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Cabinet office fails to engage with DPOs

29 January 2019

This is a letter from a Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), to the Cabinet Office, about a workshop on the barriers facing disabled people, which failed to invite any actual DPOs.

To: Tessa Dowdell, Open Innovation Team, Cabinet Office

Dear Tessa,

Re: Addressing the barriers faced by disabled people Cabinet Office Workshop 18 January 2019, 1.00-3.00pm Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall

We are writing in our capacity as the UK CRPD Monitoring Coalition of Disabled Peoples Organisations to express our deep dismay and concern about the total lack of engagement of Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) from across the UK, that are run and controlled by Disabled people ourselves, in the above workshop held last week, that aimed to gain a better understanding of the barriers faced by Disabled people and to explore what more Government can do to tackle them.

When UK Coalition members contacted your office we were informed that the meeting was already at capacity, that it was ‘an initial exploratory meeting’ involving officials from Cabinet Office, the Office for Disability Issues and ‘a small group of academics and disability charity representatives’ and that if the work ‘develops into a more significant work stream’, then there will be the intention to ‘engage with a wide range of disabled person led and smaller groups’.

As already expressed by Coalition members this response is simply not acceptable. Aside from the irony of excluding Disabled people and our organisations from a discussion on the barriers faced by Disabled people, this action and approach goes against the spirit and letter of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It not only fails to meet UK Governments obligations under Article’s 4 and 33 of the CRPD but it also ignores the serious concerns the UN Disability Committee expressed about lack of engagement in its Concluding Observations in August 2017 as detailed below and the subsequent General comment No. 7 (CRPD/C/GC7 2018) that set out in detail expectations for state engagement with DPOs:

1. The Committee is concerned about:

(a) The challenges facing organisations of persons with disabilities, including organisations representing women, children and intersex persons with disabilities, to access support and be consulted and actively involved in the implementation of the Convention; and

(b) The lack of mechanisms to ensure effective participation of all organisations of persons with disabilities, in decision-making processes concerning policies and legislation in all areas of the Convention, such as the strategy “Fulfilling Potential: Making it Happen”.

2. The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Allocate financial resources to support organisations representing persons with disabilities, including women and children with disabilities, and develop mechanisms to ensure an inclusive, strategic, and active involvement of organisations of persons with disabilities, including women, children and intersex persons in the planning and implementing of all legislation and measures affecting the lives of persons with disabilities; and

(b) Establish mechanisms supporting the full participation of organisations of persons with disabilities in the design and implementation of strategic policies aimed at implementing the Convention across the State party, through objective measurable, financed and monitored strategic plan of actions.

We understand that some DPOS are now meeting with Cabinet office representatives and though this is welcome this is simply not good enough. DPOs should not be an afterthought but should be automatically considered in the first instance as the primary stakeholder, including in the conception stages of such meetings. Our exclusion from this workshop would simply be unacceptable if it occurred under any other equalities strand, for example, a workshop on women’s issues held by men that excluded women’s organisations yet this is precisely what has happened here.

The UK CRPD Monitoring Coalition of Disabled Peoples Organisations is meeting with the Minister of Disabled People on the 14 February where we will be discussing the urgent need for a UK wide plan and framework for strategic engagement between DPOs and the Government. We hope and expect that the Cabinet Office and ODI will positively contribute to these discussions and pro-actively work to develop a strategic programme of engagement with DPOs that respects and reflects the CRPD and the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Damian Barry: Executive Director British Deaf Association

Linda Burnip: Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance /Disabled People Against Cuts

Julie Jaye Charles: CEO Equalities National Council

Rhian Davies: CEO Disability Wales

Tara Flood: Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance / Director Allfie

Dorothy Gould: National Survivors Users Network

Tracey Lazard: Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance / CEO Inclusion London

Andrew Lee: Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance / Director People First

Eleanor Lisney: Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance / Director Sisters of Frida

Karen Hall: Assistant Director Disability Action Northern Ireland

Kamran Mallick: CEO Disability Rights UK

John McArdle: Black Triangle

Denise McKenna: Mental Health Resistance Network

Dr Sally Witcher OBE: CEO Inclusion Scotland