A cross-government group of ministers set up to drive forward action to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people has met just three times in more than a year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted.
The group of 11 ministers, chaired by work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd (pictured), was set up in May 2018.
It was set up following a period of nearly four years when there was no cross-departmental group of ministers working to improve the lives of disabled people.
But now a response from DWP to a freedom of information request by Disability News Service (DNS) has revealed that the new Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society met just three times between May 2018 and June 2019.
The group of ministers met first on 7 July 2018, and again on 31 October 2018, and then did not meet again until 25 March this year, nearly five months later.
Only last month, prime minister Theresa May – supported by non-user-led charities like Scope and Sense – announced what she said were “new measures to break down barriers faced by disabled people, whether in employment, housing or elsewhere”.
Rudd said at the time that disabled people “encounter too many challenges in life” and the government wanted to “change the landscape for disabled people and to make sure there is always a level playing field for them”.
But many user-led organisations questioned why May had left it until the last days of her time in office to launch what she said was a “new drive to tackle barriers faced by disabled people”.
The admission that the inter-ministerial group set up by May’s government last year, under Rudd’s leadership, has met just three times in more than a year will cast further doubt on what the prime minister claimed was her “determination to identify and tackle injustices”.
DWP has so far refused to say which ministers attended each meeting, even though similar information was eventually released following a complaint to the information commissioner about the actions of the previous inter-ministerial group, which met just three times in 2014 before it was scrapped.
A DWP spokesperson declined to say why the inter-ministerial group had only met three times in more than a year.
But she said in a statement: “Empowering disabled people in all aspects of their lives has always been and will continue to be a priority for this government.
“That is why the Office for Disability Issues continues to drive forward work to increase disabled people’s participation in society, including through the Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society, which is just one of the many ways in which we’re driving progress on the issues that matter to disabled people.”
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