Thursday, 29 June 2017

Provision of Wheelchairs by Churches

Should a church provide wheelchairs for the congregation and visitors. In general, the answer would be no. Because most people who need wheelchairs have them. There are problems that come along with equipment, see below. However, sometimes the circumstances dictate otherwise, such as emergency evacuation.

So, if the church has decided through its risk assessments and access audit that wheelchairs are needed the advice is that the items are purchased 'New'. It is, to be sure, more costly than donations of such equipment, however the chairs fall under the Provisions and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. A failure of the equipment during use could render the church open to a claim, also criminal action by the Local Authority Enforcement Team (though less likely than a claim).

As for evacuation; the church needs a written plan which would include Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for each person known; these would identify who should do what in an emergency. Yes, some wheelchair users do just pop-up when they are not expected. Well let’s celebrate the new face, and not get panic stricken, good access audits, and open PEEP’s, will get around this. Open PEEP’s are those written with a fictitious person in mind – the what if questions. The answers to these are vital in the planning for emergency evacuation, and training of wardens and sides persons.

Cite this article as: Fr. Jeffrey A.Leach.CBV, "Provision of Wheelchairs by Churches" in Disabling Barriers to Church Blog, 29 June 2017,

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

DWP failure to protect those in need of protection

It has been reported that “more than 10,000 disabled people have had their benefits slashed in just one month, after the government introduced a new, lower cap on the total benefits that any non-working household can receive.”[1]

The from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will be announcing that last November a cap on benefits cap has been reduced, or cut, £26,000 to £20,000 (or £23,000 in Greater London) last November.

It would appear that the reduction on the cap is even lower for single adults with no children that being: £13,400, and £15,410.

As many of you will know the coalition Government, under David Cameron, attempted to reduce the cap thereby forcing some claimants into work. As someone who is fortunate enough to have a good disability pension through my employer, I certainly worry, a great deal, for the many who are being subjected to these financial restrictions.

Yes, there are some people who make claims which are false, but this number much lower than the Government makes out: “T(t)he Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) repeatedly made false claims about the numbers of people living on disability benefits, the official statistics watchdog has found.”[2]

It is the system for assessing disability claimants that must be reviewed, not the wholesale reduction of benefits which affect those most in need. Less than 50% of claimants actually see a medical practitioner. It is not their fault that the DWP has failed to do its job under the current, and most recent Government’s.

Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson, the cross-bench peer in the House of Lord’s has also spoken out against the cuts. She has said, “The government says it wants to see more disabled people in paid work and halve the disability employment gap, an aspiration I applaud. One way not to do it, however, is to cut people’s benefit. This is one of a number of proposals (which will make life more difficult for disabled people) in the new Welfare Reform and Work Bill.”[3]

So, a broken system is now the cause for a Government going after those in society who are ‘broken themselves’.

Please pray on this issue, and if you feel so inclined complain to your (new) member of parliament.

Cite this article as: Fr. Jeffrey A.Leach.CBV, "DWP failure to protect those in need of protection" in Disabling Barriers to Church Blog, 17 May 2017,


Thursday, 20 April 2017

Gas Safety at Church and in our Homes

Gas safety is a big issue in church and at home. Everyone, not just those who are disabled, are put at risk when the work undertaken that is not done correctly or safely. This certainly means that the fact someone has been laying gas pipes, and installing gas fuelled equipment for years does not mean a thing unless they have received the correct training and are registered with Gas Safe.[i] The Gas Safe web page states that there are nearly five-million households at risk from illegal gas fitters.[ii]

In our churches, we have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act[iii] to ensure that we do everything reasonable to ensure the safety of everyone who attend our church, and those that use it for other purposes, such as weekly clubs.[iv] Many of our churches now have catering facilities either in the church or adjacent buildings. Health and Safety law applies fully to places of religion!

Below are extracts from the Health and Safety Executive regarding a reported case whereby someone undertook gaswork without being registered. As you will see he received, by current standards, a fairly a robust sentence. So how do you ensure the person is Gas Safe registered? Simply go onto the Gas Safe web site and the information you need is at your fingertips.[v]

Let us not forget that we have a duty as Christians to share this information with all in our congregations: so please feel free to share this post.

“An unregistered gas fitter has been sentenced for illegally carrying out gas safety work at a rented house.

Peter Knight, aged 67 undertook landlords’ gas safety checks at the house above a pub on Marlborough Street, Plymouth and extended a gas supply pipe to feed the pub’s kitchen despite him having no expertise in gaswork or being registered with Gas Safe Register.

