This Month in Parliament- Disability

Plans for mandatory learning disabilities awareness training has been announced by the Government.

Caroline Dinenage, the Minister of State for Care in the Department of Health and Social Care made a written statement to Parliament on September 12th 2018, in which she outlined the Government’s response to the Learning Disability Mortality Review’s Second Annual Report, published on the 4th May. She said that the Government would accept all of the report’s recommendations and that a consultation on “proposals for manadatory learning disability training for all health and care staff” would take place and “will be completed by March 2019 (Recommendation Six, Page 13, The Government response to the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review)

The LeDeR report found that “the proportion of people with learning disabilities who died in hospital”, which the report measures as being at 64%, was larger “than the proportion of hospital deaths in the general population” at 47%. Further information can be found in the report itself, and the LeDeR website.

On November 22nd, a joint letter from the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England was sent to Chief Executives of NHS Trusts, Foundation Trust and Local Authorities, Directors of Adult Social Services and Children’s Services and Clinical Commissioning Groups as regards to the report.

Locally, University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust Trust Board Meeting, in it’s Quarterly Mortality Performance Reviews from it’s July 2018 report found that “there was one patient death with learning disabilities” during the period of January and March 2018 (See 26th July 2018 Meeting Report), down from 2 during the period of April to September 2017 (See, 27th July 2017 and 25th January 2018 reports).

The learning disabilities charity Mencap made a statement on the day of the Government’s announcement.


Universal Credit: Private Rented Sector- January 2018

A debate on Universal Credit and the private rented sector was held in Westminister Hall on January 9th and brought by the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne Stephen Lloyd. In this post, I shall be focussing on those who are in the private rented sector and those who are disabled.

For those in the private or social rented sector, you are able to apply for Housing Benefit, which is governed by the Department for Work and Pensions but administred by a local authority, such as a council and designed to help with rent and other housing costs and which has been replaced, or are in the process of being replaced by Universal Credit.

In Coventry as of November 2017, the number of those receiving Housing Benefit, who are also in the private rented sector is 8,496, with 15,859 “pass-ported”.(In Excel, select Table 2, Housing Benefit claimants by Region and Local Authority: by Tenure and Passported status) that is, receiving other benefits alongside Housing Benefit, such as Income Support, Income-related Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and/or Pension Credit.(Quarterly Benefits Summary: February 2018, then Housing Benefit- National Statistics-page 12). 

Universal Credit, also administred by the DWP and which replaces 6 benefits (Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit) was launched in Coventry in trial form in December 2015 and released proper in April 2018.

Those with no work requirements, which in the department’s Universal Credit statistics: background information and methodology, is defined as “Not expected to work at present. Health or caring responsibility prevents claimants from working or preparing for work” (page 13), as of March 2018, 103,691 were in this category (See Universal Credit: monthly experimental official statistics to 8 March 2018 and In Excel, select Table 3.1).

For those on Housing Benefit, as of latest statistics from November 2017 (in Excel, select Table 6, Housing Benefit by passported status) 1,150,869 people recieved Employment and Support Allowance. Employment and Support Allowance is a social security benefit, administered by the Department for Work and Pensions for those who have an ilness, health condition or disability that makes it difficult or impossible to work. In the Papworth Trust’s Disability Facts and Figures 2018 report, it was found that 23% of households in the private rented sector included at least one member who had a long term illness or disability (page 43-44 under tenure types)

My Autism Assesment and my feelings

recently had an ADOS Assessment, which is designed to identify whether a person has Autism or other what are called “pervasive developmental disorders”. I would like to let you in to my own and my feelings following my formal diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder.


The first task was to complete a jigsaw, which included 4 pictures. This was very overwhelming for me as there were so many pieces to look at and spot for similarities and it felt like it would take me all day to finish the jigsaw. Perhaps with more time, I may have been able to finish it, but possibly not.


