A leading disabled peer has been forced to stress that she does not support a government-run disability employment campaign, after civil servants mistakenly tweeted comments that suggested she had endorsed the much-criticised programme.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell (pictured) had provided quotes and a photograph that she thought would be used to publicise the Power 100 list of the UK’s most influential disabled people, which was published today (Thursday).
But her picture and quote were instead sent out via the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Twitter account, with the logos of both the Power 100 list – on which she features as the UK’s third most influential disabled person – and the Disability Confident campaign included alongside her photograph.
There was also a reference in the tweet to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), which took place today (Thursday).
When told about the tweet by Disability News Service (DNS), Baroness Campbell said she would never have provided a quote to promote Disability Confident, and in fact had criticised ministers who set it up in the summer of 2013 as there was already a well-established campaign run by the Employers’ Forum on Disability*.
She reinforced that message just five months ago, when she told a panel of civil servants – which included Pat Russell, head of DWP’s Office for Disability Issues – that she was “really worried” by the government’s emphasis on Disability Confident.
She told the panel: “It seems that we are spending a lot of time on awareness campaigns that already exist, and not enough time enforcing the Equality Act.”
This week, she was keen to stress that there had been a misunderstanding between her and the civil servants promoting Disability Confident, who were also supporting the Power 100 list.
She told DNS: “Please tell your readers, I am not endorsing the Disability Confident initiative!”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “One of our Disability Confident team approached Baroness Campbell directly and received a supportive quote for the Power 100 list to share on social media.
“However, in subsequent conversations it became clear that she was not lending her endorsement to the Disability Confident campaign and we removed her quote from social media.”
Disability Confident has been criticised for its overly non-confrontational approach to employers, for duplicating the work of the forum, and for sending out messages that appear to contrast with those issued by work and pensions ministers keen to stress their “anti-scrounger” credentials.
One campaigner said after the 2013 launch: “I was inspiring and a role model, got awards for it. The illness progressed more. Now called scrounger. #disabilityconfident.”
Another tweeted: “Too much #DisabilityConfident concerned our personal attributes, not the structural barriers and oppression we face #DisabilityConfident.”
*Now known as the Business Disability Forum