Disability Rights UK responds to Disability Action Plan

Tue,6 February 2024
News Equality & Rights

Yesterday evening, the government published their Disability Action Plan (DAP).

With the law requiring a general election by January 2025 the DAP aims to focus on “the immediate actions the government would take in 2023 and 2024 to improve disabled people’s lives” – rather than long-term transformative goals. However, despite this looming deadline, government policy and inaction has long made clear that the lives of Disabled people are not a priority.

The action plan follows a National Disability Strategy which was ruled unlawful by the High Court in January 2022, a now demoted Disability Minister post which was left empty for a week in December, and the UK being the first country to be investigated by the UN due to “grave and systemic violations” of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, where Disabled people are significantly more likely to be living in poverty, and households with at least 1 Disabled adult or child face extra costs of £975 a month on average, we need transformative change.

The actions set out in the plan are weak, and too many of the proposed “short-term” actions are not short-term at all – introducing reviews or proposals for 2025, after the General Election when no action can be guaranteed.

In addition to actions that don’t go far enough – the DAP also ignores the importance of accountability in implementing equality legislation and silences the harm of current policy proposals. For example, actions like improving the accessibility of playgrounds or making government publications and communications more accessible are already part of the obligations outlined in the Equality Act 2010. Following the law is not a transformative policy recommendation to improve the lives of Disabled people. What we need is accountable implementation of the Equality Act and UNCRPD across the board.

The plan also misrepresents work already in the pipeline as supportive of Disabled people when these policies are unsupportive at best and harmful at worst. For example, two of the actions include the delivery of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) improvement plan and the Victims and Prisoners Bill. But Current SEND policy leaves the majority of Disabled children with no support and a fight to access their rights, and the Victims and Prisoners Bill infringes on everyone’s protections under the Human Rights Act. These are just two examples of a long list of harmful policies and legislation. The most impactful thing the government could do is withdraw their most harmful policies and legislation – including the introduction of voter ID last year and the proposal to increase benefit sanctions, to name a few.

Feedback from the consultation emphasised the importance of policies being informed by Disabled people’s lived experience, and several areas of action include reviews with stakeholders and those with lived experience of disability. However, as warned by the Women’s and Equalities Committee, the Government “has not learnt lessons” from the concerns raised over the development of the National Disability Strategy (NDS) and its efforts to engage with Disabled people are “perceived to be superficial”. 

Despite acknowledging the dire situation for Disabled people, the government has failed to include any impactful actions that could have been delivered before the General Election. For example, whilst they have committed to work with Disabled people to design a funding scheme for public office candidates in 2025, this timeline and refusal to reinstate the Access to Elected Office Fund means Disabled candidates will be actively excluded from the next General Election. They have also failed to implement the Grenfell Inquiry recommendation on Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs), implement minimum accessibility standards for new build homes, scrap the proposed changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) or commit to increasing financial support for Disabled people. A full list of truly impactful short-term, and long-term actions the DPO Forum is campaigning for can be found on our website.

In conclusion – the Disability Action Plan is about what non-disabled policy makers are willing to offer us, it is not a plan which protects or enhances our rights or demonstrates an understanding of the social model of disability. It is not what we need, rather it is what a disablist government has grudgingly offered. We need co-produced transformation as detailed in the Disabled People’s Manifesto, incorporation of the UNCRPD into domestic law, an end to the social care crisis and the inhumane DWP policies and processes.

We call on the government to deliver real transformation, and we call on everyone to take action in any way they can to call for the same. A full list of the various ways you can support the manifesto is on the DPO forum website.


This statement is co-signed by Disability Rights UK, Greater Manchester Coalition for Disabled people, Inclusion London, Disability Positive and Disability Peterborough.