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Wheelchair-user told: Prove that you’re disabled

26 April, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Rose-Marie McDonald: ‘Staff seem to be taking it far more to the limit than they need to’

COUNCIL workers who left a woman in a wheelchair in tears after asking her for proof of her disability have been criticised by Town Hall chiefs for being on a “power trip”.

Rose-Marie McDonald, of the Disability Action in Islington (DIA) lobby group, escorted a friend in a wheelchair to 222 Upper Street, the council’s main offices, so she could receive quicker responsive repairs due to disability.

She told a housing scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday how they were asked by a worker to prove that her friend was disabled – despite the fact she was in a wheelchair.

“That is just ridiculous,” she said. “Staff seem to be taking it far more to the limit than they need to.”

Ms McDonald’s account came during the committee’s review of how the council can improve the way it works with vulnerable, frail and disabled people.

Clerkenwell councillor Ben Mackmurdie said that the fault did not necessarily lie with management or the policy.

“It’s the person on the day and how they react,” he added. “It comes down to people just getting a power trip or they’re not in the mood today, then four o’clock comes and they’re out the door.”

One of the recommendations set out by the committee a year ago was for the council to develop a “matrix” so housing services can record the needs of vulnerable and disabled people in greater detail.

Council officers responded to this by developing a “resilience” matrix.

A report says: “We are using the term ‘resilience’ as ‘vulnerability’ can be seen as a negative term and it is hard to come up with one definition of vulnerability that covers the various needs of a wide resident base. We recognise that vulnerability can be fluid and people can move in and out of vulnerability depending on their circumstances and multiple external factors.”

Finsbury Park councillor Gary Heather said the council needed to be more flexible.

He added: “You can create the most brilliant matrix you like, but it cannot cover every eventuality.

“When a situation occurs as has been described there needs to be an element of discretion.

“That might mean that you might have to escalate to someone to make a decision, but that’s the sort of thing I’d be looking for as good management practice in the council.”

The committee decided to note the concern raised by Ms McDonald and work this into a new training scheme for council workers.

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