“Have you got a problem? I won’t stop for you next time!”

 Buses  Comments Off on “Have you got a problem? I won’t stop for you next time!”
Jan 102017
 

Bus drivers in London often ignore wheelchair users’ requests to get off, driving off with them on board, on a regular basis – over 50 times to Chris alone, as put to TFL’s manager on ITV News.

Today, after ignoring Chris’s request to get off, the driver had a parting message for him…

Data controllers’ compliance with Section 10 notices: the ICO now assess.

 ICO, Information governance  Comments Off on Data controllers’ compliance with Section 10 notices: the ICO now assess.
Sep 202016
 

I’ve written previously about the Information Commissioner’s assessment of organisations’ compliance with S10 notices. S10 is a mechanism by which a data subject can force a data controller to stop processing his/her personal data, or stop it from processing in a certain way, where such processing is causing substantial, unwarranted damage or distress.

Previously the ICO has always insisted that they can only assess organisations’ technical compliance with S10(3), i.e. whether the organisation has responded to the notice and whether such response was within the 21 day timescale. The ICO would not consider whether the organisation had broken the law by failing to comply with a valid notice.

The ICO have now changed their policy. The attached Lines to Take document now states:

an individual may make a request for an assessment under s.42 of the DPA where:

  • A data controller has not responded to a notice at all.
  • A data controller has not responded within the 21 day timeframe.
  • A data controller has not provided its reasons for refusing to comply with a notice.
  • A data controller has failed to comply with the data subjects request to cease processing.

That last point is new!

This draft Casework Advice Note goes into more detail.

Section 10(4) refers to the power of the court to order compliance with a section 10 notice.
The Commissioner is still able to make a s42 assessment on processing that may be in breach of the sixth principle (complying with a section 10 notice).

Failure to comply with a justified notice or failure to respond to a valid section 10 notice is a breach of the sixth principle.
The Commissioner can make an assessment of whether processing has been or is being carried out in compliance with the provisions of the DPA – in this case a breach of the sixth principle arising from a failure to comply with a data subject’s section 10 rights.

We can make an assessment of:

  • any non-compliant processing causing unwarranted damage or distress which means that the notice is justified; and/or
  • the data controller’s compliance with the procedural obligations under 10(3) to:
    • respond within 21 days of receiving the objection;
    • explain whether it intends to comply with the objection; and,
    • if it does not intend to comply with the objection in some way, give reasons for the decision.

You CAN also:

  • carry out a s42 assessment on whether the data controller has complied with its obligations under s10(1)

They’ve put “CAN” into Bold for the following reason (also in the draft Casework Advice Note):

Problems with the previous line on ASK knowledge base
The previous line said that:

‘the only situation where the ICO can get involved with a request made under section 10 is where the organisation hasn’t provided any response within 21 days, we cannot assist with any matters relating to compliance with the request….’

This line may have arisen as a result of our preferences or priorities in terms of the types of complaints we take on as an office where there is a technical limitation on our legal powers, or iit may be that we decided for operational reasons that we would not make assessments on a data controller’s compliance with their section 10(1) obligations.
Just because s10 refers to the powers of the court to order compliance with a section 10 notice does not preclude the Commissioner from making an assessment on processing that is in breach of principle 6.
Other sections of the DPA that relate to principle 6 refer to the order making powers of the court. For example, section 7(9) allows the court to order compliance with a SAR, but wouldn’t prevent the Commissioner from making her own assessment on whether or not a data controller should comply with a section 7 request.

It would seem that I have forced the ICO to reconsider their approach. Their internal dialogue on my complaint is entertaining. I particularly like the implied criticism:

In the present case, rather than referring his complaint about Sky’s processing to the Commissioner for an assessment, the data subject has tried to sort out the matter himself by issuing a section 10(1) notice.

How irresponsible of me 😀

Jul 272016
 

My valued friend and co-campaigner told me about his disgusting experience at the hands of Southern Rail staff. I have reblogged the below from the excellent Transport for All website.

I very much hope Southern Rail – and other rail providers – take it seriously. Their response to it doesn’t inspire confidence though; they clearly hadn’t even read it…


A very unpleasant experience for a wheelchair user at Clapham Junction

Blog by TfA member Chris. This blog and its content reflect the views of the author only.

Clapham Junction is a busy and important transport hub in South London, and I’m pleased to say that it has step-free access to all platforms, and wheelchair ramps on every platform.

But lifts and ramps are not enough to make a station disabled-friendly. The attitude and behaviour of the station staff matter hugely.

Last weekend I had an extremely unpleasant experience at Clapham Junction Station. It was not my first experience of rudeness and unhelpfulness from Southern Railway staff at this station, but it was certainly the worst.

I’m a wheelchair user. I arrived at platform 15 on Saturday afternoon, and asked a member of staff on the platform for assistance with a ramp to board a train.

His response to my request was curt and unfriendly: “Next train“, with a jab of the finger in the direction of the track, and with that he disappeared.

In itself this small moment of rudeness was not surprising, it’s what I have got used to at Clapham Junction when I interact with Southern Railway staff. But then things got much worse.

