NewsDisability HandbookDoes your IT and online presence miss 20% of the population?Check out this handbook and improve your reach to nearly 12 million people with disabilities. You can also download accessible versions here“Improving lives – work, health and disability”What do you think:•Got some good ideas about reducing the personal and benefit costs by helping more disabled people to work?•Is more power for Jobcentre work coaches, doctors and others in the health service good or worrying?•Is this a joined-up strategy or a collection of good ideas?I strongly commend the Government’s recent “Improving Lives - The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper”: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/564038/work-and-health-green-paper-improving-lives.pdf It is all about changing attitudes and resolving the injustice that stops us disabled people fulfilling our potential. They are seeking your ideas, experience and evidence as they try to shape a way to get one million disabled people in to work over ten years of reform.The paper is good in clearly drawing on the knowledge of many of us active at the front-line of disability employment: none of it is rocket science. But there is quite a lot of “motherhood and apple pie” ideas with which few would argue but not enough hard, practical detail that would make those ideas work in reality. And there are some elements that send a shiver down the spine such as:•Giving Jobcentre coaches “discretion to make case-by-case decisions about the type of employment support a person is able to engage with” (para 132). If this is linked with conditionality, sanctions and without any formal appeal process, there’s risk that clients could be in real jeopardy.•The almost complete dismissal of self-employment (para 97)is staggering when we know that working disabled people are more likely to follow this option than their non-disabled peers – and the performance of the New Enterprise allowance falls far short of what could be expected for disabled people. •The weak section aimed at improving employer’s willingness to take on and retain disabled people. There’s still too much emphasis on large employers without properly targeting the sectors where disabled people may have more realistic job prospects. But they do float the idea of mandatory contact between employers and sick employees plus action to help their return – there’s good mileage here (para 200).•Chapter 5 on increasing NHS support is probably wildly optimistic when all the headlines are about under-funding. And clinicians need to acquire a whole new set of knowledge: their great on medical conditions but pretty poor on understanding the real-life consequences that are disabling.•Not enough mention of disabled people themselves being part of the governance of all these new ideas.Overall, the paper is rather like a Dalmatian: lots of attractive spots but not well-joined up!Don’t be shy – have your say too – the closing date for comments is 17 February 2017.Help to Work.Six years building a partnership of organisations that all help local people in Derbyshire back to work. Not one can do it all but, with cooperation and collaboration, they offer everything you could need.My job was bringing them together, creating an on-line directory (www.helptowork.org.uk) and helping everyone learn much more about disability so they could support those of us who need most assistance. Here’s a link to my blog and our final evaluation report.Preparing for changes to the Benefit CapFrom this autumn the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 will see changes to the current benefit cap levels and the introduction of additional exemptions.Claimants who could be affected by the changes to benefit cap levels will be informed of them and offered support to help them adjust their circumstances.Claimants will also be able to receive employment support either through their regular work coach intervention or by requesting voluntary support. Claimants will be able to receive housing and budgetary support. Helplines and GOV.UK will be updated with information about the changes.Renew tax credits online and on time. HMRC is urging people to renew their tax credits claim online as soon as possible before the 31 July deadline. Their call centres get very busy in the lead up to the deadline, so to save time, customers can go online to renew their claim, update their circumstances, or check their next payment details. If customers don’t renew by the 31 July 2016 deadline, they risk being overpaid. To renew online, visit GOV.UK.Differences between DLA and PIP – new information availableA new factsheet, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment – the main differences, has been published to help people understand the differences between the two benefits. DLA is ending for most people and this factsheet includes information for DLA claimants to help them decide whether to claim PIP. The factsheet is available to download and view here.Changing face of Information Technology may mean more help in the future.Lots of people (like me!) still find lots of modern IT difficult to use – and people with long-term health conditions often have most problems. But there are lots of moves afoot that may make life easier:Public sector organisations. The new EU Directive is going to make official websites and mobile apps more accessible - that’s going to be everything from your local school, colleges, health centres to local Councils and Government. But it might take some years before you see the difference!Amazon’s Kindle. New screen reader features are coming.You can keep in touch with more developments by signing up for the free newsletter on their sign-up page: http://lists.headstar.comNational Living WageFrom 1 April 2016, a "national living wage" (NLW) was introduced for workers aged 25 and over. This is in effect a new tier of the national minimum wage, adding