17 February 2022

Inclusive policy making?

Parliament buildings on the Thames

Have you heard about the Government’s disability strategy? If not, you could be forgiven. Despite affecting at least 1 in 5 of us who are disabled and many more who are our support workers, carers, family member or friends, the strategy, published in July 2021, received little news coverage. What is even more surprising, the High Court has recently found it to be illegal.

Four disabled people brought a legal case against the government, claiming that the strategy’s consultation process had not allowed disabled people to shape its content. On 3 February 2022 the High Court ruled that the process had been unlawful because the 14,000 disabled people who took part were not provided with enough information to allow them ‘intelligent consideration and response’. The court found that it was impossible to answer the survey in a meaningful way, criticising the reliance on multiple choice questions and word-limited responses. It also found that the strategy itself was illegal.

Result CIC’s Jane Cordell started to complete the survey, however she felt so frustrated by the narrow format and assumptions underlying the first few questions that she did not complete it. She said, “I wanted to contribute to what had been heralded in 2019 by the now Prime Minister as a ‘one-in-a-generation transformational plan”. But from the very start I felt that the survey had been based on lived experience of disability or deafness. Therefore, I chose not to try to force my experience into a format which could not acknowledge it accurately or fully.’

The High Court judgement denies the government permission to appeal, however the government can apply for permission to appeal in the Court of Appeal.

The UK has a well-established network of disabled people’s organisations (DPO). The DPO Forum England has written to the Minister for Disability at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Chloe Smith. It has asked the Minister to meet its members to discuss their concerns about the government’s failure to engage with DPOs in a ‘strategic and meaningful’ way.

This regrettable situation regarding the Disability Strategy raises a question: How do you create inclusive policy? It seems that we have plenty of information about what not to do, so how should the government go about the task of ‘re-setting’ its policy? The DPO Forum said a new national strategy should tackle wide-ranging issues such as poverty, living standards, transport, housing and employment. They emphasise the need to work together on this. And that seems to be the key issue. Is there a risk in treating ‘disability’ as a topic separate from the people who experience it and their lives? And doesn’t any policy need to get to the heart of how we experience disability?

There are other ways. Compare what has happened in the UK, and the cost of a process which looks as if it will need to be scrapped and re-started, to Australia’s disability strategy. This was based on a multi-year detailed consultation process and a referendum on how to fund the comprehensive National Disability Insurance Service (NDIS). No system is perfect, but it seems that one of the real strengths of Australia’s system is that everyone supports it (via a tax levy) and can, potentially, benefit. So, they really are ‘all in this together’.

Wouldn’t it be great if the next time we hear about a national Disability Strategy, it was based on solid lived experience – and was something to celebrate?

Result CIC is a disabled-led organisation with a wealth of experience in working with disabled people. Take a look at our blogs on the topic of disability

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We are Result CIC, a community interest company. We work with people who feel marginalised or excluded to become more confident about their abilities and to fulfill their potential. We also work with Directors, Managers and CEOs who need support to bring about positive change in terms of diversity and inclusion in their organisations. We each have personal experience of the issues affecting the people we work to support, including disability, immigration, mental health and sexuality. We have also worked in senior positions in industry and government.

Our vision is a society where every individual can achieve their potential, feel fulfilled and make a valuable contribution. 

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