The train pulled in and I positioned myself by the door with the wheelchair logo, as I wanted to be placed in the wheelchair space on the train.

The member of staff I had spoken to didn’t come with a ramp. I couldn’t see him until everyone had boarded, and then I saw that he was at the back of the train with the ramp. I waved to him. He refused to move. I pointed to the doors with the wheelchair logo. He shouted that I had to board at the back of the train (where there was no wheelchair space). Some of his colleagues told me that I had to get on at the back. I said no, I wished to travel in the wheelchair space. The man with the ramp did not budge, and kept gesturing me to come towards him.

I did not want to travel in a part of the train without a wheelchair space because I do not consider this a safe or comfortable way to travel, so we reached an impasse. The man with the ramp let the train go, without me onboard.

He then came over and addressed me angrily, and with a staggering level of rudeness, telling me I should have boarded exactly where he wanted me to. I told him that I had wanted to be placed in the wheelchair space, as that was the only safe place for me to travel.

He was not displaying a name badge. I asked him three times for his name. Three times he refused, and then he walked away briskly, refusing to communicate with me any further.

He then placed the ramp flat down on the platform, near the platform edge, for several minutes, perpendicular to the track, in such a way that customers could easily trip over it, and possibly even fall onto the tracks.

After this I encountered a second member of staff. He too was extremely rude to me when I explained that his colleague had refused to allow me to board the train where the wheelchair space was. He told me that I was obliged to board the train exactly where the platform staff had decided.

He also make this extraordinary statement: “If you don’t know the rules, you shouldn’t come here“. This statement was too bizarre and silly to argue with, but it was also an act of intolerable rudeness.

This second member of staff also refused to give his name, and was not showing a name-badge.

Later they put me onto a train, in the wheelchair space as I had requested at first, and I was able to make my journey at last.

Disabled people should be able to travel with the same ease, flexibility, safety and comfort as everyone else. But I find again and again that I come up against unhelpfulness, rudeness, ignorance and inflexibility when I want to travel on Southern Railway train services. I do not believe that this company takes its responsibility to its disabled customers at all seriously.

A great deal needs to change before train services are truly accessible, and before wheelchair users can use them without stress, distress and annoyance. Transport for All continues to campaign for full accessibility across all of London’s transport networks. Please join us if you would like to support our campaigns – you can find out here how to become a member.


Reblogged from the Transport for All website.

ICO on S42 assessments of data controller’s compliance with S10

 Uncategorised  Comments Off on ICO on S42 assessments of data controller’s compliance with S10
Jul 212016
 

Here’s the ICO’s response in full. Editing errors, such as the chopped-off sentence “In circumstances where an individual believes,” were in the original.

21 July 2016

 

Case Reference Number RCC0621317

 

Dear Mr Paulley

 

I write in response to your correspondence of 17 March 2016 in which you have raised concerns about the advice provided to you by our office in relation to section 10 and section 42 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). My name is Traci Shirley and as a Team Manager at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) your concerns have been passed to me to review and respond to. Please accept my apologies for our delay in responding to you.

I have considered your comments and document my findings below.

Introduction
You contacted our office on 16 March 2016 to discuss your concerns in relation to Sky’s information security practice and it’s handling of your personal information. During your call you were advised by a Helpline officer and a ‘senior case officer’ that the Information Commissioner’s Officer (ICO) is unable to conduct an assessment under section 42 of the DPA with regards to whether an organisation has satisfied its obligations under section 10 (1) of the DPA.

You explain that the Helpline officer’s ‘explanation of the ICO’s inability to investigate such referrals was twofold’ in that:

  • ‘the mechanism for enforcing such rights is through the courts’, and
  • ‘s.10 ‘doesn’t give organisations any obligation other than to provide a written notice’.

You explain the conflict between the advice provided by the two officers in that the Helpline officer advised that ‘a data controller’s compliance or otherwise with s.10’ could not be considered by our office. However, the senior officer advised that a ‘the ICO can make a determination if the data controller has failed to provide a notice within 21 days as required under s.10 (3) but as s.10 places no obligation on the data provider to do anything other than provide a notice, the ICO cannot undertake an assessment on the organisations determination as to whether to accede to a s.10 notice or not’.

  • It is your view that each officers understanding of the law is incorrect in that s.42 of the DPA ‘obliges the ICO to conduct assessments on request as to whether it is likely or unlikely that the processing has been or is being carried out in compliance with the provisions of the Act’ and that the Act does not exclude s.10 from this obligation.
  • You further explain that, ‘the ability of the  data subject to enforce their rights by application to the court under s.10(4) of the Act does not negate the Information Commissioner’s obligation to undertake a s.42 assessment’.
  • You reiterate the provisions of Schedule 1 Part II para 8(b) of the DPA relating to the sixth principle of the Act and any contravention of the right under s.10. On the basis of this provision you explain that ‘a failure to comply with a justified s.10 notice is a failure to comply with the 6th data protection principle’.
  • Similarly, you reiterate the provisions of under s.42 of the DPA and explain your view as to why the ICO should ‘conduct a s.42 assessment as to a data controller’s compliance or otherwise with s.10 (1) and (3)’.
  • You have asked to be informed of ‘what discretion you have under the Act to refuse to make an assessment as to the requirements placed upon a controller by section 10 (a)’ [sic].