a 50p per hour premium to the adult minimum wage for workers aged 21 and over. This national living wage is a statutory obligation, and an employer who does not pay NLW or NMW can receive a penalty charge up to £20,000 per underpaid worker.Changing Lives - Sustainable Futures.7 July at Aylesbury College, Aylesbury, Bucks.A FREE conference for organisations that work in prison with offenders or in the community with ex-offenders, unemployed individuals, families or socially excluded groups. Conference Themes include:* Green Homes* Tackling fuel poverty* Reducing re-offending* Developing employability* Mental health roots to recovery* Understanding our modern world* Eco approaches to social inclusionTo book free place(s): email: email@example.com with Name, organisation, dietary requirements.Apprenticeships for people with learning disabilities.A new Task Force is to look at improving accessibility to apprenticeships for people with learning disabilities. The taskforce will meet 3 times throughout May and June: once to identify issues, then to explore solutions and finally to form recommendations to make to ministers. It will be led by Paul Maynard MP and include employers, training providers, charities and educational experts. You might have some expertise to contribute: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/announcement-of-taskforce-to-look-at-improving-accessibility-of-apprenticeships-for-people-with-learning-disabilitiesWork and Health programme.DWP thinking on this new programme is outlined in the Prior Information Notice (PIN) that has been published. It indicates that the programme could be worth about £120m per year for the period 2017-21 - by my reckoning, about £4m per year per Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP area - much tighter for prime and sub-contractors.)Digital tax.HMRC is making changes with tax that will be important for people who are self-employed and run small businesses. Here is a recent presentation although there will be more changes in the future as their work progresses.I am involved with one of their consultation groups that is concerned to make all these changes as accessible as possible. If you think you would have problems handling your tax information on-line, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.New employment programmes.Work is currently underway on co-designing the next work programme, to be called the ‘Work and Health Programme’, to start in 2017. There are two client groups – people with health conditions or a disability (voluntary involvement) and people claiming Job Seekers Allowance for less than two years (mandatory involvement).Progress has also been made with the pilot programme which will start in 2017 and is likely to run for three years. A diagnostic tool will be used to identify people who are most suitable for the programme. Local integration boards will need to be set up in each local authority area (or possibly one for Bolsover, Chesterfield, North East Derbyshire and Derbyshire Dales). Making City Regions work for disadvantaged people.Was at a useful presentation/consultation event this week looking at the Sheffield City Region which is likely to be central for future employment support projects/funding etc. The short presentation is here.Being a better work coach etc.This was the training session delivered at the end of April. Here is the material provided at the event and here is the summary of the research with details of how to obtain a copy of the final report.Economic inequality.In case you are interested, here is the text of a presentation I attended recently.Benefits information.Social Welfare Training Limited have just issued the free poster here with updated benefit information. You can also order free hard copy versions. Sign up for their free newsletters at www.socialwelfaretraining.co.uk or call 0117 9514 337.More difficult labour market or just fears about the EU referendum?The Learning and Work Institute commentary and the employment figures from 20 April are less than positive:•Employment levels are slowing while unemployment is rising.•JSA claimants are remaining on benefits for longer.•Vacancies are falling.•More (58%) unemployed people are not claiming JSA or UC: 961,000 are apparently not working and not claiming – in line with the change in sanctions in October 2012.Factors that may impact in future months:•National Living Wage – only came in to play at the start of April so these higher costs to employers haven’t fully bitten yet.•Continuing (and escalating?) caution ahead of the referendum.What does it mean for employment support providers over coming months?•Potentially more clients.•More difficulty helping clients get jobs.Mobile phones accessible for all.Google will let you navigate around your phone using just your voice. The Voice Access feature is designed specifically to assist people with a range of disabilities, but anyone can use it to manoeuvre inside their phone through using their voice. Voice Access is part of Google's effort to make its phones more accessible to people with disabilities that prevent them from using their hands or seeing the screen clearly. Apple has its own iPhone technology called VoiceOver, which reads whatever you tap on the screen (it makes all the difference for blind people like me – and it also has voice activation too so you might hear me shouting at it!).There are doubtless other smart phones with similar features. Read more here.Landmarks Specialist College presents The Archer Training Venue.‘Landmarks Specialist College proudly introduces a new concept in supported employment for young people with additional needs wishing to start a career in the bar and restaurant trade.The Archer public house in Rainworth is their first training venue that offers real bar and restaurant work, both front of house and in the kitchen, seven days a week. This is an opportunity for young people to gain industry recognised qualifications and experience.If you or anyone you know may be interested in this opportunity, please contact Landmarks Specialist College on 01246 433788 or pop into The Archer, Warsop Lane Rainworth NG21 0AG, have a drink and/or sample the menu whilst you get further information.’ Read the leaflet hereReady to take on employees?Having employees isn’t just about paying wages or a salary, it’s about understanding other employer responsibilities like paying statutory payments. Would you know what to do? From taking on an employee to tax and National Insurance, PAYE payroll reporting to paying HMRC, it’s all in this flexible, free online guide. Whether you’re a new employer or just need a refresher, get clear guidance and support from HMRC’s ‘Becoming an Employer’ e-learning product. Or why not take a couple of moments to watch their ‘PAYE and your business’ video on HMRC’s YouTube channel?PIP joins Video Relay Service trial for BSL users.DWP are extending the trial of the Video Relay Service (VRS) to include access to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from the 25 April 2016. The service will include the PIP enquiry line, PIP new claims and reassessments and Special Rules for Terminally Ill cases. The service enables British Sign Language (BSL) users to make BSL interpreted video calls via their tablet, smartphone, computer or laptop. A professional interpreter then relays the call in English to a member of DWP staff. Customers can access VRS from 25 April on GOV.UK and there will also be a BSL video link which explains how to use the service.Housing Benefit.The Equality and Human Rights Commission has submitted a written intervention in the case of MA – about the spare room subsidy affecting a disabled person who needs an extra room for disability-related needs. They used Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights to argue that the changes were discriminatory and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) to argue that the state has a duty to reasonably accommodate the needs of disabled people.Support with childcare costsTo help parents and carers to understand the new childcare support available, a new web pageis now available on GOV.UK. This brings together all the current information in one place.IT can change the lives of disabled people – for better (or worse).Keep in touch with the latest developments from Braille tablets and sensory bus alerts to accessible gaming and low cost prosthetic printing! And lots more from this free newsletter which covers national and international advances. Use the sign up page at http://lists.headstar.com. Want help with discrimination, harassment and victimisation?The Equality Advice and Support Service YouTube channel has a video which gives a description of their ‘Advice Basket’ function on their website. The video explains how this function works and how, when completed, the information enables callers to the Helpline keep a permanent record of the areas of the Equality Act relevant to their issue.Armed Forces Covenant Funding.Close to my heart being ex-Navy: for funding priorities for 2016-17 have recently been announced:1. Veterans’ Gateway2. Families in Stress3. Improving local covenant delivery (for Local Authorities)4. Community integration / delivery of local servicesIf you are interested in applying, it is worth checking out if your proposed project might be eligible – contact: email@example.com Find out more here and look for the ‘Covenant Fund 2016 to 2017 priorities’ document.Benefits newsletter.Keep up-to-date with what is going on – see newsletter here.Equality Advice and Support Service.Check out who are raising most concerns about what issues: https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/ci/fattach/get/26086/1456746304/redirect/1/filename/2016%2002%20Full%20Newsletter.pdfFor the accessible word version please visit:https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/app/answers/list and search Newsletter February WordReaching everyone?Whatever your organisation, you probably want to promote services, activities and successes to anyone and everyone – and e-communications can seem the quickest way. But e-shots, on-line and pdf documents can exclude many people who find it difficult to use IT. But you can make your e-communications better and easier for very little cost or effort.The e-access bulletin is worth the free subscription for ideas: sign-up pageThe latest version talks about how many people simply click away from websites that are not easy enough to use - and is an example of an accessible e-shot.Easy Read.Is your web site and literature accessible for people with learning difficulties and the 1-in-10 of the population with dyslexia? Have a look at www.pikaeasyread.co.uk to see what your site could look like to reach more people. They are offering other help and information plus a free Easy read image for you to download.Disability Action Alliance.Joining the Alliance costs nothing, promotes your disability-friendliness and can keep you in touch with current initiatives. See the latest newsletter hereBenefits poster.Some core information provided by Neil Arnott, Social Welfare Training Limited here. The Benefit rates, including the Benefit Cap are not finalised yet and may vary slightly. Main changes:• Many rates of benefit remain frozen due to the Welfare Cap and negative inflation rate in September 2015 (which dictates some of the changes in rates for disability benefits).• Pensioner benefits to rise in line with the 'triple lock'.• Universal Childcare costs to rise from 70% to 85% and there are also increases in the total amount allowable.• Decreases in the Benefit Cap in all areas and the introduction of an even lower rate for areas outside London.• A reduction in the income increase disregard under Tax Credits.