Exclusive: How the equality watchdog sacked a disabled army veteran and IRA bomb survivor by email

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Rebecca Hilsenrath: chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and leading the programme of staff cuts Pic credit: Douglas-Scott co.uK

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Donald Trump : You’re fired. Credit Giphy

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

Late last year this blog featured the case of  57 year old Markus Caruana,  who works in corporate communications at the Birmingham office of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.To recap

He is a former flute player in the Corps of Drums with the Grenadier Guards.

Markus Caruana was unfortunate enough to have been both at the Guildford pub bombings in 1974 and the Chelsea Barracks bombing in 1981 which seriously injured regimental bandsmen from the Irish Guards.

He escaped unscathed in both instances but saw three of his friends killed in an IRA attack in Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland.

He left the army in 1985 to become a landscape gardener and then took advantage of a Unison sponsored education scheme to learn to read and write.

He had been a school refuser after being bullied and could hardly read or write or read music but was able to play his  flute because he had a natural memory for tunes.

In 2002 he secured a job with the Disability Rights Commission which later became part of the EHRC.

Sadly he lost his 75 per cent of his hearing and got  an incurable muscle wasting disease called Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) which affects the nervous system that supports muscles, often weakening the legs and feet.

The EHRC had enabled him to have a support worker so he could do his job there – but she is also facing redundancy now he has failed to retain his job.

Yesterday he  and five other disabled people was sacked by email by the EHRC and given 24 hours notice to clear his desk. He was one of ten people made compulsorily redundant by emails from executives from the Commission.

The decision led to a furious reaction from one of the main union representing staff,the PCS.

EHRC says the staff will receive pay in lieu of notice (PILON), but workers did not agree to this because it closes off the opportunity to seek redeployment at the commission or elsewhere in the civil service.

In a letter back to EHRC, the union states: “By imposing PILON you are cutting off this option and effectively consigning BME, disabled, women and trade union members to unemployment. There should only be PILON in cases where the individual concerned has agreed to it.”

Commenting on the cases, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It’s absolutely reprehensible that dedicated staff have been sacked and told to clear their desks with a day’s notice.

“That this has happened at the government body charged with upholding human rights and fair treatment in our society is an absolute scandal and we will continue to fight it.”

My own take on it is this. It is quite clear that the head of the EHRC, Rebecca Hilsenrath, is a particularly vindictive person to take action like this – by making it difficult for these people to get other jobs in the civil service.

Her action reminds me a bit of the attitude taken by Donald Trump towards disabled people. I am sure she would make an excellent addition to his staff in Washington though I don’t know whether she would share his locker room talk or not.

I have also written an article for Tribune about the sackings and the future strikes.

Sunk: Bath Knight the company that aids the disabled

The happy image of Bath Knight: Now it is bust

The happy image of Bath Knight: Now it is bust

Disabled people who have purchased equipment that enables people with mobility problems to have a daily bath have been left in the lurch by the collapse of the company that makes the aids

Without virtually any coverage Care Knight, owners of Bath Knight, the Stoke on Trent manufacturing company of expensive  bath aids, has gone bust over the summer. The company made an aid which gently lowered people into the bath on a band and gently raises them out of the bath.

The problem facing people is that the company both installs and maintains the machinery to do this – and now it is in administration, Its staff have been sacked and there appears to be nobody available to service aids that cost over £2000 to buy.

We purchased one – as my wife is recovering from a stroke and needs help to have a bath- and thankfully had some repairs done just before the company went bust. I wrote about my experiences when they installed the Bath Knight here. But others have not been lucky – I have been contacted by someone whose Bath Knight no longer works and they are in great difficulties getting something done.

The saga of the collapse of Bath Knight is revealed in a series of documents filed at Companies House. From these documents it looks as though the owners of the family firm. the Greenwoods,. tried to save the company by entering a voluntary arrangement with a  national firm of business recovery and insolvency specialists, Begbies Traynor .

The main owner, Mrs Annette Elvina Greenwood, took out a £30,000 floating charge on May 5 – an unusual arrangement which allows a company to borrow money on any assets the company may have to cover debts. The loan was charged to Care Knight Group a company that has not been affected by the collapse of Care Knight. Mrs Greenwood, her husband and her daughter are directors of both companies.

