Review of Disability Policy and Practice
The OIA is today publishing, as promised in Recommendation 16 of Pathway 1 (February 2010), the review and recommendations of a report on policy and practice in relation to complaints from disabled students, commissioned from the eminent employment lawyer, Sue Ashtiany. The publication of this report was delayed pending the publication of the Court of Appeal's Judgment in the case of Shelley Maxwell and the OIA. We are grateful to Sue Ashtiany for her constructive and independent assessment.
The OIA is pleased to note: that its disability training and workshop programme "compared well with such initiatives by other public bodies"; "no evidence of a lack of understanding of the law in documents from or discussions with the OIA"; "no evidence to support the criticism of lack of understanding of the claim which is one of the key concerns evidently expressed by students with disabilities and their advisers"; and "an active engagement with and consideration of disability issues". We also note Sue Ashtiany’s conclusion that "I have found no evidence of any systemic problems in the work of the OIA. On the contrary I consider that in the cases I reviewed the rather difficult remit is well understood and well met. I was also impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the staff with whom I spoke."
The OIA will now pay careful attention to the recommendations in the Ashtiany Report, summarised in paragraph 30. These include: a review of the OIA's website and literature setting out more precisely the role of the OIA in adjudicating cases relating to disability; making a clearer distinction between conclusions and recommendations in decision letters; further development of internal guidance to support adjudication staff; and greater dialogue with Scheme users about what works well and what does not, and the institution of case reviews following case completion. We are considering the recommendation of 'evaluative mediation' in the context of an on-going, wider review of our approach to mediation and conciliation at all points of the OIA's process, most particularly in the Assessment Team.
Sue Ashtiany’s Biography
Sue Ashtiany is a prominent employment and discrimination lawyer. Sue runs her own firm of Ashtiany Associates and is also a consultant at Nabarro LLP.
She has held a number of non-executive posts including seven years as a commissioner at the Equal Opportunities Commission, and six years as a non-executive director and member of the Audit Committee of Channel 4 Corporation. She is currently a Trustee of the Charities Aid Foundation and a Government ambassador for diversity in public office.