Five-year-old Mark is disabled and autistic. He faced attending school without his younger brother Adam, who is also one of his carers and his main social support. Mark’s Statement of Educational Needs meant he was given a place at a mainstream school with specialist facilities, though it was out of catchment. His brother, however, was refused a place under the admission policy. The boys’ parents unsuccessfully challenged the ruling – without legal help – and, with the two children at different schools, Mark’s mental health soon deteriorated.
The parents came to us for advice. We challenged the ruling on the grounds it discriminated against Mark’s disability. We argued reasonable adjustments should be made to the policy to allow statemented children to be treated the same as those in catchment.
Following our legal representations to the Local Authority and school governors, the admission policy was changed and Adam was given the next available place at the school. The boys now play together every break time. Mark’s well-being improved and he enjoys school.
When young black shop assistant Greta started her job, it was agreed she did not have to work Sundays, because she ran a Sunday school. But, subsequently, when a new shop manager started, she was sacked on the spot for not working that day. Greta loved her job, but did not think she could stand up to her manager. She came to us for help.
We sent a letter to senior management appealing against the dismissal on the grounds of religious discrimination – and she was reinstated immediately.
Omar has long-standing mental health problems but felt too proud to tell his employer. That is until his performance was rigorously reviewed. Near the end of the process he made known his disability, but it was ignored and he was dismissed. Omar, with the help of a private solicitor, paid by his legal expenses insurance, tried to challenge the decision in an Employment Tribunal, arguing the employer should have adjusted its procedures to allow for his disability. But they had to abandon the challenge when further funds were rejected on the basis the claim was unlikely to succeed. We were contacted and took over the claim.
The claim was settled three days before the hearing. Omar was given a reasonable amount of money and an agreed reference. This helped him to secure new employment.
Martin’s offer of a job as a building worker was withdrawn because he has diabetes. The company believed he might have hypoglycaemic episodes at work so was deemed a health and safety risk. But his diabetes was under control and all he needed were regular work breaks.
We were approached and settled the matter quickly. Martin, who had lost out on a regular income to support his young family, recouped his losses. The company had very little knowledge about discrimination law and we hope this case will prevent other disabled candidates suffering in the same way in the future.
Iraqi woman Sahra was one of three workers taken on for a three month period and just before the contract ended, she told her employer she was pregnant. But while her colleagues’ contracts were extended, Sahra’s was not. She spoke very little English and called on us for help. We filed an appeal against dismissal then a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
This was settled with compensation paid and an agreed reference provided. Sahra said: “Although this was blatant discrimination I could not have taken action without the help of ISCRE’s Suffolk Discrimination Law Project.”
Gypsy Margaret was well known locally. When she went to a nearby department store, an assistant would watch her every move. She believed she was being treated as a potential shoplifter because of her heritage. We facilitated and supported her through mediation.
A settlement was reached. And shop staff is now given additional training.
Wheelchair-user Louisa could not access her local bank’s counter services. For more than a year, we worked together to try to persuade the bank to improve its disabled access. It was only after the threat of litigation that the bank agreed to take part in mediation.
The bank agreed to redesign the branch’s queuing and counter services to make them more accessible to wheelchair users. This had national impact as the bank then rolled out the new designs to branches across the country. Louisa was just above the financial limit for legal aid – without SDLS’s help she could not have pursued her case
John is black and suffers from mental health problems. Following a campaign of racial harassment by his neighbour, he was violently attacked. Despite many willing and independent witnesses, it was John who was arrested – and the neighbour merely cautioned.
With our help, John made a detailed complaint to the police. This resulted in a disciplinary hearing for the police officer concerned, during which he admitted racial discrimination. At the same time, the advice agency worked with the local force to improve its understanding of unlawful discrimination and develop relevant policies and staff supervision. Social policy work like this is not funded under legal aid.