • Writing in Computer Weekly, Robin Christopherson -head of digital inclusion at accessibility charity AbilityNet – talks about his love affair for Apple and how , in some cases mainstream technology is replacing specialist devices designed specifically for disabled users.

He cites Apple’s mobile operating system, which features screen reading – the VoiceOver function – and magnification, or Zoom. Noting: “As the first gesture-based screen reader, VoiceOver merely requires the user to touch the screen to hear a description of the item under their finger, then double-tap, drag, or flick to action a command. VoiceOver also features an innovative virtual control called a rotor. Turning the rotor – by rotating two fingers on the screen as if you were turning an actual dial – changes the way VoiceOver moves through a document or a web page based on a setting you choose. For example, a flick up or down might move through text word by word, by header, link or image.

It is also easy for a blind user to memorise the layout of screens and commonly-used applications. A quick tap confirms you have hit the right control and then a double-tap activates it. It really is almost as if you could see the screen.”

He later adds that “an iPhone can do as much as a specialist talking portable computer developed for blind users that costs between £1,000 and £2,000, and much, much more besides. With the addition of free navigation software an iOS device can replace bespoke talking GPS devices that are priced at around £750. Similarly, with the addition of an app costing a few pounds, they can replace a specialist communication device for those with a speech impairment; Proloquo2Go retails for around £100 and can transform an iPad into a fully functioning communication solution previously costing a prohibitive £2,000.”

“People who find the touch-screen difficult due to a physical impairment are not excluded either. The iOS devices also have in-built connectivity via Bluetooth or a cable dock to allow peripherals such as an external keyboard to be used. There is also free voice-recognition software to enable you to dictate your documents and e-mails. This way the blind touch-typist can have the best of both worlds and use an iPad or iPod Touch much as they would a laptop.”

The article is also available in Third Sector magazine: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/Article/1060183/technologies-I-use-support-people-impaired-vision/

 

5.         Mobile

  • Richard Cappin of DialToSave.co.uk, one of the UK’s first-ever mobile phone price comparison websites, recently published a report which states that smartphone users are set to rocket from 20 million to 50 million by 2015.  As a result, he has argued that the mobile phone industry is missing out on a “multi-million pound market” by ignoring the needs of users who are over the age of 55. This group is now the second-fastest growing Internet user group and 45-64 year olds are now the second largest group of mobile phone users.

 

  • Cappin said, “Mobile companies need to look to Silver Surfers for inspiration and ideas because their needs are being ignored. Smartphones are mainly targeted at tech-savvy youngsters and despite growing interest from older people they are often perplexed by jargon like Android, Symbian and 3G HSDPA.”

See the press release here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/03/prweb5127504.htm

 

6.         Older People

 

  • A report by the Centre for Policy on Ageing gives examples of councils investing in low-level support and practical assistance to help older people maintain their health, well-being, social engagement and independence. Services highlighted include telecare, handyperson schemes, housing adaptations, falls prevention, home safety checks, and information projects.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation commissioned the report, which is available at: http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/local-authorities-better-outcomes-older-people

 

  • According to the Alzheimer’s Society, in 2021 over half a million people will be living with dementia that has gone undiagnosed. Dorset has the lowest rates of diagnosis with only a quarter (26%) of people really knowing they have dementia. In contrast, two thirds (69%) of people living in Belfast with dementia have had a diagnosis.

 See: http://www.alzheimers-tesco.org.uk/news/56_over_half_a_million_people_will_have_undiagnosed_dementia_in_2021

 

  • Stephanie Flanders, the BBC’s economics editor, looks at the rise of the older worker, noting that “at the end of 2010 there were 870,000 people over 65 in formal employment in the UK. That number has more than doubled since 2001. This age group now makes up 3% of the workforce, up from 1.5% in 2001.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/stephanieflanders/2011/03/older_workers_make_their_mark.html

Her article was in response to new data from the ONS on ‘Older people in the labour market’:  http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=2648

Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on February 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm

1.         20% of people in the UK today to become Centurions (or at least live to 100)

Nearly a fifth of people living in the UK today are expected to celebrate their 100th birthday, according to government projections released recently. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said its figures suggested 10 million people – 17% of the population – would become centenarians.