The second task was to visibly imagine brushing my teeth with an imaginary toothbrush and toothpaste and the steps that I would need to do to this. The assessor showed me an imaginary desk with these imaginary things on it, each thing positioned in particular places and I needed to remember where these things were located so I could repeat to the assessor. Mentally, I was worried that I would forget the positions of these things and indeed, I did need to ask for the assessor to repeat the positions. Once she repeated the positions, I was able to go through the steps of brushing my teeth, but I did feel unsure whether I got the steps right.


The third task was to read a book, but the difference here was that the book had no words and I needed to explain what the story was about, relying on the pictures. This was a real struggle for me as rather than “speaking a story”, I was pointing out things that were in the pictures, rather than providing a story. I honestly couldn’t provide the story as to what was going on. This was the case throughout the whole story and there were a lot of long pauses and a lot of assistance from the assessor to kind of push me along. At this point, I started to feel a bit stupid, why aren’t I able to do this?


The next task was continuing a story from where the assessor left off, using toys. I honestly wasn’t able to do this. I didn’t know where to start. My brain refused to work.


Throughout the assessment when talking, I felt like I couldn’t get my words out and felt like, when I was speaking that I having to think about what I wanted to say BUT AS I WAS SAYING IT, I can’t explain it any other way. I often feel like that.


Even now, even though I have an Autism diagnosis, I still feel that it’s only that I’m not trying hard enough and that if I did, I wouldn’t have these issues.


Over many years, my mum has done loads of jobs, everything from delivery driving, to lifeguard work, to security officer. To me, she’s done everything. But then I look at myself and I feel like these problems are my fault and I just need to try harder. My mum has worked all her life and I feel like because of what I am like, I’ve let her, and lots of other people down.


Whilst I know why I am like what I am, I still can’t shake off the letting people down thing and that I just need to pull myself together. All the writing that I’ve done, I’ve done as if I’m doing a job, really to show people that I’m not just sitting around doing nothing all day. Although my mum has said you don’t need to worry, I can’t help BUT WORRY.

I don’t want to be complacent about it all and feel that other people are racing around and I’m doing nothing. It does get me down because I feel that I’m just being lazy.

Additionally, reading the recommendations in the report we were sent, it made my both relieved that it was something but down that on paper, it looked like I couldn’t do anything and made me feel angry.

Anyway, I hope that my experience and my feelings help those who are in the same position. 🙂

Mental Health In Prisons (Learning Disabilities)- January 2018

On Wednesday 10th January 2018, a debate on Mental Health In Prisons took place in Westminister Hall. The debate was brought by Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston Marie Rimmer. During the debate, the Liberal Democrat MP and former Minister for Health in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government from 2011-2015, Norman Lamb, spoke of what he described as “an enormous faliure of public policy, for which no single government are responsible, that so many people with significant mental ill health, learning disabilities or autism end up in our prisons innaproprately”. It is learning disabilities that this post will be dealing with.

Statiscally, the numbers of people in the prison population who have a learning disability range from as low as 1-10%, as provided in the March 2018 NHS England Service Specification for Integrated Mental Health Service for prisons in England, 20-30%, as provided in the 2017 NHS Health Scotland Reducing offending, reducing inequalities document, the October 2014 Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland “The Safety of Prisoners Held By The Northern Ireland Prison Service, the 2017 Irish Penal Reform Trust “Progress in the Penal System, a framework for penal reform, the UK’s Prison Reform Trust Bromley Briefing for Autumn 2017, to over 30%, as provided by statistics from the Department for Education and Education and Skills Funding Agency, to as as high as 52%.

In a collection of reports by the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection on the treatment of offenders with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system, published in 2014-2015, the first covered the period from arrest to sentencing, the second covered the period from prison to post-prison support. I shall be focussing on the second report, but will include sections of the first report where appropriate. In the report covering prison and post-prison support, concerns were raised regarding screening to identify those with a learning disability and that “although some probation trusts had problems identifying offenders with learning disabilities, there was an improvement compared to what we found in our first inspection”. (For example, the first report found that “an accurate estimate of the number of people with learning disabilities within the criminal justice system is impossible because of poor interpretations about what constitututes a learning disability and a faliure to properly identify and record this issue by all the key agencies at all points in the criminal justice process”.

