Recently, whilst doing my regular LinkedIn scroll, one of my connections shared a BBC article which I found incredibly alarming.
The article stated that the UK government has “made slow progress” in improving the lives of disabled people. This has been ongoing since 2016, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission added that “some recommendations made by a United Nations enquiry have not been delivered.”
I’m sure many people would agree that if this is the case, it is incredibly disappointing for a substantial number of people, who continually face an uphill battle to access the world in the same way as non-disabled individuals. Take the welfare system for example. There are individuals, who do not even get enough to pay a modern day rent bill but are not eligible to gain anything in terms of Employment Support Allowance, Universal Credit, or any other form of benefit. I have recently completed a Workplace Health Assessment, which I don’t think will even get me any further support from the government, even though I only work part-time and would not earn enough to live independently, even if I wanted to do so. This does not consider how each of my health conditions affect me, be it Dyspraxia, Autism, or Eczema. All three take their toll, not just on me directly but on the perception of many employers of me as a potential employee. However, it seems that the impact of the conditions is not something the system takes into account.
And it seems it is not just me; there are additional quotes to come from this article. The United Nations called for changes to the system after investigating the rights of disabled people in the UK. The word from the government at the time of the investigation was that “we are already making reforms and taking action.” Unfortunately, I don’t believe it goes anywhere near far enough. The empty words sadden me; the words ‘bare minimum’ spring to mind. Is this really about meeting a minimum obligation or genuinely making significant inroads into enhancing the lives and opportunities of disabled people?
An updated report was sent to the United Nations by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which continues to warn that disabled people are facing discrimination, and this hasn’t shown signs of improvement, particularly throughout a cost-of-living crisis. I am sure I am one of many who could say that if it weren’t for the incredible support of my family, I would not be able to survive on my own, let alone thrive. Just how are people supposed to survive if they have additional challenges and are constantly striving to be independent?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission went further commenting that “despite limited progress in certain areas, we are disappointed to see no progress against some other recommendations.” Why have we gotten to this point? How does the government think disabled people will feel, knowing how much change is needed but feeling that there is no commitment to achieving it? The word “limited” immediately rings alarm bells for me and I feel this is in danger of defining our attitude; only recognising and changing things to an extent when what is needed is a seismic shift.
As mentioned previously, an updated report has been published, and this found no progress in monitoring the impact of welfare reforms or access to justice for disabled people. I recently wrote a piece about justice matters. This is related to the 95% of parents of disabled children who take educational institutions to court and win their legal battle. This is so telling. Disabled people, and their families, actually care about making a difference and understand what progress needs to look like. And these people, along with those providing legal support, clearly believe there is a case to be answered. This further demonstrates that the current system is just not fit for purpose.
When it comes to meaningful engagement, as the report goes on to mention, I am so proud of the work we do at Enrych. Whilst as a charity we must carefully plan what our budgets will enable us to achieve, our mindset is not limited. We have helped disabled people out in the community to create meaningful friendships, achieve the outcomes they want to achieve, and access the places they wish to access. We have also helped some of our clients realise passions they didn’t even know they had because of their limited thinking around what was achievable and accessible for them. Who knows where this could go? We truly believe in removing the barriers for the most vulnerable in society and we will continue to do what we can to influence issues relating to accessibility and equity and what the government is doing about this.
I shall be interested to see what the future holds and whether this report will have any impact or influence. There is much work to be done but with real commitment and combined efforts, it is achievable. In the meantime we at Enrych will continue to do everything we can to ensure disabled people get whatever they need to thrive in society!