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Bulletin No. 92, May 2011


In this month's bulletin: new roles helping people with AT, guides to travel and services for disabled people, more about the year of communication, a pause in the NHS reforms, and tighter eligibility criteria for social care.

This news bulletin highlights innovation in AT service delivery and FAST welcomes contributions.


  1. RAatE 2011
  2. AT Workforce Development
  3. Mobility and Transport
  4. Medical Devices
  5. Information and Communications Technology
  6. Healthcare
  7. Social Care
  8. Services for Older People
  9. Rights for Disabled People
  10. Welfare Reform
  11. Social Mobility and Poverty
  12. Services for Children and Young People
  13. The Third Sector
  14. Support for Business
  15. News in Brief

1. RAatE 2011

This year's RAatE conference will be held on Monday, 28 November 2011 at the University of Warwick Conference Centre. The only UK conference focused on the latest innovations in AT, RAatE 2011 will be of interest to everyone who uses, works with, develops or conducts research in the field of AT. RAatE is known as a friendly and productive conference that offers the chance to meet and share knowledge and experiences with other people working in AT.

The Call for Papers for RAatE 2011 is now open and individuals are invited to submit:

  • Papers for a 20 minute platform presentation
  • Case Studies for a 20 minute platform presentation
  • Posters

under one of the following topics:

  • Services - Aspects of Service Delivery
  • Developments & Challenges in Wheelchair Services
  • New Service Demands: Commissioning of Re-ablement & AT Services
  • Emerging Technologies & Recent Advances in AT
  • Case Studies of Innovative AT in Practice

As with previous years, submissions may include reporting on research projects, service developments, case studies, evaluations, new developments or reviews.

In addition to research papers or new innovations this year RAatE welcomes offers of presentations on how specialist aspects of assistive technology are delivered within services. With an ever expanding range of technology, how do services meet the increasing needs and expectations of their client groups? In particular RAatE welcomes hearing how services provide specialist aspects of assistive technology such as specialist wheelchair controls, integrated access, communication requirements or environmental controls. Challenges and solutions that have worked locally can be presented inthe form of case studies or group presentations. The deadline for the call for papers is 8th July 2011 and submissions can be made via the RAatE website here.

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2. AT Workforce Development

Skills for Care's New Types of Worker (NtoW) programme explores how people's care needs change and how the adult social care workforce has to adapt to meet these changes. A new report 'Learning from Innovation' summarises lessons from local sites for policy makers, commissioners, and employers. New roles such as ‘assistive technology champion’ can help people make the most of assistive technology and contribute to personalisation, prevention, self care, safety and independent living. 

An overview of new roles emerging from the use of assistive technologies is here, and other resources from the NToW programme are available here.

The South East Health Technologies Alliance (SEHTA), the International Centre of Excellence in Telecare (ICE-T) and the South East of England Development Agency (SEEDA), in connection with the PEOPLE TCares project (details here) held a one day conference at the end of March focused on education and training in telecare and telehealth, with the aim of building sector consensus on how to move towards a national strategy.

The outcome of the meeting is that a broad strategy will be developed that includes work being considered by the sector skills councils Skills for Care and Skills for Health, marketing activity to persuade decision makers of the need for a broad workforce development strategy, further consultation activity at the Telecare Services Association (TSA) Conference in November and links to the plan for the Technology Strategy Board's ALIP DALLAS programme. Further details will be available from FAST and SEHTA in early June and anyone interested in finding out more is invited to contact Keren Down at Fast ( and David Parry at Sehta (

For FAST’s feasibility study on AT workforce development follow this link

For the Scottish workforce development strategy 'Telehealthcare in Scotland: Education and Training Strategy 2010-12', go here

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3. Mobility and Transport

An article in the Guardian draws attention to problems experienced by young wheelchair users who want to use technologically advanced wheelchairs. Legal anomalies requiring a driving licence to operate wheelchairs weighing more than 150Kg have meant a teenager from Cheshire has been unable to have a powered chair supplied via a grant from a disability charity. The charity, Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, is campaigning for an amendment to the legislation. More information here and here

Following concerns about incidents involving mobility scooters, the previous government consulted on their safe use and impact on pedestrians and other road users. The current government intends to respond ‘in due course’. The Commons Transport Committee also published a report which is available via this link.

Older people’s charity Counsel and Care is supporting Living Streets' Neighbourhood Heroes campaign, which highlights the fact that many people, including some of the most vulnerable, struggle to access essential local shops and services on foot. More on the campaign here.

As of 1 April 2011, GPs are no longer involved in eligibility assessments for the Blue Badge (Disabled Parking) Scheme, which is being reformed. Local authorities are now responsible for these assessments. There is more information on the Department for Transport website here, and the ministerial statement on the changes is available here.

The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) has published the downloadable guide, ‘Accessible Travel: Information for Disabled and Less Mobile People’. This provides a wide range of information for disabled drivers, users of mobility scooters, and those travelling by public transport here and abroad. The guide is here.

