Prime Minister launches new drive to break down barriers faced by disabled people
Announced yesterday by Prime Minister Theresa May, injustices faced by disabled people in the workplace, at home and in the community will be addressed through the introduction of new measures.
Higher accessibility standards for new housing, an overhaul of statutory sick pay, and greater workplace support are part of renewed efforts to ensure disabled people can fully participate in society.
With around a fifth of the working-age population living with a disability, the Prime Minister has also announced a new cross-government disability team, incorporating the Office for Disability Issues.
This team will work closely with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and charities to develop a new approach to disability, with their views and experiences at the forefront of any new policy.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “My determination to identify and tackle injustices, wherever they exist in society, remains as strong as ever.
“So I am proud to announce new measures to break down barriers faced by disabled people, whether in employment, housing or elsewhere.
“We all have a crucial role – businesses, government and civil society – in working together to ensure that disabled people get the support they need, and go as far as their talents can take them.”
Recognising that too many disabled people still live in unsuitable homes, the Government will consult on mandating higher accessibility standards for new housing.
This could help deliver up to 300,000 new accessible and adaptable homes every year. Guidance will also be published to help councils meet current standards for accessible housing in England.
A consultation on new measures to help employers better support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions in work will also be published next month. These include reforming Statutory Sick Pay so it is better enforced, more flexible to encourage a phased return to work, and covers the lowest paid.
The Work and Pensions Secretary will also explore how to improve support for those on disability benefits through a Green Paper, for which her department will engage extensively with disabled people’s organisations and charities.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said: “Disabled people encounter too many challenges in life and I want to see these end.
“We want to change the landscape for disabled people and to make sure there is always a level playing field for them. Because all of us need an equal chance to live a life of opportunity and fulfilment.
“We intend to support disabled people in all phases of their life so that the pursuit of equality is a shared goal.”
Further measures will be set out later this year by the UK Government to improve the lives of disabled people.
Richard Kramer, Chief Executive for the disability charity Sense, commented: “Today’s announcement is a significant one for disabled people, and addressing the inequalities they face.
“For too long now, disability policy has been focused on what benefits or services disabled people do or don’t access, rather than the lives they want, and have a right to lead.
“Equality for disabled people is everyone’s business and cuts across all areas of policy and life, which is why we have been calling for and welcome this new cross government approach.
“We know that today is just the beginning of the journey, but we look forward to working with the government as this work takes shape, and ensuring it is led by and centres around disabled people to truly deliver meaningful change.”
Catherine Foot, Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, added: “Older people and those with a disability are at a serious disadvantage in our housing market and in the workplace. Just 7% of homes meet basic accessibility criteria and many people face ageism at work. So this new cross-government team is very welcome.
“Delivering enough accessible homes and future proofing our housing stock will mean changing regulations so local authority planners and private developers are required to build homes everyone can live in.
“Now is the time for action. Very few affordable and accessible houses are being built each year, and many older workers aren’t properly supported to manage a health condition at work.”