The government appears to have confirmed that ministers have secured new funding in just two areas – education and employment – to support the implementation of their new National Disability Strategy.
Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported that Treasury documents suggested ministers in only two departments, the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), had secured new funding as part of the budget and spending review.
This was despite the prime minister, Boris Johnson, saying in August (PDF) that the strategy would be a “down payment” on the promise to “build back better and fairer, for all our disabled people”.
Analysis of the strategy by DNS showed it was accompanied by only £3.95 million in new funding, or just 28p for every disabled person in the UK.
Last week’s spending review, which sets departmental budgets up to 2024-25, suggested the Treasury had agreed new funding to provide 30,000 new school places for disabled children and those with special educational needs (SEN), both to build new segregated free special schools and improve the accessibility of existing school buildings.
The only other new disability-related funding appears to be an extra £156 million over the next three years to provide employment support for disabled people, which will focus on providing more DWP work coaches.
After being asked by DNS for details of new disability-focused bids that were successful in the spending review (SR), a DWP spokesperson said: “To support disabled people into work, the government at this SR is providing specialised disability employment support worth over £1.1 billion over the next three years, including an additional £156 million over the SR period for health and disability support with a focus on additional work coaches.
“This is alongside the Work and Health Programme which will continue to provide personal support to disabled people to find jobs that match their employment and health needs, and the Access to Work scheme which will continue to help cover the costs of workplace adaptations, special equipment and travel.”
But when asked three times to confirm that the school funding and the £156 million were the only new bits of disability-focused spending, a DWP spokesperson refused to clarify the government’s position.
DNS had also approached the Treasury and the government’s Disability Unit for clarity, but the questions were answered by DWP.
When challenged by MPs in September about the lack of new funding, the then minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson – later sacked in a ministerial reshuffle – had suggested that new funding was likely to be announced soon.
He said that a “huge amount” of the work of the government’s Disability Unit in the following few weeks would be to provide evidence for individual government departments that would “strengthen the likelihood” of disability-focused funding bids being successful in the spending review.
But the spending review and budget outcome suggests that government departments other than DfE and DWP failed to put in any disability-related bids to the Treasury, that the Disability Unit did not provide them with the necessary evidence, or that the Treasury had rejected their bids.
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