You can read the Transport Select Committee report on access to transport for disabled people here. The report's recommendations not mentioned in the Independent article include a requirement in future rail franchise agreements for train operators to brief their station staff on the interchange beyond the station forecourt and a "mystery shopper" survey of users of Passenger Assist, to monitor the quality of the service. The Transport Select Committe report also criticised the Department for Transport for exercising its exemption to the requirement to provide disability awareness training to staff in the bus and coach industry. Also highlighted in the report is the benefits of improving access to transport for disabled people, including increasing the spending by consumers as disabled people will find it easier to go shopping and meet friends in bars or cafes and improved access to employment opportunities. The Government and the media complain not enough disabled people are working, but won't invest in improvements which would allow more disabled people to get to work.The Government is “squandering” an opportunity to make public transport more accessible to disabled people after MPs’ recommendations on improvements were “effectively ignored”, campaigners have said. A recent Transport Select Committee report describing disabled access to transport in Britain as “unacceptably poor” suggested using audio-visual systems on buses and training drivers in disability awareness, as well as consulting charities to prioritise stations in need of better accessibility. The Department for Transport concluded that the business case for a phased introduction of buses with AV systems “could not be demonstrated” and that it “loathed to impose financial burdens of this kind”. It also replied that seeking the views of disabled representatives for choosing stations for upgrades would add “very little value to the process” as “most groups would simply recommend their local station”. Meanwhile the Inclusivity Mobility Guidance, an advisory guide to the transport industry, has been “halted for the time being, as a consequence of corporate planning and resource constraints”...
Monday, 9 December 2013
The Independent reports:
Sunday, 8 December 2013
The Guardian reports:
The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has used the cover of the autumn statement to announce that he is to miss his deadline of getting all existing and new benefit claimants on to universal credit (UC) by 2017. He has also confirmed he is having to entirely rework the IT system at substantial cost because the original IT failed to meet the needs of claimants...Nick Cohen is unimpressed with Iain Duncan Smith
Thursday, 5 December 2013
When David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, he promised an end to the "Punch and Judy politics of Westminster". He failed to keep this promise. Both Labour and Coalition MPs make lots of noise at Prime Ministers' Questions, but nothing like as loud as the noise made by Coalition MPs when Ed Balls was speaking during today's Autumn Statement. I am not a fan of Ed Balls, but he is the Shadow Chancellor and serves a democratic function. He should be allowed to make himself heard, and he was not today. For much of his speech, he had to shout to be heard over the racket from Coalition MPs. His voice was becoming raspy and I did wonder if they should pause proceedings so Ed Balls could have a drink of water and a throat lozenge. Speaker Bercow took a long time to call for quiet from Coalition MPs, and when he did so he tried to make a joke out of it, which just lead to more noise in response from the MPs. The irony is that if Labour MPs had made that noise when George Osborne was speaking Coalition MPs and Coalition supporters would be the first to complain on Twitter about the behaviour of Labour MPs. The issues being debated in the House of Commons are important issues. It is one thing to passionately disagree with what is being said, but making noise to try and prevent someone with an opposing view from being heard is undemocratic. We pay MPs to represent our interests in the House of Commons, not to make noise and waste time with sycophantic questions. The first question asked to the Chancellor after Ed Balls had finished was a good example of wasting time. Politicians keep talking about the importance of voting but today's performance will have made some people feel that politics was not for them. On Twitter many people were tweeting their disgust at the noise Coalition MPs were making as Ed Balls tried to be heard. I would condemn the noise if it was made by Labour MPs as well - it is an insult to those they are paid to represent. Did the whips tell them to make noise when Ed Balls replied to George Osborne, or did they decide to do it themselves? MPs who disrupt parliamentary proceedings to that extent should be suspended from the chamber - Bercow needs to make sure this never happens again.
The Guardian reports:
In the Guardian article linked above Patrick Butler highlights some key findings of the welfare impact reform report for Kent,including an increase in homelessness, an increase in theft and violent crime and an increase in people using foodbanks. According to the Guardian, Carter says the report will be released once he has made sure "that we have a fair and well balanced report. I read it quickly and decided that there were conclusions being drawn that could be linked with a whole range of other issues" You can read the welfare reform impact report here...No sooner had Kent Online reported the details of an official Kent county council report linking welfare reform to rises in homelessness, food bank use and violent crime, than the report was suppressed. Council leader Paul Carter, whose name was apparently on the report even though he hadn't read it, told Kent Messenger Group political editor Paul Francis that he had he decided to take it down from the council website because he did not agree with its conclusions. So what was it about the report's findings that Carter found so disagreeable?...
