A pioneering programme backed by £5 million of lot

first_imgA pioneering programme backed by £5 million of lottery cash has issued a call for user-led teams across the UK to apply for funding to research new ways to remove the barriers to independent living faced by disabled people.The Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) programme is believed to be the world’s first major research programme led by disabled people, and should fund about 40 pieces of research and pilot projects over the next four years.The aim is to build “robust” evidence on how to influence both policy and practice on independent living, and how to remove the barriers of attitude, environment, organisation, communication and finance that disabled people face.The programme aims to “change the way research is done so that researchers and disabled people work together as partners”.A series of 19 roadshows across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales helped to decide on the programme’s four project themes: participating in the economy, participating in community and social life, participating in civic and public life, and participating “fully and equally in anything and everything”.Some of the issues raised in the roadshows about the barriers to participating in the economy included how to address the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people; how schools, colleges and universities could be made more inclusive; and what could be done to address disability poverty by both increasing disabled people’s income, and reducing their extra costs.On community and social life, priorities included how to prevent social isolation; how organisations in local communities could be made fully inclusive; and how to stop disability hate crime.On participating in civic and public life, key issues raised included how to increase the number of disabled people in elected office; how disabled people can influence party manifestos and government policies; and how to change the media’s frequent portrayal of disabled people as “scrounger, tragic victim or heroic survivor”.The first opportunity to bid for funding opened this week, with a closing date of 27 July, with subsequent funding rounds opening in early 2017, 2018 and 2019.The programme is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and will be delivered by the disabled people’s organisations Disability Rights UK, Disability Action Northern Ireland, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Wales.Organisations can apply for grants of up to £150,000, with proposals initially assessed by a national advisory group – England’s group is chaired by disabled BBC presenter Peter White – before the programme’s central research committee of disabled people, academics and policy experts makes a final decision on funding.Rhian Davies (pictured), chief executive of Disability Wales, said: “Our aim is to produce new evidence on what would support disabled people to access their right to independent living and take full part in society.“The programme includes potential for pilot projects to test the evidence in practice and find out what will make a real difference to the quality of disabled people’s lives. We’re looking forward to receiving some exciting proposals.”Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said that disabled people would be “in the lead, setting the priorities and co-designing the projects.”The disabled academic Dr Tom Shakespeare, chair of DRILL’s central research committee, said: “The starting gun has been fired on a very exciting competitive research process.“We are looking for teams that have great ideas, true partnership between researchers and disabled people, and with real chance of improving the lives of disabled people.“This is the first round of a five-year funding programme that will change disabled people’s lives for the better.”last_img read more