These are based on Office for National Statistics population projections and life expectancy estimates.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said the “staggering” figures brought home the need for pension reforms. “Many millions of us will be spending around a third of our lives or more in retirement in the future,” he said, adding the government was determined to reform the pensions system to make it “sustainable for the long-term”.

The DWP estimates there will be at least 507,000 people aged 100 or over by 2066, including 7,700 people aged 110 or over, so-called super centenarians.

Currently 11,800 people in the UK are aged 100 or over and fewer than 100 are over 110.

The government figures suggest that of the more than 10m who will go on to reach 100, 3m are currently aged under 16, 5.5m are aged between 16 and 50, and 1.3m are aged between 51 and 65. About 875,000 are already aged over 65.

See some charts showing this here: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2010/dec-2010/dwp186-10-301210.shtml

 

2.         End of the default retirement age

The Government has indicated an end to the default retirement age (DRA), following the consultation launched by the Coalition last July.

Ministers have decided to proceed with their plan to phase out the DRA between 6 April and 1 October this year to both reflect the changing UK demographic and enable more choice for workers as to when they want to retire.

As well as benefiting individuals – the Government argues – the freedom to work for longer will provide a boost to the UK economy in the face of an ageing population.

 

3.         Older People on Television

Not surprisingly, lots of coverage in the past month about the successful ageism case former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly brought against the BBC.

Former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly, who won a landmark age discrimination case against the BBC, told the Sunday Telegraph she felt she had been “erased” from the Corporation. She said: “I found out through a press release that it was only the women who were going. It was like I’d never worked on the programme. I felt very hurt by it. I was very sad. I knew Jay Hunt [former BBC One controller] wanted to refresh the programme but I became angry when I realised it was only the women who were being ‘refreshed’.” She added: “I hope other women will take a similar stand. I think the BBC should be very worried.”

A recent edition of the Guardian’s weekly Media Talk podcast has a good summary of the case and its implications, you can listen to it online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/audio/2011/jan/13/media-talk-podcast-countryfile-miriam-oreilly-arizona-shootings

Meanwhile, a number of other broadcasters commented on the case, see:

 

Whilst the Daily Mail has an extended interview with Miriam: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1347627/Countryfiles-Miriam-OReilly-says-theres-offensive-wrinkles.html   

Writing in The Times, Patrick Foster, notes that one study found last year that only 20 per cent of presenters and actors on BBC One were over 50, compared with 34 per cent of the population.

Most recently, the Guardian ran a feature entitled: “Who are you calling past it?” which features interviews with Joan Bakewell (77), Jennie Bond (60), and others on their experiences as women working in the media: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/05/older-women-tv-radio-miriam-oreilly

Whilst The Sunday Times reported the BBC’s ratings-winning consumer show Rip Off Britain has given presenters Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Jennie Bond the chance to ‘defy the Corporation’s obsession with youth’ amid recent controversy surrounding the employment of older women. All of the presenters are in their sixties and seventies.

Rippon commented: “It shows that you should never underestimate your audience. They really do not care about the age or sex of the presenters. They just care about what they like. The public is more discerning than television executives over who they want to watch.”

 

4.         BBC Director-General to chair Cultural Diversity Network

Mark Thompson, the BBC Director-General becomes Chair of the Cultural Diversity Network (CDN) for a period of two years. He takes over from Channel 4’s Chief Executive David Abraham.  As Chair, Mark Thompson will lead an association of Britain’s leading broadcasters and independent production companies to improve diversity in the television industry – both on screen and behind the camera.

The CDN is an association of Britain’s leading broadcasters and independent production companies, originally formed in 2000, to improve the representation of ethnic minorities in television both on screen and behind the camera. It focuses on working with its member broadcasters on sharing expertise, resources and models of good practice.

As members of the CDN, programme makers and commissioners are encouraged to think about ethnic minority representation, disability, sexual orientation, age, gender and social background when casting or recruiting.

Diversity Pledge

The CDN introduced a Diversity Pledge in 2009 – a public commitment by independent production companies, in-house producers and their suppliers to take measurable steps to improve diversity in the television industry.

The pledge is split into four sections covering different aspects of diversity with practical suggestions on how to improve representation. The approach is flexible – it’s up to individual companies to set their own agenda.