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
The Independent reports:
Read more at the Independent. According to the BBC, research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that the amount of money being spent on food by households had fallen by over 8% in real terms over the past five years. The IFS study suggested that much of the savings had been made by people buying cheaper, processed food. One way you can help reduce food poverty is by donating to Fareshare, a charity which supplies donated quality food to worthy causes including breakfast clubs, women’s refuges and day centres. You can also help by signing Jack's petition calling for a parlimentary debate on UK hunger and the rise in the usage of foodbanks.Hunger in Britain has reached the level of a “public health emergency” and the Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem, leading experts have said. In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored. A surge in the number of people requiring emergency food aid, a decrease in the amount of calories consumed by British families, and a doubling of the number of malnutrition cases seen at English hospitals represent “all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action,” they write. Despite mounting evidence for a growing food poverty crisis in the UK, ministers maintain there is “no robust evidence” of a link between sweeping welfare reforms and a rise in the use of food banks. However, publication of research into the phenomenon, commissioned by the Government itself, has been delayed, amid speculation that the findings may prove embarrassing for ministers...
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention tribunal has condemned the detention of blogger and human rights activist Le Quoc Quan as violating his right to freedom of expression and his right to a fair trial, according to human rights organisation ARTICLE 19. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention believes that, although he was imprisoned for alleged tax evasion, the motive for his arrest by the Vietnamese Government may relate to “the result of his peaceful exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed under international human rights law” and “related to his blog articles on civil and political rights.” According to ARTICLE 19, Le Quoc Quan was denied permission to see his lawyer for two months, while repeated requests by his family to visit him were also denied. He was convicted of evading corporate income tax and sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and a fine of 1.2 billion dong (approximately USD 59,000), which he had appealed The human rights organisation also claims Le Quoc Quan was disbarred from practicing as a lawyer in 2007 on suspicion of engaging in “activities to overthrow the regime” after representing numerous victims of human rights violations. Several human rights organisations, including ARTICLE 19, signed a petition calling for the working group to rule that "the arrest and detention of Petitioner Mr. Le Quoc Quan amount[s] to arbitrary detention." You can read the judgement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention here (PDF), which includes the view that Le Quoc Quan's detention is " in contravention of articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Viet Nam is a party..."
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
There are stories in the Daily Mirror and Daily Star about a single mother of eight who was previously receiving £582 a week in benefits, but now her benefits have been capped at £500 a week under the benefit cap she is at risk of losing her home due to being in arrears. The Daily Mirror article is sympathetic while the Daily Star article is condemnatory: "Millions of Brits struggle to make £500 a week while she gets it scot free.They work hard to pay their bills and bring up their kids while putting in long hours.There are thousands of couples who can’t afford one child, let alone eight" One of the issues with the benefit cap, which the paper fails to remark on, is that is is not just the parent who had eight children who will be affected but the eight children as well. Why should eight children find themselves homeless because their mother is £2k in arrears due to her benefits being capped? Do supporters of the benefit cap really think that these children should be homeless simply to save the taxpayer a bit of money? The Birmingham Mail has listed some of the comments it has recieved where people say things like: "I feel sorry for the kids" and "If you have that many kids it’s your decision. You can’t complain £500 ain’t enough to keep them." None of the comments in the Birmingham Mail address the fact that eight children may be homeless because of the actions of their mother.
Transport for London (TfL) has named the winners of a competition to find new accessible apps to make it easier for disabled and older people to travel around the city. Specialists from AbilityNet and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) tested 194 apps for features that affect app accessibility, such as use of colour contrast, voiceover capability, and user experience. The shortlisted apps were then assessed by three judges: Christiane Link from Transport for All, Olav Ernstzen from Independent Disability Advisory Group (IDAG) and Richard West MBE, a transport and disability expert. The results of the accessible app competition are as follows: Best visually impaired app: London's Nearest Bus - This app allows the user to find the nearest buses and live departure times from their location. Users can also set individual bus alerts to trigger when a bus is due. Best app for accessibility/step free information: Station Master - This app offers detailed accessibility information for every London Underground, Overground and DLR station. Best all round app: Tube Tracker - A multi-modal app which finds the nearest station to the user with directions. The app provides automatically updated live departure information, a journey planning function, first/last tubes and tube status alerts. Judges' award: Colour Blind Tube Map - This app displays the London Underground map in various formats for easier viewing by people with all forms of colour blindness, and other vision impairments such as cataracts, loss of contrast sensitivity and hyperopia. In addition, TfL Fare Calculator, Citymapper and London Bus Times Preview were all Highly Commended. Please note I have not tried using any of these apps myself, all the information on what the different apps do comes from Tfl.