In the Bradley Report, published in 2009 by Lord Bradley, published to provide a review “to determine what extent offenders with mental health problems or learning disabilities could be diverted from prison to other services“, similar concerns were raised

Even when talking to professionals in the field, I found that there was a lack of consensus in defining the boundaries between learning disability, borderline learning disability and learning difficulty. The problems with definition are due, in part, to the lack of agreement on the most effective methods of identification and assesment”.

“Adding to this, there is currently no standardised measure used to identify offenders with learning disabilities. Differences in definition and identification mean that the prevelance of learning disabilities and difficulties is very hard to estimate”.

A learning disability is described in the Department for Health’s Valuing People: a new strategy for learning disability for the 21st Century(Department of Health, 2001) as;

  • a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and to learn new skills;
  • a reduced ability to cope independently;

  • an impairment that started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.


The follow up inspection found that the Offender Management System, developed by the National Offender Management (now Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service), used to “provide standardised assesment of offenders risks and needs”either did not refer to the offenders learning disability or incorrectly assessed the effect the learning disability might have on thier offending behaviour or thier ability to fully engage in the work planned for them”. Additionally, the report found that “there was an over-reliance on disclosure of a learning disability by the offender/prisoner or thier family” and that whilst “there were pockets of good practice….and going the extra mile…these were far too often the exception rather than the norm, both in prisons and the community”.  As regards to the statistics provided by the Department for Education and Education and Skills Funding Agency, which measure participation in education whilst in prison states “Learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are based upon self-declaration by the learner”.

Both reports include the views of those with learning disabilities and that of day to day life within prison. Those of whom the report spoke to did not feel staff understand thier individual needs and how thier learning disability might impact upon thier behaviour or ability to cope with prison life. Issues were also raised regarding understanding of an access to prison processes. For example, making a complaint meant relying on the help of other prisoners or staff. In terms of staff, the report finds that “only a small number of probation and prison staff interviewed had recieved training in how to work with people with learning disabilities but that the vast majority wanted to improve their work with this group“.

Aditionally, almost half the probation staff interviewed were not aware of any national or local guidance and none were aware of guidance on sentance planning. One such piece of guidance is the Prison Service Instruction 32/2011 on Ensuring Equality, issued by the NOMS Agency Board (now HM Prisons and Probation Service) on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

Mandatory actions


1.1           Governors  must ensure that all staff are made aware of this Instruction


1.2           All staff must adhere to the standards of behaviour set out in this Instruction and follow the mandatory requirements of the policy. 


1.3           The mandatory actions are designed to ensure the following:

       Management: personal leadership by Governors, supported by a functional head with lead responsibility for co-ordinating work on equalities issues, and all managers taking personal responsibility for equalities issues within their areas.  An annual local equality action plan based on relevant management information, discussed regularly by the SMT, with managers and staff held to account for progress.

       Monitoring: equality monitoring information on all prisoners collected and recorded; service provision monitored; and monitoring data published.

       Equality Impact Assessments: EIAs completed to a satisfactory standard in accordance with an annual EIA programme, devised through a risk prioritisation process.

       Incident Reporting: an effective system for reporting and responding to incidents of discrimination, harassment and victimisation. 

       Procurement and Partnerships: all conducted in accordance with equalities legislation.


       Disability: prisoners encouraged to disclose disabilities.  Reasonable adjustments made and recorded.  Disabled prisoners located appropriately.  Courts and escort contractors informed of disabled prisoners’ needs as appropriate.

8          Disability


8.1           Governors must ensure that efforts are made to identify whether a prisoner has a mental or physical impairment of any form.  Governors must ensure that prisoners are encouraged to disclose their disability status and that procedures are in place to record this information (both on reception and subsequently) and to treat it confidentially.  Not all prisoners will be aware of their disabled status and staff must be proactive in identifying the specific needs of all prisoners (further guidance on learning disabilities is at annex H).


