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APPG latest: Ahead of the Arc and our international outlook

05 July 2018

Over the last few months the APPG has held productive events within Parliament and achieved success progressing the Ahead of the Arc report across Whitehall.

Since our last post, the APPG has been keeping very busy. Firstly, we’ve have done quite a lot with an international outlook; in March, we held a meeting on International Development and its role in driving equality and inclusion on a global scale. Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development, came and spoke to us about the upcoming Global Disability Summit, which presents a lot of promise for NGOs, DPOs and disabled people worldwide. She stayed to answer some questions and took many more away with her in writing.

The meeting brought a lot of new attendees to the APPG, and as a follow up Dr Cameron just recently co-hosted an event with Hope and Homes for Children, looking at how best to combat the institutionalisation of disabled children through DFID’s aid programmes. The APPG made contact with many heavy hitters from the private and third sectors, and hopes to take forward the conclusions to make a real difference for disabled children in the world’s less developed countries. In the same vein, Dr Cameron is supporting a report by Syria Relief which makes excellent recommendations to improve the lives of disabled children in Syria, and the APPG also recently hosted delegates from the French Parliament and discussed with them how Parliament and its processes can become more inclusive and accessible to disabled people.  

We also held a meeting that thoroughly examined the issue of accessibility. Accessibility cannot be limited to one issue or area, but affects all aspects of life, and hence the meeting looked at transport, housing, the built environment and digital services altogether. We had more ministerial attendance with Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Transport, coming to talk to us about the recent government consultation on accessible transport, as well as Government Digital Services who detailed the government’s upcoming strategy for digital inclusion. Dr David Kelly also came to tell us about BRE Scotland’s pioneering work in modernised houses for people with dementia, and speakers from the Equality and Human Rights Commission took us through their new housing report.

Our next meeting is our AGM, where we are pleased announce the standing of new officers, including Julia Lopez MP, Jim Shannon MP, Thangam Debbonaire MP and Michael Tomlinson MP, and which will be combined with a meeting focussed on the representations of disabled people in the media. We want to look at inclusion both behind the camera, in terms of the practice of media companies, and in front of the camera, in terms of how disabled people are portrayed on television and other mediums.

We have an excellent line up of speakers from the BBC, Channel 4, the Financial Times and Omnicom Media Group. We also have several topics planned for the coming year after parliamentary recess, including the Changing Places campaign, which aims to see fully accessible disabled toilets installed around the country, and another which will examine the Social Care green paper once it is released. For invitations and more information please contact appgsecretariat@disabilityrightsuk.org.

The APPG’s report Ahead of the Arc is also making great progress across Whitehall. Since February, the authors and Dr Cameron have been busy meeting with numerous government departments, with a view to influencing policy and practice on the disability employment gap. The most notable of these is a meeting that Philip Connolly (Disability Rights UK) and Kim Hoque (Disability@Work) had in April with the Prime Minister’s special adviser on disability at 10 Downing Street, to which there have been follow-up meetings. The impact of the report has been noted by the Department for Work and Pensions and we look forward to further engagement with the government over their disability employment policy. Also in April, Melanie Jones and Victoria Wass (Disability@Work) met with representatives of Innovate UK and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to advise them on their data collection of disabled applicants and participants. The team will maintain contact with - and continue to assist - their colleagues at Innovate UK.

Philip and Disability@Work colleagues remain in close contact with the DWP’s Joint Work and Health Unit. This is a particularly important relationship as the Joint Work and Health Unit is responsible for the Improving Lives command paper, which lays out the government’s strategy to meet its manifesto pledge to increase the number of disabled people in employment by 1 million. The command paper makes it clear, however, that the government will not introduce new policy initiatives until the requisite research highlighting what works/ does not work has been undertaken.

With a view to hastening this process, efforts are currently underway to arrange a joint conference with the Joint Work and Health Unit to ensure they are fully briefed on the policy recommendations within existing research. In addition to this, Philip and Disability@Work colleagues have sought to emphasise to the Joint Work and Health Unit the limitations of the Disability Confident scheme.

Further, following engagement with the Infrastructure Client Group, Philip Connolly is now a member of the Major Projects Authority’s Equality and Diversity Forum, advising them on disability-related matters. Dr Cameron also managed to discuss the report in a debate with the Minister for Disabled People Sarah Newton, and has secured a written response to the report by the DWP.

The APPG also ran an enquiry into how the closures of physical bank branches around the country – 2100 have closed in 3 years – have affected and will affect disabled people. We received an overwhelmingly negative response, with almost all those surveyed reporting a need for physical bank branches, and many respondees labelling the alternatives, such as online banking and mobile replacement vans, as inaccessible and inadequate in services provided.The report can be read here

Dr Cameron is currently taking this further with relevant stakeholders and hopes to make sure that the banking industry does not leave disabled people behind. For our next reporting year, the APPG hopes to launch another enquiry culminating in a report, similar to our Ahead of the Arc report published in 2016. We want to look at how disabled people engage with their MPs and the political process around the country, and report on how political participation among disabled people can be encouraged and improved.

Minutes for all our meetings are available here. For further details about our meetings and events, or to be involved in our upcoming programme of work, please contact appgsecretariat@disabilityrightsuk.org. We also have a Twitter page, where we post updates about the activities of the APPG for Disability: https://twitter.com/DisabilityAPPG.