The long awaited National Disability Strategy, is significant in so far as it looks broadly at the many and varied barriers that still exist for disabled people in the UK. It is right for the government to look across departments to create a joined up approach to improving access and inclusion and the commitment of ministers across government to this agenda must be acknowledged. However, without strategic goals, we fear this agenda is merely wishful thinking.
Whilst we welcome the government’s commitments, we are concerned at the lack of detail that has been given around key issues impacting on the lives of people we support and the absence of ambitious targets by which the government and disabled people can measure progress.
Much of the substance of the strategy is made of up commitments that have already been made, for example on mandatory learning disability and autism training, as well as social care reform – some of which are already long overdue.
We share a vision for social care with many other organisations and disabled people, it is one in which we can all live in a place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us.
It is disappointing that the strategy makes no commitment as to when social care reform will be delivered, nor does it align itself to a vision for social care in which working age adults can access the support they need to live the life they choose.
We are disappointed that there is no commitment to bring forward legislative change in relation to hate crime law as it relates to people who have a disability once the Law Commission reports later in the year. The Law Commission has carried out extensive consultation with disabled people and charities and calls for law reform have been unanswered for almost a decade.
We want the government to commit to reforming legislation so that victims of disability hate crime have fair and equal protection from prejudice and hostility under the law and to set a strategic objective for increasing the number of successful prosecutions of crimes perpetrated against people who have a learning disability and/or autism.
We welcome the government reiterating its commitment to tackling health inequality, including through the implementation of mandatory training across health and social care. Through our #MyGPandMe campaign, we are continuing to work with primary care to improve health outcomes. We also know, through this work, that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on people who have a learning disability, making high quality and accessible health services more important than ever. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people who have a learning disability must be addressed as we move beyond the pandemic.
The government has reiterated its commitment to reforming the Mental Health Act, which we hope will lead to change for the thousands of people who have a learning disability and autism who are inappropriately detained in inpatient units.
Whilst we welcome the commitments made on accessible housing, there will be a missed opportunity if these initiatives are not strategically linked to the issue of inpatient detention, with lack of appropriate housing being one of the primary drivers of delayed discharge.
Additionally, the lack of community service provision to meet people’s needs and prevent inpatient detention must be addressed as part of the wider agenda to reform social care, but has no visibility in the strategy as it stands.