But on July 3 Care Knight Ltd called in the receivers. According to the report filed by Begbies Traynor the company went bust owing £428,247.to creditors. this included £310,973 to trade creditors, £100,000 to redundant employees, and £76,047 to the Inland Revenue.

The company also owed £255,625 was owed to its parent company Care Knight Group.

The trigger was a demand for a substantial sum in back rent from the landlords of its premises in Stoke on Trent which were closed and locked up until the administrators were able to get access.

What is not clear is what will happen to the disabled people relying on Bath Knight for repairs and servicing. Those who have paid for equipment through a credit card but not received it could claim on their credit card but the rest seem to have been abandoned.

It is no good contacting the company’s old headquarters Paladin House as it is now closed. The parent company has ,moved to Unit 73, Bedford Street, Stoke on Trent ST1 4PZ but I am told is uncontactable. However if you follow this link  at the new Companies House free access website and look up officers you will find the home address of the directors who are still directors of the parent company. I suggest anybody worried should write to Mrs Greenwood there and ask what she is going to do about their plight.

Since I put up this blog i have been contacted by The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) who point out that the firm concerned was not a member of the BHTA.  People buying goods and services from BHTA member companies are protected by a Code of Practice approved and overseen by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).  This Code is rigorously enforced and it gives consumers considerable protection and access to a complaints and dispute resolution process.  Anyone buying goods and services for disabled people (generally known as “assistive technology”) should be advised to buy from companies who are members of the BHTA and are therefore governed by the Code of Practice.

I find this latest disclosure all the more concerning since Care Knight left the organisation when a new code of practice designed to protect disabled people from bad service was introduced. That is not good news.

How the government lets your car reveal how much disability benefit you receive?

DVLA -revealing disability benefits via car regostration

DVLA -revealing disability benefits via car regostration

With the tabloid media frenzy on cheating benefit claimants reaching new heights and people believing that some disabled people are fraudsters, the government seems to have found a new way to embarrass people on benefit.

The forthcoming abolition of car tax discs  from October means that the only way to check whether a vehicle is taxed is to check free on line at the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA). All anybody needs is the vehicle registration and the make of car – you don’t even need to know the model.

But the DVLA has decided to introduce a new  way of reporting  on line who doesn’t have to pay car tax  by creating a class of taxation called disabled.revealing whether the person who drives it is disabled rather than leaving it blank as previously.

As I reported in Tribune under the new system, people can find out on line that they pay no car tax, which is only available to people claiming higher levels of benefit. This is through mobility benefit included in the Disability Living Allowance or the new personal Independence payment system, and for war pensioners who have mobility supplements. The site also says whether they are disabled or not.

The changes highlighted on a professionally run benefits and advice website have provoked a storm of protest from disabled people who see it as a breach of privacy and revealing confidential information.

The website says: “The issue here appears to be one of data protection. The information that DVLA are making available is not about the vehicle itself. Instead they are publishing personal information about the benefits received by the individual who currently owns the car or for whom the car is solely used.”

One disabled person, Robert Adam commented: “There are malicious gits out there who resent people getting benefits who are 100 per cent entitled to them. If someone is accused of fraudulently obtaining the Disability Living Allowance, they are immediately pulled in for the new PIP assessment. This DVLA system stating “Taxation class disabled” is not information about the vehicle. It is information about the registered keeper being disabled and entitled to free road tax.”

The DVLA say this is not their intention. They claim their aim is to help people when the numerous parking companies are chasing up people for unpaid parking fines and private parking charges who will be saved from being pursued when they see their entry.

However given the DVLA is also making over £20m by handing over the names and addresses of people driving or keeping the cars to private enforcement companies at a cost of £2.50 a time they are not always that scrupulous. After all many of the parking charges sought by private companies are not enforceable any way as this site reveals and this story on BBC News also illustrates.

It strikes me as just another way of ratcheting up fear of  suspected benefit fraud while at the same time making money from some unscrupulous parking cowboys.