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Government launches National Disability Strategy

Today (28 July) the UK government launched its National Disability Strategy which aims to bridge the gap in education, skills and employment for disabled people.

The new strategy sets out actions the government will take to improve the everyday lives of all disabled people, however, it has been criticised for under-funding and not fully understanding the lived experiences of the people it seeks to help.

It said disabled employees must be properly catered for in the workplace, as to not waste talent and potential after the events of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there is a 28% gap in the employment rate of working age disabled people compared with working age non-disabled people.

The ONS also found that while the proportion of disabled people with a degree has increased from 15.9% in 2013 to 2014 to 23% in 2019 to 2020, the gap between disabled people and non-disabled people has not narrowed.

The secretary of state for work and pensions and minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, said the strategy aims to positively impact each part of a disabled person's everyday life.

It aims to do this by ensuring disability is considered straight away, with the government embedding inclusive and accessible approaches and services to avoid creating negative experiences.

Flexible working options and disability workplace reporting will also be considered as options to support disabled employees in the workplace. 

Disability in the workplace: 

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DWP 'shocked' by own disability record 

Disability needs to be higher on the D&I agenda

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The Business Disability Forum’s head of policy, Angela Matthews, said while disability employment will benefit from flexible working, more needs to be done to turn this from a one-year plan into a strategy that transforms the life chances of disabled people.

She said: “When government departments work in isolation, different areas of disabled people’s lives, such as transport, employment, health care, homes, social care, education, leisure, social life, risk being seen as separate and unrelated.

"This disjointed approach is at odds with disabled people’s life experience. Many disabled people need accessible transport to get to work and to take advantage of the investment in accessible tourism that the Strategy mentions, for example.

"A National Disability Strategy needs to take a whole-life approach to disabled people’s lives."

The strategy has also been criticised for not going far enough by disability charities, as they have spoken out about how more support is still needed for disabled people to feel at ease in society.

The Disabled Children’s Partnership said while it welcomed the government’s stated ambition that disabled children and young people should have the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers, it doesn’t reflect their full lives.

It said: “There is no recognition of health and care services that children and families need, how these interact with education, access to therapies and other aspects of day-to-day life.

“Once again children and families have to wait for the long-delayed SEND review for more answers.”

In 2014 the government introduced its SEND reforms that promised to offer simpler, improved and consistent help for children and young people with additional specialist needs.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said the reforms would be reviewed in 2019, but as of yet no review has taken place.

“Disabled children and their families cannot wait any longer; the government must back up its strategy now with action and investment to help families recover from the pandemic,” added the charity.

Disabled charity Sense said more funding is needed to support real change for disabled people.

It said: “We need a long-term strategy and commitment to tackling the inequalities that disabled people face.

“The government's National Disability Strategy is a step forward, but does not contain the actions needed to deliver transformational change. We need more ambition, scope and funding.”


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