VODG responds to UK Disability Survey

13 February 2021

VODG has responded to the UK Disability Survey highlighting how the survey presents an opportunity for the government to remove existing barriers faced by disabled people in many areas of their lives and embed progressive policies across all government departments to support disabled people to live full and rewarding lives.

The survey, carried out by the government’s Disability Unit, is aimed at gathering the views of disabled people, carers, families, and those with an interest in disability issues to help inform the upcoming National Strategy for Disabled People, expected to be published in Spring 2021.

VODG believes the new strategy must lead to:

  • A significant shift in the status of disabled people in society in order to tackle inherent discrimination.
  • Disability issues being on par and equal to non-disability issues in the development and implementation of government polices
  • A greater stronger recognition of the role of values based voluntary sector services in supporting disabled people.

The VODG submission also outlined how improvements in three key areas can help achieve these outcomes:

  1. Changing perceptions

Ensure disability inclusion in education and in the workforce
England’s educational system needs to be more responsive to the needs of disabled students and move away from a one-size-fits-all approach which can disadvantage those who learn differently or require additional support.

Ensure disability inclusive policies
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, disability services have been overlooked in the government’s policy response. This has been most evident in the implementation of guidance and policy around PPE, COVID-19 testing, and vaccines. It is imperative this strategy moves us towards more disability inclusive policies.

Disability hate crime
Research conducted in 2020 indicates that reports of disability hate crimes continue to rise but few cases make it to court. The strategy must advocate for stronger legislation in this area.

  1. Progressive policy development and implementation

Life transitions
Through this strategy, the government has an opportunity to review, improve and implement policies that support and empower disabled people across the entire life course.

End the reliance on long-stay inpatient units for people with autism, learning disabilities, and mental health conditions
This strategy must push for the legislation and funding required to protect the thousands of people currently detained in long-stay NHS-funded care and move to provide them with comprehensive, effective and safe provision of care in the community.

Social care must be a key tenant of the strategy
The strategy must advocate for long-term financial sustainability for the sector as well as full-scale system reform.

  1. Recognising the role of the voluntary sector

Encouragement of relational partnering between local government and the voluntary sector
The government needs to invest in supporting local authorities to strengthen local partnerships and collaborative working with the voluntary sector via improved commissioning practices such as collusive tendering and relational partnerships.

Drawing upon the voluntary sector as a solution to improving outcomes in public services
By partnering with the voluntary sector to build community provision and move people out of long-stay hospitals, the government can move away from expensive and outdated forms of care and save public funds.

Tackling health inequalities among disabled people
The pandemic continues to highlight the health inequalities that exist among disabled people compared to non-disabled people. This strategy should include a plan to work with the Department of Health and Social Care and its agencies on reducing such inequalities.

Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of VODG, said:

“The hallmark of a fair and equitable society includes fully meeting people’s needs and enabling disabled people to have full choice and control over their lives, and to be included in society.

“With a new strategy and advocacy from the Disability Unit there is an opportunity to address long-standing and enduring systemic issues that have led to barriers and obstacles for many disabled people and their families as well as the organisations and services that support them.

“The strategy presents an opportunity for the government to remove existing barriers faced by disabled people in many areas of their lives and embed progressive policies across all government departments to support disabled people to live full and rewarding lives, and not ‘just receive a service’. It is crucial that the strategy is truly cross departmental and places value on a broad range of outcomes for disabled people.”

VODG Media Centre