The four aspects are:

1. Recruiting fairly and from as wide a base as possible and encouraging industry entrants and production staff from diverse backgrounds.
2. Encouraging diversity in output.
3. Encouraging diversity at senior decision-making levels.
4. Taking part in, or running, events that promote diversity.

 

5.         Digital Inclusion

“We don’t have a computer. Are we missing out?”

This was the question posed by two older Guardian readers recently. The responses from the public don’t say anything you probably don’t already know, but it ‘s good to hear readers outline the arguments for – and against – rather than simply people who work in this field.

Read the comments here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/blog/2011/jan/28/do-we-need-a-computer

 

6.         ‘Life Opportunities Survey’

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published interim results from the ‘Life Opportunities Survey’ (LOS), the first major longitudinal survey in Great Britain to apply the social model and explore disability in terms of social barriers to participation, rather than in terms of impairments or health conditions.

The LOS compares the experiences of people with and without impairments across a range of different areas. Barriers identified include ‘discrimination; the attitudes of other people; inaccessible buildings, public transport and information; as well as lack of support, equipment and adjustments’.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 29% of adults had an impairment
  • 26% of adults were disabled as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
  • 56% of adults with impairments experienced restrictions in the type or amount of paid work they did, compared with 26% adults without impairments (equipment was identified by disabled people as an enabler in employment)
  • 74% of adults with impairments experienced restrictions in using transport, compared with 58% without impairments
  • 12% of adults with impairments experienced a participation restriction in housing (accessing rooms within their home or getting in or out of their home), compared with 1% without impairments, with common barriers in both cases including ‘stairs, lack of ramps/stair lift’
  • 29% of adults with impairments experienced a participation restriction to accessing buildings outside their home, compared with 7% without impairments

 

The survey was commissioned by the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) alongside two qualitative research reports. The research and factsheets summarising the findings are here.

 

7.         Disability Hate Crime

Almost half of all disabled people are affected by disability hate crime. However, only 1,200 cases were prosecuted in the three years to March 2010. To counter this, Radar, the Royal Association for Disability Rights, is working to improve the reporting and recording of disability hate crime by:

– mapping disability hate crime third party reporting sites that already exist or are being set up

– exploring disabled people’s experiences of reporting disability hate crime.

Get involved now by visiting the Radar or ODI website: http://www.odi.gov.uk/about-the-odi/odi-news.php#radar

 

8.         Wayfinding Technology

The installation of digital ‘wayfinding’ technologies to help blind people find their way around railways stations and other public spaces might not be cost-effective for five years or more, according to Dr John Gill, a consultant and former RNIB chief scientist.

His comments follow the publication of a report on “Evaluating wayfinding systems for blind and partially sighted customers at stations” has been published by the Rail Safety and Standards Board and is at http://www.rssb.co.uk/sitecollectiondocuments/pdf/reports/research/T881_rpt_final.pdf  with the  appendices at http://www.rssb.co.uk/sitecollectiondocuments/pdf/reports/research/T881_apps_final.pdf

The research found that there are a significant number of existing or potential rail passengers who are blind or visually impaired. Improvements to the network are being undertaken by several parties within the GB rail industry to provide benefits to passengers with a range of specific needs, building on the considerable investment in recent years in systems such as real time audio and visual information and provision or improvement of step free access to stations.

This work has included a pilot deployment of the RNIB React system in Scotland, RNIB ‘React’ is a talking sign system whereby audio messages are triggered by users carrying a special trigger fob when they approach. Whilst demonstrating some benefits of the React system, there were problems with planning, implementing and maintaining the React system cost-effectively: current estimated costs for implementing such a system across the entire UK rail network are between £250 million and £500 million.

Given this size of cost, “only those systems which provide some benefits to the wider rail-travelling community (as opposed to only the visually-impaired) look likely to be even worth considering”, the report says. In the meantime, the provision of extra staff to assist people with disabilities might be more cost-effective, as such staff would also be able to undertake other tasks, it says.

Dr Gill, who contributed to the report on the potential benefits of future technologies in this field such as radio frequency tags (RFID), smartcards and satellite location systems, said in time cheaper technologies could be developed combining positioning systems with live train information accessed over the web.

