Archived News

April 2017

Help us heal a divided Britain post-Brexit

Our Chair David Isaac and CEO Rebecca Hilsenrath have sent a letter to all political parties represented in Westminster regarding our concerns about the nature and tone of political debate. The letter reminds all parties of their responsibility in ensuring political debate is constructive and brings the country together. It also calls for a national dialogue on what it means to be British as we prepare to leave the EU. We have invited parties to discuss how the Commission can help shape their agenda to make Britain the vibrant and inclusive country we believe it should be. Read the letter

London's mayor calls for united communities

With Donald Trump on his way to the White House, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called for uniting communities to be put top of the political agenda at a time when more and more people are feeling left behind, disconnected and ignored.

The US election, following on from the EU referendum, has shown how fractious relations between communities across the western world have become with hundreds of millions feeling estranged from the political debate.

Speaking at the first Social Integration Conference at City Hall, Sadiq Khan urged city leaders 'to build bridges instead of walls' to help communities live better together.

The Mayor stressed the greater economic and social costs for less integrated societies. He outlined how failure to address tensions across communities impedes life chances and holds back economic growth and highlighted how improving integration leads to increased social mobility, as well as a reduction in unemployment.

Sadiq Khan, said "We have seen major political upheaval around the world in recent months, with the EU referendum here in the UK and the presidential election in the US.

"We need to see real leadership in cities across around the world if we are to avoid communities becoming increasingly divided. Promoting social integration means ensuring that people of different faiths, ethnicities, social backgrounds and generations don't just tolerate one another or live side-by-side, but actually meet and mix with one another and forge relationships as friends and neighbours, as well as citizens. We know that when this happens, trust grows, communities flourish and become more productive, healthier and, ultimately, more prosperous for everyone."

Supporting the hidden victims

Many older people are living in fear of those who are supposed to love and care for them, according to a report which highlights the unique difficulties faced by older people experiencing domestic abuse.

Research by national domestic abuse charity SafeLives reveals that approximately 120,000 over 65s will have suffered abuse in the last year. The charity is keen to show that domestic abuse has a devastating impact on all victims and survivors and studies show that older people can be at a particular risk.

Campaigns raising awareness and offering support for victims of domestic abuse often focus on younger people, perpetuating the false assumption that the problem ceases to exist beyond a certain age. However, as Diana Barran, SafeLives CEO, says: “It's important to recognise that there is no 'typical' victim of domestic abuse – victims and perpetrators can be of any age and background.”

Older people are more likely to be hidden from services, having grown up in a time when it would not have been deemed socially acceptable to discuss matters that occurred behind closed doors. Older women would historically have had few networks of support, which would have led them to believe that there was nothing they could do to better their situation. Consequently, a quarter of older adults that are now visible to services, have lived with abuse for more than 20 years.

No one should live in fear of the person they depend on

Older people are also more likely to suffer from health problems, reduced mobility or other disabilities. For many of these victims of domestic abuse, their perpetrator is also their carer. 44% of older victims supported were experiencing abuse from an adult family member, compared to 6% of younger victims.

SafeLives reports that distinct issues can arise related to adult family abuse, for example, “care packages will be set up and then they’ll go home and the adult child will phone up the next week cancelling the care and stopping all those people from coming in, possibly saying the victim doesn’t want that care to happen.”

Older victims are much more likely to still be living with the perpetrator

Statistics show that older women are less likely to leave an abusive relationship than younger women. SafeLives wants to see services targeting older, long-term victims, enabling them to recognise their situation as abuse, and raising awareness of support available.

A 70-year-old woman said: “I think when we were growing up fighting / arguing was seen as part of a relationship and I was not aware that I could get help. Talking to my doctor really opened my eyes and I think older people should be encouraged to talk to their doctors about abuse as they already to talk to their doctor about other things. I think doctors should spend more time talking to their patients.”

The charity also says social care services need to be trained to understand the dynamics of abuse in a caring relationship. “Not all domestic abuse looks the same. Services working with adults and their older parents must be trained to recognise abuse, and have clear referral pathways. We need to listen to what older victims tell us they need. Support must be specialist and tailored to keep older people safe.”

SafeLives does not provide direct support or advice to victims of domestic violence. However, if you are experiencing domestic abuse or are supporting someone who is in that situation, immediate help is available.

If you are in immediate danger, please call 999 and ask for the police.

