Disability Discrimination: number of cases

There’s a Lords committee afoot, looking at the efficacy of the Equality Act 2010 as relates to disability discrimination. (Snappily entitled the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee.) Given this, the question is: how many court cases are there for disability discrimination in the provision of services?

This should be easy, because in response to the Work and Pensions select committee in 2009:

There is a lack of data on the number of DDA cases on goods, facilities and services in the county courts, although a number of witnesses presume the numbers to be very small. We recommend that the Government monitors the trends in the number of cases taken and their outcomes. (The DDA was the Disability Discrimination Act, the immediate precursor to the Equality Act 2010)

The Government promised:

The Government will consider introducing changes to the county court IT system when there is an opportunity to do so. Until then, courts will be asked to manually gather information on DDA cases involving goods, facilities and services.

Well, that’s okay then, I can just ask for these figures, right? Wrong.

In any event, we are not able to identify from our County Court case management system, cases that have been brought under a specific Act.

The information that you have requested may be in case files held locally at individual courts. However, I estimate that the time required to examine the files in question, extract, record and collate the information that you have asked for, would significantly exceed the limits set out above.

Riiiiight. They totally fulfilled their promise.

We should be fine, however, because under Section 2 of the Practice Direction: Proceedings under enactments relating to disability, for every case under the Act,

the claimant must give notice of the commencement of the proceedings to the Commission and file a copy of that notice.

Except this doesn’t happen. I reckon I’ve taken among the most numbers of cases in disability discrimination in the provision of services in the country (I’ve certainly taken a lot), and I think I’ve told the commission about a case twice. Even then in one instance the commission didn’t know what to do with my notification – they thought I was asking for help and referred me to the Equality advice helpline service. Hmmm.

So, we’re reduced to anecdotal evidence. I had the honour today of being at an event in which Catherine Casserley, Douglas Johnson and Nony Ardill were speaking to The Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations’ Legal Network.

Douglas said that when he did some research a few years ago, there were about 5,500 Employment Tribunals per year, and there had been about 100 cases for disability discrimination in the provision of goods and services. Ever, not per year.

Nony said that the Commission had received 111 notices in 2014 under the Practice Direction above. Of those, 44 were for disability discrimination. (Of those 44, 8 related to the Police, 8 to service providers, 14 to educational establishments, and 7 unknown.)

As for applications for the Commission’s advice and assistance to bring a disability discrimination case (under S28 of the Equality Act 2006), she was aware of three:
* Allen vs RBS,
* Campbell versus Thomas Cook, and
* a little-known case dubbed Paulley vs Firstbus.

Oh, and one case against a mosque which settled before going to court.

That’s the sum total of the disability discrimination in service provision cases across the UK assisted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

We also know that according to the Government’s own legal aid statistics for year 2013-2014, there were 22 applications for legal aid representation in equality cases (not just in disability) and that the grand total granted such funding was four. The 18 applications for funding that were turned down weren’t appealed.

So, does the low number of cases mean that disability discrimination in services is very low? Less than 1% of the cases of such discrimination in employment? That discrimination in service provision is so rare we should stop bleating about it?

I think all disabled people know the answer to that one. I’ll leave us with this accurate and prescient quote from Cath Casserley from the 2009 committee:

In any event, relying upon individuals to bring about systemic change through individual litigation places a heavy burden upon disabled people.

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