• The Housing Benefit family premium will not be paid to new claimants and those who start a family from April 2016.You can sign up for their free newsletters and find out about their training courses: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 0117 9514 337Keep in touch with employment figures, news and activities.“Inclusion” has been replaced by the Learning and Work Institute – worth signing up for their free weekly newsletter.Specialist Employability Support (SES)There is now additional nationwide help available for people with long-term health conditions/disabilities to get back to work. More details here. Referrals are made by Jobcentres and details of where each organisation operates should be available via their respective websites (The Remploy site probably gives the best outline of their provision).Need advice and support on an equality issue?The Equality Advice and Support Service offers free help and can be contacted via:Telephone 0808 800 0082Textphone 0808 800 0084Email via websitePost to FREEPOST Equality Advisory Support Service FPN4431Webchat Available via websiteBSL provided through our partner Royal Association for Deaf People. More information on their homepage.Issues that were raised with them during the last couple of months included the problems wheel chair users have in accessing routine health services due to lack of hoists, people being refused admittance to nightclubs due to their skin colour and transgender people having difficulty establishing their identity for financial services by phone when customer service staff seem to make judgements based on voice tone rather than the information provided.In October, most issues raised with EASS from England were about work (nearly 50%); most contacts continued to be from disabled people (about 60% with race at 15% and all others in low single figures or less). So it is good that disabled people are raising their concerns but disappointing that we still need to!Guide for delivering employment support.Although this guide is writing for the Big Lottery “Building Better Opportunities” funding, it has lots of useful and highly recognisable elements that will help you deliver even better and stronger services. So worth a read even if you are not bidding for this money.Supporting homeless jobseekers Last year the domestic emergency rules were changed to allow people who had recently been made homeless time out from actively seeking work to focus on finding suitable accommodation. Work Coaches can only consider applying this easement if they know about the claimant’s housing status. If you are supporting homeless people, or those at risk, please encourage claimants to declare their housing status. This will enable Work Coaches to discuss with claimants the range of flexibilities available when agreeing a Claimant Commitment.Universal Jobmatch and SAFERjobsSince July 2015 DWP has been actively promoting SAFERjobs within the Universal Jobmatch service. SAFERjobs is designed to help people identify job scams and fake jobs. The SAFERjobs website has news about current job scams and a free service for job seekers to report suspected (or actual) fraud. It also features advice on what people can do to stay safe online. Vacancies for disabled people.I mentioned Evenbreak previously – they run a listing of vacancies for employers who are positive about employing disabled people. Their entry will shortly be uploaded on to the Help to Work directory – check it out and see what other support is available locally: www.helptowork.org.uk and click on Organisations.Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payments. If you receive, have applied for or been rejected for either of these payments that are aimed to cover some of the extra costs of living with a disability, please take part in this research study. They are interested in how people are affected by the benefits system and changes to it, and what it means to them and their household to receive (or not receive) these benefits. The research will hopefully raise awareness and understanding about how changes to benefits affect disabled people and people with long-term health conditions over time. Small payment for taking part.Contact: CXM257@student.bham.ac.uk or visit www.birmingham.ac.uk/social-security-and-family-life. Access to Work.There is a campaign underway to ask the Government to stop changes that may disadvantage disabled people. You can read more and take part in their survey or contact email@example.comSpecialist support for unemployed disabled people.Specialist Employability Support (SES) is a new tailored support service for unemployed disabled people that will help them move closer to the labour market. This new service began last month and is being delivered by six national SES providers. Four of them - Shaw Trust, Remploy, Kennedy Scott and Steps to Employment - will cater for people with a range of disabilities. People with a visual impairment will be supported by the Royal National College for the Blind and those with a hearing impairment, by Doncaster Deaf Trust. More details are available from local JobcentresWorried about discrimination?The Equality Advice and Support Service is free and covers all sorts of discrimination and human rights issues (including work, customer service and much more). They can help resolve concerns informally, including writing to the organisation in issue. Contact them:Telephone 0808 800 0082Textphone 0808 800 0084Email via website www.equalityadvisoryservice.comPost to FREEPOST Equality Advisory Support Service FPN4431Webchat Available via websiteBSL provided through partner Royal Association for Deaf People. More information on homepage.Know your rights.The Equality Act became law in 2010. It protects everyone in Britain from discrimination, harassment and/or victimisation.The 'Your rights' guidance has information to help you understand if you have been treated unlawfully. The advice explains:- Who is protected by the Equality Act?- What are your rights?