Does the disability strategy mark a turning point?
Today the government released its national disability strategy to much fanfare, but will it have a serious impact on the issues that affect SCI people’s lives? Our campaigns coordinator Mark Bourne offers his reaction.
It was a long and eagerly-awaited strategy. One that disabled people and disability organisations have waited for. And waited. And waited. Today the delays finally came to an end: the 100-pledge plan can be found online here.
There are some positive measures for spinal cord injured people, and they’re welcome ambitions. For example, disabled people will be automatically entitled to passports.
And it describes the need for access to employment, allowing people with disabilities the ability to move between jobs with ease. But that remains a theory only. Whether it will work in practice remains to be seen. It’s a complicated task.
Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that just 52% of disabled people are currently employed, compared to 81% of people who are non-disabled. Much more needs to be done to smash the barriers to employment, and to tackle the insecure employment that’s a common part of disabled people’s experiences in working life.
Only just over half of all disabled people are in employment, compared to 81% of non-disabled people
This uncertainty is compounded by a further consultation, this time on whether employers who have 250 or more staff should be mandated to report on disability. That a further consultation is needed is worrying. If they aren’t compelled to report on these statistics, there’s little incentive for them to hire, train and develop people with SCI or other disabilities.
Rail and homes pledge
Also included is a promise to include disabled people in the government’s policymaking procedures — an essential step forward if we’re to have workable policies that improve people’s lives.
There’s also a pledge to support disabled rail passengers, and that’s been promised alongside the £573m fund to boost accessibility of homes. But remember this: it’s not fresh investment but rather money that’s already been pledged.
There’s also little to no mention of measures to ease social care capacity or commit to a much-needed long term funding settlement in this area
This omission will only serve to accelerate the structural inequalities faced by so many spinal cord injured people.
If the government is truly to “level up and build back better” and bring meaningful improvement to the lives of spinal cord injured and other disabled people — and deliver its big and bold vision promised by the prime minister — it needs to put forward more decisive, detailed and workable proposals. We’re further down the track to where we need to be, but there’s a way to go yet.
Count on us
What I do know is that I, and everyone here at SIA, will lobby policymakers, parliamentarians and others to improve the strategy and ensure SCI people don’t draw the short straw much longer. Our next parliamentary meeting will give us a platform to voice your views, questions and concerns to those who make the policies that matter to you. I love the way we can give you such a powerful voice through our connections to ministers, charity leaders and others.
What we need is a follow-up consultation with a longer, more inclusive consultation period including much greater input from organisations such as ours. Watch this space.
Join the debate
What are your thoughts on the new strategy? Let us know by tweeting us @spinalinjuries or searching ‘Spinal Injuries Association’ on Facebook and posting a comment.