First face mask discrimination case nets £7,000

A disabled woman assisted by Kester Disability Rights has been paid £7,000 in compensation by a service provider who refused her access to a service because she was unable to wear a face mask.

The pay-out was achieved through negotiation as there was no dispute that access had been denied, or that the Claimant had a disability exemption.  The only thing to be agreed was the amount of compensation, not whether it was due or not. 

Refusing access to people unable to wear face coverings due to disability is direct discrimination - no different to denying access to a black or gay person for example.

Disabled people are now routinely harassed in public for not wearing face coverings - frequently given the impression that confidential medical information must be publicly disclosed to justify exemption.  The fact that shops and hospitality businesses routinely display "no mask no entry" signs shows how deeply disablist attitudes are embedded in society.  If premises displayed "no blacks" or "no gays" notices there would be outrage.

Fortunately the official Government position does not endorse any of this as nobody exempt from wearing a mask is expected to go around justifying themselves.  Saying "I'm exempt" is enough.  If the response to that can be proved to be discriminatory then compensation is due. 

Lock-down and "corona-rules" erosion of disability rights

Although the current crack-down on civil liberties is being presented as "saving the vulnerable" it's increasingly looking like the reverse is the case.

Some of the impacts of "the rules" as opposed to the virus itself include:

- Withdrawal of previously routine NHS screening and treatments (disguised by people being encouraged to say "Thank you NHS").

- People unable to wear face masks too frightened to go out.

- Systematic exclusion of people dependent on lip reading by over-use of face coverings.

- Worsening of mental health amongst those most vulnerable to suicide leading to an increase in suicide.

- Already skeletal mental health and children's disability services becoming even more minimal. 

- Steep rise in child and vulnerable adult abuse and domestic abuse generally.

- Nursing homes residents being placed in indefinite solitary confinement with only human contact with staff dressed in full PPE.

- Victims of crime denied justice indefinitely. 

Upon writing to my MP to request the Government does a proper rational analysis of the impacts of the virus itself against impact of lock-down and associated rules I have so far not had a reply.  I will keep trying as history is likely to show the current situation was as a huge mistake.   

Remembrance video and reflections

We received this new song for Remembrance.

Kester Disability Rights has supported many suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

People often don't realise how let down people can be by the benefits system.  Being sent this wonderful song reminded me, for example, of the Northern Ireland veteran I found sleeping rough - his ESA had been terminated because he didn't go to a personal assessment.  The letter was sent to an address from before he became street homeless. 

And I remember one man from when I worked for Citizens Advice who served in the Gulf War and was ridiculed for turning up to a personal assessment in his medals, before being disallowed benefits he was obviously entitled to. 

Although these are "no brainer" cases that it is easy to win it of course shouldn't happen in the first place.  Yet we also get abuse survivors wrongly denied benefits every month.  Hopefully the covid crisis will get more people realising that social security should be there for all who need it. 

£1,463,194 raised for Claimants in KDR Ltd first year

£1, 463,194 was raised for claimants by Kester Disability Rights Ltd in its first full year of operations.  Our annual accounts show this in relation to the company's income.  A total of £27,660 in fees was charged over the 51 cases where lump sums were obtained such as to trigger a charge from KDR.  The remaining KDR income came from training and consultancy.

In round figures, claimants paid £1 for every £52 gained.  This is worked out over the life-span of the award to give an accurate reflection of costs versus benefits.  The average charge per case is £542. 

Charging claimants for services is not something I ever wanted to get into, having worked all my previous working life where I didn't have to charge.  However, the charities I worked for were never able to offer a good enough service and invariably rationed services due to lack of income. 

The KDR charging model means that the service is sustainable.  Also more can be done without the political constraints frequently at work in charities.  By being entirely independent KDR is able to challenge the DWP and other organisations in a more robust manner.  The service is also more responsive and accessible and you can see from the KDR Face Book and Instagram pages how it worked in practice for claimants who agreed to share their stories.

The accounts should appear on the Companies House website in due course. 

Disability face mask exemption not being made clear

A whole load of orders telling people they "must wear a face mask", are widely ignoring the disability exemption.

Face masks are making life even more difficult for many people in many different ways.

I was shocked to get an email from Transport for London that completely failed to mention exemptions at all.  And I've since seen many shops also ignoring disability exemptions.

Whilst it can be difficult to pin down the factual and/or legal basis for the raft of measures purporting to "combat the virus", there is official guidance here from the Department of Transport.

Remember you don't have to wear a face mask if you are exempt and the Government provides Guidance  accordingly.  There is no need to carry an "exemption card" or anything like that as disabled people are entitled to be able to enter and leave shops, transport and other public spaces on the same basis as everyone else without having to "prove they are exempt". 

Equality Act reasonable adjustments for PIP

Akim was summonsed for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) personal reassessment*. He is 19 and has severe learning disability. He was also awaiting the latest round of surgery associated with the hole in his heart that he was born with.

Akim’s mother explained to the DWP’s assessments agent that he was unable to attend and so needed a postponement of the reassessment process. This request was refused with the DWP’s agent demanding attendance for personal assessment prior to surgery appointments, which was too much for Akim.

Kester Disability Rights wrote to the DWP explaining that Akim required reasonable adjustments to the PIP reassessments regime because of his disability. These were a file review on the basis of specialist medical evidence and, if a personal assessment was genuinely needed, that it should be done by telephone with Akim’s mother.

The DWP completed the reassessment without a personal assessment and increased Akim to the highest rate of both components of PIP when previously he was getting the standard rates.

  • This case pre-dates the lock-down. All PIP personal assessments are now by telephone.



Kester Disability Rights Ltd., The Archway Centre, 6 New Road, Ludlow SY8 2NX. Registered in England number 11917856.