Quote of the Week:
“As the youngest member of the body established to advise the Government on the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act, I remember the sense of excitement that the new law created. Heralded as a new dawn for disabled people, 26 years later we are still waiting for the sun to rise.”
Lord Shinkwin, in “Now is the time: A report by the CSJ Disability Commission”, released on 25 March 2021
Welcome to the first of BDF’s policy team’s weekly round ups, which will be posted each Friday afternoon to bring you the latest news on the policy activity we and our membership have been working on.
On Wednesday I gave evidence at the Work and Pensions Committee on the disability employment gap alongside Lord Kevin Shinkwin and the Director of WPI Economics, Matthew Oakley. The Committee asked about mandatory workforce reporting, the development of the National Disability Strategy, and how disability should be managed across Government. This latter point is timely, as we will also be submitting written evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee on the role of the Government Equalities Office later today – more on that next week.
I recalled to the Committee that we remain concerned about the title of the Government’s imminent disability strategy. It must not be a “National Strategy for Disabled People”. As we and the other Disability Charity Consortium organisations said in our joint Manifesto, this is not a strategy “for” disabled people. Lord Shinkwin was clear that the Government must not continue to do things ‘for’ disabled people and must instead move toward fulfilling its commitment to co-production (which the Social Security Advisory Committee’s recent report showed the Government does not currently do as effectively as it could). This is a strategy to move the UK towards a more inclusive society for everyone, meaning everyone has a stake in this strategy. We have been disappointed with the lack of engagement the Government has undertaken with businesses on the Strategy and we will be submitting additional evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee on this point within the next few weeks.
The session also debated the use of mandatory workforce data reporting, a topic we have been consulting with our members on since October last year. We agree in principle with the requirement, but the detail of such a mandatory requirement is complex. For example, given many employers are moving away from reporting data by protected characteristic, is reporting by ‘single strand’ separately a somewhat backward move? Some employers have developed inclusion strategies to ensure people do not have to share personal information if they do not want to for cultural or religious related reasons (for example), meaning the percentage of people reporting a disability in their organisation has fallen but inclusion and engagement has increased. Are we moving to judging inclusion by numbers instead of by the experience of individuals? There are benefits to such a requirement, but there are also problems. We continue to work on our discussion paper on this informed by the interviews my team are doing with members. Watch this space for the outcome.
As our work on inclusive technology continues, we heard Chi Onwurah (Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central) ask the Equalities Minister at the Women and Equalities Committee on Wednesday 24 March question why the Government had implemented video conferencing and photo apps that do not recognise Black faces. For a long time, people using assistive technologies have also experienced barriers to technologies implemented by businesses and Government. We are working with our members on inclusive, non-discriminatory technology solutions but, in this fast-moving area, businesses must ensure a cross-equalities approach to inclusive designing and procuring technology solutions in and for their organisations.
This week also saw the latest release of the Family Resources Survey, giving the latest figures for disabled people and informal carers in the UK. Headlines include:
- There are 14.1 million people with a disability in the UK. This is 22 per cent of the UK or 1 in 5. The highest prevalence of disability is in Wales and in the north east of England.
- The percentages by condition have remained more or less consistent, aside from mental health which has continued to increase year on year.
- 7 per cent of the UK are informal carers (around 4.5 million people).
A more in-depth analysis of recent disability and business in collusion data is coming from us soon.
Lastly, we continue to ‘keep our eye on’ how post-Brexit procurement laws and regulations are progressing. Proposal to transform public procurement are currently not robustly ensure public contracts are inclusive and accessible to disabled people. Read our written evidence to Cabinet Office on this issue here.
If you would like to get in touch with BDF’s policy team or would like any of the documents we have linked to sent to you directly, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org