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New year message from our CEO Liz Sayce

05 January 2016

As we start work in 2016 I want to reflect on what we have achieved so far and ‘where next?’

In 2015 I was proud that DR UK spoke out strongly against government proposals that would jeopardise our hard-won independent living.

We gave powerful evidence - rooted in what our members told us - to a House of Lords Review of the proposed £30 a week cut from 2017 to new claimants in the ESA Work Related Activity Group. The Lords responded with a hard-hitting report that reflected our views. Next we will continue campaigning to reverse this harsh proposal

We also spoke out on the major problems with benefit sanctions, and the lack of evidence that they incentivise disabled people to work – and the Work and Pensions Select Committee responded agreeing there was no evidence either way, and called for a full review. 

We are convening a group of Disabled People’s Organisations on how to halve the disability employment gap – and with others we influenced government to fund 25,000 more people to get Access to Work by 2020. We also chaired a group that influenced government to mitigate plans on Disabled Students’ Allowance.

But, as disabled people leading change, we are far more than critics. We show, not just tell, how things could be different.

On independent living, in 2015:

  • With sister organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we launched DRILL, a 5-year programme of independent living research, led by disabled people at every stage and every level. This should give us our own evidence base for the long term 
  • With Disabled People’s Organisations in Cheshire, Leicester and Norfolk, we set up Get Yourself Active, to test using personal budgets to get fair access to physical activity and sport
  • Together with our partners, CHANGE and Shaping Our Lives we have helped NHS England to develop its accessible information standard which will mean that from July accessible information will have to be provided to disabled patients
  • We set up a Fab Lab project through which disabled people in Salford have influenced and used new digital fabrication and 3-D printing to enhance independent living
  • We worked with Ambassador Stephen Brookes to promote our guidance on reporting hostility and hate crime

On careers:

  • We celebrated the graduation of disabled people from our Leadership Academy – designed to enable people to get not just ‘a job’ but decent careers - many secured career development opportunities and promotions (and the Academy goes from strength to strength)
  • We set up I Can Make It, a campaign led by young disabled people for better job opportunities
  • We published research and reports on how to close the disability skills gap and new guides eg Into Further Education

Every month, we reach more and more people: we gave independent information to over 1.3 million people in the last year - on benefits, student issues, independent living – as well as more detailed advice to our member organisations. We celebrated when we published the 40th edition of the renowned Disability Rights Handbook  

And thank you to everyone who came to our events, including putting vital questions in November to the Minister for Disabled People, the Shadow Minister for Disabled People and the Chair of the All-party Parliamentary Disability Group

I hope everyone has a great 2016 and that we have opportunities to engage together – whether through policy forums or events.