8.2       Governors must consider on an ongoing basis what prisoners and visitors with a range of disabilities might reasonably need and ensure that reasonable adjustments (see annex G) are made for disabled prisoners and visitors.  Governors must consider whether prison policies and practices, the built environment, or a lack of auxiliary aids and services could put a disabled prisoner or visitor at a substantial disadvantage and if so must make reasonable adjustments to avoid the disadvantage.  If a request for reasonable adjustments is made by a prisoner or visitor it must be considered and the outcome documented.


8.3       Governors must ensure that where it is not possible to make the reasonable adjustments required the prisoner is transferred to another appropriate establishment.  Where there is a dispute between prisons about where a disabled prisoner is best located, the Deputy Director of Custody must be contacted.


8.4       The transfer of a disabled prisoner must not be delayed or prevented on the basis of their disability (unless the proposed receiving establishment cannot provide appropriate facilities).


8.5       Governors must ensure that where a disabled prisoner is required at court, the escort

contractor and Clerk of Court are informed of the details of the disability and the needs of the prisoner.


Protected characteristics

A.1.        For something to be illegal under the Act it has to relate to a protected characteristic.  These are described below.


Prohibited conduct


A.1.        As a public authority, it is unlawful for NOMS in the exercise of its public function to do anything that constitutes discrimination, harassment and victimisation.  This covers treatment of prisoners and others such as visitors.  Discrimination, harassment and victimisation are defined as follows.

Discrimination arising from disability


A.1.        This is a particular form of discrimination where someone treats another person less favourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability.  However, there is no discrimination if the treatment can be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. 

Reasonable adjustments


G.1.     NOMS is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments.  A reasonable adjustment is an adaptation to change a provision, criterion or practice, or to change a physical feature, or to provide auxiliary aids or services in order to avoid placing a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage.  The duty is an anticipatory one, meaning it is necessary to consider on an ongoing basis what prisoners and visitors with a range of disabilities might need and whether a current way of doing things or the built environment puts disabled persons at a substantial disadvantage.  In prison, a reasonable adjustment should enable a disabled prisoner to take a full part in the normal life of the establishment.


How do we decide what is reasonable?


G.2.     The law does not specify what factors you should take into account when considering what is ‘reasonable’. In the event of any legal action, reasonableness is determined by the courts on an individual basis.  


G.3.     You may need to take some of the following factors into account when considering what is reasonable:

·                how effective any steps would be in overcoming the difficulty;

·                how practicable it would be for you to take these steps;

·                how disruptive taking the steps would be;

·                the financial and other costs of making the adjustment;

·                the extent of the prison’s financial and other resources;

·                the amount of any resources already spent on making adjustments;

·                the availability of financial or other assistance.


What level of cost should we bear?


G.4.     The courts consider the Prison Service to be a single entity, similar to a large organisation like a supermarket chain. Compare what would be reasonable at a small corner shop and what could be expected from a large supermarket. The supermarket, as part of a chain, will be expected to bear a higher level of cost than a small independent retailer. The same applies to us.  Because we are part of a large organisation, we cannot use the cost of an adaptation as reason not to provide it, unless it is significant and out of proportion to the benefit the individual will receive. The courts will look at the funds available across the entire organisation, rather than the budget for the establishment in question.


G.5      An example might be the provision of a lift.  It could be reasonable for us to specify a lift in a new build, as part of the overall cost, but not to install one in an existing old building at significant cost, to help a single prisoner. In this situation, providing an alternative location for the facilities would be acceptable. However, when specifying the requirements of a new build, we must ensure it is legally compliant, as failing to consider access at that point would not be reasonable.


G.6.     It is important to remember that reasonable adjustments extend beyond physical changes such as the building of lifts and ramps.  A reasonable adjustment could include a decision to provide an auxiliary aid (such as special computer software) or a change to a particular policy or practice which puts a disabled person at a disadvantage (such as ensuring that the local IEP scheme does note penalise behaviour that is the consequence of a disability).  


