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Government's ‘tick-box’ disability strategy lacks ambition, scope and funding, campaigners warn

THE government’s new disability strategy lacks ambition, scope and funding, campaigners and charities warned today as they rejected the “tick-box” plan.

Union leaders also slammed the government for missing its chance to help disabled workers by closing the employment gap.

The government has unveiled 100 immediate pledges to improve the lives and opportunities of disabled people in a £1.6 billion strategy.

These include a public awareness campaign to dispel ingrained stereotypes and a taskforce examining the increased cost disabled people face.

The government will also consult on whether to make it mandatory for employers with 250 or more staff to report on disability in their workforce.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the 114-page document of actions provides a “clear plan,” while Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson called the strategy “transformational.”

But disability charities said it is hard to see how life would be improved for the next generation of disabled people without more concrete detail.

Sense head Richard Kramer said that there is no “centrepiece announcement” to spark immediate change.

The strategy “represents a small step forward, but doesn’t take the strides needed to deliver transformational change,” he said.

Scope chief executive Mark Hodgkinson said promising areas include the consultation on mandatory disability reporting and improvements to public transport.

But he warned that families would gain little beyond tweaks to the education system, adding that the government had not set out how it would close the disability employment gap, which stands at 28.6 per cent.

He said: “Many of the short-term commitments made are to be welcomed, but the strategy as a whole falls short of the transformational plan that many disabled people expected and deserve.

“Unless we get clear detail beyond the next 12 months, it is difficult to see how life will be significantly different for the next generation of disabled people.”

Inclusion London CEO Tracey Lazard said disabled people have been repeatedly ignored by the government despite being disproportionately hit by austerity, cuts to public services, cuts to benefits, a “broken” social care system and by the governments’ “ongoing failure to protect and support” them.

“Working with disabled people and our organisations to develop a disability strategy able to tackle these deep inequalities was an opportunity this government has chosen to ignore,” she said.

“Instead, it pressed ahead with a tick-box exercise producing a strategy not fit for purpose and that has limited credibility with disabled people.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone should have an equal chance to earn a living and pursue a career.

“But disabled people still face huge barriers at work. And the government has once again missed the chance to act.”

Ms O’Grady said disabled people were far less likely to be in paid employment and when they are, they are hit by a 20 per cent pay gap, which is growing year on year.

“The way to end this is to make employers report on their disability pay gaps — but ministers have failed to support this,” she said.

“Disabled workers have a legal right to the reasonable adjustments they need but two-fifths of disabled workers aren’t getting them. Ministers should have taken the opportunity to strengthen the duty on employers.

“And ministers should get on with their long-promised plans to make flexible working the default by giving all workers a day one right to work flexibly.”

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