The public relations PR sector needs to confront

first_imgThe public relations (PR) sector needs to confront its failings over the employment of disabled people, according to new research by an industry insider.One UK PR company with more than 300 employees has admitted that it does not have a single disabled member of staff, while the latest industry survey found just two per cent of people who work in PR said they were disabled.The research has been carried out by Ashley Phillips (pictured), who herself has an invisible impairment and worked in PR in the USA and the UK for nearly five years before beginning a masters degree in public relations and advertising at Richmond University.She decided to write about disability in PR for her dissertation, after becoming increasingly concerned about how few disabled people were employed by the industry.She told Disability News Service that she had never seen a single person with a visible impairment among the hundreds of professionals she had come across in her five years working in PR.Phillips, who has type one diabetes, said the only person she met in those five years who said they had an impairment was another woman with diabetes who she had seen using an insulin pump.Of about 83,000 people employed in the industry in 2016, just two per cent – less than 1,700 people – said they were disabled, according to the PR Census 2016 carried out by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA).As recently as 2013, PRCA’s census did not even mention disability or disabled people.And when Phillips approached some of the best-known PR companies in the UK about her research, only one was willing to tell her how many disabled people it employed.She was told by this company that, of more than 300 employees, not one of them was a disabled person.She was told: “This is something we are looking into. It is a problem.”Phillips said she realised there probably were some disabled people who worked at this company but that they were just not willing to disclose their status to their employer.She said she hoped her research would “open the conversation” on disability within the industry.She said she did not believe she had faced discrimination in the industry but believed there was “a lot of misunderstanding”.She said: “I think disability is considered a large taboo and people don’t know how to handle it, so they don’t.“I haven’t looked into other industries but I do feel [members of the PR industry] are behind in regards to how the world is moving.”When she first met her soon-to-be husband (she is getting married next month), when she told him she worked in PR, he replied, “Oh, you’re one of those.”She said: “This was the first encounter I had of specific stigmas associated with PR – that often everyone in the industry was a considered to be a typical Sex And The City Samantha Jones.“However, that conversation opened my eyes to noticing who my colleges were on a day-to-day basis – mostly young, white, middle-to-upper class and predominantly female.”She added: “This is not 100 per cent of the industry, they are opening diversity efforts, but everybody strives to be that perfect person and that ideal industry figure.”She said she believed that those at chief executive level were showing a “blatant disregard” for the issue, while executives at lower levels were guilty of “a lack of understanding”.She added: “From access to awareness, the industry can make many changes to recruit the nearly untouched pool of potential talent.“By spreading awareness of the lack of disability inclusivity in PR I hope to open the conversation and help make people with disabilities an inclusive part of the industry.”When contacted about Phillips’ research, PRCA accepted that there was “a general lack of understanding of disability in the industry”, but pointed out that the 2016 census also revealed that 78 per cent of all respondents suggested there were no significant obstacles to their organisation employing disabled people.Matt Cartmell, PRCA’s communications, marketing and events director, said: “The small numbers of disabled people in the PR and communications industry is certainly a concern but it may have to do more with a lack of understanding of what disability is and the stigma surrounding disability than employers not accommodating employees with disability.”He said a PRCA survey had revealed in May that nearly three-fifths of PR and communications professionals had experienced mental ill-health, while a slightly higher proportion had never spoken to their manager about their mental health.He said there was often a limited understanding of mental ill-health, which was “concerning because the industry itself is fast-paced and the ‘always on’ mentality means that employees can suffer from anxiety disorders, stress, or the workplace can exacerbate existing mental health conditions such as depression”.Cartmell said: “The industry isn’t necessarily behind society on the issue of disability.“While the stigma surrounding disability certainly exists and the industry has struggled with hiring more diverse candidates, there are several examples of organisations that are making employee wellbeing and diversity the key focus of their business.“The industry is increasingly aware that there is a strong moral and business case for increasing diversity in the workplace and accommodating employees with disabilities. “PRCA is committed to raising awareness about disability, diversity, and mental ill health and we have found that a lot of PR and communications practitioners are engaged in this debate.”He added: “We have seen that a lot of members and organisations in the wider industry are introducing unconscious bias training in their recruitment practices.“More importantly, we have seen that organisations are talking about disability and implementing policies to accommodate disabled employees.”last_img read more