These alternative technologies include:

  • Infra-red
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
  • Bar codes
  • Wireless (including Bluetooth and React)

 

“The problems with implementing systems like React were not just related to technology but maintenance”, he said.  “You need systems to see if it is working reliably. If there is a talking sign on the end of a platform saying don’t walk any further, and it’s not working, is actually creating a safety hazard. Any system has got to work 99.9% of time, so you can rely on it.”

The decision on when to make investments in wayfinding technologies is ultimately a political one, Dr Gill said. “It’s a matter of who is going to pay, and who else is going to benefit.

The rate of change of technology and economics is so fast that one hesitates to predict exactly when it will work out.”

Quotes from: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=530

 

9.         Europe

A proposal for a ‘European Accessibility Act’, which will include accessibility measures on ICT and websites, will be put forward during 2012. The act, part of actions following on from a wider European Disability Strategy ( http://bit.ly/fDCRlP ) unveiled last year, will be based on an upcoming commission study of accessibility barriers for disabled citizens across Europe. The study will cover access to public services, public buildings and transport, as well as other areas.

The act will set out contain common standards to help regulate accessible design in a number of areas including ICT, the built environment and product design.

 

 10.      Next phase of superfast broadband plans announced

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has outlined government plans for ‘the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015’, working in partnership with the private sector, councils and communities. To reduce the ‘digital divide’, all parts of the UK will be covered, with government funding for areas that the market cannot reach. A ‘world class communications network’ is seen as fundamental for economic growth and for more efficient and accessible public services.

Plans include:

  • a mix of technologies –fixed, wireless and satellite – to deliver superfast broadband
  • developing the next generation of mobile broadband services, based on new wireless technologies
  • a Publicly Available Specification for new build homes to give developers and builders a steer as to what connectivity homes should contain

 

Recognising the need to ‘ensure that consumers are comfortable with technology and that those currently excluded from the digital world, for whatever reason, are able to join it and reap the benefits’, the strategy refers to Martha Lane Fox’s Race Online initiative (details here).

There are also references to tele-working for disabled people and to the Whole System Demonstrator programme. The press release is here.

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is the delivery vehicle for these policies. To find out via this link.

Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on January 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm

1.         Government launch of eAccessibility Plan

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey and Maria Miller, the Minister for Disabled People, have launched the eAccessibility Plan, a detailed package of measures towards a more inclusive digital economy for disabled people. Proposals include promoting inclusive design, improving public websites, upgrading IT equipment and providing better online content. Key objectives are:

  • Improving technology and digital equipment to suit the needs of those with disabilities and tackling issues of affordability and availability of equipment (television, radio, computer) and software (such as Braille embossers, light signallers and screen readers)
  • Implementing a new regulatory framework to enable OFCOM to specify measures to ensure disabled people have equivalent choice and access to digital communications services as non-disabled consumers
  • Improving the design of public sector websites
  • Making previously inaccessible online and television content accessible, such as e-books for those with a visual impairment
  • Promoting awareness of the issues facing disabled groups in the digital economy to achieve a more inclusive society

The plan will enable the UK to meet the European Union’s “Riga Declaration” (‘to ensure accessibility, affordability and equal participation for disabled users in the digital economy’) as well as EU directives on electronic communications networks and services. An appendix describes the range of assistive technology products which support e-accessibility. The plan will be implemented by the eAccessibility Forum, a group of over 60 experts from Government, industry and the voluntary sector, including AbilityNet. The announcement and plan are here.

 

2.         EHRC triennial report

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is required to report to Parliament every three years on the progress that society is making in relation to equality, human rights and good relations.

According to the first triennial review, ‘How fair is Britain?’, key challenges include closing the gaps in qualifications and employment between disabled people and the rest of the population, reducing hate crimes and disability-related bullying, reducing the need for and cost of informal care, and increasing autonomy, choice and control for carers and those who receive care. The report is here.

 

3.         ACOD NGA Research

ACOD’s NGA research continues to be promoted to relevant audiences.

Dr Jonathan Freeman  – Managing Director – i2 media research limited spoke at the RAate conference on Monday 29th November 2010.  RAate bills itself as the only UK conference focused on the latest innovations and developments in assistive technology. See his paper here: http://www.raate.org.uk/content/view-papers/441/

Jane Rumble and Damian Radcliffe will be presenting the findings at the University of Reading next month as part of the KT-EQUAL event looking at “Achieving and sustaining digital engagement”.

