Unpacking the Disability Action Plan
Yesterday, the Government has published the Disability Action Plan, outlining its priorities to improve the lives of disabled people over the next year.
We are pleased to see that following feedback, the actions outlined in the Disability Action Plan consultation, are more ambitious than the previous iteration.
What’s in the Disability Action Plan?
The Disability Action Plan covers a wide range of issues and measures from more support for disabled people standing for elected office, making playgrounds more accessible, improving the accessibility of communications from Government, to better data on the experiences of disabled people.
Some of the key highlights of the plan include:
- Supporting disabled people in elected office. It is important that disabled people feel empowered and involved in politics. Hence why it is good to see commitments for more financial support for disabled people to access elected office and new guidance on how political parties can better support disabled candidates. Although more is needed to improve the representation of disabled people in politics, these are some steps in the right direction and could help support disabled people stand for political office.
- A commitment to improving accessibility of communications from Government. This includes a commitment that there will BSL interpreters in Number 10 press conferences from Spring 2024 and new guidance for Government departments on how to make their communications more accessible. By supporting and promoting more accessible communications across Government ensures important announcements and services can better reach disabled people. As we have seen during the pandemic this was not always the case and it is positive to know going forward that more is being done to improve this in future.
- Developing measures and outcomes to understand the impact of policies and interventions on disabled people. Although on the face of this sounds dry, but by developing evaluation tools, impact measures and better data will help better evidence the experiences of disabled people. This will hopefully lead to better services and interventions to improve the lives of disabled people.
- Improving awareness of cost of living across Government. We know from our research that disabled people have been adversely impacted by the rising cost of living. We welcome recognition within the Disability Action Plan of this being a major issue for disabled people and commitment to highlight the cost of living crisis across Government.
- Monitoring and reporting on the plan. It is encouraging to see alongside the commitments in the Disability Action Plans key milestones and reporting against the plan over the coming months. This hopefully will ensure that many of the actions set out in the plan will become a reality.
- However there is still more to do
Despite bigger ambitions for the Disability Action Plan, there are some things missing, particularly in tackling long standing issues impacting disabled people such as benefits, social care and cost of living. This includes:
- Little action to improve access and use of assistive technology. Some disabled people rely on assistive technology in many aspects of their life, for instance screen readers can help support those who are visually impaired use a computer. However, the availability, funding and provision of assistive technology varies meaning that it is not always available or in place. We are disappointed that raising the profile of assistive technology has been removed from the plan and although there are commitments in the Disability Strategy on this, it is a missed opportunity to do more to improve the provision of assistive technology.
- Reinstating the Access to Elected Office Fund. Although we welcome the measures and ambitions set out in the plan on better supporting disabled people to run for elected office. The plan fails to reinstate the Access to Elected Office Fund which provided grants for disabled people standing for elected office. By reinstating the fund would help cover the costs of reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates reducing some of the many barriers disabled people face in standing for elected office.
- More is needed to address cost of living. Although the plan references the impact of cost of living on disabled people and improving awareness across Government, it doesn’t go far enough in addressing some of the pressures facing disabled people. Building a benefits system that works for disabled people so that they can afford the essentials and introducing an energy social tariff are important to addressing the cost of living crisis.
- What about Social Care? Although fixing the many issues impacting social care is not something that can be done in a year, it would still be good to have more recognition in the Disability Action Plan of the vital role social care plays in the lives of disabled people including those with complex disabilities.
What does this mean for disabled people?
Whilst we welcome the scale of the ambition of the Disability Action Plan, as always, the question is will it actually deliver for disabled people?
Although it is positive to see targets and outcomes for the various actions over the next 6 to 12 months, much depends on the priority and resource the Government decides to put behind the plan.
We look forward to seeing how the Government takes the Disability Action Plan forward.