A note from the editor Please consider making a v

first_imgA note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… The government has been asked by campaigners from across the world why it blocked the “meaningful” involvement of user-led and survivor organisations in this week’s high-profile global mental health summit in London.Two open letters have criticised the way the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit was organised, and the hypocrisy of it being hosted by a UK government that was heavily criticised over its record on disability rights by a UN committee a little over 12 months ago.One letter, spearheaded by the National Survivor User Network, was signed by more than 100 organisations and individuals, including mental health service-users and survivors, user-led networks, academics and mental health professionals from more than 20 countries, including Argentina, Peru, India, Chile, Columbia, Japan, Kenya, Estonia and Hungary.The letter says there was little or no involvement of user-led organisations in planning the event, in a blatant breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.It criticises the attempt to position the UK government as a world leader on mental health when the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities had raised such significant concerns about its breaches of disability rights, both last year and in a 2016 inquiry report which found it guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of the convention.It also points to the discrimination within mental health services faced by black and minority ethnic communities in the UK, including “high levels of misdiagnosis, compulsory treatment, over-medication, community treatment orders and culturally inappropriate treatment”.And the letter warns that mental health survivor and service-user groups in the global south have objected to attempts – led by the UK – to import “failed western models of mental health care” into their countries.The letter compares the UK government’s “hypocritical” attempt to take the lead in creating a “global declaration on political leadership in mental health” with the decision by the UK to host its Global Disability Summit in July, which also saw an “intolerant government posing as the upholder of the rights” of disabled people.Those signing the letter asked the UK government to commit to putting forward any declaration that comes out of this week’s summit for consultation and ratification by a wide range of international user-led organisations and disabled people’s organisations, a request it looks likely to ignore.And they asked the government to promise to “lead by example” by changing its “discriminatory laws that threaten the lives of mental health service-users”, including social security policies.The second letter was coordinated by the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives (SOL) and was signed by NSUN and user-led grassroots groups including the Mental Health Resistance Network, Disabled People Against Cuts and Recovery in the Bin, all of which also signed the first letter.This letter raises concerns that the summit would “seriously misrepresent the issues and problems of mental health and mental health service users globally” because of the “systematic exclusions” of representatives of user-led and survivor organisations.This exclusion, the letter says, was a clear breach of the UN convention.It says that the summit’s organisers side-lined attempts by the European Network of (Ex) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP) and the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP), both of which signed the letter, to secure invitations for representatives of their organisations.Disability News Service (DNS) has seen a letter from ENUSP to a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) civil servant, sent last month, after both ENUSP and WNUSP failed to receive invitations to take part in the summit.ENUSP suggested a string of elected representatives from member organisations across Europe who could attend the summit and pointed out that it was “the only grassroots, independent representative organisation of mental health service users, ex-users and survivors of psychiatry at a European level since 1990”.It stressed the importance of having “representative people with lived experience at the Summit”, but the civil servant turned down the offer and said there were only spaces left for representatives to take part in the area of finance and investment at the summit.This is a specialist area where the ENUSP representatives would not have been able to make a meaningful contribution.The SOL letter says: “This failure to enable involvement also reflects wide and growing concerns about the inadequacy of and crisis in UK mental health policy and provision and the failure to listen to service users, their families, communities and organisations in both mental health and welfare reform policy, both of which are having catastrophic consequences for many service users, their families and communities.”Asked to comment on the two letters, a DHSC spokeswoman said: “All dialogue on mental health is key; we have invited a range of people from those with lived experience, to civil society, academics and policy makers who represent more than 65 countries from around the world.“We have ensured that the involvement of people with lived experience ‎has run throughout our work on the summit, with their experiences at the heart of our advisory panel and in every workstream.“Those with personal experience attending were nominated by representative groups of people with lived experience – this group of consultees include the convener of this open letter and the signatories include people who are attending the summit.“We recognise there is further work to do for all countries on mental health which is exactly why this summit is such a vital step.”She declined to say whether any declaration from the summit would be put forward for consultation and ratification by user-led organisations and DPOs, or whether the UK government would promise to lead by example by changing its discriminatory laws.Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said: “Consulting people is one thing, but we know that taking any notice of what they say may be another.”He said this would “explain the strong divergence between the claim to involve service-users and the amazingly broad-based criticism there has been from them and their organisations”.Jasna Russo, a survivor-researcher from Germany and a member of ENUSP, who helped draft the SOL letter, was invited by the UK government to attend the summit as an individual with lived experience, but after she asked if she could attend as a representatives of ENUSP her request for funding was rejected.She told DNS: “Regardless of how many countries they come from, there is a big difference between inviting persons with ‘lived experience’ and representatives of international grassroots organisations who are working on the summit’s topic for many years putting forward independent advocacy for users/survivors and people with psychosocial disability.“This gathering was simply not interested in such perspectives. As in many other involvement initiatives – people subscribing to medical model of mental illness are far more attractive partners than those bringing in political and socio-economic issues.“Even though this summit talks about poverty in relation to mental health it seems much more focused on how to make the Western biomedical psychiatry go global.”Picture: Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock speaking at the summitlast_img read more