See: http://kt-equal.org.uk/uploads/digitalinclusion/Programme%20Digital%20Inclusion.pdf

 

4.         Older People

Nearly one in five people currently living in the UK will survive to celebrate their 100th birthday, according to government estimates. See:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/uk-12091758

 

5.         Disability – Frankie Boyle

Ofcom are investigating Channel 4 over the broadcast of programme by comedian Frankie Boyle programme where he made comments about Katie Price’s disabled son. This followed a complaint from Katie and also from viewers.

In addition, Ofcom has received a complaint from Rethink, the national mental health charity, relating to an episode of Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights on Channel 4. The complaint is being assessed under the Broadcasting Code, in accordance with our procedures. Suffice to say, we take issues relating to discrimination on the grounds of disability, mental health, or learning difficulties very seriously.

 

6.         Video Relay

www.vrstoday.com – is a campaign for universal provision of video relay services.

 

7.         RNID launches Impact Report 2010

Every year RNID reports on the impact its work has had on the lives of people who are deaf or hard of hearing by filming people telling their own stories. The online video clips – with subtitles and BSL interpretation – showcase some of the main achievements from 2009/10.

For example, you can watch Michael and Jessica, who are profoundly deaf, talk about how the new emergency SMS service meant that their baby son was born safely. 

The latest Impact Report is now live: you can watch the films and find out much more at www.rnid.org.uk/ukcod1

 

8.         Learning Disabilities

The Office for Disability Issues notes that there are an estimated 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the UK. In partnership with the Department of Health they have developed some new Easy Read guidance documents to explain how best to use Easy Read to reach all audiences.

Download the guidance, free, from here: Easy Read guidance and inclusive communications

 

9.         Disability fund to be phased out

A fund supporting more than 21,000 people with severe disabilities is to be phased out by 2015, a minister says. Source:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/uk-11985568

 

10.       Proposed socio-economic duty on public sector bodies dropped

The government is dropping the proposed socio-economic duty on public sector bodies, which would have required all public sector bodies to consider tackling wide socio-economic problems whenever taking an important decision.

More details on the BBC website. (17th Nov) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11771302

Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on December 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm

1. Personal Finance

Several papers picked up Aviva’s quarterly Real Retirement Report which noted that the Over-55s increasingly concerned about the rising cost of living.

The Daily Telegraph reported “Pensioners are being forced to turn their hobbies into jobs as they prepare to work until they drop” whilst the Guardian focused on “Pensioners slashing spending on food in order to meet rising household bills”.

“Unlike their parents, the current generation of over 55s are facing the prospect of paying off a significant amount of mortgage debt as they move into retirement. Indeed, the practice of buying houses later in life and releasing the capital to pay for items such as cars, holidays, children’s university costs, etc, has taken its toll,” said Clive Bolton, of Aviva.

One-fifth of the over 55s still have substantial mortgages, unlike earlier generations, which tended to pay off their home loans by that age, the report found. The figures again underlined how the average 55-64 year old is worse off than the average 65-74 year old. Aviva found that pre-retirees’ mean monthly income is £1,313, compared to £1,374 among those who have taken retirement.

 

BT has launched a new booklet aimed at giving consumers practical advice on getting the best telephony package to suit individual budgets.

The latest in its series of Communications Choices booklets has been developed to help people manage their household communications budget and provides advice on what to do if they struggle to pay their bills.  The 20-page booklet, produced with support from the free-to-client money advice community, is available in printed format and as a download on www.bt.com/includingyou

 

2. Consumer

Commenting on the Consumer Experience the Telegraph noted that: “A generation of ‘silver surfers’ is driving a rise in broadband take-up”.  The report stated that “Nearly half of the over-75s, however, reported difficulties in using computers and mobile phones, while a third of 65-74-year-olds said they too struggled with mobile technology.

The number of broadband connections in Britain grew by three per cent in the last year, but by nine per cent among 65-74-year-olds and eight per cent for over-75s. Nearly one in six, however, still say they do not intend to get web access in the next year. A fifth said the same in 2009.”

