You will see, from November 2007, I have been having minor running communications with this new body which took over from the Disability Rights Commission in October 2007.
In my opinion the DRC did an excellent job and I never had any difficulty getting advice and information from them. My own first contact with the DRC was in February 2004 when I had experienced discrimination at the hands of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement and Health which led to my resignation from PPI Forums. The advice then was that, as a volunteer I had no rights under the existing Disability Discrimination Act - a measure of just how much the DDA 2005 has changed things.
One of the most far reaching changes in that latter Act was to institute the DISABILITY EQUALITY DUTY (DED) which imposes a legal duty on all public bodies (and bodies commissioned by them to perform their public functions).
What is the
Disability Equality Duty?
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 has been amended by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 so that it now places a duty on all public authorities, when carrying out their functions, to have due regard to the need to:
• promote equality of opportunity between disabled persons and other persons
• eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the Act
• eliminate harassment of disabled persons that is related to their disabilities
• promote positive attitudes towards disabled persons
• encourage participation by disabled persons in public life
• take steps to take account of disabled persons’ disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled persons more favourably than other persons.
The Disability Rights Commission went further than this: it resolved to pursue and if necessary prosecute public authorities which were in breach of the DED.
However, in the run up to the ERK taking over, there was some media disquiet around possible political moves to dilute the powers that the DRC had enjoyed (the DRC had threatened the Department of Health with legal action) during the change to the ERK.
Now this may just be the usual rumourmills in action but I have to say that the advice and information I have tried to get from the ERK has only resulted in what smells to high heaven like prevarication. Here is the latest:
I received a letter dated 10.01.08. from Keith Ashcroft, Legal Officer to the ERK. The letter says:
“Thank you for your letter dated 1st January 2008 (see pplog for that date - my parenthesis). I understand that the Commission has already responded to your third enquiry relating to the new Commission's willingness to take enforcement action against public authorities which may be in breach of the Disability Equality Duty.
In relation to the first two enquiries that you make, I would advise you that your initial contact should be with our helpline (Telephone Number 08457 77 88 78). It may also be useful for you to visit the relevant website at dotheduty.org if you have not already done so.
Thank you for taking the time and trouble in bringing these matters to our attention.”
I have written this in reply, with a copy to the Information Commissioner:
Dear Mr Ashcroft.
I have your letter dated 10th January 2008. There are some anomalies here in that I have heard nothing at all from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in response to my three inquiries, made on the web inquiry form on the helpline section of http://www.equalityhumanrights.com
On the above web inquiry form on 11th November 2007 I asked:
“1. The Norfolk and Waveney Mental Heath NHS Trust has a practice which excludes service users not in receipt of secondary mental health services from membership of its Service User Council and from the Service User Section of its prospective foundation trust membership. I think this is discriminatory and a breach of the Disability Equality Duty. Can you please advise.
2. Similarly, I am of the opinion that the use of eligibility criteria for the provision of services may also be a breach of the Disability Equality Duty. Can you also please advise on this.”
On 22nd of November 2007, I used the web inquiry form again saying: “On 11.11.07. I sent you the following enquiry: (a repeat of the above queries but adding:) A few weeks before that I enquired if the new Commission will pursue prosecution of public bodies in breach of the DED as the DRC did. I have heard nothing from you. Please treat these inquiries now as Freedom of Information Act requests.“
My letter of 1st January, 2008 to which you refer, states clearly “I have heard nothing from you” That is still the case - I have heard nothing whatsoever from the Equality and Human Rights Commission apart from your letter of 10th January 2008 (the Disability Rights Commission did always respond to my queries).
Let me put it another way overleaf.
I have asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission three questions:
The Norfolk and Waveney Mental Heath NHS Trust has a practice which excludes service users not in receipt of secondary mental health services from membership of its Service User Council and from the Service User Section of its prospective foundation trust membership. I think this is discriminatory and a breach of the Disability Equality Duty. Can you please advise.
I am of the opinion that the use of eligibility criteria for the provision of services may also be a breach of the Disability Equality Duty. Can you also please advise on this.
Will the Equality and Human Rights Commission pursue prosecution of public bodies in breach of the Disability Equality Duty as the Disability Rights Commission did.
I have had no response at all from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on these questions and they have been asked as a Freedom of Information Act request which has not been complied with. Please correct this.
YET AGAIN WE AWAIT A PROPER RESPONSE!!!