Having reviewed all of the information available to me I shall document my findings below.

My Findings

The ICO does not record calls made to our Helpline therefore I am unable to review the call that took place between you and our officers. However, it is always our intention to provide a quality service. I apologise for any conflicting advice that you have received from our officers and that you have the felt the need to complain about the advice provided to you on this occasion.

Security practices
You have explained that you initially contacted us in relation to Sky’s security practice and it’s handling of your personal information.  As I am unable review your call and you have not provided further information in relation to the advice provided to you regarding this aspect of your concerns, I am unable to comment further on this matter. However, the seventh principle of the DPA provides that personal information must be held securely. As such, if you believe that Sky has processed your personal information insecurely, you should, in the first instance, raise your concerns directly in writing to Sky. Following this, our office may be able to make an assessment of this aspect of your concerns.

DPA s.10 and s.42
As stated above, I am unable to review the call which took place between you and our officers therefore I am unable to comment specifically on the advice provided to you, or the context in which that advice was provided. However, in light of the detail provided by you, I agree that you may not have been correctly advised in relation to the rights and obligations set out in s.10 and s. 42 of the DPA.

DPA s.42 (1)
A request may be made to the Commissioner by or on behalf of any person who is, or believes himself to be, directly affected by any processing of personal data for an assessment as to whether it is likely or unlikely that the processing has been or is being carried out in compliance with the provisions of the Act.

DPA s.10 (1)
An individual is entitled at any time by notice in writing to the data controller to require the data controller at the end of such period as is reasonable in the circumstances to cease, or not to begin, processing, or processing for a specified purpose or in a specified manner, any personal data in respect of which he is the data subject, on the grounds that, for specified reasons –

  1. The processing of those data or their processing for that purpose or in that manner is causing or is likely to cause substantial damage or distress to him or to another, and
  2. That damage or distress is or would be unwarranted

DPA s.10 (4)
If a court is satisfied on the application of any person who has given notice under subsection (1) which appears to the court to be justified (or to be justified to any extent), that the data controller in question has failed to comply with the notice, the court may order him to take such steps for complying with the notice (or for complying with it to that extent) as the court thinks fit.

When considering compliance with any notice served on a data controller under s.10 (1), the court will consider whether the processing is likely to cause unwarranted substantial damage or distress. In addition, the court will consider whether s.10 (1) will not apply by virtue of s.10 (2), where the processing is for the a purpose set out in paragraphs 1-4 of Schedule II.

If the court determines that a s.10 (1) notice is justified, s.10 (4) empowers the court to order the data controller to take such steps as the court thinks fit. However, s.10 (4) does not require the court to consider a data controllers compliance with the ‘supplementary provisions’ under s.10 (3) which provide:

DPA s.10 (3)
The data controller must within twenty-one days of receiving a notice under subsection (1) (the data subject notice) give the individual who gave it a written notice – 

  1. Stating that he has complied or intends to comply with the data subject notice, or
  2. Stating his reasons for regarding the data subject notice as to any extent unjustified and the extent (if any) to which he has complied or intends to comply with it.

As such, matters of compliance relating to the supplementary provisions under s.10 (3) are for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to assess under s.42 of the DPA.

The supplementary obligations of the data controller are, within 21 days of receipt of the section 10(1) notice, to give the data subject written notice that either:

  1. the data controller has or will comply with the section 10(1) notice, or
  2. the data controller will not comply with the notice and the reasons its decision.

Where an individual has issued a notice under s. 10 (1), this does not negate the Commissioner’s obligation to make an assessment in response to an individual’s subsequent request for an assessment of a data controllers processing of personal data and whether such processing is likely or unlikely to be in compliance with the provisions of the DPA.

In addition, an individual may request an assessment under s. 42 (1) of the DPA as to whether any processing by a data controller for its obligation in complying with a s.10 (1) notice was likely or unlikely to be in compliance with the provisions of the DPA.

However, where the data subject has exercised his right in applying to the court under s (10) (4) for an order compelling the data controller to comply with his s.10 (1) notice, the Commissioner may decide not to investigate the data controllers compliance with its supplementary obligations under s.10 (3) on the basis that the data subject is concerned with the data controllers compliance with a notice to cease processing under s.10 (1) rather than the supplementary provisions in s.10 (3).

Schedule 1 Part II paragraph 8 (b) states:
A person is to be regarded as contravening the sixth principle if, but only if –

  1. He contravened section 7 by failing to supply information in accordance with that section
  2. He contravenes section 10 by failing to comply with a notice under subsection (1) of that section to the extent that the notice is justified or by failing to give a notice under subsection (3) of that section

You explain that, ‘a failure to comply with a justified s.10 notice is a failure to comply with the 6th data protection principle’.