David Sinclair, Head of Policy and Research at the ILC-UK, has written a report on the potential financial reward of engaging with the older consumer.  “The Golden Economy: The Consumer Marketplace in an Ageing Society” is available at: http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/record.jsp?type=publication&ID=80.

The report notes that older consumer market is expected to grow by 81 per cent from 2005 to 2030 while the 18-59 year old market will only increase 7 per cent. It goes on to profile older consumers, talk about their consumer experience (covering issues such as design, jargon, mis-selling and upper age limits on products and services which may mean that these are inaccessible to older consumers).

 

3. Digital Participation

BT has relaunched its free broadband Community Connections award scheme, www.btcommunityconnections.com  to help get communities online. Community groups in the UK can apply to get online free for 12 months if they can demonstrate how they will help people discover the wonders of the internet for the first time.  There are around nine million people in the UK who have never used the internet. The closing date for applications is 13th January and winners will be announced by the end of February.

The Telegraph reported on Martha Lane Fox’s “Go On, Give Someone Their First Time Online” campaign for web-savvy introduce friends and relatives to the internet for the first time. The initiative also encourages the recycling and refurbishing of old computers.

 

A campaign allowing people with disabilities a quick, simple way of reporting inaccessible websites, including by email or Twitter, was launched last month. Complaints filed using ‘Fix the Web’ are taken forward by volunteers, who contact the website owners and ask them to fix the problem. The service was developed by the charity Citizens Online: http://www.fixtheweb.net/

 

Public services should be delivered online or by other digital means, the Government announced in November: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2010/101122-defaultdigital.aspx

In a report to the Cabinet Office, Martha Lane Fox argued that “shifting 30% of government service delivery contracts to digital channels has the potential to deliver gross annual savings of more than £1.3 billion, rising to £2.2 billion if 50% of contacts shifted to digital.”

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, responded to the report by saying:“This does not mean we will abandon groups that are less likely to access the internet: we recognise that we cannot leave anyone behind. Every single Government service must be available to everyone – no matter if they are online or not.” 

However Age UK in an article entitled “Millions of elderly people could lose out on important health and education benefits as the Government plans to put major Post Office services online”  claimed “that six million people over the age of 65 have no access to the internet, many of whom are already isolated and need public services to survive.”

We work with a lot of older people to get them on online,” a spokesman said. “But we have to accept that there are a lot of people out there who do not use the internet and we need to make sure that we do not further isolate them in any way.”

The first services to go online will be student loans followed by applications to schools, such as school meals; personal applications like driving licences; and benefits such as job seekers’ allowance. Eventually other services will be rolled out like child benefit.

Part of solution, according to an article in the Guardian, could be for customers to access the web in places such as Post Offices. 

However, “George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of SubPostmasters, said he was glad the government wanted post offices to be the place that people without internet connections would go to access government services. But he added it could also be a threat to Britain’s 12,000 post offices.

“I do have a problem with everything going online,” said Thomson. He argued that a lot much of the work of post offices was dealing face to face with people about their Post Office card accounts, green giros and taxing their cars, for example. “Those are important transactions, and the philosophy of everything going online means that despite the new products there could be a lower volume of work overall.

“Most post offices are also shops and they depend on the footfall that comes in. If 3,000 people come in during a week, they also buy their newspapers, bread and milk there. My fear is that, if you lose the volume, then the business model that sustains that disappears.” “

 

4. Telecare

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow has launched the government’s vision for adult social care, ‘Capable Communities and Active Citizens’. Telecare, re-ablement and ‘home improvements and adaptations’ are highlighted as preventative services with the potential to save resources as well as promote independence.

The Government’s aim is to shift power from the state to the citizen through:

  • increasing the uptake of personal budgets (30 per cent of eligible users by April 2011 and everyone eligible by 2013)
  • information and advice as a universal service
  • £400 million for carers’ breaks
  • preventative action in local communities to keep people independent
  • breaking down barriers between health and social care funding
  • care and support to be delivered through a ‘plural market’ in partnership between individuals, communities, the voluntary sector, the NHS and council services

The announcement is here and the vision is here.

 

Age UK provides easy-to-read information on equipment and adaptations in the home, available via this link.

 

‘Invest-to-save’ funding by the Welsh Assembly Government includes support for telecare and a single public sector broadband network. The £7.3 million investment is expected to save the public sector £14 million a year and some £64 million over the longer term. Details via this link.

