Released On 25th Jul 2023
Government reveals plans to improve disabled people’s lives
New plans to improve the lives of disabled people have been set out by the Government.
Immediate and practical measures proposed in the fully accessible consultation include ensuring businesses are aware of disabled people’s needs – including Guide Dog access needs – to allow all disabled people to live, work and shop freely. The measures outlined by the Government also include support for local authorities to ensure the playgrounds they build or refurbish are accessible for disabled children.
The proposals will inform the Government’s Disability Action Plan later this year, laying the foundations for longer term change.
Other measures in the proposed Plan include:
Raising the profile of assistive technology to ensure more disabled people have access to life-changing technology.
Legislating for mandatory disability awareness training for taxi and private hire drivers to unlock greater travel freedom for disabled people.
Encouraging more autism-friendly programmes in the cultural and heritage sectors to drive greater inclusivity.
Improving reasonable adjustments in the courts system so more disabled people can be on juries improving diversity and breadth of experience.
Implementing the British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE, over a year after the BSL Act was introduced, giving thousands of pupils communication and visual memory skills that will be an advantage to them for the rest of their lives.
Exploring the feasibility of Great Britain hosting the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 2031.
The Disability Action Plan sits alongside the Government’s National Disability Strategy which sets out its longer-term vision to improve disabled people’s lives for the better.
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove MP, said, 'Our Disability Action Plan will lay out practical measures we can implement here and now to improve the lives of disabled people.
'From leading the way globally with assistive technology to improving inclusivity and accessibility across sport, travel and culture, the Plan will also be important in setting the stage for longer term change.
'We want disabled people to be at the heart of decision making and I would encourage anyone interested to respond to this consultation so the views of disabled people across the country are front and centre of our final Disability Action Plan.'
Kirsty Matthews, Chief Executive of Hft, said, 'We’re glad to see the Government has finally published the Disability Action Plan and hope its proposals will contribute towards a more equitable and accessible UK for all disabled people. It’s excellent to see that the Government has ambitions to raise awareness around assistive technology and appoint an assistive technology champion as part of the civil service. At Hft, we recognise and work to deliver against the transformative impact assistive technology can have on the lives of individuals with a learning disability, supporting them to live independently and safely.'
Kirsty Matthews continues, 'The proposals around improving disability evidence and data is also a positive step. At present, a lack of good quality evidence and data means it is difficult for the Government to develop or evaluate policies and services for disabled people. However, we were disappointed to see that very few commitments and proposals relate specifically to learning disabled adults in the plan - a glaring oversight. Our very own campaigning plan, Voices for Our Future, highlights numerous calls for change from people with a learning disability, on issues including housing and employment, so they can live their best life possible. It is vital that these voices and experiences are heard during the consultation process.'
She concludes, 'Moreover, it is difficult to see how these proposals will have a meaningful impact when the Government has yet to get the basics right. While the Government highlights its recent actions on social care, we know they don’t go far enough to address the significant challenges our sector faces. Without a well-funded, thriving social care system, which so many learning disabled people rely on to live, work and socialise, it is hard to see how these proposals will have a meaningful impact.
'We look forward to contributing to this consultation and encourage learning disabled adults to get involved and have their say. We hope the Government listens closely to these voices that deserve to be at the centre of its action plan.'
The Plan builds on the Government’s work over the last year on education, work, leisure, and rights for disabled people. This includes supporting the passage of new legislation: the Down Syndrome Act and British Sign Language (BSL) Act – and a consultation to support the introduction of a new BSL GCSE.
The overarching focus on disability has also ensured over 2,000 miles of King Charles III England Coast Path is accessible, while the Government has delivered an additional £1bn for the education of children and young people with more complex needs.
The consultation will run for 12 weeks and be open for anyone to comment. This will ensure the Plan is informed by the experience and views of disabled people, disability organisations and charities as well as other interested parties.
Chair of the Disability Unit West Midlands Regional Stakeholder Network, Louise Mckiernan, said, 'I welcome the Government’s commitment to their new Disability Action Plan and their intention to take immediate and practical actions to improve the lives of disabled people across the UK.
'The launch of this consultation is an important opportunity for disabled people in particular to have their say and to help shape the Government’s short-term plans.
'I would encourage as many disabled people, disability organisations and other interested parties as possible to take part in this consultation exercise to ensure their voices are heard.'
The consultation can be accessed on GOV.UK from 18 July. The consultation will run for 12 weeks, and is due to close on the 6th October, 2023. Respondents can give feedback on either the entire Disability Action Plan, or specific actions within it.
In other news, a major new report from Age UK, The State of Health and Care of Older People in England 2023, documents how the health and care system is struggling, and too often failing, to meet the needs of our growing older population.