Boris Johnson has promised disabled people in the UK a “better and fairer life” as his government unveiled 100 immediate pledges as part of new, national disability strategy.
But the strategy drew a muted response from disability charities, who welcomed some measures – but said the plan lacks ambition, clear funding and falls short of providing “transformational change”.
Ministers pledged to set up a taskforce examining the increased costs disabled people face and a new public awareness campaign to dispel ingrained stereotypes.
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, after a voluntary scheme did not yield enough data.
And an online access-to-work “passport” will be piloted later this year among disabled education leavers, veterans and employees moving between roles to help them enter work, change job and progress their careers.
“Just as our talented Paralympians are set to take the stage in Tokyo next month, at home we are harnessing that same ambition and spirit, to build a better and fairer life for all disabled people living in the UK,” said Mr Johnson.
“Our new national disability strategy is a clear plan – from giving disabled people the best start in school to unlocking equal job opportunities, this strategy sets us on a path to improve their everyday lives.”
Justin Tomlinson, minister for disabled people, claimed the 114-page document was “transformational” and the strategy would pave the way for the government to be held accountable.
But leading charities criticised the lack of “concrete” details and said it was hard to see how life will be improved for the next generation of disabled people.
Richard Kramer, chief executive of the disability charity Sense, said there was no “centrepiece announcement” to spark immediate change. “Today’s strategy represents a small step forward, but doesn’t take the strides needed to deliver transformational change for disabled people.”
Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive of the disability equality charity Scope, said areas that look promising include the consultation on mandatory disability reporting, and promised improvements to public transport.
But he said the government has not set out how it will close the disability employment gap – the difference in the employment rate for disabled and non-disabled people, 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.”
Disability Rights UK chief executive Kamran Mallick added: “The strategy has insufficient concrete measures to address the current inequalities that disabled people experience in living standards and life chances.”
Britain’s bus firms will be forced to provide audible and visual announcements to help disabled passengers, in a move led by the Department for Transport (DfT).
The DfT has pledged to provide grants of £3.5m to helper smaller companies add audio-visual information systems to their fleets. It also announced that research will be carried out into the design of bus stops and bus stations to ensure they are “accessible for all”.
The government’s strategy also promises to focuses on housing improvements, such as increasing the number of accessible homes built, with a consultation on requiring landlords to make reasonable adjustments to leasehold and commonhold homes.