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National Disability Strategy ‘falls short’ of what disabled people deserve

Campaigners warn that the National Disability Strategy falls short of the transformational plan that many disabled people expected and deserve.

The Department of Health and Social Care said more accessible housing, easier commuting and better job prospects are set to become reality for millions of disabled people in the UK through actions set out in the National Disability Strategy.

However, disability equality charity, Scope, warns that the strategy does not go far enough.

The strategy sets out 100 immediate commitments supported by £1.6bn of funding alongside an ambitious agenda for future reform.

The strategy also outlines new technology to make rail journeys easier and more accessible by enabling disabled passengers to contact staff from their seat on the train with the new support in place by end of March 2022.

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Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, welcomed the short-term commitments outlined in the strategy but warned that the money earmarked to deliver it is not sufficient for long term transformational change, and in many cases is not ‘new’ money.

‘The government promised a National Disability Strategy that will truly transform the lives of disabled people in this country. The reality is closer to a one-year action plan.

‘Many of the short-term commitments made are to be welcomed, but the strategy as a whole falls short of the transformational plan that many disabled people expected and deserve.

‘Unless we get clear detail beyond the next 12 months, it is difficult to see how life will be significantly different for the next generation of disabled people.

‘There are areas that are promising, such as the commitment to get companies reporting on disability figures in the workplace, the creation of an accessible technology centre, action to improve public transport, and a taskforce to look at the extra costs that disabled people face.

‘However, there are areas where the strategy doesn’t go far enough, even in this first year. Disabled children and their families will gain little from this strategy beyond tweaks to the education system. And the government has failed to set out how and when it intends to close the disability employment gap.

‘The money earmarked to deliver the strategy is sadly not sufficient for long term transformational change, and in many cases is not ‘new’ money. Investing in disabled people can have a hugely positive impact to our country, to our economy and to disabled people’s living standards. Therefore, further investment must be prioritised as part of the upcoming spending review.

‘Scope will seek to work constructively with government to make sure this current plan is properly funded and, to make sure it goes significantly beyond a one-year plan to a truly transformational strategy for the lives of disabled people and their families.’

The strategy builds on the Disability Discrimination Act which enshrined protections for disabled people when it comes to employment, transport, education and provision of goods and services.

Minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson said: ‘For the first time, we have real cross-government focus, with clearly set out priorities and aims.

‘We are absolutely committed to putting disabled people at the heart of government policymaking and service delivery. Their voices, insights and experiences are central to this strategy and our future approach.

‘By engaging disabled people, their families, carers and organisations, collectively we will deliver real and lasting change.

‘That’s empowered us to focus on the things disabled people tell us are most important to them, and crucially they’ll be able to hold us to account as we deliver real and lasting change.’

Photo Credit – Scott Graham

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