Prime Minister Theresa May has revealed plans to enhance the lives of those living with a disability in the UK, announcing the launch of an Equalities Hub in Parliament.
With around a fifth of the working-age population living with a disability, the Prime Minister also announced a new cross-government disability team which will sit alongside the Government Equalities Office and Race Disparity Unit in a new Equalities Hub.
This team will work closely with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and charities to develop a new approach to disability, with their views and experiences at the forefront of any new policy. Further measures will be set out later this year.
The new package of measures ordered by the Prime Minister includes:
• Higher accessibility standards for new housing
• an overhaul of statutory sick pay
• greater workplace support
• a spotlight on companies’ delivery of services for the disabled
• New research on disabled people and government policy
Outgoing PM Mrs May said: “My determination to identify and tackle injustices, wherever they exist in society, remains as strong as ever.
“So I am proud to announce new measures to break down barriers faced by disabled people, whether in employment, housing or elsewhere.
“We all have a crucial role – businesses, government and civil society – in working together to ensure that disabled people get the support they need, and go as far as their talents can take them.”
Disability focus widely welcomed
Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive at disability equality charity Scope, said: “Continued action from government to tackle the barriers Britain's 14 million disabled people face is welcome.
"Making workplaces more flexible, improving market regulation and government coordination are positive steps in the right direction.
“We know that half of disabled people feel excluded from society, and are too often shut out of work. Life also costs more if you are disabled, and Scope research shows that these costs add up to on average £583 a month.
"We have long called for a concerted effort from government to improve the lives of disabled people in this country. It is therefore positive to see recognition from government that a joined-up approach is needed and necessary.”
Responding to the announcement of a consultation on the accessibility of new homes, Sheron Carter, CEO of Habinteg housing association said: “Currently only 7% of homes in England have even the most basic access features so we really need all new housing to offer good levels of accessibility and adaptability if we’re to get anywhere near meeting the needs of our whole population. Too many disabled and older people are making do in homes that are just not suitable for them.
“We’re not talking about grand designs for every home. The ‘accessible and adaptable’ standard that will be consulted on is purely an ordinary home with some thoughtful design features that make it easier to get around and more adaptable to the changing needs of households over time.
“Our recent accessible homes forecast revealed that less than half of all planning authorities have set requirements for new homes to meet higher accessibility standards. Setting a national policy would not only create a level playing field and more certainty for developers, it would help shift the focus of planning at an authority level to ensure that a sufficient number of new homes are suitable for wheelchair users to live in.”
Habinteg’s Insight Report revealed that just 1% of homes set to be built by 2030 outside London are set to be suitable for wheelchair users.