Mobilise, the charity for disabled drivers and scooter users, has changed its name to Disabled Motoring UK. More information via this link.  

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4. Medical Devices

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has published the following Medical Device Alerts:  

  • Sterile urine drainage bags manufactured by Unomedical a/s (MDA/2011/037) (details here)
  • Quickie Neon Swing-Away manual wheelchairs manufactured by Sunrise Medical (MDA/2011/039) (details here)

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5. Information and Communications Technology

Presentations from the first International Congress on Telehealth and Telecare, including updates from the UK’s Whole System Demonstrator Programme, are available via this link.

The Guardian has a report suggesting Scotland is ahead of England in its approach to implementing telecare and telehealth technologies. Dr James Ferguson, the lead clinician at the Scottish Centre for Telehealth, says because patients in Scotland are often a long way from clinicians, there has been a drive to include remote monitoring and support as an integral part of care packages. More details here.

Patients prefer long term conditions to be monitored from home, according to a survey of 200 patients using telehealth in North Yorkshire, which showed that 96% of those currently using telehealth would recommend the technology to others. To find out more, go here.

E-accessibility charity AbilityNet has launched a new national awards scheme, backed by digital champion Martha Lane Fox and supported by BT, to ‘celebrate the innovative and diverse ways in which charities, businesses, schools, government and the public have harnessed the power of technology to bring positive social benefits for others’. Nominations are open until 9 May. More about the Technology4Good Awards is available here.

The UK’s switchover to digital TV is rolling out across the country. The Switchover Help Scheme can provide everyone aged 75 and over or eligible disabled people with everything needed to switch one TV to digital. More details here.

The charity Communication Matters is supporting the 'Hello'  campaign to promote 2011 as the national year of communication, including events about augmentative and alternative communication. Details here, and the Hello website is here.  

The work of the ACE Centre was featured in a TV programme on the Community Channel on 13 April. The experiences of the parents of young people with communication difficulties were highlighted as part of the "Untold Stories" series, hosted by Channel 4 newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy. More about the programme here and here.

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6. Healthcare

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has announced that a ‘natural break’ in the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill through Parliament will be used to ‘listen to, engage with and learn from experts, patients and front-line staff within the NHS and beyond’ and to bring forward amendments to ‘improve’ the NHS reforms. Areas for clarification include competition and accountability. The Commons statement and debate are here.

There is more about the ‘listening exercise’, which will be overseen by a new independent advisory group the NHS Future Forum, here and here

A letter from NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson urges the NHS to ‘maintain momentum’ while announcing delays in implementing some of the reforms. More details via this link.

The Commons Health Committee believes that plans to reform NHS commissioning need to be significantly changed. The MPs propose that nurses, hospital doctors and local authorities should be represented alongside GPs in new statutory ‘NHS Commissioning Authorities’. Their report is here.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee is concerned that the reorganisation might distract those responsible for making efficiency savings of £20 billion by 2014/15. More information here.
Across England, 220 groups of GP practices covering nearly 90% of the population have come forward as pathfinders for GP commissioning consortia. More here

A Royal College of Nursing survey of specialist nurses has revealed cutbacks in support at home for people with long-term conditions. Details via this link.

The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement has published resources on joined-up care which are available here.

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7. Social Care

Following consultation, the government has published the first national ‘Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework’ for the year 2011/12. Key areas include helping people manage their own support and ‘delaying and reducing the need for care and support’. The consultation response and outcomes framework are here

The outcomes framework is designed to support the government’s ‘Vision for adult social care’ (key principles include personalisation and prevention), which is here.

Over 30 organisations, including user and carer-led groups, central and local government, service providers and third sector agencies, have endorsed Think Local, Act Personal (details here) the sector-wide statement of intent that links the government's vision for social care and the previous ‘Putting People First’ concordat. More information via this link

According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, 19 local authorities in England have raised their eligibility criteria for free adult social care. Six councils, including the largest, Birmingham, aim to limit free care to people in ‘critical’ need. Most --116 of 148 councils surveyed-- only fund people with ‘substantial’ needs and only 22 local authorities now fund people with ‘moderate’ needs. A report in the Guardian is here.

Birmingham Council's plan to raise eligibility thresholds for social care from ‘substantial’ to ‘critical’ has been found unlawful in a case brought by four disabled residents. A High Court judge ruled the proposals unlawful because the council had failed to pay due regard to the impact on disabled people during the decision-making process, contravening disability discrimination legislation. A report in Community Care is here.

The Commission on Funding of Care and Support, which is to report by the end of July, has published the results of its Call for Evidence. This showed considerable backing for a partnership model – where both the state and the individual share responsibility. Respondents also argued for extra resources for adult social care, more effective integration of health and social care, better information and advice, and a national framework of assessment and eligibility. Many argued that prevention and early intervention, including telecare and reablement services, was a key area for more investment, which would then produce savings for the NHS and other services. The summary of responses is here.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow has announced the six sites which will pilot social worker-led practices for adult social care, and set out plans to strengthen the legislation on direct payments for care users. More details here.

