Ministers have already broken six Disability Strategy pledges, just months after launch

Ministers have already broken six Disability Strategy pledges, just months after launch

The government has already broken at least six promises it made in last summer’s much-criticised National Disability Strategy, responses by various departments this week have confirmed.

Analysis of the strategy, published last July, shows that at least six of the actions it promised would be carried out by the end of 2021 have not been completed.

This includes action on tackling disability hate crime, the accessible housing crisis, disability employment and how the government engages with disabled people.

When the strategy was published, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, described it as the “down payment” on his promise to “build back better and fairer, for all our disabled people”.

But the strategy has been described as “just cynical repackaging”, with analysis by Disability News Service last August exposing its lack of bold initiatives and new funding, and how ministers had padded it out with scores of consultations, reviews and vague pledges.

Fresh analysis of the strategy now shows that at least six of the “commitments” made in the document have already been broken.

One of the pledges was to act on disability hate crime, as part of a new government crime and disorder strategy that would be published in 2021. That document has yet to appear.

The disability strategy also promised action by the end of 2021 on how the government would deliver more accessible new homes, through its long-awaited response to a consultation on raising accessibility standards in England, which ended in December 2020. That response has yet to be published.

The government committed to publish new guidance for local authorities in England on “effective delivery” of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) scheme. Again, this was promised “during 2021”, but has yet to appear.

The strategy also promised updated guidance for employers who have joined the government’s much-criticised Disability Confident scheme. Again, that updated guidance has not yet been published.

And the strategy promised that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) would publish proposals “by the end of 2021” to “ensure that every disabled person who wants to start a business has the opportunity to do so”. Again, these proposals have not yet been published.

Finally, there was a pledge to review the government’s engagement with disabled people, an area in which ministers have faced repeated criticism, by December 2021.

In a blog posted on 29 December, the minister for disabled people, Chloe Smith, said that this review had now been extended until the spring of 2022 so as to provide “a full opportunity for meaningful engagement with our stakeholders”.

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, who raised some of these delays in a new year message, said: “With a number of actions in the disability strategy not being delivered to time, we need more transparency and communication from government as to the reasons for delay, and information on revised timescales and consultation arrangements.

“We also need consultation with DPOs [disabled people’s organisations] and disabled people prior to actions being implemented.

“We are the ones affected by the actions, yet we are often not part of the process.

“The disability strategy must be treated seriously and disabled people need regular reports on its implementation.

“Whilst it is far from a transformational agenda for change, there are actions which could improve the lives of disabled people and failing to involve us or not delivering the actions set out is not acceptable.”

The minister for disabled people, Chloe Smith, declined to explain this week why so many of the government’s “commitments” had already been broken.

And she declined to say if this showed that the government was not treating disabled people as a priority, and if the prime minister’s statement that the strategy was the “down payment” on his promise to “build back better and fairer, for all our disabled people” had now been exposed as empty rhetoric.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said the Disability Confident review was “well underway”, with an update to guidance for employers expected in the spring.

A Home Office spokesperson said it was “working with disabled people and other disability stakeholders to develop a new strategy for tackling hate crime which will be published shortly”.

The Home Office said the delay in publishing the hate crime strategy was due to competing priorities.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities declined to explain why the DFG guidance and the accessible homes consultation response had not been published, but the department said they were expected to be delivered this spring.

BEIS said its self-employment proposals were part of a wider enterprise strategy, which had been delayed and would be published later this year.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “We are committed to making the world of work more inclusive and accessible for disabled people.

“We have been talking to disabled business leaders and stakeholders and charities to ensure disabled people are given the opportunities and support they need to start their own businesses, and this will form part of our enterprise strategy due to be published this year.”

Picture: Chloe Smith (second from right) at last year’s Conservative party conference

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