Activists attack commission’s plan to allocate cases to local agencies

The Disability Rights Commission’s plans to scrap its casework
department could make it more difficult for disabled people to take
discrimination cases to court, campaigners warned this week, writes
Amy Taylor.

The DRC is closing down the department, which provides legal advice
on discrimination, and says that it will put more resources into
local agencies to enable them to take up the work.

A DRC spokesperson said that local agencies such as law centres
were the first places many disabled people went for legal advice,
and that the move aimed to support this and would enable the DRC to
reach out to more people.

But John Knight, head of policy at disability charity Leonard
Cheshire, said many disabled people would not be aware of local
agencies’ existence and that the move would add another layer of
bureaucracy to the system.

“I don’t know where my local law centre is,” he said. “If they [the
DRC] are going to still pay for it [legal advice], why not keep it
in-house? This is a more complicated and less effective way of
delivering a service.”

Knight also questioned whether  law centres had enough expertise to
deal with discrimination cases.

Simone Aspis, a development officer at umbrella organisation the
British Council of Disabled People, said the DRC had years of
experience in providing advice on discrimination and questioned how
long funding to local agencies would last.

She was concerned whether the reduction in DRC services was part of
a trend and was worried that the forthcoming single equality body,
the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, would take on fewer
cases from disabled people.

The DRC’s helpline team passes about 1,500 enquiries a year to the
casework department.

The DRC spokesperson said the commission would still use its legal
department to take on discrimination cases that tested the law, and
that these were the only cases it currently funded in the courts.
She admitted that no disabled people were directly consulted about
the changes.

Meanwhile, the government this week announced that an Office for
Disability Issues would be established later this year. This will
push action and delivery to change attitudes and promote inclusion
across the whole of government.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.