Thousands of disabled students are being forced to choose between having food to eat or having the equipment they need to study, because a new government rule means they must pay £200 towards the cost of computers they need for disability-related reasons.The government introduced the new rule as part of its controversial reform of the disabled students’ allowance (DSA) system, a non-means-tested grant that assists with the extra costs a disabled student faces during higher education study.Universities minister Sam Gyimah admitted in a parliamentary answer that introducing the new rule – with disabled students in England having to pay £200 towards the cost of a computer and assistive software obtained through the DSA system – had seen the number of recipients of DSA equipment funding fall by 4,600.This appears to refer to a drop from 28,000 to 23,400 in the number of students receiving DSA for equipment, comparing those who began their courses in 2014-15 with those who began in 2015-16, when the new rules were introduced.Gyimah said the drop was “expected, because we knew the numbers would fall once students had to pay £200 towards the cost of computer equipment”, but he said that an evaluation of the impact of the change was “under way”.Marsha de Cordova (pictured), the disabled Labour MP and shadow minister for disabled people, who had asked the question, said the number of students receiving DSA for essential equipment had fallen by nearly 30 per cent since the £200 up-front fee was introduced (the latest figures show the number of students receiving DSA for equipment have fallen even further than Gyimah’s figures, to 19,700).She said the charge was “clearly preventing disabled students from accessing the essential equipment they need to further their studies” and she called on Gyimah to scrap the new rule.The minister claimed that the fall in the number of students receiving DSA for equipment did not mean they were “lacking in equipment” because he said “computer ownership is now common among all students, with students spending on average around £250 on computers”.He said: “As DSAs are not intended to cover all student costs, we think it is reasonable to ask students to contribute towards the cost of computer equipment.”De Cordova told Disability News Service (DNS) afterwards: “I thought [the minister’s] response was really weak.“It demonstrates a lack of understanding and awareness of the support needs of disabled students.”She received DSA when she was studying at university, which paid for a support worker and the assistive technology she needed.She said: “It certainly enabled me to carry out my studies effectively.“Without it, I would have been put at a disadvantage, without a shadow of a doubt.”Piers Wilkinson, from the National Union of Students’ Disabled Students’ Campaign, said they had “consistently opposed” the DSA reforms, because the union believed they would “not only put us at a greater disadvantage in accessing education but also force disabled students out of education”.He said: “Disabled students face astronomical costs of attending university, with higher accommodation costs, additional costs for transport, food and support equipment.“A laptop can be a vital piece of equipment; this £200 charge is causing hundreds of vital laptops to be locked away from the student, even after the assistive technology software and hardware has been paid for.“The Equality Act 2010 clearly states that a disabled person cannot be asked to pay for disability adjustments, and yet our government has been charging disabled students £200 for the privilege of accessing the same education opportunities non-disabled students have.“This charge is making disabled students choose between having food to eat or having the equipment essential for them to study for their £9,000-a-year course.“So disabled students are left in a paradoxical limbo, unable to study because they can’t afford the £200 charge and unable to afford the charge because they are a disabled student.”Meanwhile, The Alliance for Inclusive Education has condemned the government’s announcement that it is spending £50 million to expand places in grammar schools in England.Disabled children with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) or statements of special educational needs represent only 0.1 per cent of grammar school pupils, despite making up 1.8 per cent of the secondary school population.And disabled children without statements or EHCPs still make up only 4.2 per cent of grammar school pupils, but 12.4 per cent of all secondary school pupils.Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s policy and campaigns coordinator, said: “The expansion of grammar school provision is another government attack on comprehensive and inclusive education and disabled pupils’ rights to a good and well-resourced mainstream school placement as set out in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”DNS revealed last year that the government had been forced to admit that it failed to assess the impact on disabled children and young people of its “discriminatory” plans to expand grammar schools.Aspis pointed to last year’s conclusion of the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which was highly critical of the UK government’s approach to inclusive education and the “persistence of a dual education system” that segregates increasing numbers of disabled children in special schools.Figures last year showed the proportion of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who attend a special school in England had risen from 5.6 per cent in 2012 to 8.5 per cent in 2016, with the proportion in independent specialist settings rising from 4.5 to 6.3 per cent.ALLFIE said that the introduction of greater selection by ability in the education system through the expansion of grammar school provision meant “choice for SEND pupils and their parents is in danger of becoming non-existent”.