If you are not in immediate danger, please call one of the following helplines:

England and Wales Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge)

Northern Ireland Women's Aid: 0800 917 1414

Scottish Domestic Abuse: 0800 027 1234

Male Advice & Enquiry: 0808 801 0327

Galop: 0800 999 5428 (national helpline for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans people experiencing domestic abuse)

Forced Marriage Unit: 0207 008 0151

Attendance Allowance campaign success

The Government has decided not to pass the responsibility for Attendance Allowance to local councils following a successful Age UK campaign on behalf of older people with a disability.

Age UK wants to thank the thousands of people who supported the campaign against the Government’s proposal to transfer Attendance Allowance funding to local councils.

The campaign culminated in an open letter to the Government, stating fears that this move would threaten the future of this essential benefit for older people. Attendance Allowance is a nationally administered payment which is not means tested, and paid weekly to older people with a disability. It’s a vital means of support and a way to maintain independence for those who often face extra costs when living with an illness or disability, without having to turn to a social care authority.

There were concerns that the proposal to transfer the funding to financially hard pressed local councils could have created a postcode lottery of support.

Age UK worked alongside other concerned organisations, including the Local Government Association, Carers UK, housing and care groups and health and disability charities. In November 2016, an open letter signed by more than 14,000 people asked the Government to protect Attendance Allowance. More than 2000 people also emailed their MPs asking them to call on the Government to prevent the changes from being made.

The Government has now announced that they will not go ahead with the proposed change.

Landmark ruling gives priority to wheelchair users on buses

Bus companies must end 'first come, first served' policies, and do more to give priority to wheelchair users following a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

The case of Paulley vs FirstGroup plc, backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, will mean wheelchair users should be given priority for wheelchair spaces on buses. Bus companies should have clear policies in place and give training to drivers to remove the barriers wheelchair users face when using buses.

Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair, David Isaac, called the verdict "a victory for disabled people's rights" and "a hugely important decision, which has helped clarify the current state of the law, and will give confidence to thousands of disabled people in Britain to use public transport".

The case centred on whether a 'first come, first served' policy was discriminatory against wheelchair users, or if bus companies could do more to ensure wheelchair spaces on buses are vacated when a wheelchair user enters the bus.

In February 2012, Doug Paulley, a wheelchair user, tried to board a FirstGroup bus from Wetherby to Leeds. The wheelchair space was being used by a mother with a pushchair and a sleeping child. She refused the driver's request to move or fold the pushchair and so the driver told Mr Paulley he could not board the bus.

Mr Paulley successfully sued FirstGroup at Leeds County Court for unlawful discrimination against him due to his disability, but this was later overturned on appeal. The case was then heard by the Supreme Court.

David Isaac added "Public transport is essential for disabled people to live independently, yet bus companies have not made it easy for this to happen. This is a victory for disabled people's rights. The success of this case means bus companies will have to end 'first come, first served' polices, increasing peace of mind for disabled people.

"This has been about correcting a confusing policy which has caused untold problems for disabled people.

"For years, wheelchair users have been deterred from using vital public transport links because they could not be sure they will be able to get on. Today’s judgment will make that easier."

Minister unveils plans to pardon thousands

Thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of now abolished sexual offences will be posthumously pardoned, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah announced.

Anyone living who has been convicted of these now abolished offences can already apply through the Home Office to have their names cleared through the disregard process. This removes any mention of an offence from criminal record checks. The change will now formally pardon those convicted for consensual same-sex relationships before the change in the law.

Mr Gyimah said "It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today. Through pardons and the existing disregard process we will meet our manifesto commitment to put right these wrongs."

The announcement meets a government commitment to build on the case of Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing, who committed suicide following his conviction for gross indecency and was posthumously pardoned by Her Majesty the Queen in 2013.

The government, however, will not support a separate proposition to instigate a blanket pardon for the living without the need to go through the disregard process. This could lead, in some cases, to people claiming to be cleared of offences that are still crimes – including sex with a minor and non-consensual sexual activity. In other words, the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the conduct is no longer criminal.

Several applications have already been refused on the grounds that they were captured under offences such as 'gross indecency' at the time, but are still crimes today.

Mr Gyimah said "A blanket pardon, without the detailed investigations carried out by the Home Office under the disregard process, could see people guilty of an offence which is still a crime today claiming to be pardoned. This would cause an extraordinary and unnecessary amount of distress to victims."

And for this reason the government cannot support the Private Member's Bill. Our way forward will be both faster and fairer.

Notes

An applicant is only eligible for a 'disregard' if the Secretary of State decides that it appears that the other person involved in the conduct which constituted the offence consented to it and was aged 16 or over at the time, and that the conduct would not now constitute the offence of sexual activity in a public lavatory.