Many of the country’s leading disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have written to the disability minister to ask for a “reset” in their relationship with the government, in the wake of a court ruling that its entire National Disability Strategy is unlawful.
The DPO Forum England wrote to Chloe Smith (pictured) after the high court ruled that both the government’s national consultation with disabled people and its National Disability Strategy were unlawful.
The forum has asked the minister for disabled people for a meeting to discuss its members’ concerns about the government’s continuing failure to engage with DPOs in a “strategic and meaningful way”.
They believe the high court ruling should lead to a “renewed” National Disability Strategy that is “rooted in the views and experiences of Disabled people”, and which has “direct input” from disabled people and DPOs.
Forum members to sign the letter include Inclusion London, Disability Rights UK, Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, People First, Disabled People Against Cuts, National Survivor User Network, Disability Sheffield and Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People.
They told Smith that a new national strategy should prioritise action to tackle issues such as poverty, living standards, independent living, transport, education, housing and employment.
The letter calls for Smith and representatives of the government’s Disability Unit to meet members of the forum so they can “re-set engagement” to ensure that it is “fit for purpose and enables us all to work together to tackle the many pressing and complex issues Disabled people are experiencing”.
It also calls on the minister to pause the government’s review of the way it engages with disabled people.
Smith announced last year that this Disability Stakeholder Review would be extended beyond its planned completion date of December 2021, to allow for “a full opportunity for meaningful engagement with our stakeholders”.
The letter points out that the UK government’s engagement with disabled people and DPOs has been a long-term concern and was highlighted in a high-profile 2017 report by the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which criticised its failure to ensure “effective participation” of DPOs in “decision-making processes concerning policies and legislation”.
In a written response to a question about the high court judgment from disabled Labour MP Marsha de Cordova, Smith said this week that the government was “disappointed” with the ruling and was “considering the decision carefully before determining what, if any, further steps to take in response”.
The high court has denied work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey permission to appeal the ruling, but the government can still apply for permission to appeal in the court of appeal.
A DWP spokesperson confirmed last night (Wednesday) that Coffey was still “considering what steps to take” in response to the ruling.
She added: “The minister will respond to the letter in in due course.”
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