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8. Services for Older People

The Dementia and Sight Loss Interest Group, a coalition of leading charities, has released a report summarising the presentations at their recent conference, which is here

A survey of memory services in England is being undertaken as part of a National Audit of Dementia Services. Details here.

According to Age UK, Shadow Health Secretary John Healey is leading a review into Labour Party policy on older people. More information via this link.

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9. Rights for Disabled People

The charity RADAR has published updated editions of its information guide ‘If Only I’d Known that A Year Ago’ and its guide to the national key scheme for accessible toilets. Both are available from the RADAR shop. More information here.

The Paralympics begins on 29 August 2012, and tickets for the events will go on sale on 9th September 2011. There is more about the run-up to the Paralympics and sport for disabled people here and here.

According to a new government report, the Paralympic Games should transform perceptions of disabled people. More details via this link.

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10. Welfare Reform

Following consultation, the government has confirmed that disability living allowance will be replaced with a new personal independence payment from 2013/14, which will for the first time include regular reassessments. A ‘more objective assessment of need’ will be developed with the help of disability organisations and disabled people. The government believes that ‘it is right and fair for the assessment to take some account of the successful use of aids and adaptations where they help individuals carry out activities’ but commits to do so in a way that is ‘proportionate and appropriate’, as this is a ‘very important area to get right’. The mobility component will not be removed from care home residents in 2012 as proposed, but will be reviewed as part of the changes. The statement is here.

Under changes which will cap housing benefits for private sector tenants, disabled people with a long-term health condition who need overnight care or live with someone with similar needs may now be able to claim housing benefit for a private rented property which has an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer. A Discretionary Housing Payment Fund will also provide a safety net for vulnerable people. More about the changes here.

Incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance and income support paid because of illness or disability are being phased out and claimants are being re-assessed to see if they are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance. More about the changes here and here

Carers UK has published briefings for carers and disabled people on the government’s welfare reform plans which are available via this link.

Disabled people will be marching and lobbying Parliament on 11 May to protest about government plans. Details here.

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11. Social Mobility and Poverty

The Deputy Prime Minister has published new social mobility and child poverty strategies and announced a new Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. The aim is to ‘ensure everyone has a fair opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth’. Both strategies recognise the relationship between disability, poverty and unemployment and set out government plans to support disabled people into employment where possible. Plans include ‘reforming the Access to Work programme so that disabled people can apply for jobs with funding already secured for any adaptations and equipment they will need’. The child poverty strategy, which is based on the understanding that ‘poverty is not just about income’, sets out a framework for tackling child poverty from 2011-2014 and provides ‘a new approach for ending child poverty by 2020’. Measures to support children and young people who are disabled or have special educational needs (SEN) were announced in the recent SEN green paper (see our April bulletin). The press release and strategies are here.

According to a new report from the OECD, progress in child poverty reduction in the UK has stalled. More here and here

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12. Services for Children and Young People

A duty on English local authorities to provide breaks from caring for families with disabled children has come into force. More here and here.

The government’s Communications Champion has published resources on commissioning services for children with speech, language and communication needs. Details via this link

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13. The Third Sector

Skill, the national charity for students with disabilities, has ceased operating due to financial difficulties. Its website resources and information booklets are still available. The announcement is here.

The government is consulting on guidance on how local authorities should ‘work with voluntary and community groups when facing difficult funding decisions’. This is part of a new 'social responsibility' deal which asks that councils give greater support for local community groups. For more informatin, follow this link.

Disability Challengers - a Surrey based children’s charity offering exciting activities and play opportunities for disabled children and young people – is the latest winner of the Prime Minister’s weekly Big Society Award. There is more about the charity here and about the award here. The first  winner in the scheme  was Central Surrey Health – South East, a social enterprise providing community nursing and therapy services. Details here.

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14. Support for Business

The government has announced a £20 million management training fund for small businesses and social enterprises. Details here.
The government's new Red Tape Challenge website is asking the public to help cut ‘unnecessary’ regulations. The website is here. One current area of focus is the Equality Act 2010 (details here), and there will be discussion of the opportunities to cut red tape in the health living and social care sector starting 23rd June 2011.

The terms of reference for a review of health and safety legislation are here.

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15. News in Brief

Community Equipment and Wheelchair Services
To book for the NAEP Annual Conference 2011, 21st to 23rd June 201, go here.

Disabled Living Foundation
The Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) has added three new sections to its impartial advice and information website on daily living equipment ‘Living made easy’. These cover communication, clothing and footwear, and mobility and walking. The site also provides information about where to buy equipment in a particular area, the interactive guide AskSARA, and the opportunity to ask DLF’s occupational therapists questions. ‘Living made easy’ is available via this link, and there is more news from DLF here.

AT Procurement
The procurement agency Buying Solutions has published a guide to the assistive technologies framework agreement which is available via this link.

Warm Front Scheme
The Warm Front scheme, which provides insulation and heating improvements for older and disabled people receiving certain benefits, has a new set of eligibility criteria and is accepting new applications. Full information here.

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