Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Disability Action Plan “unlikely to bring about change” for people with learning disabilities, charity says

The learning disability charity Mencap says the government’s Disability Action Plan “does not address the most pressing issues” facing people with a learning disability and is “unlikely to bring about change.”

While the charity has welcomed some of the initiatives, it says the plans fail to address issues such as access to social care, healthcare, employment, and cost of living support.

Government hopes to host Special Olympics in 2031

The Disability Action Plan sets out 32 steps to make the UK ‘the most accessible place in the world’. It has been informed by the views of more than 1,300 disabled people, their families and invested parties.

Measures include a new fund to support disabled people who want to be elected into public office, the creation of accessible playgrounds, a working group to educate businesses on the legal rights of assistance dog owners, and new research into emerging issues affecting disabled people.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Mims Davies MP, says the plans will deliver “vital, everyday changes” for disabled people, and will make public spaces more accessible.

“I look forward to seeing the immediate impact of the Disability Action Plan while we deliver on long-term reforms to make this country the most accessible and importantly equal place to live in the world – so everyone can live their lives to the full and thrive,” she added.

The government says it also wants to become the next country to host the 2031 Special Olympics – a global event which sees people with learning disabilities compete in a variety of Olympic-type sports.

Sport England has welcomed the plans. The chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth said: “As an event it is both important as the pinnacle event for athletes with intellectual disabilities across the world and inspiring and uplifting for everyone who attends or is involved. I am eager to explore the tangible benefits that could come from this.”

Disability Action Plan is “nowhere near ambitious enough”

While Mencap has welcomed many of the new initiatives, the charity says there is room for improvement.

“It’s hard to feel optimistic about a plan which fails to address some of the fundamental inequalities for people with a learning disability who are dying on average 22 years younger than those in the general population or the fact that only 27% of people with a learning disability are in work, despite over four in five wanting a paid job,” said Jackie O’Sullivan, acting CEO at Mencap.

The charity is now calling for a “robust long-term strategy” which addresses inequalities and tackles the biggest barriers people with a learning disability face.

The mental health charity Mind has made similar calls, and Nil Guzelgun, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, says the plans are “nowhere near ambitious enough” and fail to take “real action” on the impact of the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“We’re concerned that employment as an issue is entirely missing from the plan,” she said. “This is particularly worrying as the UK government is pushing for more disabled people to be back in work. It’s vital that the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people is closed and we want to see ambitious new targets in this area.”

Political parties need to be big and bold’ in their ambitions for disabled people

Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) has described the Disability Action Plan as a “short-term plan in an election year”.

VODG says it will continue to call political parties to be “big and bold” in their ambitions for disabled people.

“This involves prioritising co-decision making when it comes to the ongoing challenges that need addressing such as further support for people in employment, fully funding cost of living support and improving access to housing,” he said.

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