Five reasons the UK Disability Strategy may not improve disabled people’s lives

Boris Johnson has re-emerged from his 10-day quarantine period desperate to share his latest plans to “level up” the country.

On his second day out of self-isolation, the Prime Minister released the long-awaited National Disability Strategy, which was originally expected to be published last year.

It comes 24 hours after he launched his divisive Beating Crime Plan and a few days after his second anniversary in No 10.

Mr Johnson this strategy provides a “clear plan”, something we heard him say when describing his shambolic bid to reform the social care system.

But campaigners described the disability strategy as “disappointedly thing”.

Boris Johnson has emerged from isolation desperate to reset the dial on his premiership

What did the 114-page document say and will it even improve the lives of disabled people? Here’s what you need to know.

What are some of the key commitments set out in the Disability Strategy?

£300 million to support children with special educational needs and disabilities in schools and create places, improve provision and make accessibility adaptations.

A new National Model Design Code to be published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government this summer to inform the building of inclusive playgrounds.

A new online advice hub for disabled people and employers providing information on disability discrimination in the workplace, flexible working and rights and obligations around reasonable adjustments.

A public consultation on whether to make it mandatory for employers with 250 or more staff to report on disability in their workforce.

A plan to be published by September by the Ministry of Defence to bring more disabled people into the civilian workforce to meet its target of 15.3% by 2030.

A UK-wide public awareness campaign to increase understanding of disability, dispel ingrained and unhelpful stereotypes and promote the diverse contributions disabled people make.

A network-wide accessibility audit of station facilities at all 2,565 mainline railway stations in Great Britain to be conducted by the Department for Transport (DfT).

An access to work adjustments passport to be piloted in 2021, to help people enter work, switch jobs and progress careers.

Not all playgrounds will be made inclusive

Before Parliament returns in September, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government vowed to publish a new National Model Design Code.

Officials said the policy will set out design considerations for local planning authorities and “stress the importance of providing accessible and inclusive play spaces and equipment for all”.

Mr Tomlinson told a media briefing they aim to ensure “new playgrounds are designed from the outset to be inclusive for disabled children”.

But officials have not explained whether existing playgrounds, particularly those in crowded inner cities, will also be redesigned.

Questions remain over whether playgrounds will be redesigned to make them accessible for disabled children
Questions remain over whether playgrounds will be redesigned to make them accessible for disabled children

Employers may not be forced to report on disabled workforce

A Government official acknowledged the voluntary scheme encouraging employers with 250 or more staff to report on disability in their workforce did not yield enough data.

Mr Tomlinson told the media: “We tested the water with voluntary reporting and it’s not giving us enough data and evidence. So we want to go further on this.”

But he did not explain why they were launching another consultation to decide whether they should make the scheme mandatory and when the decision will be made.

No clear plan to tackle disability hate crime

Just 24 hours after the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled the new Beating Crime Plan, the Cabinet used this strategy to insist they would tackle disability hate crime.

In the document, the Government said: “In 2021, the Home Office will publish a new cross-government strategy to tackle the crime and disorder that undermines the quality of life for everyone.”

Officials hint there will be another consultation on how to tackle this type of crime with the release of their findings set to come “in the autumn”.

Mr Johnson’s crime plan made no mention of making our streets safer for disabled people.

How will access to disability benefits be improved?

Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Disabled People did not say.

In the policy document, the Department for Work and Pensions pledged to set out proposals that will improve the experience of accessing disability benefits.

Mr Tomlinson described the strategy as “a fantastic platform to level up for disabled people across the UK”.

Disabled people living in the UK may be eligible for Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payments or Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the new style of Employment and Support Allowance.

But these benefits have led to a number of controversies including delays in payments and questions over assessments.

Have we heard this policy before?

Instead of making a specific pledge to help the lives of disabled people, Boris Johnson promised the National Disability Strategy when he became Prime Minister.

But it was supposed to have been published in 2020.

Tories said the strategy would “look at ways to improve the benefits system, opportunities and access for disabled people in terms of housing, education, transport and jobs”.

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