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Government suggests long delay to disability strategy

Government suggests long delay to disability strategy
24th May 2012 developer

The coalition appears to have ordered a lengthy delay to the publication of its cross-government disability strategy.

A consultation on the strategy ended in early March, and the government had promised that it would be published in the spring.

But a progress report on the government’s wider equality strategy, published this week, says the disability strategy will now be published “later this year”.

A discussion document published last December, Fulfilling Potential, provided few clues on the government’s direction, and asked disabled people to suggest “practical ways of making a real difference” to their lives.

Fulfilling Potential outlined three key areas: ensuring appropriate support, increasing individual choice and control, and changing attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people.

But Maria Miller, the Conservative minister for disabled people, warned in its introduction that there was “a challenging economic climate so we have to think about what our priorities should be”.

More than 5,000 people attended events during the disability strategy consultation or submitted written feedback.

There are likely to be concerns that the delay is due to the steady and angry criticism Miller has faced from disabled people over her government’s cuts and reforms to services and disability benefits, and its approach to the equality agenda.

The Office for Disability Issues, which is responsible for the disability strategy, has so far refused to comment.

Meanwhile, in a policy u-turn, Miller announced this week that employers who recruit young disabled people – aged between 18 and 24 – through the specialist Work Choice employment programme will be paid up to £2,275 per recruit.

The scheme could support more than 1,000 disabled young people every year.

Miller told MPs: “This is at a time when they might be overlooked because of a lack of skills or experience and the scheme can therefore help reduce the scarring that young people face as a result of a recession.”

Earlier this month, the government was criticised for not including young disabled people on Work Choice as part of its new Youth Contract, a youth unemployment scheme which will see subsidies of up to £2,275 paid to employers who recruit 18-to-24-year-olds claiming benefits on the Work Programme.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “Disabled people could already access the wage incentive through the Work Programme, the same as everyone else.

“However, we never ruled out extending this to cover other specialist employment programmes such as Work Choice.”

24 May 2012