The government has replaced the disabled director of its Office for Disability Issues (ODI) with a non-disabled civil servant, without advertising the post externally.
Tim Cooper is moving to a new job as chief executive of Advance, a supported housing and employment charity, after two years as ODI’s director.
ODI was set up in 2005 by the Labour government to help deliver equality for disabled people by 2025 and act as a champion for disabled people across government.
Cooper, who is deaf, has refused to discuss the reasons for his departure, amid speculation that he could be leaving due to unhappiness with the coalition’s policies on disability and equality.
In January, he was forced publicly to defend the government’s record after disabled activists criticised its programme of spending cuts and attitude to human rights.
When asked this week why Cooper was leaving, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said he was “returning to direct service provision, where he has spent the majority of his career to date”.
In a two-line statement, Cooper said: “I shall be sad to leave ODI but I am very excited about the potential of my new role.
“Advance has been at the forefront of many tremendous developments in services for disabled people and people with mental health issues and I look forward to continuing this work.”
In January, Cooper said ODI’s role was to “ensure that as best we can that disabled people are not disproportionately affected by these public spending cuts. We will do that job to the best of our ability.”
This week, he declined requests for an interview.
He will be replaced in September by civil servant Jeremy Moore, who is not disabled and will also take on the role of director of independent living. He was appointed before many ODI staff were told Cooper was leaving.
Moore will now be responsible for all disability issues across the DWP, including employment, benefits and the ODI. He is currently director of the DWP’s “departmental transformation programme”.
The DWP spokesman said Moore was appointed because he “has a lot of experience working on disability issues and was the best candidate for the job”, while the appointment was “part of the wider selection process of senior civil servants currently underway at the DWP”.
Stephen Lee Hodgkins, director of Disability LIB, said he had some concerns about the decision to move away from a stand-alone director of the ODI and how this would affect the ODI’s role and independence from other parts of the DWP.
Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, said: “Bringing all disability issues together under one director reflects our commitment to a more joined up approach in ensuring disability issues are given the attention they deserve.”
21 July 2011