Government’s new Disability Action Plan met with criticism by UK disability charity
The UK Government has launched its new Disability Action Plan, which outlines 32 steps it is taking to make the UK “the most accessible place in the world” for disabled people.
From helping to ensure more disabled children can use their local playground to supporting assistance guide dog users and aspiring disabled politicians, the Disability Action Plan details concrete changes designed to make a difference now and in the future.
Some of the Disability Action Plan actions and pledges include publishing research into the accessibility of private sector products and services in spring 2024; ensuring disabled people’s experiences are fully taken into account during resilience planning for emergencies; leading new research into emerging issues affecting disabled people in the UK over the next 20 years; and a new fund to support disabled people who want to be elected to public office.
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Mims Davies MP, said: “We are building on this government’s really strong track record of supporting and delivering for disabled people by using their key feedback to deliver vital, everyday changes to their lives and we have listened to their asks and are truly determined to deliver on them.
“This new wide ranging plan means disabled children can rightly enjoy the fun of the playground, disabled customers can use the services they’re entitled to and businesses who break laws around assistance dogs will be firmly held to account amongst other impactful changes.
“I look forward to seeing the immediate impact of the Disability Action Plan while we deliver on long-term reforms to make this country the most accessible and importantly equal place to live in the world – so everyone can live their lives to the full and thrive.”
The Cabinet Office’s Disability Unit will also be working with other government departments to explore bidding to host and deliver the 2031 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
The Disability Action Plan sits alongside the National Disability Strategy, which outlines the government’s long-term vision for transforming disabled people’s lives for the better.
However, the new plan has been met with criticism by Disability Rights UK, a leading disability charity led by, run by, and working for disabled people.
In a statement about the new action plan, co-signed by Disability Rights UK, Inclusion London, and Disability Peterborough, Disability Rights UK emphasises that it is clear that the lives of disabled people are not a priority.
The statement reads: “The actions set out in the plan are weak, and too many of the proposed “short-term” actions are not short-term at all – introducing reviews or proposals for 2025, after the General Election when no action can be guaranteed.
“In addition to actions that don’t go far enough – the DAP also ignores the importance of accountability in implementing equality legislation and silences the harm of current policy proposals. For example, actions like improving the accessibility of playgrounds or making government publications and communications more accessible are already part of the obligations outlined in the Equality Act 2010. Following the law is not a transformative policy recommendation to improve the lives of Disabled people. What we need is accountable implementation of the Equality Act and UNCRPD across the board.”
Disability Rights UK adds that the Disability Action Plan misrepresents work already in the pipeline as supportive of disabled people when these policies are “unsupportive at best and harmful at worst”.
It continues: “For example, two of the actions include the delivery of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) improvement plan and the Victims and Prisoners Bill. But Current SEND policy leaves the majority of Disabled children with no support and a fight to access their rights, and the Victims and Prisoners Bill infringes on everyone’s protections under the Human Rights Act.
“These are just two examples of a long list of harmful policies and legislation. The most impactful thing the government could do is withdraw their most harmful policies and legislation – including the introduction of voter ID last year and the proposal to increase benefit sanctions, to name a few.”
The statement also mentions: “In conclusion – the Disability Action Plan is about what non-disabled policy makers are willing to offer us, it is not a plan which protects or enhances our rights or demonstrates an understanding of the social model of disability. It is not what we need, rather it is what a disablist government has grudgingly offered.
“We need co-produced transformation as detailed in the Disabled People’s Manifesto, incorporation of the UNCRPD into domestic law, an end to the social care crisis and the inhumane DWP policies and processes.
“We call on the government to deliver real transformation, and we call on everyone to take action in any way they can to call for the same.”