Disabled activists have raised concerns about the work of the government’s Equality 2025 advisory body of disabled people, and changes to its role and membership.
Equality 2025 was set up in 2006 to advise the government on achieving equality for disabled people by 2025.
But the government is cutting its membership from a maximum of 25 to just eight, and plans to turn it into a “high-level advisory group”.
Anne Novis, a disabled advisor to the Metropolitan police and the Home Office, said such an advisory group would never be able to represent disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and she did not believe Equality 2025 would “actually make a difference or ensure equality by 2025”.
She added: “I may be wrong but as this group does not feed back on its work and what it has achieved so far it does not have the confidence of disabled people’s organisations and communities.”
Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, also raised concerns. She said: “I would like to see a body within government that can stop government in its tracks occasionally.
“There is a very strong case for having a well-resourced, representative, diverse group that can really help government mainstream effectively.
“I think Rowen Jade (chair of Equality 2025) is brilliant. I would just like to see it having more of a profile and given more clout.”
Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council, said the lack of communication about its work meant Equality 2025 risked becoming “invisible”, making it difficult for disabled people and DPOs to trust.
Jade stressed that Equality 2025 had never claimed to represent DPOs and that although many of its members had been grassroots campaigners, it was a non-departmental public body whose role was to advise government.
She said much of their work had to remain confidential to protect relationships with the government departments they advised on developing policies.
Another member of Equality 2025 said the need for confidentiality was “very frustrating” because “it looks like we do nothing, when in fact we have given vital advice to government on really key issues”.
Equality 2025 is advising the government on plans to set up a “network of networks” of disabled people to monitor the implementation of its independent living strategy, which Jade hoped would play a part in bringing about change.
She said a smaller Equality 2025 would mean the loss of “some very good thinkers and communicators” but was “confident that the quality of the advice that we give to government will not be downgraded in any way”.
She added: “If I didn’t believe in the work that Equality 2025 was doing I would be the first to resign.
“But I believe that our remit and that the work that we are doing is very definitely in the best interests of the majority of disabled people.”
4 February 2010