Where a data controller fails to comply with the obligations set out in s.10 (3), any such failure may be a breach of s.10 (3) and therefore a breach of the rights afforded to individuals under the sixth principle. In circumstances where an individual believes

In relation to a ‘justified s.10’’ notice, the data controller must consider the specified reasons asserted by the data subject and how the processing is likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress to the data subject [or another] and whether sure damage or distress is or would be warranted. To the extent that such notice is justified, the data controller should comply with the notice to such an extent. In circumstances where an individual believes that a data controller has failed to comply with a justified notice, the data subject may request an assessment under s.42 of the DPA.

Conclusion
As set out above, the Commissioner may make an assessment under s.42 of the DPA where:

  • the processing, in connection with a service provided to a data subject, is likely or unlikely to comply with the obligations set out in the seventh principle of the DPA.
  • the processing relates to whether a s.10 (1) notice is likely or unlikely to comply with a data controllers obligations under s. 10 (3) of the DPA, and
  • the processing, relating to the data controllers obligations to comply with a notice, is likely or unlikely to be in accordance with the primary obligations under s.10 (3) of DPA.

Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention and for providing me with the opportunity to address your concerns.

What next?

This concludes the case review and service complaint process. However, if you still believe that we have provided you with a poor service, or if you believe we have not treated you properly or fairly then you may be able to complain to:

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

All complaints to the Ombudsman must be made through an MP.  I would advise you to first call the Ombudsman’s Helpline on 0345 015 4033 or visit their website at www.ombudsman.org.uk to see if they are able to assist you further.

If, however, your complaint relates to the way in which we have interpreted the law then the Ombudsman cannot help you.  If you want to challenge our interpretation of the law, you should consider seeking legal advice. 

Yours sincerely

Traci Shirley
Team Manager
Information Commissioner’s Office
01625 545790

 


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Accessible Single Deck Buses

 Buses, Disability Legal Action  Comments Off on Accessible Single Deck Buses
Jul 152016
 

On the way home from the Yorkshire Show on Tuesday, this happened:

To cut a long story short, I caught a single deck bus that had no wheelchair ramp or wheelchair space.

I thought that was illegal because all single deck buses must be accessible as of 1st January 2016. This is set out in S175 of the Equality Act 2010 as explained by Regulation 3(2) of the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000. However there’s an interesting exemption; Regulation 4(f) states that a vehicle need not comply provided it is:

a vehicle in respect of which twenty years have elapsed since the date of its first use on a road and which is not used to provide a local service or a scheduled service for more than 20 days in any calendar year.

This could create the silly anomaly that if the bus was (say) 19 years and 6 months old, it would be illegal to use it between 1st January 2016 and its 20th birthday, after which it could be used on up to 20 days per year. But as the bus was 20 years and 3 months old, this isn’t the case.

The bus operator told me that they had to put this bus on due to a bus breaking down and others being stuck in traffic. It’s not in regular use on their bus routes. So as long as the bus is used for 20 days or less each year, it is legal for the bus company to use it – even though it isn’t wheelchair accessible.

The question is: what counts as use?

The bus operator’s website says it is used “on schools. Hansard tells me whether a school bus is subject to the accessibility regulations depends on whether the vehicle is “operated for hire and reward“, which is defined by “whether any passengers are carried as separate fares (which includes payment for the right to travel as part of a larger payment)“, and indeed “On a bus provided by the local authority or bus operator, provided that a fare is paid, even if only by some of the students when others are entitled to free transport, the vehicle would be a PSV.” It is not a Public Service Vehicle, and thus not subject to the accessibility regulations, “provided that the passengers made no contribution to the cost of travel and no contribution was made on their behalf“.

The bus operator has a list of its bus services on its website. It runs school buses for two authoritiesMetro (West Yorkshire) and North Yorkshire.

  • All Metro school buses charge per pupil (unless family financial circumstances mean the pupil is entitled to free transport.)
  • Some North Yorkshire school buses take both permits and fares.
  • But some North Yorkshire school buses are permit only.

One may consider that “permit only” school buses paid for by North Yorkshire County Council aren’t “for hire or reward” because no “passengers are carried as separate fares“. However North Yorkshire County Council has a scheme by which pupils can buy travel permits if they aren’t entitled to assistance with transport costs. Further,

In some cases assistance may be provided for ineligible children if there are spare seats available on existing school buses however, parents will be expected to pay a contribution towards costs.

It’s therefore clear that there are likely to be passengers for whom a contribution to the cost of their individual travel has been made on every service run by the bus firm, including all school bus services. If the company had already used the bus I caught for any of these services on at least 20 days this year, then both the company and whichever manager chose to use it for my journey have committed a crime and can be prosecuted. Each could be held liable for a fine up to £2,500.00 and incur a criminal record.

All of which obscure technical red tape pussy-foots round the core underlying issues. I have been lambasted on Twitter by the bus operator (who told me last January that all their buses are accessible but have now deleted all relevant tweets and blocked me) and two apparatchiks who claim I’m being unreasonable and am legally incorrect.

Yet:

  • it’s perfectly reasonable to expect bus services to be acceptable
  • it is morally reprehensible to run inaccessible services
  • the bus operator bought this inaccessible bus in December 2014
  • the Disability Discrimination Act, which announced the forthcoming accessibility requirement, was made in 1995
  • the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations, which set the dates and details of compliance, was made in 2000.

