A cross-party committee of MPs has strongly criticised the government’s National Disability Strategy (NDS), describing the efforts to engage with disabled people as ‘superficial.’ It also said that the NDS amounted to little more than a list of pre-existing or short-term policies and there was no meaningful input from disabled people.
The Disability News Service reports that the Womens’ and Equalities Committee (WEC) described the NDS as ‘a disability strategy in name only.’ The committee released the first of three reports into the NDS on 6 December 2023.
The report noted that despite requests from disabled people’s organisations and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to increase engagement before launching the strategy in 2021, the government did not respond. WEC has called for the government to work with disabled people to put a targeted 10-year strategy in place.
Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP said:
“It is clear disabled people want more influence over the strategies, action plans, and policies affecting them.”
She added: “Ministers need to work much more proactively with disabled groups and develop the National Disability Strategy beyond short-term actions that were already in progress.”
“To support this approach, it should collaborate with disabled people to develop a ten-year strategy with an action plan for the first five years outlining clear targets and timescales for delivery.”
“The Disability Unit should have the final say on all disability policy sitting in or originating from other Government Departments to ensure that the whole of Government works towards the same long-term strategic objectives. It should also have the power to challenge relevant Ministers.”
“The Government needs to listen to the concerns that disabled people and their representative organisations had with the strategy and work closely with them to deliver meaningful, long-lasting improvements to the lives of disabled people.”
November 16 to December 16 is Disability Rights Month, which highlights the struggle that disabled people have faced in dealing with prejudice and discrimination throughout history. It is estimated that about one in five people in the UK are living with some form of disability, yet it is still not a subject that is often studied in mainstream education.
This year’s focus is on disability and childhood and youth. Of course, great strides have been made in education over the past 50 years and this was consolidated by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. This requires all educational providers to make ‘reasonable provisions’ for students with disabilities and special needs.
However, there are still areas of inequality that have been exacerbated by stringent cuts to school budgets over the past decade. Thousands of children still do not have access to schools that cater for special educational needs, and only half of schools in England issue Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) within the required 20-week deadline.
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