Where should we locate the prisoner?


G.7.     It is not normally appropriate to locate a prisoner with a disability in healthcare unless he/she needs that level of medical care. Placing a prisoner on healthcare does not allow them to take a full part in the regime of the establishment, and blocks a bed that may be needed by a prisoner who is actually ill.  Disabled prisoners should have reasonable adjustments made to enable them to live in normal accommodation.  Where this is not possible the prisoner should be transferred to another appropriate establishment. ‘Appropriate’ means in accommodation suitable for his/her disability, in the right category, with access to the required interventions, work and education, and other regime activities.


Ensuring access for all prisoners


G.8.     An access survey will help to identify those areas which cause physical access problems. However physical access is not the only issue. Access to courses and activities may be restricted for prisoners with learning difficulties or sensory problems.  For example, if you have to apply for the gym by completing a form, and you have learning difficulties or are blind, you may not be able to complete the form. If fire alarms are all audible, a deaf prisoner may be unaware that he/she should evacuate.  Access to information might also be restricted, in which case providing the information in accessible formats will almost always be a reasonable adjustment.  Some of these issues may become apparent from complaints, but many prisoners will not complain and it is necessary to consider whether issues are present in advance of any complaints. You must, therefore, make sure that prisoners are aware that they can either get help or use alternative methods to access facilities.


Who can provide advice?


G.9.     There is a range of organisations and people to whom you can go for help with reasonable adjustments:

·                Talk to the prisoner – always discuss what support is needed with the prisoner, as each individual will have different ways of managing their disability.

·                Specialist organisations – in the case of an individual reasonable adjustment for a specific prisoner, the best source of information will be organisations that deal with the particular disability. General reasonable adjustments are designed to make prison life accessible to the largest number of prisoners possible. You can get advice on ways to make the prison, facilities, information and activities more accessible from the specialist organisations.

·                Charities – there are charities and other third sector organisations which specialise in supporting people with particular disabilities, and can often supply aids and adaptive technology or recommend suppliers.

·                Healthcare staff – can advise on the suitability of some aids and may be able to source things like hearing aids, walking supports etc.

·                Occupational therapists  – for individuals entering custody who need aids and adaptations it is important to consider a referral to a local specialist, such as an occupational therapist, for an assessment of activities of daily living (ADL). This will determine that they are able to manage in the prison setting. Prisoners who develop a disability in prison should also be referred for advice on personal aids and adaptations. It is not always in their best interest to be provided with ‘off the shelf’ aids and adaptations.


Further Guidance


G.10.   Further guidance on and examples of reasonable adjustments are available on the Equalities Group intranet site or from

Annex H

Learning Disabilities


H.1.     People with learning disabilities are over-represented in the prison population.  Estimates vary but it is thought that between 7% and 14% of prisoners have learning disabilities, compared to 2% of people in the community. 


H.2.     People with a learning disability find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate.  Taking these difficulties into account will facilitate improved management of prisoners who otherwise might simply be labelled difficult or unwilling to engage.


Identifying prisoners with learning disabilities


H.3      Identifying a possible learning disability allows a prisoner to be directed for more comprehensive needs assessments through healthcare and education.  This process is speeded up if a prisoner’s abilities are assessed on reception into prison.  The extent of some prisoners’ learning disability may mean that they are unable to articulate that they have a learning disability.


H.4.     If a prisoner does not think they have learning disabilities it is not for staff to inform them otherwise.  The situation should be handled by health professionals.  However, this does not mean that an obvious reasonable adjustment which would assist a prisoner should not be made simply because the prisoner does not consider themselves to have a disability.  This would include going more slowly through information with a prisoner who has difficulties in understanding it.   Prisoners with learning disabilities will often quickly forget what they have been told, therefore regular reinforcing of the information may well be necessary.


Location within the prison


H.5.     It is important to place prisoners with learning disabilities in the part of the prison that will best allow staff to monitor and promote their safety and security.  This could be in a main wing, a vulnerable prisoner wing, or in some cases in the healthcare centre if he/she needs that level of medical care.  Wherever they are located, access to those parts of the regime identified in a prisoner’s sentence plan is crucial.


