The Department for Education (DfE) has rejected a key recommendation of the equality watchdog’s disability hate crime inquiry, which could have undermined the government’s anti-inclusion stance on the education of disabled children.
Although most of the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) Hidden in Plain Sight report were accepted by the government this week, the DfE refused to fund research that could have undermined its backing for segregated education.
The EHRC’s inquiry report, published last September, concluded that hundreds of thousands of disabled people a year were subjected to disability-related harassment, but that public bodies were guilty of a “systematic, institutional failure” to recognise the problem.
And it suggested that the failure to include disabled people in society – including the history of forcing disabled people to live in institutions, and segregated employment and education – had helped cause disability-related harassment.
It called for the government to commission research on how segregated education, or inadequate support in mainstream education, affected children’s schooling and the ability of disabled children to “re-integrate into wider society”, as well as the extent to which segregation “adversely impacts on non-disabled children’s views of disability and disabled people”.
But DfE this week rejected the recommendation, and said it wanted to see “the development of a diverse range of good quality provision for disabled children, whether in mainstream or special school”.
The government’s pledge to “remove the bias towards inclusion” in disabled children’s education has sparked anger and protests by disabled activists since the coalition came to power.
Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator for the Alliance for Inclusive Education, said they were “very disappointed” that the government did not want to commission the research.
She said: “It clearly indicates that the government wants to go ahead with providing a greater amount of segregated education provision without considering the long-term impact on disabled children and young people who experience segregated education.”
The only other major EHRC recommendation rejected outright was a call for the government to introduce national reports and plans on disability-related harassment. The Home Office and Ministry of Justice said it was “more appropriate” for these to be issued locally.
Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said he would give the government’s overall response just “five out of ten”.
He said: “What they are doing is taking out the bits that are going to be costly and annoying and leaving in the bits that are up to everybody else.”
He said he was particularly disappointed with the government’s rejection of the need for national action to tackle disability hate crime.
Brookes welcomed the government’s praise for the partnership work on tackling hate crime that he had supported in his home town of Blackpool, which had led to a “dramatic increase” in disabled people having the confidence to report hate crime.
But he said the government needed to take a leading role and not just leave it to local agencies.
The EHRC said it was “pleased that the government has agreed with a significant majority of our recommendations”.
An EHRC spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing the detailed response, alongside the responses of nearly 50 other national organisations and bodies, and will be reporting on them in our Manifesto for Change report which will come out this autumn.”
19 July 2012