I’ve therefore complained to the Police, the Traffic Commissioners, North Yorkshire County Council and to West Yorkshire Metro.

When’s the Supreme Court judgment due?

 Firstbus  Comments Off on When’s the Supreme Court judgment due?
Jun 302016
 

UPDATE 12th January:

The judgment will be handed down on Wednesday, 18th January at 9:45am.

UPDATE 30th November:

The Supreme Court suddenly have a very urgent, very hot political potato landed on the doorstep. The Brexit high court judgment has been referred for urgent consideration by the Supreme Court, who will put all of their current 11 justices on the case. This may well delay other Supreme Court business, including the Firstbus judgment.

If we aren’t notified of the imminent release of the judgment by Thursday 15th December, it won’t be out before Christmas.

A lot of people have been asking me via Twitter etc. when we can expect the judgment in FirstGroup PLC vs Paulley, about:

The reasonable adjustments which a bus company is required to make to accommodate disabled wheelchair users.

The simple answer is: we don’t know.

My understanding is that the Supreme Court aim to get judgments out within 12 sitting weeks of the hearing. NB: the Court has a summer recess which doesn’t count, also this is only an aim and some judgments do take longer. 

In our case there were 7 justices rather than the usual 5 so there is extra coordination required to write the judgment(s), also it is a case that has generated considerable public interest. Both are factors which may mean that the judgment could take longer.
We hope the judgment may be out in the Autumn, hopefully before Christmas, but ultimately we don’t know.

Judgments are released at 9.45am on Wednesdays when the court is sitting. The full text is put online and there’s a summary read out in court, also this is videod and may be watched live on the Supreme Court website, or after the session the recording is available on both the Supreme Court website and YouTube.

We are given notice of the judgment imminent release of the judgment one week in advance. The judgment is released to legal representatives 6 days beforehand.

The Supreme Court list their forthcoming judgments on the Thursday, 6 days before they’re about to be handed down.

Whilst legal reps will know the content 10 days in advance, I’m not allowed to know any of the contents until the day before it’s released, and all of us are prevented from revealing anything about it at all until it is formally handed down, on pain of contempt of Court.

The Supreme Court produce a weekly list (when they’re sitting) of which judgments are still awaiting and how long each one has been since the hearing. They appear on their blog, in the same article where the coming week’s cases are listed. Here’s the one for 31 October 2016 – note that 13 cases have been waiting for a judgment for longer than Firstbus (longest: a year) and there are 9 cases that have been waiting for a shorter time, though judgments aren’t released in strict order.

I’m very grateful for the support and interest in this case, and am anxiously awaiting the judgment!

Jun 092016
 

There’s a lot of interest in the court case being heard in the Supreme Court next Wednesday, 15th June 2016FirstGroup Plc (Respondent) v Paulley (Appellant), on “the reasonable adjustments which a bus company is required to make to accommodate disabled wheelchair users.” The number of wheelchair users supporting this case is humbling. It creates practical problems for the Court due to the number of wheelchair users who would very much like to be there.

The Court have been exceptionally helpful in working out how many wheelchair users they can accommodate. They’ve removed benches to make as many wheelchair spaces as possible, so the limiting factor is how many people they can evacuated in an emergency via their two lifts. They can take 14 wheelchair users: 8 in the court room and 6 in another room with live video link. (This is more than in any other court that I’m aware of, and for that matter most other public buildings.)

The Court have worked with the legal team to work out the least unfair way of allocating these limited spaces. (We’re in a classical dilemma: we have to attempt to choose the least worst “solution” as no solution is acceptable. There will always be more wheelchair users wanting to attend than can actually be accommodated.)

I’d like to sit in the court room if possible 🙂 so that leaves another seven wheelchair spaces in the courtroom. The legal team and I wanted to make sure that wheelchair users who have had a particular, personal impact through supporting our case and/or me (through its very long 4½ years history!) can be present, so after much agonising and soul-searching we have decided to allocate those seven spaces to specific, named people.

I very much don’t want to give the impression that we are selecting “the great and the good” or in any way dissing disabled people’s amazing support for the case (and for me). It has overwhelmed me, and moved me to tears, that so many disabled people have shown such incredible support for this case. We’re not intending on creating a “hierarchy” or saying that some are more important than others; it’s not our intention at all. This is just a practical measure, partly for my support on the day (I shall be extremely nervous!), and to deal with the fact that there are limited wheelchair spaces. So I very much hope wheelchair users wanting to attend aren’t too upset or disappointed that these spaces are reserved.

There remain the other six spaces in the separate room with a live video link. In an unprecedented move (after discussion with my legal team), the Supreme Court have decided to run a ballot. This is partly at my suggestion, as otherwise there would be a “first come first served” approach, where the first six wheelchair users in the queue would be allocated the spaces. I didn’t think that would be fair, as many disabled people are limited by realities of care provision and accessible transport as to how early they can get to the court. Also I don’t want disabled people to have to wait outside in whatever weather at horrendous o’clock in the morning (particularly as there would still be a chance that they still wouldn’t get in.)