 

5. Disability

A video demonstrating how to use the Refreshabraille 18, a Braille display and keyboard, built by the non-profit American Printing House for the Blind, with an Apple iPhone or iPod, has been posted on YouTube. A link to the video and a transcription can be found on the ‘StoneKnight’ blog run by transcription specialist Mirabai Knight: http://bit.ly/dIU26U

 

The UK’s first ever Disability History Month (UKDHM) runs from 22nd November to 22nd December. More information here.

 

The East Anglian Daily Times reports on a rise in hate crimes committed against the disabled – using figures obtained under FOI. In Suffolk over a 12 month period, these crimes were up 60%. See: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk_hate_crimes_against_the_disabled_up_60_1_718573

 

The Department for Work and Pensions has published the latest statistics on the Access to Work programme, see here. Delivered by Jobcentre Plus, this provides practical advice and support, including equipment and adaptations, to disabled people and their employers to help them overcome work-related obstacles.

24,340 individuals were helped in the period April 2010 – June 2010. However, Access to Work has cut the range of products it will fund. Desktop computers, voice activation software and ergonomic chairs and desks are among equipment that will no longer be paid for by the government, but will become the responsibility of employers to provide. A report in Ability magazine is here.

 

Perhaps the biggest story in this community over the past month derived from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s launch of a white paper setting out radical plans for welfare reform. A new universal credit will be introduced to simplify the benefits system, reduce welfare dependency, and make work pay. The new credit will provide a basic amount, with additions for those with children and other caring responsibilities, people with disabilities and those with housing needs. It will be available for working-age people both in and out of work and will replace many existing benefits.

Disability living allowance will continue, but will be reformed so that support is targeted on people who face significant barriers to participating in society, based on a new assessment. The government is considering whether changes to carer’s allowance will be necessary. The new universal credit will ensure that benefits are withdrawn ‘slowly and rationally’ as people return to work and increase their working hours. Under a new system of conditionality backed by tougher sanctions, claimants will be split into four groups depending on how close they are to getting back to work and support will be tailored accordingly:

  • No conditionality – disabled people or those with a health condition that prevents them from working, lone parents or lead carer with a child under age one;
  • Keeping in touch with the labour market – lone parent or lead carer with a young child aged over one but under five;
  • Work preparation – disabled people or those with a health condition which prevents them from working at the current time;
  • Full conditionality – jobseekers (there will be mandatory work activity for some jobseekers).

A Welfare Reform Bill in January 2011 will give effect to these changes, followed by a phased introduction of the new system from 2013. The announcement and white paper are here and here.

The Department for Work and Pensions has put together a summary of how disabled people may be affected by current changes which is available via this link

According to official statistics, three-quarters of people applying for the new employment and support allowance (ESA) which replaces incapacity benefit (IB) are being found fit for work after undergoing the controversial new work capability assessment (WCA), or they withdraw their claim before they complete the assessment. More information here.
 

6. Employment and Portrayal

In November The Times reported that “A former BBC journalist will become today the first presenter to take the corporation to an employment tribunal for age and sex discrimination. Miriam O’Reilly, 53, who was dropped from Countryfile, the BBC One programme in 2008, will bring her claim before a London Central employment tribunal.

Ms O’Reilly was told in November 2008 that she was to lose her post on Countryfile as part of a revamp of the BBC One show. Ms O’Reilly, an award-winning journalist who spent 25 years at the BBC, was removed alongside Juliet Morris, Charlotte Smith and Michaela Strachan, reporters in their forties and fifties. They were replaced by the former host of Watchdog, Julia Bradbury, then 36, and Matt Baker, then 30, as the show moved into a prized early evening slot.

Ms O’Reilly is claiming for sex discrimination, age discrimination, and victimisation, as she says she has not been given further work by the BBC after claims that she leaked stories about internal discontent over the removal of the women.

The BBC has been forced to address accusations of ageism, after the exit of older women such as Moira Stuart, 61, and Anna Ford, 67. Stuart has recently returned as the newsreader on Chris Evans’s Radio 2 breakfast show.

Miriam O’Reilly was dropped by the BBC One show Countryfile in 2008 .”