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Disabled peer challenges minister over involvement of disabled people

Disabled peer challenges minister over involvement of disabled people
26th October 2011 developer

A disabled peer has challenged a minister over whether she is taking account of the views of disabled people in developing new policies.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell told Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, that there had been a “great deal of rhetoric” from the government on how it was listening to disabled people and their organisations.

But Baroness Campbell said there were significant numbers of disabled people who were saying that they “didn’t think they were meaningfully involved”.

Miller, the care services minister Paul Burstow, and the housing and local government minister Grant Shapps were the last witnesses to give evidence to an inquiry by the parliamentary joint committee on human rights into the implementation of disabled people’s right to independent living.

Baroness Campbell told Miller: “What we are receiving more than we anticipated was the feeling from people who came to give evidence [to the inquiry] – disabled people – that there was not meaningful involvement of their voice in the development and implementation and monitoring of policies which affect their rights.”

Miller claimed disabled people had had a “demonstrably important” influence on programmes such as Right to Control (RTC), and that the need for the new £3 million project to support the growth of local disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) had been expressed by disabled people and DPOs.

But Baroness Campbell said disabled people believed that RTC – which puts support from six sources, including council-funded care, into single pots of money for disabled people to use as they wish – had been a “very good example” but was now “going off the boil and [they] were very worried about their involvement”.

Miller insisted that the involvement of disabled people in government policy was “absolutely clear”, whether through the Equality 2025 advisory network, or the “immense consultations” on policies such as disability living allowance (DLA) reform, or her meetings with disability organisations.

She claimed disabled people were “demonstrably” affecting the development of the assessment criteria for the personal independence payment, the planned replacement for DLA.

She added: “Is it that people feel that they are finding it difficult to be always listened to because we do not always completely agree on every single area?

“I think that may well be some of it, but certainly we are absolutely listening very strongly and absolutely taking into account issues that are raised when we are able to.”

But Miller said there would always be a need for disabled people to understand the “proactive and important tension” between the two sides.

Members of the committee referred frequently during the evidence session to disabled people’s rights to independent living as guaranteed by article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Miller said independent living would be “at the heart” of the government’s disability strategy, which is due to be published in draft form next spring and would take the UN convention “as its basis” and focus on priority areas identified by disabled people.