Communicating with prisoners with learning disabilities


H.6.     You may find the following helpful when communicating with prisoners with learning difficulties:


·                Explaining to the prisoner exactly why they are in a new situation, and what they should expect.


·                Using the prisoner’s name at the start of each sentence.


·                Visual aids and clear and simple language will help to increase the prisoner’s understanding.


·                Breaking large amounts of information down into smaller chunks.


·                Preparing the prisoner for each stage of the communication, for example, ‘Mr Jones, I am now going to ask you some simple questions’ or ‘Mr Jones, I am now going to explain what we are going to do.’


·                Being patient and calm whilst communicating.  Do not rush the prisoner as they may need longer to process the questions and think about their answers.


H.7.     It may not be clear that the prisoner does not understand what is happening or what is being said.  Some prisoners with learning disabilities will agree with a statement or a question simply to please you or because they are frightened.  Some prisoners will pretend they understand what you are talking about as they are embarrassed to admit they have not understood. 


Daily life


H.8.     A prisoner with learning difficulties may be unable to complete forms on their own.  This may include applications for their meals, their canteen, to request visits from family and friends, and to make a complaint.  You may need to assist some prisoners in making these applications; this may involve filling in a form in accordance with the prisoner’s instructions.


H.9.     Prisoners with learning disabilities may also need help with the following tasks:


·                Reading and writing letters.


·                Reading prison information, understanding what the information means, or both.


·                Telling the time.


·                Cleaning clothes.


·                Making telephone calls.


H.10.   Rules and regulations may need to be explained to the prisoner, rather than expecting the prisoner to read up on what these are on their own.


H.11.   Prisoners, subject to appropriate risk assessment and supervision, can be employed to assist prisoners with learning difficulties to manage their daily routines.


Incentives and earned privileges


H.12.   It is important that a prisoner’s learning disability, and any behaviour which is a consequence of that learning disability, should not affect a prisoner’s incentive and earned privileges level.  A prisoner’s learning disability may impact on interpersonal relationships and the understanding of instructions, and this should be taken into account when making decisions relating to that prisoner’s incentive and earned privileges level.




H.13.   Appropriate and reasonable adjustments should be made to ensure that prisoners with learning disabilities are not excluded from work.  Where appropriate, adjustments to procedures and alternative formats for information may need to be provided.  A prisoner may need to have a process explained in a simpler manner than it is explained to other prisoners.




H.14.   Any adjustments arising from a prisoner’s learning disability need to be fed into sentence plans.  Interventions may need to be adapted to ensure that they are appropriate for prisoners with learning disabilities.  Activities should not exclude prisoners with a learning disability.


Further Information


H.15.   Further information can be found in the Department of Health publication ‘Positive Practice, Positive Outcomes: A handbook for professionals in the criminal justice system working with offenders with a learning disability’, available at:


In the 2014 report, as regards to screening and identification of those with learning disabilities, inspectors were told that reception staff were reliant on indirect information, that is, the person self-disclosing thier disability, previous involvement with adult social services or attendance at a school for special educational needs, although information was sometimes recorded on the Person Escort Record or documents that accompanied the individual on arrival into prison. Aditionally, screening for a learning disability was not consistently available and that reception staff had often not recieved any training on learning disabilities to support thier screening role. The report found that only one prison HMP/YOI Parc had a screening process during the induction into prison which asked social, communnication, literacy, numeracy, attention and co-ordination questions. When speaking to inspectors, they were told “Although there is a financial cost in screening all prisoners on thier induction into the prison, the cost is worth it due to reductions in the use of segregation and the use control and restraint”.

