The new minister for disabled people failed to send a message of support on the UN’s international day of disabled people… although he did find time to publish a post about Small Business Saturday.
The two events took place on the same day, Saturday 3 December, but Tom Pursglove (pictured) chose to post about recognising the “enormous contribution made to local life” by small businesses in his Corby constituency, while staying silent about the importance of disability rights.
Although he retweeted posts about the international day of disabled people by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Disability Unit and the UK parliament, he chose not to publish a post of his own about disability rights or the UN disability convention, either on Twitter or Facebook.
It is not the first time a minister for disabled people has neglected to send a message of support to disabled people on their international day.
Three years ago, Disability News Service reported how not one of the seven ministers for disabled people who had served in the post since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 issued a message of support on social media on 3 December.
A DWP spokesperson declined to say this week how Pursglove explained failing to send a message on the international day of disabled people, or if he would apologise.
The day before the international day, on Friday (2 December), Pursglove had announced the government would publish a new disability action plan in the new year, which will “set out the practical action ministers across government will take over the next two years to improve disabled people’s lives”.
As part of this announcement, he gave interviews to the BBC, Channel 5 and ITV, but he provided no detail about what would be in the action plan.
There was also no mention in the press release issued by the Disability Unit of whether the action plan would replace the government’s National Disability Strategy.
The high court ruled earlier this year that the strategy was unlawful, after a botched consultation had made it “impossible” for disabled people to “shape” its content.
The government has been granted permission to appeal that ruling.
The DWP spokesperson said the disability action plan was “separate from the National Disability Strategy” and would “set out how we will go further in 2023 and 2024 to improve disabled people’s lives, whilst the National Disability Strategy, which set out our long-term vision, is subject to ongoing litigation”.
Only last week, Pursglove was ridiculed for claiming his government had a record of providing “global leadership on disability inclusion”, six years after it was found guilty of “grave” and “systematic” violations of the UN disability convention, and five years after it was told by the UN’s disability rights committee that its cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe”.
Pursglove told MPs this week that the action plan would “identify priority areas where we can deliver meaningful change and progress for disabled people to improve their lives”, and that the government would be “drawing up ideas, consulting on them, and then getting on delivering them”.
He had announced the intention to publish an action plan on Friday as he opened a new University College London research laboratory, part of the university’s Global Disability Innovation Hub, which aims to “accelerate innovation in disability science, and technology”.
DWP said Pursglove also “met with GB Paralympians, as well as disabled people on the day”.
The laboratory is part of a new university campus on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.
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