Knight convinced the house’s landlords he was registered to do the work by using a properly registered gas engineer’s company name and Gas Safe Register registration number on the gas safety records he produced for them.

Peter Knight of Cornwall Street, Plymouth pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(3) and 3(7) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years and to ordered to pay £2,000 costs.”[vi]

[i] Gas Safe Register, The Official List of Gas Engineers.
[ii] Gas Safe Register, Almost five Million Households at Risk from Illegal Gas Fitters.
[iv] Sections 2, 3, and 4 Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (Chapter 37)
[v] Gas Safe Register, Find and Engineer.
[vi] Cite this article as: Fr. Jeffrey A.Leach.CBV, " Gas Safety at Church and in our Homes
" in Disabling Barriers to Church Blog, 20 April 2017,

Monday, 17 April 2017

Personal Independence Payments (PIP), and Employment and Support Allowance

Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and, Employment and Support Allowance
Although not specifically a church related matter I want to highlight the plight of 50,000 disabled people who have had their Mobility payments reduced by the Department of Work and Pensions. This means that those 50,000 people have lost their Mobility Vehicles; when I say lost I mean they have been taken off them.

The criteria for this change was a reduction from 50 meters to 20 meters in the ability to walk. So, if someone who was on the scheme previously was able to walk up to 50 meters they lost out. Now many able-bodied people may think that is fare, however there are many disabled parking spaces well over 50 meters from journeys end for a disabled person. For example, many supermarkets will reserve disabled parking spaces, yet I see many that are well away from the main doors. Some may say get a wheelchair, but this is just another cost the majority of disabled people cannot afford. [More below] So, what is the disabled person to do if their mobility payment is reduced? Well they can appeal; however, the vehicle is removed well before the process begins; as such many people become housebound, or totally reliant on others to do their shopping, and assisting them to get from A to B.

On top of this the caring UK Government has also reduced by £30.00 out of work disability benefits.[ii] This will leave them with £73.00 per week to live on, which is the same as job seekers allowance, although the Minister for Disabilities promised MP’s that other measures would be in-place to assist disabled people. Fare one might consider if the disabled person is out of work the same as anyone else. However, it is estimated that the average disabled person is £550. per month worse off than an able-bodied person.[iii] Yes £550. per month it is not a typo. Now you will see that income and need for additional costs of disability do not stack up against the £73.00 per week. So, debt and poverty of the vulnerable becomes a reality in the twenty-first century Great Britain. This is of course whilst the pay gap increases and those that created the recession do not have to worry about the next meal, or a roof over their heads.

This is a shocking state of affairs, and one that is getting worse by the day. The sense is this Government has little sympathy for disabled people; and would rather use the bullying tack to force people who cannot work to try and find work. It is a delusion. If you cannot work, you cannot work – I am living proof of this. So what can the church do? Pray, and continue praying for disabled people and a Government that does not care. Also raise this with your MP, the church militant!!


Saturday, 1 April 2017

Brexit and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

What difference will Brexit make to disabled people in the UK?

On face value things one would imagine that things would stay as they are; but we may be completely mistaken in this assumption. A great deal of today’s equality laws is based upon EU directives and European Court of Justice judgements, not on a caring UK Government (see below). So, disabled people need to be aware of what may lie ahead.

In the House of Lords the cross-bench Baroness Jane Campbell stated recently that she and fellow peers must be “highly proactive”, particularly noting the current Government’s wish that parliament should have little to do with Brexit. So she has warned that peers would need to be a “vigilant watchdog” as the negotiations take place.[i] She seems concerned that a correct process may lead to secondary legislation that may “bypasses proper parliamentary scrutiny” and disenfranchise millions of disabled people in the UK.

She also commented that disabled people needed to ensure their messages “get to the ears of the people charged with developing this legislation”. Many of these misgivings were voiced at a seminar where great concern was voiced ‘that many disabled people had not understood the risks posed by leaving the EU.’[ii]

This warning to disabled people co-insides with the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled Persons (CRPD). It has found unfavourable findings with regards the UK’s implementation and compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).[iii]  The committee has found that the UK is in breach of the Convention following an inquiry into recent social security reforms.[iv] "[G]rave and systematic violations” have been noted by the committee. The issues are in connection with Welfare Reform Act 2012,[v] Care Act 2014,[vi] and Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016.[vii]

The Committee has taken note of concerns raised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.[viii] The Government does not believe that it is in breach of the Convention, but then again it wouldn’t would it.
Cite this article as: Fr. Jeffrey A.Leach.OSP, "Brexit and the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities" in Disabling Barriers to Church Blog, 1st April 2017,

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Less Stress, a better 'Service'. The need for suitable and sufficient Risk Assessment of Stress

Being a priest in the Church of England I have seen many colleagues made ill by the high demands on their time, and own spiritual needs. As a self-supporting-minster (SSM) I have, in my earlier days in the role, attempted too much and felt the pressure of balancing Church, family and my full-time career too great.  

