Low-key report details ‘progress’ on disability strategy


newslatestThe government has produced a low-key report that summarises progress on its disability strategy, Fulfilling Potential.

New documents published today (Thursday) aim to bring the strategy up-to-date and “show the progress that’s been made” across areas such as accessible information, improving attitudes to disabled people, access to transport and the built environment, and work and education opportunities.

Mark Harper, the new Conservative minister for disabled people, says in one of the documents: “Removing barriers is not just good for disabled people but for all of us.

He says: “As disabled people’s talents and skills are integrated into the economy to help maintain and drive strong and sustainable economic growth, their spending power is realised by our businesses.”

Last week, Harper announced that official figures show that households including a disabled person have a combined income of £212 billion a year, after housing costs.

Harper said that ministers and the Fulfilling Potential Forum – which brings together 40 representatives of disabled people’s and disability organisations from across the UK – had decided there was a need to focus on improving understanding and communications, accessibility, and opportunities, and to identify and share good practice, with government leading by example.

Among the progress noted in today’s updated Fulfilling Potential action plan are the launch of the government’s Disability Confident campaign for employers, the new Care Act, the development of the Fulfilling Potential Forum, the introduction of the Access to Elected Office Fund, the £3 million facilitation fund for the Disabled People’s User-Led Organisations Programme, increased funding for elite Paralympic sport, and £16 million for the Time to Change mental health anti-stigma campaign.

But the inclusion of many other schemes and projects in the action plan could prove more controversial, including changes to the Access to Work scheme, the introduction of personal independence payment, European regulations on access to bus and coach travel, the review of the public sector equality duty, the support provided for former Remploy workers, and the introduction of universal credit.

Harper also gave a low-key launch to the government’s new Accessible Britain Challenge (ABC), which aims to “make our communities more accessible for all disabled people”.

The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) hopes to work on ABC with local businesses, councils, voluntary and community groups, and disabled people’s organisations.

As part of ABC, Harper has written to more than 200 of Britain’s biggest businesses and more than 80 trade organisations with a combined membership of 420,000.

ODI said the challenge aimed to help communities “become more inclusive and accessible by engaging and working with disabled people to remove barriers that get in the way of them being full and active contributors in their community”.

A new ABC awards programme – with details due this autumn – is likely to recognise achievements in improving mobility; in innovative use of buildings, places and spaces; in safer neighbourhoods; and in inclusive social activities.

4 September 2014