Details of the ballot are on the Supreme Court website. People wishing to attend should email or phone the Court to give their name and contact details, by 5pm on Monday (13th June 2016). Then at 5pm on Monday, the Court will draw names out of a hat and will contact those that have been successful. Wheelchair users who have not been contacted will not be able to sit in the Court.

The phone number to register is 020 7960 1500 (or as people using text relay will know, 18001 020 7960 1500 for minicom / NGT users) and the email address is enquiries@supremecourt.uk. Please tell them that you wish to register your name for the ballot for the Firstbus case wheelchair spaces.

Those not able to attend in person will be able to watch and listen to the Court proceedings live on the Supreme Court website. The video footage will also be available to watch on their website from Thursday, 16th June.

Access details

The Supreme Court website has some access details, but I visited the Supreme Court myself on Tuesday to have a recce.

The hearing is in the biggest court room, Room 1. I understand that it can accommodate 80 non-wheelchair users, on top of the 8 wheelchair spaces. The wheelchair spaces are at the back (except for me, as I will sit with “my” lawyers at the front.) I tested the loop system with the staff; it is a very good loop system. It is a little quieter right at the back (which is obviously not great for wheelchair users with hearing impairments). I raised this with the staff, and they are attempting to move the equipment so that the back has better coverage. The lighting in the room is good.

The alternative room with the live video feed has moveable chairs, so you can rearrange them if necessary. When I was there the television didn’t have an audio loop on it; but the staff are working on putting one in before the hearing. As far as we are aware, there will not be BSL interpretation or live speech to text reporting.

There is level access at the front door, but then a wheelchair lift or a short flight of stairs. Visitors will be searched before being allowed into the building. Both the Courtroom and the alternative room are accessible by lift. There are two lifts (one operable by anybody, the other only by staff with the relevant key card.) Each lift can accommodate one wheelchair user at a time, plus perhaps two or three non-wheelchair users.

There are three wheelchair-accessible toilets. These seem to be Part M compatible. The space next to the pan is clear and the emergency red cords hang down to the floor. They are on the ground floor, the second floor (where our courtroom is) and the lower ground floor (where the cafe is.) There are also regular toilets on the second floor and the lower ground floor. There isn’t a Changing Places toilet and there is no hoist.

There is a café which serves limited snacks and hot and cold drinks, and souvenirs etc. This has moveable seating and good lighting.

NB: the above are my amateur observations and I am not an access surveyor. For more detailed information, I recommend you contact the Supreme Court.

I’m very excited! and hope all goes well.

May 292016
 

Back in July 2014, whilst on a day trip to Whitby, I ate at the Angel Wetherspoons’ pub. I sent this tweet.

Wetherspoons responded by pulling the CCTV of our meal and interviewing the waitress. They indicated that the portion size was within one standard deviation of the mean of their standard so they were content with the size of the portion. They accounted for my disapproval with the observation that I had been eating for precisely 2 minutes and 17 seconds when I took the photo, and stated that the waitress had testified that I had not indicated any displeasure to her at the time of the meal.

I was impressed with this commitment to customer satisfaction, so when I attended The Corryvreckan (Wetherspoons’ pub in Oban) whilst on holiday last week, I decided to support their analysis with the provision of data from another sample. This is therefore a comparative study of the size of Wetherspoons’ Steak and Kidney pudding meal.

meal diameter The diameter of the meal is approximately 18cm, on a patterned plate of approximately 25cm. The surface area of a plate of diameter d is approximately (πd2)/4, or in this case 490cm2. Of that, approximately 250cm2 was obscured by food or by the gravy pot, that being an occlusion of approximately 51% of the plate. This appears to be roughly equivalent to that of Whitby in 2014; though I note that the practice of providing a gravy boat may give the impression of more food than previously.
 The chips appear to be distributed on the plate in a pseudo-random distribution. The average depth of food on the plate is therefore difficult to estimate, but is perhaps a mean of 1 or 2 centimetres from the deepest point.  chup thickness
 pie diameter 2  The pudding varies in diameter between 7cm at its “base” (the top in this picture) to 10cm at its “top” (the bottom in this picture.) The pudding is approximately 6cm in height. Using the reasonable approximation of a cylinder of diameter 8.5cm, its volume can therefore be approximated using the formula volume=(πd2h)/4=340cm3. The density of cooked ground beef is approximately 1.03gcm-3, essentially indistinguishable from the density of distilled water at standard temperature and pressure (1gcm-3), so I estimate the mass of the pudding is approximately 340g. Comparative research of other single portion steak and kidney pies reveals that this is within an order of magnitude of expectation.
 pie height  pie diameter
 There were precisely 30 chips, varying in length between 2cm and 12cm, with a median length of perhaps 8cm. There was therefore approximately 2.4m of chip on the plate.  chip length
 chip thickness  The average thickness of each chip was 0.64mm. Given the presence of some outliers with tapered ends, I am estimating the total volume of the chips on the plate as being 240cm x 0.6cm x 0.6cm or 86.4cm3. Fried potatoes have a density of 449Kg/m3, or approximately 0.5gcm-3, so I estimate the total mass of chips to be approximately 43g.

