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|28 May 2016|
John's Jolly Walking Group
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland has produced a new guide to what Health and Social Care Integration might mean for people with learning disabilities. It uses a combination of Easy Read information and photo stories including the "Carry On" films to help explain what the benefits of working together are. This will still take some time to work through but it is a fun way of exploring a challenging subject.
However this is not a study of what is actually happening on the ground with local authority and health board plans. Further research on this will be available at a later date.
Our first article is about Disability Hate Crime. This month sees Police Scotland launch it first ever Tackling Hate Crime awareness month with each week featuring different types of hate crime. The first week is on Disability Hate Crime. Earlier this year, new figures showed that reported Disability Hate Crime has gone up by 270%. Read more here.
Our second article is about Poverty and Disabled People. The current way of calculating poverty focuses on income. We think it does not take enough account of disability related expenditure and this means that poverty among disabled people may be twice as much as the official figures suggest. Because this is a difficult subject there is a link to more detailed information at the bottom of the online article.
Our third article is about the treatment of Stephen Armstrong. Stephen died in hospital in circumstances that might not have occurred if hospital staff had had a better understanding of learning disability. This is a controversial subject that is may yet be subject to a Fatal Accident Inquiry. There are links to additional reports and newspaper reports at the bottom of the online article.
Finally there is a short note in the printed newsletter that we will be launching a national survey in the autumn of this year to find out the experience of people with learning disabilities and their families about the treatment they have had from the NHS. We want to find out what lies behind the numbers. You will be able to answer a short questionnaire, tell us your story, come to meetings to talk to other people about these and share ways of making things better.
All our online articles can be read aloud simply by highlighting the text and then clicking it.
The Keys to Life has pledged to improve the health of people with learning disabilities by ensuring that all those who work in health care understand the health needs of people with learning disabilities, how these can differ from the general population and to respond appropriately.
Perhaps these words have never been truer than in the case of Stephen Armstrong of East Kilbride. In 2013, Stephen died from urinary sepsis less than 72 hours after going into hospital. There have been a range of reviews but they have left Stephen’s family unsatisfied and his sister, Katherine is now pushing for a Fatal Accident Inquiry.
Before he went into hospital Stephen enjoyed an active life. He received 24/7 care all of his life and had good health and was never overweight. He attended the gym twice a week, had been at the circus days before he became unwell, and had tickets for the wrestling the day he died.
But in hospital the evidence suggests that nursing and medical staff saw his learning disability first and as a person second. Stephen was in a wheelchair due to a spinal injury but Katherine believes hospital staff saw only a learning disabled man with a temperature who couldn't use his legs and who had a catheter and therefore did not prioritise his treatment.
If they had understood he had a spinal cord injury, it is likely medical staff would immediately start thinking about possible complications. Urinary sepsis is the most common cause of death after spinal injury and any infection would have been treated aggressively.
Stephen was admitted to hospital with a high temperature, drowsiness and possible pneumonia. But it was nearly 22 hours after his admission that he was given intravenous antibiotics and had his catheter changed. Key actions that could have made a real difference for Stephen
Yet Stephen had a health passport—his personal carer stayed with him in hospital—his sister was available for advice—there was a letter from the GP. All things that we are told will make a difference . Is what happened to Stephen “indirect discrimination”? Maybe a Fatal Accident Inquiry could help us all know what needs to be done to meet that Keys To Life pledge.
Does the current way of producing poverty figures underestimates by at least half the number of disabled people and their families who live in poverty and possible by many more?
Currently Scottish Government figures say that 320,000 people who have a disabled person in their household are living in relative poverty. The real figure may be more than 600,000 with many of them having a learning disability.
Current figures understand poverty by setting a poverty line at 60% of average income for a two person family, then adjusting it for different types of family sizes such as single parents with two children or a single person. To get the number of disabled people in poverty, you simply count the number of disabled people in households below this line.
It seem to us that these figures are a serious underestimation because they fail to take account of the extra costs associated with disability. From additional laundry to special diets and extra travel costs, disabled people have to spend more to live the same type of lives as people without a disability. Further for those who rely on social care services, high charges make it worse.
A 2014 report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found a way of adjusting for this. They excluded “disability costs” benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment from household income, as these are given to meet the extra costs of disability. Their research suggested the number of disabled people in poverty in England was double the official amount, about 2 million in total.
As a result disability could be one of the key indicators of poverty in Scotland and should be given the same attention in anti poverty work as child and pensioner poverty.
Sue Graham is 42 years old and has a learning disability. At the start of June, she was crossing a bridge in a quiet part of Edinburgh on her way to catch a bus. 3 young boys, probably not older than 12, approached her from the other side of the bridge, they stopped in front of her and called her an offensive name. Sue didn’t know what to do. She said afterwards “I could have run away but they would have caught me. I just stood there.”
The older boy asked her for money. “After a minute, I just gave them everything I had and they went away,” Sue told us afterwards. She was distressed and had to walk 2 miles to the meeting – her bus fares were part of what was stolen.
Disability Hate Crimes are common for people with learning disabilities. So common that they are rarely reported and even less is done about them. Sue never reported her incident. “It wasn’t much money”, she said.
The middle of August sees the start of Police Scotland’s Tackling Hate Crime Awareness month. Each week will feature a different type of Hate Crime, starting with disability, then moving on to gender, race and sexual orientation. Police Scotland want to take this seriously and so they should! Figures published earlier this year show a 270% increase in the reporting of disability hate crime in the last year alone.
Disability hate crime has unfortunately been with us for a long time. The EHRC report, Hidden In Sight reports that in 2007, Laura Milne, a young woman with learning disabilities living in Aberdeen was murdered by 3 people. She was repeatedly slashed across the throat with a kitchen knife. One of her three attackers, Debbie Buchan had bullied her in school and then joined in another attack on Laura with a golf club. It is likely there were many more unrecorded incidents of bullying that Laura had to endure before her death but no one ever reported them.
Earlier this year, Katharine Quaramby, author of “Scapegoat, Why We Are Failing Disabled People” carried out a small survey of people who had been the subject of hate crime attacks. She found that a sizeable number were linked to accusations of the victims being scroungers or faking to get extra benefits. It may be that the focus on “benefit scroungers” in the media and by some politicians has contributed to the rise. Her study is too small to have many answers but it does indicate that we need to understand the motivation of why disability hate crimes are carried out so we can deal with it better.
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland is working alongside other voluntary organisations and Police Scotland to find new ways of tackling disability hate crimes. These include Keep Safe spaces – shops and offices - where people feeling threatened on the street can go in to for shelter and training for Police call centres to improve their work with disabled people.
And we are also launching this week our new wristband – “Disability Hate Crime – See It, Report It – Call 101.” Available in yellow and black, they are free to all our member organisations.
We think it really important that more people call 101 to report these incidents. That’s what Sue should have done. No one thought when Laura was first bullied by Debbie Buchan that it would end only a few years later with Buchan joining in her killing. Reporting even the smallest disability hate crime is the first step to making sure this kind of attack never happens again.