The National Disability Strategy was published in July 2021, it is a cross-government strategy to improve the lives of disabled people.

In January 2022, the High Court ruled the strategy unlawful, based on a case brought by four disabled people in relation to the consultation process. The Government has applied for permission to appeal. In June 2022, the Government announced it intends to pause parts of the strategy while the legal case is pursued.

What’s in the strategy?

The National Disability Strategy was informed by the UK Government’s Disability Survey, which ran from January to April 2021,  engagement with disability stakeholders, some disabled people, academics, charities and think tanks.

The strategy is UK-wide but individual policies vary across the nations.

It is split into three parts. Over all, it aims to address difficulties people with disabilities face daily, including:

  • Living in a home not adapted to their needs.
  • Difficulty accessing the transport network to get out and about.
  • Difficulty navigating inaccessible and inflexible workplaces or education settings.
  • Facing limited choice and additional expense when shopping for goods and services.
  • Unresponsive and fragmented public services that don’t meet their needs.
  • Feeling excluded from leisure opportunities and socialising.
  • Finding themselves barred from exercising rights, such as voting and serving on a jury.

The first part (Part 1: practical steps now to improve disabled people’s everyday lives) sets out immediate actions the Government will take under the following headings:

  1. Rights and perceptions: removing barriers to participating fully in public and civic life and wider society
  2. Housing: creating more accessible, adapted and safer homes
  3. Transport: improving the accessibility and experience of everyday journeys
  4. Jobs: making the world of work more inclusive and accessible
  5. Education: ensuring children and young people fulfil their potential
  6. Shopping: more consumer choice and convenience
  7. Leisure: widening access to arts, culture, sport and the great outdoors
  8. Public services: making access as smooth and easy as possible

 The second part (Part 2: disabled people’s everyday experience at the heart of government policy making and service delivery) deals with longer term structural change to the way Government works with, and for, disabled people by:

  • Putting disabled people at the “heart of government policy making and service delivery”
  • Tracking progress

Part three (Part 3: a cross-government effort to transform disabled people’s everyday lives) sets out each government department’s commitments.

Many of the commitments rely on other Government work, including:

How was the strategy received?

The response has been mixed. The concept of having a cross-departmental Government strategy was generally welcomed. The last strategy, Fulfilling Potential: improving the lives of disabled people, had not been updated for many years.

There were positive comments on the description of inequalities experienced by disabled people and on some of the Government’s plans. The disability equality charity, Scope, said in a press release there were “promising” areas: “such as the commitment to get companies reporting on disability figures in the workplace, the creation of an accessible technology centre, action to improve public transport, and a taskforce to look at the extra costs that disabled people face.”

However, critical commentary said the strategy’s content was not new. The Disability News Service said: “Many of the ‘practical actions’ have already been announced, amount to nothing more than updated guidance, or are subject to further consultation, discussion or review”.

Criticism also focused on a lack of detail about commitments, targets and funding. Disability Rights UK CEO, Kamran Mallick said the strategy was “disappointingly thin” in relation to immediate action, medium-term plans and longer-term investment. He called for radical plans: 

The Strategy has insufficient concrete measures to address the current inequalities that Disabled people experience in living standards and life chances.

There are scant plans and timescales on how to bring about vastly needed improvements to benefits, housing, social care, jobs, education, transport, and equitable access to wider society.

While we welcome the Government’s recognition that Disabled people are much less likely than non-Disabled people to have a job, qualifications, to own a home, or to live in an accessible home, we haven’t been given the bold plans that will fix these huge issues.

A vision is not enough. Admitting change won’t happen ‘overnight’ isn’t enough. We need radical plans, timescales, and deep financial investment to make change a reality.

Strategy declared unlawful

After its publication, four disabled people took the DWP to court for failing to conduct a proper consultation process. They argued the UK Disability Survey of spring 2021 did not meet the standards required for a government consultation, as it didn’t give respondents an opportunity to shape the strategy. Respondents were asked only to respond to specific questions.

On 25 January 2022, the High Court’s judgment in R(Binder & Others) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions declared the strategy to be unlawful due to failures in the consultation process.

The following week, the DWP was refused an opportunity to appeal against the High Court’s ruling. The High Court confirmed the whole strategy was unlawful, not just the consultation.

On 13 June 2022, Chloe Smith, the Minister for Disabled People, updated parliament. She said the Government had applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal and in the meantime, some of the policies in the strategy were paused:

 […]

We strongly disagree with this finding and are disappointed that the declaration prevents us from taking forward some of our important work. The DWP Secretary of State has therefore sought permission to appeal this decision from the Court of Appeal.

Whilst awaiting a decision on permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal, we are required to take steps to comply with the Court’s declaration. The Secretary of State wants to minimise the risk of acting inconsistently with the Court’s declaration, without compromising on the ambitious agenda we are delivering for disabled people. As such, we are pausing a limited number of policies which are referred to in the strategy or are directly connected with it.

[…]


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