About a month ago, I got Covid and had to isolate. I turned more to the television and saw several pieces featuring Disabled people talking about what I can only describe as hate crimes. This included sexual assaults on a woman in a wheelchair and verbal abuse of a child with a visible disability.
A hate crime is defined as ‘Any criminal offence which is viewed by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability or perceived disability or other protected characteristic.
I then began to think about how Council officers have treated me as someone with mobility and visual impairments. I had put the episodes of ill treatment down to ignorance, lack of training and an absence of adequate supervision, but now I wondered if the cause was something deeper than this? Does it indicate they consider those of us with impairments as scroungers or liars, exaggerating our problems to get services to which we are not entitled? Does it, indeed, suggest hostility or even hate?
Recently, while I was recovering from intensive care following major surgery I was repeatedly told that unless I gave evidence online that I lived where I said I did, my car would be removed. I told the officers I was unable to upload the evidence due to my visual impairment and that I needed a car to get me to hospital in case of an emergency. At no point, however, did I feel the officers empathised with me.
Then I was prevented from getting a blue badge because I was unable to upload pages of hospital letters detailing my medical conditions. I suggested that officers visit my house and examine my 15 files of medical information. I was told that officers are not allowed to visit applicants’ homes because it’s deemed a health and safety risk. I asked for a copy of the risk assessment they had done on me and got no response!
I used the Freedom of Information Act to find out the refusal rate of blue badge applications in Camden. In some 15 months, 1,389 people had been refused, about 26% of the total applicants. I asked the manager what analysis had been done of the reasons for refusals and if different officers had different rates. No response. I put this failure to respond down to poor administration or perhaps, though I have no proof, to my weekly critical letters in the Camden New Journal most of which are about the poor treatment of Disabled people.
My local chemists has also faced difficulties with parking permits thanks to the unempathetic attitudes of council officers. For well over two decades, I have used our community pharmacy for my and my wife’s large number of prescriptions and have long been impressed by the role it plays in the community. Its staff speak a range of languages, deliver prescriptions to the housebound, fetch supplies and provide over-the-counter methadone to drug users. It really is pillar of the community.
But the role it plays in helping unwell and Disabled people has not enabled it to escape the blinkered attentions of council officers.
Out of the blue, its staff received a letter from the Council threatening to cancel, with minimum notice, their business parking permit unless they suppled a wealth of documents online.
By all means check on business permits but pharmacies are special. Threats to severely limit their services for disabled people seems not only discriminatory but bordering on being a hate incident or, at least, an indication of a culture of bias against disabled people in parts of the Council?
The pharmacy told me this action would have a profound effect on its operations and the health of its customers and it has given me written permission to take up their case.
I have asked the revelant Council manager to provide me with details about the reason for this action and a copy of any risk assessment carried out by officers, but have been refused on the basis that providing this information would be a breach of the Data Protection Act.
As with other cases, I suspect that the familiar tactic being used is now to ignore my emails and attempted phone calls.
I will continue to pursue this as the effects on our community, including me and my wife, could be devastating. Why are the Council’s managers allowing these behaviours to continue?
A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.
Maybe my comparison with hate incidents is exaggerated, but the impact of the lack of oversight by senior leaders at the Countess of Chester Hospital is but one example of how poor supervision can indeed have consequences every bit as bad those resulting from acts of hat