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The long-awaited National Disability Strategy for Disabled People, published today, is not the transformative agenda promised by the Prime Minister, according to health and welfare leaders.

The government’s new national strategy on disability promises to deliver more accessible housing, easier commuting and better job prospects for the UK’s 14 million disabled people.

The strategy, led by the Department for Work and Pensions, includes £1.6 million of funding, and was informed by a survey of more than 14,000 individuals.

Under the government’s national disability strategy, disabled people will be entitled to “passports” outlining their access needs so they can move more freely between jobs, while councils will be asked to build more inclusive children’s playgrounds as part of a number of changes to help young people with special educational needs.

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A consultation on requiring large companies to report on the number and seniority of their disabled staff is also being launched, as part of 100 policies intended to remove barriers faced by disabled people in everyday life.

Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, says there isn’t enough emphasis on the quality of jobs for disabled people and their career progression. He said: “It’s not just the numbers they employ but also where in their hierarchy they employ them, data around salary and pay to make sure disabled people are not employed just in entry-level jobs, but disabled people are being promoted and making it into senor role, decision making roles, positions of influence.”

“Lacking in vision”

Health and welfare charity Leonard Cheshire stated that it recently wrote to the Prime Minister with deep concerns about a lack of long-term vision in the new strategy, as well as the need for increased consultation with disabled individuals and organisations to create a blueprint for the future.

Ruth Owen OBE, CEO of Leonard Cheshire, said: “The Prime Minister told us these reforms would be the most ambitious in a generation, but this strategy doesn’t live up to that billing.

“While some aspects are positive first steps, it comes up short on actual commitments and is lacking in the vision to truly transform the experience of disabled people in their daily lives.

“If this is to become a bold blueprint for a better future, co-designing indicators for success with disabled people is crucial.

“For this strategy to lead to meaningful change, we need to work together to set out clear overarching goals and metrics, underpinning future strategy with concrete funding commitments. Because there is little in the way of timescales or targets.

“We welcome some measures, such as the consultation on mandatory workforce reporting, additional support for disabled jobseekers, and the commitment to addressing the assistive and accessible technology skills gap.

“But social care reform is barely mentioned, an omission that will be a huge disappointment to the large number of disabled people who rely on it as an enabler of greater independence, choice and control in their lives.

“The annual nature of the National Disability Strategy offers further opportunity to collaborate and hold the Government to account.  We will continue to work with disabled people, Government, business and other disability organisations to maximise this strategy moving forward.”

Meanwhile, the Business Disability Forum stated that that while it welcomes the commitment to further consider flexible working, disability workforce reporting, and the development of an Access to Work “Passport”, more needs to be done to turn this from a one-year plan into a strategy that truly transforms the life chances of disabled people.

Additional funding needed

Angela Matthews, Head of Policy at Business Disability Forum, said “When Government departments work in isolation, different areas of disabled people’s lives – such as transport, employment, health care, homes, social care, education, leisure, social life – risk being seen as separate and unrelated.

“This disjointed approach is at odds with disabled people’s life experience. Many disabled people need accessible transport to get to work and to take advantage of the investment in accessible tourism that the Strategy mentions, for example. A National Disability Strategy needs to take a whole-life approach to disabled people’s lives.

“To have long term impact, the strategy must also be accompanied by financial investment. Much of the funding announced today is not new. The Prime Minister has made it clear that this is a “down payment” only. We will await the Autumn Spending Review when we must see more on long-term, additional funding for the strategy.

“The strategy has put disability higher on the political agenda but it is what happens next that is important. Disabled people have raised concerns about the consultation process, which need to be addressed going forwards.

“For our part, Business Disability Forum will continue to work with the Government and our members to push the strategy forwards and to ensure it delivers lasting change in the lives of disabled people.”

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