Disabled people “still second class citizens” in Norfolk

Jonathan Toye is stepping down from running West Norfolk Disability Information Service after 20 yea

Jonathan Toye is stepping down from running West Norfolk Disability Information Service after 20 years. Photo: Emily Prince - Credit: Archant

Disabled people are still second class citizens, says a campaigner who has spent two decades fighting for their rights.

Jonathan Toye, 64, from Broomhill in Downham Market, is stepping down after running West Norfolk Disability Information Service (WNDIS) for nearly 20 years.

When asked about the changes over the last 20 years, he said: 'We [WNDIS] came together because we wanted something local to help fight battles in court. Some thing's haven't changed, we're still at the bottom of the pile by government bodies.

'In 1999 there was the introduction of the Disability and Discrimination Act, and it was successful as a lot of people were breaking the law, but it was only around for 10 years as it was then adopted by the Quality Commission which made it difficult to fight important cases.'

There have been a number of changes to disability and discrimination rights since he has been in post, but Mr Toye said that Universal Credit was the worst of them all.

He said: 'It should be scrapped, it is a threat to millions of people. The government told a big lie saying that you would be better off. It hasn't worked since it was piloted a few years ago.

'The concept of everything being online has completely ignored people who don't have access to a computer, don't know how to use one or can't handle using one. Also if people are used to a daily budget, getting a bigger, monthly one, things will get worse.'

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Mr Toye thanked the 'wonderful volunteers' that give their time to support WNDIS..

'It's not a one man show,' he said. 'Everyone knows volunteers have a shelf life as no-one can do it forever, but we have had a steady stream of volunteers and long may it continue.'

With Mr Toye stepping down, the hunt is on for his successor, who would be staying on for four or five months to help train them up.

'We are an information centre but also an advocacy service. They will need training on how to run benefit appeals, fight cuts to care and any other discrimination case.

'Funding is always on the back on our minds as we've nearly had to close a few times over the years. We're looking for someone who really cares.'

Applications are being taken now. Contact Mr Toye on 01553 782558 or email jt@windis.or.uk

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