Do not make the mistake of thinking in the context of this post that a little stress is good. This post is concerned with those ‘stressors’ that create in the person a state of ‘distress’, and all of its associated problems.

Broadly this post considers the issue of stress and the possible failings of a loving church. Now before everyone jumps with shock at the above insinuation I write not accusing any particular church in general, but rather their failing to understand! If you are asking why in a Blog dedicated to disability is this issue being raised then, as you will read, it indeed lead to disability through mental illness and more.

Who this is aimed protecting at is ‘everyone’ giving their time to a church, not necessarily the ordained ministers, or paid lay workers. Though one should note that in the case of the President of the Methodist Conference v Preston[i] it was held that Ms Preston, an ordained minister, was not an employee but rather an ‘Office Holder’; which echoed a previous case that also came before the Courts.[ii] As this is not aimed at the conversation regarding who is employed or not I shall move on.

If a Church body makes the mistake of thinking that as an office holder health and safety law, (in particular in this post ‘health) does not apply then they are wrong. Although the sections of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA74)[iii] may not apply to office holders, section 3[iv] most certainly does, as it does for all people supporting churches week in and week out..

We must also take note of the provisions of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations (MHSAW)[v]. Under the MHSAW regulations an employer is duty bound to make a “…  suitable and sufficient assessment of —…

(b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking, for the purpose of identifying the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions …

Any assessment such as is referred to in paragraph (1) or (2) shall be reviewed”[vi]

This section is not reliant upon employer-employee status; instead it requires that the employer (the Church) conducts risk assessments that are suitable in that they cover the risk they aim to deal with. And, sufficient in that are detailed enough in the circumstances.

If one takes into account the Health and Safety Executives information on its web site,[vii] then there should no doubt about the need for such an assessment; not just for the clergy, but for all of God’s children serving our churches.

[i] [2013] UKSC 29
[iii] HSAW74 (Ch.34) In particularly Section 2; General duties of employers to their employees.
[iv] HSAW74 Section 3. General duties of employers and self-employed to persons other than their employees.
[v] 1999 No. 3242.
[vi] MHSAW Regulation 3

Cite this article as: Fr. Jeffrey A.Leach.OSP, " Less Stress, a better ‘Service’. The need for suitable and sufficient Risk Assessment of stress.
" in Disabling Barriers to Church Blog,12th March 2017,

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Taxi fees and refusal to carry disabled passengers

           This is not a post directly related to disability and inequality within churches, but rather one that will affect many people who attend church. Thus I have decided to post it for you to share with everyone in your parish who may find the information of use.

The media, as well as many blogs and Facebook instalments, have highlighted the problems disabled people face when wishing to access private hire vehicles. From the sixth of April (2017 next month) another part of the Equality Act 2010 is enabled.[i]

What the newly enacted law, qualifies within the Equality Act 2010, that not all Taxi’s and private hire vehicles must be able to carry a wheelchair user ‘in their wheelchair’.[ii] So the person requiring the use of a taxi must ensure that when phoning for one, that they make it clear that they need a cab that permits them to enter and exit whilst remaining in their chair.[iii]

For passengers who can get out of their chair and into the vehicle then the driver must secure the disabled persons chair, and any luggage for them.[iv] The legislation also says that the driver should; “give the passenger such mobility assistance as is reasonably required.” [v] How this sits next to the safety of the driver is confusing and unclear, especially if a driver is injured helping the person?

            The driver does not have to carry a second person in a wheelchair at the same time if the driver does not think it is safe. I will avoid boring you with the other safety details, but never the less anyone being transported must be safe.[vi]

            Finally a disabled person must not be charged more for their journey just because of their additional need.

Any breach of this legislation can lead to a fine of unto £1,000. for the driver[vii]

Cite this article as: Fr. Jeffrey A.Leach.OSP, " Taxi fees and refusal to carry disabled passengers" in Disabling Barriers to Church Blog, 7th March 2017,

[i] 2017 No. 107 The Equality Act 2010 (Commencement No. 12) Order 2017 which brings into force sections 165 and 167.
[ii] Ibid Section 167
[iii] Equality Act 2010 Section 165 (4)
[iv] Ibid 165 (5)(c)(d)
[v] Ibid 165 (4)(e)
[vi] Ibid 165 (5)
[vii] ibid 2010 s.165 (4)(b)