Disabled people hit out at government progress on manifesto pledge

The Disability Rights Commission has accused the government of
back-tracking on manifesto pledges to introduce enforceable civil
rights for people with disabilities.

In a letter to seven leading disability charities, DRC chief
executive Bob Niven urges them to join him in raising concerns with
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew
Smith about the government’s “significant failure”.

Niven writes: “The DRC and its key stakeholders anticipated a
disability bill to be introduced in the next Parliamentary session
and were not discouraged in that view in a number of discussions
with the DWP at various levels. But we have recently learned that
such legislation will not in fact be forthcoming.

“The failure to secure a slot for primary legislation means that
some of the Disability Rights Task Force’s recommendations of
key importance to disabled people will not be implemented, in
particular the extension of disability rights to cover transport,
housing and all public functions through a positive duty on the
public sector to promote disability equality, as already exists in
respect to race.”

The 2001 manifesto committed the government to implementing the
bulk of the legislative proposals put forward by the task force in
1999. According to Niven, without this legislation, major gaps will

“Legally enforceable entitlements to equality are an essential
part of transforming the opportunities available to disabled people
in practice, as well as providing the foundations for co-operative
working with employers and service providers,” his letter

A spokesperson for the DWP declined to comment on what would
appear in the Queen’s Speech or whether any timescale had
been set for the introduction of a disability bill.

But she insisted that the government remained committed to
fulfilling all its manifesto pledges, including the delivery of
enforceable civil rights for disabled people.

“We lead the way in Europe in this field with the most
comprehensive and far-reaching package of rights for disabled
people,” she said. “We will continue to extend those rights and
opportunities through the most appropriate means.”

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