HMP/YOI Littlehey prisoners told the report that they had been diagnosed with a learning disabilities or ASD since thier arrival into prison through the prisons’ clinical psychologist and that these prisoners expresed thier gratitude for having had someone at the prison who had championed getting them a diagnosis. Liason officers told inspectors that thier principal source of information for identifying those with a learning disability was the healthcare department, usually mental health or, in some cases, an LDN working in the prison, though identification was also made through other departments within the prison, which the report says made it difficult for us and establishments to get a complete list of those with an identified disability in each prison. If a learning disability was suspected later in the prison process, the process would be for staff to refer the prisoner on to the mental health team for further assesment. The report recommendation was that a all prisons introduce a screening tool for learning disabilities with referrals for formal assesment when necessary and that prison govenors ensure that all offenders with a learning disability are indentified on arrival in prison.

Inspections for all prisons identified in the 2014 report were conducted over 2015-2016. As regards HMP Bronzefield, a womens prison, the prison identified 26.4% of the population as having a disability and disability assistants or ‘buddies’ helping women with everyday activities.

At HMP Littleheythe prison identified 32% of the population as having a disability, with 34% being aged 50 or over and all new arrivals declaring a disability were seen by a prisoner equality co-ordinator who collected physical and mental health information from them to inform an initial needs assesment, but concerns were raised regarding safeguards for confidential information and not all night staff were aware of prisoners subject to personal emergency evacuation plans and whilst there were up-to-date plans for prisoners with disabilities, they were too generic and not multidisplinary, that is does not take account of different and changing suituations.

At HMP New Hallthe prison identified 26.5% of the population as having a disability and ‘buddy’ peer workers helped women with everyday activities and personal emergency evaculation plans but concern was raised by some disabled prisoners as regards to safety and respect, the report recommending the negative perceptions of women with disabilities….in our survey should be better understood and any issues addressed.

At HMP YOI Parc, inspectors found two boys with disabilities. Each had thier day-to-day care managed through a supported living plan, which detailed any additional support they might need and staff caring for these boys were knowledgable about thier needs.

ThisMonthInDisability- November-Autism Waiting Times- October/November 2017

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary at the Department of Health, was questioned by the Health Select Committee, chaired by Sarah Woolaston on October 31st. A question was asked by Dr Paul Williams, Labour MP for Stokton South on Autism diagnosis waiting times for children. He spoke of how the parents of children in his constituency could wait for up to 4 years before an assessment takes place. NICE guidelines state that the time between referral and assessment should be “within 3 months;

Asking the Secretary of State what he believes the waiting time should be, Mr Hunt replied that the time should be “no longer than the nice guidelines say”. Mr Williams went on to ask that, following on from the NHS introducing targets in areas such as psychological therapy and physical illnesses, whether the government would consider waiting time targets for autism assessments. Mr Hunt replied that he would need to look at it in more detail “but I am very aware of the agony of parents who have to wait a very long time and indeed of the child concerned”

Mr Williams said that he felt fragmentation was an issue and that working with local authorities “in partnership” with clinical commissioning groups “in a much deeper way” was important and asked Secretary of State what he would say to a parent who received a letter, which tells them that they’re going to be waiting years to be seen, Mr Hunt replied “I’d say it’s not good enough”. He added that the NHS has been under a lot of pressure for the last few years but assured Mr Williams’ that his concerns would be taken away and examined.

The Committee follows on from a letter sent by Mr Williams and which was backed by more than 140 cross party MPs, asking the Secretary of State to commit to a national waiting time standard for both the referrals to assessment stage but also completion of assessment.

“These two actions are achievable and would be a major step forward for children with suspected autism and their family”

the letter reads;

There have also been debates in Parliament on Autism, most recently on Autism: Mental Health and Suicide

Autism Community: Mental Health and Suicide – Hansard Online (30th November 2017)

Autism Diagnosis – Hansard Online (13th September 2017)

In the Government’s latest Autism Self-Assessment Framework 2016, which “allows local authorities and their partners to monitor their progress” in terms of meeting the requirement of the Autism act, currently the Autism Act 2009 and the Autism Strategy, Think Autism, published in 2014, 43% of local authorities in the West Midlands with a green rating reported meeting the NICE guidelines on recommended waiting times, those given a red rating 22% and those with an amber rating 23% with the longest waits in Stoke on Trent  at 27 weeks

Research carried out by University College London in 2015 found that over 1000 parents of children with autism have waited up to 4 years between a referral by a health professional and conformation of diagnosis.

