Research

Research reports

‘Dreaming and the onset of chronic illness’ (2017)

This paper draws on an analysis of 61 dreams – logged during the onset of a chronic autoimmune condition – to explore and develop Gewargis’s recently explicated theory that dreams serve to safeguard the living organism during sleep. The study concluded inter alia that dreams communicate a range of potential problems with the sleeping body, and not just, as Gewargis seems to suggest, inadequate blood flow to the brain or air to the lungs. The study also generated six categories of problem with differing propensities to wake the dreamer from sleep and allow ameliorative action to be taken. Of particular note, new problems (not present on going to sleep) were more likely to be reflected in dreams and wake the dreamer than pre-existing or reoccurring problems; with the paper suggesting a possible evolutionary explanation for this. The paper also concludes that dreams might provide a monitoring-alerting mechanism in relation to the external environment, and proposes a three fold categorisation of external stimuli. For example, familiar, non-threatening, low intensity external stimuli (such as normal rain) are assumed to not in general be reflected in dreams. Based upon thematic dream analysis, the paper goes onto propose five principle types of narrative scenario that serve to wake the dreamer from sleep in the event of internal or external perturbations. These include, for example, unachievable goals, such as the dreamer having dreamt that he was unable to find his shoes among hundreds of others. The paper also suggests that a form of consciousness between lucid dreaming and non-lucid dreaming could be entailed in bringing someone out of deep sleep; and suggests that nightmares are maladapted to a monitoring-alerting function. However, it is accepted that there are major limitations to a non-experimental naturalistic study of a psychophysiological phenomenon such as dreaming; and, therefore, the paper does no more than suggest that it has generated a number of credible hypotheses which could be further developed and tested in future research.
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‘What has limited the impact of UK disability equality law on social justice?’ (2016)

The literature indicates that disabled workers in the UK experience more social injustice than UK workers as a whole, including in relation to employment rates and wage levels. Drawing on the author’s 2015 qualitative study of 265 disabled workers, this paper considers how successful the Equality Act 2010 Reasonable Adjustments Duty has been in tackling this social injustice. It finds that in the context of the “flexible” labour force (consisting of insecure jobs), and the “reformed” welfare state, the Reasonable Adjustments Duty is ill-equipped to achieve its original purpose of reducing the substantial disadvantage that disabled workers face. As regards the “flexible” labour force, there appeared, for example, to be a strong reluctance to make reasonable adjustments for workers on zero hours contracts; while, as regards the impact of welfare reform, fear of being dismissed and facing benefit sanctions discouraged zero hours workers from pushing for adjustments which had been refused. The paper goes on to suggest a possible wording for a strengthened Reasonable Adjustments Duty. It concludes, however, that, without changes to unfair dismissal, and other labour laws, to address the wider iniquities of the flexible labour market, a strengthened duty will not be able to prevent a long term increase in social injustice for disabled workers
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‘Can international human rights law help restore access to justice for disabled workers?’

The research literature indicates that legislative changes in recent years, including the introduction of tribunal fees, have made it harder for workers in general to enforce their rights under UK employment laws. Drawing on the author’s qualitative study, conducted in 2015 and with information from 265 participants, this paper finds that these legislative changes could be having disproportionate adverse impacts on disabled workers. Of particular note, fees had deterred substantial numbers from submitting discrimination claims; and it appeared that this reluctance to take legal action had in turn emboldened some employers to commit what might have been found to constitute unlawful acts if taken to tribunal. The paper goes onto consider whether these adverse impacts on disabled workers could render fees unlawful under UK and European equality and human rights law and/or could entail violations of rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The paper concludes that the intent behind UK laws might (in relation to the lawfulness of fees) have been frustrated in the domestic courts and that the impact of any future successes in the domestic courts, or under international law, might be dependent upon public opinion and political expediency. The paper also briefly compares developments in Britain with developments in neighbouring and other comparable jurisdictions.
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‘The impact of UK coalition government policies on disabled workers’ (2015)

PIRU’s study indicates that in the last four years there has been a deterioration in the workplace experiences and long-term job prospects of disabled workers. The study collected information from 137 disabled workers and 141 organisations; and was produced for Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). The study covers the private, public and voluntary sectors. Principal findings include:
• Employer attitudes towards disabled workers have deteriorated in the last four years.
• Zero hours contracts are causing particular problems for disabled workers, including as result of the high levels of ill-treatment associated with these contracts.
• Unlawful discrimination, including harassment and unlawful dismissal, appears to have been increasing.
• There has been a reduction in organisational support for disabled workers and an increased emphasis on discipline.
• The study identified 24 major cuts to equality and employment law protections since 2010. These cuts were starting to have adverse impacts on disabled workers.
With the introduction of tribunal fees, disabled workers were finding it hard or impossible to enforce the rights which remain.
Click here to see the press release and report.

‘The dying of the light’: the impact of the spending cuts, and cuts to employment law protections, on disability adjustments in British local authorities

Adjustments to working arrangements and the working environment have enabled organisations to recruit and retain valuable staff and helped disabled individuals to work and progress in their careers. The qualitative study reported in this paper indicates that generally good adjustments-related practice across 33 British local authorities was beginning to deteriorate under the impact of government spending cuts; and was at further risk from the dismantling of legal protections. The findings have implications for local authorities, but also for national policy-makers and those wishing to influence them.
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‘Race Back from Equality – has the CRE been breaching race equality law and has race equality law been working?’ (2007)

In the wake of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the ‘racial’ equality duties were introduced to combat institutional discrimination on the part of ‘public authorities’.

This research attempted to better determine whether these laws have been working; and whether the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) – the statutory body charged with their oversight and enforcement – has itself complied with them. It also, however, took a preliminary look at how, in more general terms, the CRE has directed its efforts over the last five years and with what results.

Click here to download a pdf of Race Back From Equality.

‘Teeth and their use-enforcement action by the three equality commissions’ (2006)

The report looks at the use that the three equality Commissions (Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission, and Equal Opportunities Commission) made of their direct enforcement powers between 1 January 1999 and 1 June 2006; considers the impacts that the Equality Act 2006 could have on enforcement of the equality enactments; and proposes changes designed to improve the effectiveness of the future Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

Click here to see the press release or download a pdf of the full report.

‘The End of the Beginning – a critical analysis of the first decade of the Disability Discrimination Act employment provisions’ (2005)

For this report, PIRU analysed employment tribunal and court cases, and documents from public authorities; interviewed lawyers, trade unions, employers and employees; and reviewed the existing literature.

The report identifies and assesses some of the factors which appear to have limited the Act’s success; considers the likely impact of the 2005 amendments; and makes proposals for further reducing employment discrimination.

Click here to see the press release or download a pdf of the executive summary of the report.

‘Trick and Treat – psychiatric treatment in old age in rural Wales’ (2004)

This preliminary report, based upon a limited number of in-depth interviews with patients, relatives and medical staff, and analysis (with informed consent) of medical records and hospital notes, indicates that some doctors were using powerful anti-psychotics inappropriately with some of their elderly patients. The problems it identifies include the drugs having been administered without agreement or valid consent; without good clinical reason; and despite there having been strong contra-indications, such as, for instance, the patient suffering from severe respiratory disease.

The recommendations include, for example, “a greater focus on prevention …. addressing the social and health factors associated with mental illness in old age. For instance, our research suggests that, in some nursing homes, it would be useful to facilitate greater social support among the patients themselves.”

Click here to see the press release.

PIR’s approach to research

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