- social security,
- discrimination in employment and other fields,
- social care,
- additional support for learning,
- rights on incapacity,
- and other issues.
Social Security benefits
Many social security benefits provide additional help for disabled people. Sometimes it is difficult to get these benefits and the Department of Work and Pension often try to reduce them unjustifiably. The main benefits for disabled people include Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit.
Personal Independence Payment is the successor to Disability Living Allowance. Claimants have to comply with a number of conditions, known as“descriptors”, in order to qualify for the benefit. These work on a points system so the greater the disability the higher the number of points awarded.
Assessments made by the DWP often underestimate a claimant’s disabilities. Where a claimant does not agree with a decision made by the DWP, he or she is entitled to ask for a review and then appeal to a tribunal, if appropriate. It is important to get advice and representation to do this. A medical report from a consultant can be very helpful in establishing the true extent of disabilities.
Universal Credit has now superseded ESA in many cases. This type of benefit was originally enacted to help people who were unfit for work. It has now become much more limited with another set of detailed descriptors. It is well worth claiming if there is any prospect of success.
It is unlawful to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of disability. The law currently defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial long-term adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. If someone has such an impairment then they are entitled to the protection of the equality legislation.
Disabled people are entitled to protection from discrimination by their employers. Protection covers direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The legislation covering disability discrimination includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments. If the treatment which adversely affects a disabled person can be remedied by making reasonable adjustments then these have to be made. If reasonable adjustments are not made then this amounts to unlawful disability discrimination.
Disability discrimination does not only apply to employment but also other fields such as the provision of services, access to premises and education.
Where disabilities make it difficult for an individual to live safely in the community, it may be appropriate to apply for social care. An application can be made to the social work department. A social worker or other qualified person carries out a community care assessment. This will involve assessing the extent of the person’s disabilities, the needs which arise from the disabilities and the services required to enable the individual to live safely in the community. It is often very difficult to make an accurate assessment on all of these points. The council has the power to make a charge for the services but the charge has to be reasonable.
Individuals who have concerns about any social care assessments or services supplied should get advice. There is an appeal procedure, and the courts can play a role in reviewing care services, but the current procedure is very difficult.
Additional support for learning
Children of school age are entitled to at least an adequate standard of education. Many children require additional help to be able to achieve this standard. Legislation provides for children’s rights to additional support for learning. Parents can request an assessment of needs. This will involve the drafting of a formal document which sets out the individual child’s state of health, any needs they might have and the additional support to which they are entitled. Again this can be challenged if the assessment is inaccurate or insufficient.
Adults with incapacity
Where mental health problems result in adults being incapable of acting on their own behalf or making decisions then the law provides for certain types of help. Before mental health problems become too severe, an individual can create a power of attorney. This is a document which gives powers to a trusted individual to act on behalf of the adult with mental health problems if and when this becomes necessary. Guardianship orders can be made where mental health problems have already become sufficiently severe.
There are other legal provisions which benefit and protect disabled people, such as the right to suitably adapted housing. The law can be very difficult and it is often extremely helpful to obtain legal advice on these issues.