Much more needs to be done to ensure that disabled people and other groups in fuel poverty can benefit from energy efficiency schemes, according to a new report.The report says that disabled people often have higher energy demands, because of factors such as health-related needs to keep warm and the electricity needed to use equipment such as nebulisers, stair lifts and hoists, and to charge wheelchairs.The report, published by the UK Energy Research Centre, University of York, and ACE Research, says this can lead to both higher energy costs and a greater risk of harm if energy supplies are disconnected.The report says current policy is focused too much on targets and providing work to improve the energy efficiency of homes – such as installing cavity wall insulation and replacing inefficient boilers – at the lowest possible cost.Because disabled people often live in the poorest quality homes and need extra support through the installation process, they are often side-lined by those providing schemes such as the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) energy efficiency programme.They also face other barriers, such as problems caused by the disruption of the energy supply while installation is taking place, the inaccessibility of the application process and the difficulty of carrying out preparatory work, such as clearing a loft space.There are also “high levels of mistrust” of the energy sector.Among its recommendations, the report calls for the government to reinstate a taxpayer-funded scheme in England, where there has been no such programme since the demise of Warm Front in 2013, even though Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all operate such schemes.It calls for investment in energy efficiency support in England to be “brought up to par with the devolved nations with the reintroduction of a tax-payer funded energy efficiency scheme”.It also concludes that “the trustworthiness of energy efficiency programmes needs to be improved, most notably in England”.As well as the report, Policy Pathways to Justice in Energy Efficiency, the two-year research project has also published a guide for those working in the sector on supporting disabled people, Supporting Fuel Poor Disabled People Through Energy Efficiency Measures.Disability Rights UK (DR UK), which helped deliver the project, said the research showed how current policy was “overly focused on targets and low-cost provision to the exclusion of the people living in fuel poor homes”.It said the research also shows how households in need are “difficult to find, that they do not receive adequate information that is accessible and from a trusted source, and how their needs are not always taken into consideration during the installation process”.Sue Bott (pictured), deputy chief executive of DR UK, said that delivery of energy efficiency policy was “variable and patchy”, and there was “a lack of knowledge and awareness of the specific needs of disabled people”.She said that 30 per cent of families living in poverty contain a disabled person and are at particular risk of experiencing fuel poverty.She said: “Too often fuel poverty is thought of as an issue that only impacts older disabled people, but the reality is that fuel poverty blights the lives of disabled people of any age: from children, to adults of working age, to older people.“The effects of fuel poverty can penetrate deep into everyday life and exacerbate existing impairments and health conditions.”Dr Joanne Wade, chief executive of ACE, said: “In short, the needs of older people – important though they undoubtedly are – have been prioritised above those of people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, and those of families with young children.“All these groups are vulnerable to the ill-effects of cold homes, and many people within them also have greater than average needs for energy services.“We have to stop ignoring people who don’t always have the loudest voices; we have to stop avoiding people who are harder to engage, or more expensive and more difficult to help than others.” A 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…
KEIRON Cunningham praised Saints “absolutely brilliant” performance as they edged closer to Old Trafford.They beat Castleford 41-0 at Langtree Park last night to progress into the Semi Finals – and get ClubCall.“We were absolutely brilliant and I suppose you couldn’t have asked for any better,” he said. “All you ask as coaches is for effort and attitude and we got that in abundance tonight.“We toughed it out last week and it was only when we lost and looked back we thought it was a bit of a win really. We were good as a team for last week’s experience and it put us in a play-off mentality.“We saw the good things we did in that game with one in the middle missing and with a full acquisition on the field we knew we would be in with a good shot. We needed to work hard for 80 minutes and that is what we did.”He continued: “I thought Jordan Turner was outstanding . To do what he has done out of position is superb and he is a real leader for us. He was one of the difference makers.“Robes (James Roby) has been outstanding for the full season. I’m not a fan of stats but in the last three weeks; there isn’t a player in the world that can do what he does and still perform. There is not a nine in the world that can come close to him in that regard.“He is right up there with the top three in the world.”Keiron also paid tribute to the team spirit at the club.“It’s impressive,” he continued. “I am a big believer in it and trying to push it. You saw at the end of the game that team spirit as there was no need for the likes of Roby and Louie to chase back. That is what great sides do.“You fight until the last minute and you get your just rewards for it.“In the end, we have been the most consistent team this year and the guys deserved where they are tonight. And you can see we haven’t stuttered today.”
SharePrint DOI / Clifton FenechDOI / Clifton Fenech Elected Local Councillors on Birkirkara’s local council were not invited to a government press conference held in the locality.Birkirkara’s local council is composed of 13 elected members, Joanne Debono Grech who serves as the mayor of the locality, Rita Borg, Michael Fenech Adami, Kaylocke Buhagiar, Owen Patrick Attard, Mark Abdilla, Anthony Buttigieg, John Mary Calleja, Herbert Conti, John Mizzi, Marie Claire Zammit, John Borg and Antoine Attard.However Newsbook.com.mt is informed that for a press event which was held at the new Birkirkara housing project and addressed by the Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Parliamentary Secretary for Social Accommodation Roderick Galdes on Tuesday morning, only those who were elected on behalf of Partit Laburista and PL local council hopefuls were invited for a government press conference which was announced by the Department of Information.Newsbook.com.mt reached out to the Minister for Local Government Owen Bonnici and his spokesperson, but until the time of writing no replies were forthcoming.This newsroom is informed that Local Councillor and locality minority leader elected on behalf of Partit Nazzjonalista Michael Fenech Adami has asked Birkirkara’s Local Council executive secretary to write an email to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, Local Government Minister Owen Bonnici, and Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Silvio Parnis, reminding them of Fenech Adami’s request on why the Local Councillors were not receiving any official invitations to the press conferences held in their locality, when such events were organised by the Government.WhatsApp <a href=’https://sp2.img.hsyaolu.com.cn/wp-shlf1314/2023/IMG14207.jpg” alt=”last_img” />