Author Archives: Celia Thomas

Baroness Celia Thomas writes….The disabled man in the airport

A few days ago, it was reported that last year a paraplegic athlete, Justin Levene, shuffled through Luton Airport on his bottom because his own self-propelled wheelchair was stuck on the plane. He didn’t want to accept Luton Airport’s offer of a different non-self-propelled wheelchair, not least because of the danger of pressure sores, but also the indignity of losing his independence that had been so hard-won.

I have seen various accusations; that it was churlish, offensive, arrogant, publicity seeking – the list goes on.  However others, notably disabled people themselves, have applauded him for drawing attention to the difficulties people with disabilities face if they travel, particularly the inadequate facilities at airports. Some people have accused him of making a fuss but, until you have experienced how little people seem to consider accessibility issues, making a fuss often becomes the only thing you can do to ensure people take notice. The news coverage of Justin Levene is case in point.

This comes at the end of a week when I attended a meeting about disabled access and inclusion, with two Ministers, civil servants and disabled Peers. We were told about the new cross-departmental committee on disability, and its consultation with the Disability Charities Committee – a group I’d barely heard of.  After a bit, one of the Government-supporting Peers let fly.  He told about attending a VIP dinner at a high-end hotel in central London, only to discover that there was no accessible toilet there, but that he could be led to a bedroom some way away which had an accessible bathroom attached to it. He said he felt worthless and demeaned by that, and made sure he was dehydrated.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Disability rights and Labour wrongs

Who would have thought that a valuable addition to the Licensing Act which would have made life better for disabled people had been scuppered by Labour Peers?  And yet that is what happened on Wednesday evening.

The amendment, which sought to improve the accessibility of licensed entertainment premises (pubs, clubs, restaurants etc.) for disabled people, was tabled by the Chair of the Lords Equality and Disability Committee, Baroness Deech, a crossbencher, and signed by me, as Liberal Democrat Disability Spokesperson, a Labour Peer and another crossbencher.

The Committee, which was set up last year at my suggestion, to look at how the Equality Act was working for disabled people, took evidence from, amongst many others, local authorities and from the National Association of Licence and Enforcement Officers. They were keen to help make premises more accessible but said they needed a small addition to the licensing objectives in the Licensing Act to be able to take action. Without the amendment, a licensing authority can only ‘suggest’ the provision of a ramp, for example, or that a restaurant should not store toilet rolls in the disabled toilet thus making it unusable.  With the amendment, the licensee would be told that if no reasonable adjustments were made, the licence would be in danger of being lost.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Like a WRAG to a bull

What was the issue which caused the House of Lords to defeat the Government so spectacularly on Wednesday? It was George Osborne’s latest attempt to save on the Welfare Bill by cutting sick benefits.

At the moment, if you aren’t well enough to work, having had the Work Capability Assessment, you are either put into the support group or the work-related activity group. In the support group you don’t have to look for work, but if you are in the work related activity group, you are expected to be able to get back into some kind of work eventually. Under the Bill, those in the work-related activity group (the WRAG) will have their benefit cut to align it with Jobseekers’ Allowance.

The Government say that not enough of those in the WRAG are getting into work, so they want to ‘encourage’ them by cutting their benefits, putting some of the money saved into giving this group more specialised support to get into work. However, there are no details about how this will work.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Derek Ezra 1919-2015

Liberal Democrat peer Derek Ezra died on 22 December 2015 at the age of 96. Celia Thomas remembers him.

Liberal Peers were absolutely delighted when Derek Ezra took the Liberal whip on becoming a Peer in 1983. He was one of the best known men in public life at the time, having been a well-respected Chairman of the Coal Board from 1972 to 1982. He had been a Liberal since university days, he told us, where he joined the Cambridge University Liberal Club in 1936. There he was a friend of Richard Wainwright, who was later to become the Liberal MP for Colne Valley.

A few years later, when war broke out, Derek became a gunner, rising eventually to the rank of Lt. Colonel; he later joined British Intelligence, where he was secretary of the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee. After the war, he spent four years in Luxembourg as a member of the UK delegation to the European Coal and Steel Community where he worked with Jean Monnet, largely regarded as the founding father of the European Community. From that time on, Derek was a passionate, but not uncritical, supporter of the European Union.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

Baroness Thomas writes… Getting Personal Independence Payments right

This afternoon the Department of Work and Pensions announces a significant change on the new Personal Independent Payments following significant Lib Dem pressure. Celia Thomas, the Lib Dem peer who has campaigned tirelessly on the issue, explains why it’s a major win.

Getting the rules governing Personal Independence Payments right is vital. The new benefit, which will begin to replace Disability Living Allowance later this year, will have a huge effect on disabled people up and down the country.

I’m broadly in favour of the change to PIP, which seeks to clarify the eligibility of disabled people to this benefit, the purpose …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 15 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 23rd Aug - 10:13pm
    I see that Mr Edmonds currently resides in France. This is probably not going to go down well; but am I the only person, who...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 23rd Aug - 9:38pm
    Michael BG, there is a good discussion of the issues around affordability and phasing on the Citizens Income trust site https://citizensincome.org/faqs/#Howpay
  • User AvatarMark Blackburn 23rd Aug - 9:07pm
    It’s deliberate. These kind of people know that if they expose themselves, the truth will out, so they avoid the risk. Far better to push...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd Aug - 9:03pm
    @ Geoffrey Dron. No problem, Geoffrey, just keep off the Scottish ginger beer. @ TCO. If you're insinuating what you appear to be insinuating, and...
  • User AvatarGeoffrey Dron 23rd Aug - 8:57pm
    @Richard Kemp -accepted. Now LibDems must press for extended devolution in the N of England https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/uk/we-want-100-per-cent-devolution-across-the-north-business-leaders-urge-boris-johnson-1-9914989
  • User AvatarPaul Barker 23rd Aug - 8:49pm
    It seems that "Revoke to have a Referendum later" would be Illegal. Asking for another Extension ( would that be the 3rd or 4th ?...
Sat 24th Aug 2019
Thu 29th Aug 2019
Mon 9th Sep 2019