Disability campaigners are urging the government to reconsider its decision to scrap a dedicated Minister for Disabled People following Rishi Sunak’s mini cabinet reshuffle.
Initially, the government removed the position altogether, leaving the position vacant for a week after the former disability minister Thomas Pursglove was moved to the Home Office.
Following public outcry, the government made a U-turn and appointed Mims Davies MP as Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work. However, Disability Rights UK says the decision to remove the sole position entirely is “unacceptable”.
A ‘slap in the face’
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the charity said the decision is “callous” during a cost of living crisis when many disabled people face poverty.
“Removing the dedicated position of a Minister for Disabled people tells us that our needs aren’t a priority for UK Government. De-prioritising our needs and lives is not your policy choice to make.
“We urge you to re-consider this decision and move quickly to appoint a dedicated disability minister, who represents the needs and voices of the UK’s 14 million Disabled people,” said Kamran Mallick CEO of the charity.
The learning disability Mencap and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) have also voiced their concerns about how this will affect the people they support.
Jackie O’Sullivan, acting chief executive at Mencap, said the move is a “slap in the face for disabled people” which sends an “appalling message” that people with disabilities are “not a priority.”
“[Disabled people] deserve a representative at the top table of government. They need a full time Minister focused on the inequalities that they face every day of their lives,” she said.
Sunak should explain how this decision will strengthen the voice of disabled people
The RNID says it is “deeply alarmed” at the government’s decision to ‘downgrade’ the position, and the move will only further disadvantage deaf and disabled people.
“People who are deaf or have hearing loss face barriers right across society. Two-thirds of people who are deaf and use BSL are out of work, four in five deaf people have turned up to a healthcare appointment and found there is no communication support, and societal barriers mean that everyday activities such as watching TV or getting a train can be an ordeal.
“These challenges, added to the cost-of-living crisis which disproportionately affects deaf and disabled people, means a high-profile Government advocate is more necessary than ever.
“The Prime Minister needs to take personal responsibility for this decision and explain how the new arrangements will strengthen the voice of disabled people, not weaken it. And he needs to do that now,” the charity said.
Government denies that new role is a ‘downgrade’
The government denied the that the new role is a ‘downgrade’, and said there will still be a “minister for disabled people who will lead on that important work.”
“Minister Davies will build upon this government’s track record of supporting disabled people, having delivered millions of cost of living payments and helping over one million more disabled people into work five years earlier than planned.
“The minister will help ensure there is always a strong safety net for the most vulnerable in our society, while tearing down barriers so that every disabled person can realise their potential and thrive,” a government spokesperson said.