The minister for disabled people appears to have confirmed that the Treasury has provided no new funding to boost the government’s National Disability Strategy, other than for employment and education schemes.
Disability News Service (DNS) reported last month that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, appeared to have failed to provide any new funding for disabled people in the budget and spending review, except for education and back-to-work support projects.
That seemed to be confirmed later when a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson – after being asked for details of new disability-focused bids that were successful in the spending review – pointed only to spending on disability employment support and new school places for children with special educational needs.
This week, the new minister for disabled people, Chloe Smith (pictured, second from right), was questioned in parliament about the Treasury’s apparent failure to provide new funding to support the disability strategy.
Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, told her it was clear that “money is required to deliver a fully inclusive society”.
And she asked the minister to confirm that the spending review provided no extra funding linked to the strategy, other than for education and employment.
She also asked if Smith planned to ask the chancellor for more money and if she would push for a full debate on the National Disability Strategy.
Smith told her the strategy and its implementation would be one of her “utmost priorities”.
But she pointed only to funding provided through the budget and spending review for disability employment support, and she ignored the call for more funding and a debate on the strategy.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said in August (PDF) that the National Disability Strategy would be a “down payment” on the promise to “build back better and fairer, for all our disabled people”.
But 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.
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 the Department for Education and DWP failed to put in any disability-related bids to the Treasury, or that the Disability Unit did not provide them with the necessary evidence to persuade the Treasury to provide new funding.
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