Authorities’s technique to enhance lives of disabled folks dangers being ‘one other PR train’, claims Tory peer

A disabled Conservative peer has criticized the Department of Labor and Pensions (DWP) for allegedly neglecting the views of disabled people in the government’s upcoming strategy to improve their lives.

Lord Kevin Shinkwin has accused the DWP of failing to treat disabled people as primary stakeholders and warned that the national plan to remove barriers to the community was “another public relations exercise”.

The National Strategy for People with Disabilities, led by the Cabinet Office’s Disability Unit, was due to be published in spring 2021, but has been delayed.

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Lord Shinkwin, chairman of the Center for Social Justice’s Disability Commission, warned that the Prime Minister’s pledge for a transformative plan will require a “fundamental re-engineering” of the government’s approach to disabled people.

Lord Shinkwin called for a further delay in publication and called on Boris Johnson to step in and “save an important point on his rearmament agenda before it is too late”.

He said I: “As a loyal Conservative who, like the Prime Minister, believes that equal opportunities define who we are, I am really sad that it is now heading for failure.”

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Lawyers are currently waiting to hear whether their legal challenge against the Secretary of State for Labor and Pensions over the strategy’s consultation process with key stakeholders will be allowed to a full hearing.

The four plaintiffs involved in the challenge, all of whom are disabled, consider the consultation to be unlawful as the survey design prevented them from effectively communicating their experiences. The survey was completed in April.

“My concern is, we only have one chance,” said Lord Shinkwin, who has repeatedly voiced concerns about strategy and described some of the polls as disrespectful.

He said: “Nothing I’ve heard suggests that the strategy, which is expected to be released soon, will be much more than window dressing, regardless of the inevitable turn of Whitehall.

“If the strategy of landing well with disabled people had really been important to them, they would have consulted us respectfully and on an equal footing. They don’t because they don’t see us that way. “

Fazilet Hadi, policy director for the nonprofit charity Disability Rights UK, said organizations run by disabled people “the government’s failure to engage with them are extremely critical of strategy”.

Ministers, she said, should see the strategy “as a first step in transforming society and start a thorough program of working with disabled people to learn how the strategy should be implemented and what other gaps need to be filled”.

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at Scope, added: “During the pandemic, disabled people felt forgotten. We now have the opportunity to put disabled people at the center of our construction to ensure we have a society that works for everyone.

“What we need is a coherent, well-funded, long-term strategy that enables all disabled people to reach their full potential.”

The government said, “We are absolutely committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities, and the National Strategy for People with Disabilities will set an ambitious intergovernmental plan for the future, removing barriers and creating a fully inclusive society.

“We conducted the largest disability policy listening exercise in recent history, with over 15,000 responses to our survey, to ensure that disabled people’s views and lived experiences are reflected and that their priorities are taken into account.”

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