Coalition’s plans for government: Activists point to equality gap


Campaigners have raised concerns that the new coalition’s “programme of government” for the next five years fails to mention disabled people in its section on equalities.

The programme was launched by David Cameron, the Conservative prime minister, and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, who both promised a “radical, reforming government”.

Their document covers 31 policy areas, including social care and disability, jobs and welfare, equalities, civil liberties, and action to reduce the deficit, including “modest” cuts of £6 billion to “non-front-line services” this year.

In addition to setting up a commission on social care funding, “sweeping” plans for welfare reform, and plans that would turn back the clock on inclusive education, several other policies will directly affect disabled people.

The document promises extra support for disabled people who want to become MPs or other elected officials, as recommended by the speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation, although there is no mention of many of its other suggested measures to increase the number of disabled MPs.

The coalition also pledges to set up a commission to “investigate the creation” of a British bill of rights, which would replace the Human Rights Act but incorporate and build on “all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights”.

And it promises to improve recording of hate crimes against disabled people.

The government says it will also “explore alternative forms of secure, treatment-based accommodation” for offenders with mental health conditions.

In the “equalities” section, the document says there are “many barriers to social mobility and equal opportunities”, with “too many children held back because of their social background, and too many people of all ages held back because of their gender, race, religion or sexuality”.

It lists several policies in those areas, but fails to mention disabled people. Instead, disability is dealt with in a section on “social care and disability”, which makes no direct reference to the discrimination or barriers faced by disabled people.

Andrew Little, chief executive of Inclusion London, the new London-wide organisation run by Deaf and disabled people, said: “It is a very bad sign that disabled people are not mentioned at all in the equality section.”

He added: “The programme’s commitment to £6 billion worth of public sector cuts in the current financial year and untold billions afterwards equates to making disabled people and many others who did not cause the economic crisis pay for it.

“Inclusion London opposes cuts in the services and anti-discrimination improvements that disabled people need. Cuts on this scale can only damage the social fabric of our society.”

20 May 2010