Research indicates that the average portion of cooked chips is 200g, and that a few chips either way can make large cost differences. I frankly suspect some scrimping here.

 There were 169 peas. They averaged 0.45cm in diameter. The volume of a sphere of diameter d is (πd3)/6, so each pea measured approximately 0.047cm3. The total peaage was therefore approximately 8cm3.

The NHS states that the “five a day” portions of veg can include “three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables”. A heaped tablespoon is 30cm3. This is therefore about a third of a portion of peas on that plate.

The density of cooked peas is 0.68gcm-3. The mass of peas was therefore approximately 5.5g.

 peas
 pie level  The gravy boat is a new addition since 2014. The depth of the gravy is approximately 3.5cm.

The average individual portion of gravy is approximately 50cm3.  For the gravy boat to hold that amount, it would have to have a surface area of perhaps 14cm2. I estimate that the surface area of this gravy portion exceeds this and therefore we are on the up.

But not all the gravy got eaten, as I was not furnished with a spoon.

 The total mass of the pudding, the peas and the chips was therefore approximately 390g.

The average eating rate varies substantially by individual, food type and circumstances but is approximately 100g per minute. This meal would therefore take the average person approximately 4 minutes to eat.

Of course, because I was being sarcastic and pissing about with a camera and a ruler, it took me substantially longer.

 tally
  drinkheight  My blackcurrant and soda was approximately 11cm in height and the glass was approximately 5.5cm in diameter. Its volume = (πd2h)/4 = 260ml, or just less than half an imperial pint.
 But, of course, some of that was taken up by ice cubes. There were 5, with an average size of 1.5cm. The total volume of ice was therefore 5 x 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 = approximately 17ml.

In approximately half of cases, restaurant ice has over 1,000 colliform bacteria per cube (i.e. faecal bacteria) and is thus more contaminated than toilet water.

On average, there was therefore probably 2,500 poo-based bacteria in the ice cubes in that glass.

 ice cube size
 receipt length  The receipt varied from 19cm in length to 20.5cm, at a width of 8cm. The total surface area of the receipt was therefore 164cm2. At an assumed weight of 58gm-2, the paper weighed approximately 9mg – or approximately a billionth of the mass of this European oak tree.

Conclusion

I hope that this comparative study of the dimensional composition of my meal is to the exacting standards of Wetherspoons and contributes to their body of statistical analysis of their meal – and I look forward to their prompt analysis as to whether their Oban staff complied with Wetherspoons’ evil corporate penny-pinching control-freak bollocks.

Leonard Cheshire’s bonfire of user empowerment

 Leonard Cheshire  Comments Off on Leonard Cheshire’s bonfire of user empowerment
Apr 272016
 

Governance failures

charities02-opinionI’ve already noted all is not well at Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD): the Chief Executive and the Head of HR left at no notice. (LCD’s PR team told a Third Sector magazine journalist that Pelham would stay on until replaced, but now LCD refute having said any such thing.) Now the Interim Chief Executive has announced that she’s leaving LCD too as soon as LCD appoints a new CEO (anticipated in September / October.)

We now know why this is happening: LCD have a £750,000 hole in their budget for the year. (They primarily blame the National “Living” Wage for this; though we know that they did precious little to prepare for the increased wage bill – and what they did claim to do was proven to be a lie.) The new Chair of the Trustees has conducted exit interviews of senior staff, whom have been very forthright about Clare Pelham. It is widely acknowledged that Clare was only motivated by the wish to become “Lady Pelham”. LCD have lost industry confidence due to pervasive doubts about their governance – a large consultancy decided not to bid for a contract valued at £200,000 per year due to their significant concerns about LCD’s management competence.

The senior directors aren’t any loss; but the other staff LCD’s making redundant most definitely are – both in the homes they are closing and elsewhere.

In earlier years, LCD had a reasonably successful “Service User Support Team” (SUST). These disabled employees worked as facilitators and mentors throughout the UK, tasked with empowering service users to achieve greater independence. This had some moderate success. As one (charming) resident in a LCD care home put it:

Every time I see a cabbage it reminds me that I could still have been in the cabbage patch myself, if I hadn’t been persuaded that there was a life for me outside.

Leonard Cheshire obviously couldn’t let a moderately successful user empowerment project stay unmolested, so they attempted to shut it down. There was an outcry, so in the end LCD just got rid of most of the employees, leaving a vestigial staff of 14 isolated disabled people dotted round the country, in the renamed “Customer Support Team” (CST). Each part-time staff member was charged with single-handedly empowering hundreds of care home residents and domiciliary care service users across their (massive) patch. Despite being manifestly overstretched and under resourced, they made a genuine difference to disabled people’s lives, because these workers genuinely cared about the rights of Leonard Cheshire’s service users.

Disabled user empowerment workers made redundant

"And when we want your opinion, we'll tell you what it is!" - "Federation of Charities for the Disabled"Leonard Cheshire are annihilating them. LCD has cut the Customer Support Team budget from £450,000 to £0,000 overnight. LCD is starting a sham “consultation” on 9th May (a bit like their sham “consultation” on the closure of Honresfeld home) but as there is no money, it is pretty clear that LCD will make all CST staff redundant. (Some have already announced their redundancy.)