The Welsh Government introduced a waiting time target of 26 weeks as part of it’s Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategic Action Plan, launched in 2016

A report commissioned by the Autism Achieve Alliance found that

For a child, the average total wait for diagnosis from referral to receiving the diagnosis was 331 days 

For an adult, the average total wait for diagnosis was 162 days


children had a statistically significant longer wait between referral and first appointment and a longer overall wait between referral and receiving the diagnosis compared to adults

Statistics from Ireland’s Health Service Executive Performance Profile, published in September-October of this year,  found that the amount of children waiting for more than 12 weeks rose to 317, compared to 170 2015/2016 and a adults offered an appointment and seen within 12 weeks dropped from 72.1% to 71.5% since 2015/2016.

Thank you for reading. 

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ThisMonthInParliament- November 2017



Autism Diagnosis- House of Common Debate (13th September 2017)

National Autistic Society- Government to look at waiting times target for diagnosis (1 November 2017)

  • Government commits to collecting and publishing autism diagnosis waiting times in England (13 Sept 2017)

Health Select Committee- Jeremy Hunt

(for Autism question, skip to 1:30:57)

Mental Health and Suicide within the Autism Community- House of Commons Library Briefing

Backbench Business Committee Representations: Backbench Debates (17th October 2017) (Autism representation on Page 7)

Autumn Budget 2017 (Welfare Spending, Page 67) (22nd November 2017)

Trussel Trust- Call for urgent cut to six-week Universal Credit wait as foodbank demand soars across the UK

Equality & Human Rights Commission– Impact of tax and welfare reforms between 2010 and 2017: interim report

Work and Pensions Committee
Oral evidence: PIP and ESA assessments, HC 355
(22 November 2017)

Universal Credit House of Commons Statement (23rd November 2017)

People With Disabilities: Changing Facilities (23rd November 2017)

Changing Places Website

Improving Lives-The Future of Work, Health and Disability (29th November 2017)

Government sets out plan to see more disabled people in work (29th November 2017)

Strategy seeks one million more disabled people in work by 2027 (30th November 2017)

Government plans on work, health and disability (30th November 2017)

Mind responds to Government plans for work, health and disability (30th November 2017)

Autism Community: Mental Health & Suicide (30th November 2017)

£45m boost for young people with SEND (30th November 2017)

Work, Health and Disability- House of Commons Statement- (30th November 2017)

UK Government to host its first ever Global Disability Summit (30th November 2017)

New employment programme begins in England and Wales (30th November 2017)

Autism Community: Mental Health and Suicide- House of Commons debate (30th November 2017)

Accessibility for disabled people on public transport

A consultation on improving accessibility for disabled people on public transport has been launched by the United Kingdom government.

A Transport System that is open to everyone was published by the Department for Transport on August 24th, 2017, with 21 organisations contributing to it, including Scope, the Spinal Injuries Association, the Mental Health Action Group and Age UK.

The Accessibility Action Plan provides a number of proposals, including working with the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, freight operators and Network Rail, to provide “alternative journey options” for disabled passengers if a train and/or facility stops working and how this information could be passed on. Additionally, eligibility for the Blue Badge scheme, set up to provide a way for people with mobility problems to park as close as possible to their destination, could be expanded to include those with hidden disabilities such as Autism and Dementia. A link to disability benefits could also be considered. A further proposal included within the plan is the creation of a National Assistance Card, which could be used across the transport system alongside existing schemes, such examples include the Journey Assistance Card and Transport For London’s “Please Offer Me a Seat”.

The latest data from the Family Resources Survey, as of March 2017, identifies 44% of people of pension age are disasbled, 18% are of working age and 7% are children.

The consultation runs until 15th November 2017



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