Disability Strategy Consultation Open Letter

Organisations of and for Disabled people to sign the letter today (12/02/21), by emailing the name of the signatory, and the organisation they represent, to laura.bristoldef@gmail.com .

Letter Re: Disability Strategy Consultation

To: Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work

Dear Justin Tomlinson MP

We write to express our deep concerns about the survey being used to inform the consultation on the National Strategy for Disabled People.

Whilst we welcome a rethink on what the nation’s strategy for Disabled people should be, we believe, as it currently stands, the consultation is:

  1. Not in compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
  • Not fit for purpose, in as much as it is open for contributions that can influence the upcoming Draft Strategy for 4 weeks – a breach of all accepted practice and the government’s own Compacts with the Voluntary and Community Sector pre-2015, namely that the government will – ‘conduct 12-week formal written consultations with clear explanations and rationale for shorter time-frames or a more informal approach’ [The Compact, 2010-15, published December 2010, Crown copyright 2010].
  • Not, as your website claims, based on:

“engagement nationally and across the regions with a diverse network of stakeholders, including leading charities, Disabled people’s organisations and individuals from all parts of society that are affected by disability.”.

  • Not accessible to many Disabled people, because:
  • There has been insufficient time in which to obtain the consultation in accessible formats and digest the contents, in preparation for responding to it;
  • The lockdown means those many Disabled people who are digitally excluded – a key issue in our community – have not even heard about it;
  • The Word version of the survey is itself not accessible because of a failure in its formatting;
  • There is no plain text version of the survey on offer;
  • The online survey is inaccessibly long for almost everyone of us: those who struggle with concentrating for significant amounts of time, those who cannot view a screen for long periods of time, those who experience fatigue, those with dexterity difficulties, etc and even the digitally familiar have reported that they “lost the will to live” trying to complete it;
  • The structure and the relevance of questions need to be addressed along with the restriction of words allowed on the final few questions;
  • There is no telephone option for Disabled people to use, to obtain assistance to fill in the forms.

We therefore call upon you to:

  • Withdraw the consultation immediately.
  • Instigate a 6-month period of meaningful consultation and engagement with national, regional and local organisations of Disabled people (DPOs), organisations for Disabled people and individual Disabled people, across the country.
  • Re-launch a public consultation, after all of the above has been completed, with downloadable copies in all accessible formats available on the website, from day 1 of the consultation – including the option to undertake telephone interviews to be conducted during the consultation.
  • Separate out the Disabled people’s survey from the Carer’s survey.
  • Ensure there is an option to allow organisations to respond to the survey as well.
  • To undertake a mass media and targeted marketing strategy to ensure all disabled people are made aware of the strategy and how they can take part.
  • Publish the Government’s intended strategy in draft form for public comment before final publication.

At a time when the country is in a Covid-19 induced, profound economic recession, we need to ensure that every penny we spend is highly effective.  Millions of pounds are wasted every year by businesses, and the statutory and voluntary sectors because they make decisions

without the input of Disabled people – whether it is an accessible loo built to accommodate manual wheelchairs when most use electric ones, or an employment initiative that focuses on the individual without addressing the assumptions about what Disabled people can and can’t do by those who make recruitment decisions. 

Make every decision count by listening to those that the decisions affect: in this case, Disabled people.

This letter is a petition sent and supported by the organisations listed below and we truly expect your urgent action on this petition.

We would welcome an opportunity to discuss our concerns with you and your colleagues as a matter of urgency.

Kindest regards

Andrew Hodgson, President, National Federation of the Blind of the UK 

Gordon Richardson, Karen Passmore (Co-Chairs) and Laura J Welti, Forum Manager and CO, Bristol Disability Equality Forum

Supporting Organisations So Far

  1. National Federation of the Blind of the UK
  2. Bristol Disability Equality Forum
  3. Access Committee for Leeds
  4. Independent Disability Council of Leeds
  5. Parent Carers Autism Support Group. 
  6. East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired Group
  7. Pocklington Lodge Tenants Association 
  8. Sightseekers
  9. Alstrom Syndrome UK
  10. Eastbourne Disability Involvement Group
  11.  Eastbourne Access Group
  12. Inclusion London
  13. Action on Disability
  14. Walsall Branch National Association Retired Police Officers 
  15. Defiant Sports
  16. Eastbourne Blind Society
  17. The West London Residents Association
  18. Hackney Disability BackUp
  19. East Dunbartonshire Voluntary Action
  20. Deaflinks Staffordshire
  21. Hearing Loss Cornwall
  22. Volunteer Cornwall
  23. Possibility People
  24. Blind Aid
  25. Sight Support Derbyshire
  26. Southampton Sight
  27. Buckinghamshire Disability Service
  28. JPK Sussex Project – East Sussex
  29. Age UK Somerset
  30. Leicester Disabled People’s Access Group
  31. Middlesex Association for the Blind
  32. Tamworth and Lichfield Brain Injury Support Group, Headway Branch
  33. National Association of Disabled Staff Networks