On the 30th March 2017 Baroness Thomas of Winchester asked the Government ‘what steps they are taking to support independent living for disabled people of working age’. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a further question relating to the Motability scheme.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Motability scheme is a crucial element for getting people back into work, yet about 50,000 people have lost out on it. What is particularly worrying is that the vast majority of appeals are upheld, by which time those concerned have lost the vehicle and then have to get it again. It is costing a lot of time and money. Would Her Majesty’s Government consider having a scheme whereby people do not lose the vehicle until the end of the appeal process? This would make much more sense where the appeal is upheld. Continue reading
On 27th March 2017, two votes took place on a Statutory Instrument introducing changes to the regulations governing Personal Independence Payments. The Bishop of Winchester took part in both divisions.
On 15th March 2017, Baroness Deech asked Her Majesty’s Government ‘what plans they have to improve accessibility for disabled people to public premises.’ The Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, asked a follow up question on church buildings.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the noble Lord who asked the previous question did not include churches—and with good reason because there have been herculean efforts across the estate involving quite difficult church buildings to make them accessible to people with limited ability to get up steps and so forth. Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the local efforts, normally paid for locally, which have transformed the access to historic churches? Continue reading
On the 6th March 2017, Baroness O’Neill tabled an amendment to the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill at its Report Stage, to strengthen the requirements on universities to take account of the needs of disabled students. The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in support of the amendment, though it was subsequently not put to a vote.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I add my voice in support of Amendment 7 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the two related amendments—Amendments 94 and 98—proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Addington.
Disabled young people are about half as likely to hold a degree-level qualification as those without a disability. True opportunity of access needs to make certain that everything possible is done to ensure that every student who wishes to partake in further study is able to do so and to succeed to the fullest of their potential with reasonable adjustments being made for them. Continue reading
On 2nd February 2017 Baroness Scott of Needham Market led a debate in the House of Lords “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on disabled people of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for giving us the opportunity to reflect on this important subject. For many years, the European Union has been an important driver of disability rights in the UK, helping to improve disability access and strengthen non-discrimination laws right across Europe. It was the European Union that ensured non-discrimination laws were extended to smaller businesses, and the European Court of Justice which extended rights to carers and those in relationships with a disabled person, to name just two examples. With the proposed European Accessibility Act still some time away from implementation, I hope the Minister can understand the fear expressed by many in this House and outside it that a post-Brexit UK may start to fall behind its European counterparts when it comes to disability rights. Continue reading
On 27th January 2017 Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill was considered in Committee in the House of Lords. An amendment from Baroness Massey of Darwen, requiring the Secretary of State to review “the impact of this Act on disabled children, their families and carers, and the provision of support services” was debated and accepted. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, supported the amendment and the overall purpose of the Bill:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I was unable to be present at Second Reading but my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol spoke on this matter, welcoming the Bill, and I add my support. I also welcome the amendment because I believe that, as others have already said, such a review would be very helpful. Continue reading
On 18th January 2016, the House of Lords considered the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill in Committee. The Bishop of Portsmouth spoke to propose an amendment on behalf of the Bishop of Ely about giving special consideration for those with disabilities within the criteria for approving and reviewing student protection plans. The amendment was withdrawn after the debate, following encouragement from the Minister that the issue deserved greater inspection. Below is his speech and a section of the Minister’s reply.
The Lord the Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, my colleague and right reverend friend the Bishop of Ely is unable to be in his place, but has asked me to bring before your Lordships Amendment 134A. I and he welcome the Minister’s assurances thus far for disabled students. It is very welcome that he intends to publish guidance to ensure that higher education institutions are best able to fulfil their duties to disabled students.