The reason LCD gave for this budget cut is that its trustees took so long to consider the team’s future (over 5 months) that its budget for 2016/17 was still undecided come April 1st. That would be bad enough if it was genuine; however I note that £450,000 p.a. is a significant saving towards the £750,000 deficit, and I suspect this is the real reason. Meanwhile the “consultation” can’t start until 9th May because Mark Elliott (Leonard Cheshire’s non-disabled Director of Development) is on a multi-week holiday in South Africa. (Good of him to check everything was A-OK with his team before swanning off [not] – perhaps he should bugger off permanently like Clare Pelham [CEO] and Vicki Hemming [HR director.])

Leonard Cheshire hasn’t told its own service users about this. Senior staff are discouraging the CST from telling us, which puts the employees in an invidious position – do they risk their references by telling service users their empowerment service is being given the boot? The CST’s dedicated team of disabled people already have to cope with being told at three weeks notice that there’s no budget for their wages, forcing them to seek employment elsewhere with great urgency (and we know disabled people experience many barriers when seeking employment, even at the best of times.) In the meantime, LCD are refusing to answer any questions about the situation (from anybody, including from the CST) until the “consultation” process starts.

The Customer Action Network, a user-led organisation attempting to provide representation of LCD service users despite continual interference and undermining by LCD, wants to start a petition to save the CST – but is being asked to delay this until the CST are under formal review. I’m glad to say the Network sent it out anyway – the petition is here.

That’s how LCD are treating the dedicated, hard-working and caring disabled people who (until now) did their best to empower LCD service users despite inadequate resources and lack of support. (i.e. those whom actually attempted the user empowerment for which LCD claims credit.)

Where their priorities really lie…

LCD have four directors who each earn between £100,000 and £150,000 per year, between them earning the equivalent of the Customer Support Team’s  entire budget. The Customer Support Team are the only posts in the charity ring-fenced for disabled people. They’re the only posts specifically aimed at empowering service users.

I think LCD’s treatment of the CST and of Honresfeld residents and staff proves that LCD’s claim to be focussed on disabled people’s rights is as hollow as so many people have said for years.

(With thanks to the excellent Crippen / Dave Lupton Cartoons for both cartoons on this page, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.)

Apr 142016
 

Leonard Cheshire announced on 11th March that their CEO Clare Pelham was resigning.

A spokeswoman for the charity said Pelham, who has no immediate role to move to, would stay in post until her successor was appointed and had no set date for leaving.

“Acting” Chief Executive

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Leonard Cheshire’s website was updated on the afternoon of 11th April. There is now an “acting Chief Executive” – former Director of Services, Rosemarie Pardington.

So what happened to Clare Pelham’s promise to “stay in post until her successor was appointed“? There’s been no announcement by Leonard Cheshire, or by Clare Pelham (on Twitter or in the Huff; she doesn’t seem to have a Linked In profile.) As I previously noted, there’s no way that a career politician like Clare would have left voluntarily without another job lined up. Now she’s left / been given the kick without even working her notice.

Given LCD’s typical silence, we are left guessing WHY she’s gone. I note that they have form for CEOs botching things and leaving at no notice, and Goodness knows there are enough reasons for getting rid of the odious, duplicitous, disempowering, disablist, cripple-kicking Clare Pelham, but it’s unlikely this is why (after all, LCD rarely let reason cloud their judgement.)

HR director also buggered off

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I think we may draw some inference from the fact that their People Director, Vicky Hemming, has ALSO gone –  without waiting for a replacement, leaving Patricia Williamson as interim People Director (whose 7+ previous positions strongly suggest adherence to the Seagull school of management.)

We may remember that former people director Vicky Hemming had lied. She claimed that Leonard Cheshire Disability had written to all local authorities asking for increases in fees so that LCD could pay their carers the Living Wage, but that was proven irrefutably untrue.

Where’s the money?

Rumour is that our Clare and Vicky have left Leonard Cheshire in severe financial difficulties. They failed to prepare for the increased National Minimum Wage (which Osborne disingenuously refers to as the “National Living Wage“.) This has resulted in rapid closure of LCD homes with an “uncaring disregard for the wellbeing of residents” (to quote Rochdale Council and Rochdale Clinical Commissioning Group – and I now hear that other LCD homes are closing.)

It has also caused operating difficulties throughout the charity, because whilst carers‘ wages have increased, senior carers‘ wages haven’t for years and are now pretty much equal to carers‘. This has led many seniors to wonder why they should take on the extra responsibility of administering medication and running shifts, when they aren’t paid. It has also led to LCD returning to their favourite tactic of evicting residents who dare to raise concerns.

Cheers!

There’s undoubtedly much more to this story than meets the eye, but LCD are about as open as the Gestapo (albeit about as competent as Herr Flick) so unless and until some kind soul leaks again to Third Sector, one can only speculate. (and hope against experience that this won’t affect service users.)

Still, we have little enough reason to celebrate these days, and I think that dumping Clare Pelham and Vicky Hemming can only be a good thing – so Cheers! (And potential new employers of either – Caveat emptor!)

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