Disability Rights UK has reported that the Minister for Disabled People, Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, will chair an interdepartmental group to address issues affecting disabled people across different government departments. Aspire welcomes this development.
In the past, Aspire has written to Ministers expressing our disappointment on decisions made by other Departments that have had a negative impact on disabled people. A specific example included when a wheelchair service changed their eligibility criteria to restrict supply of powered wheelchairs to people who were receiving higher rate Disability Living Allowance mobility payments. The response we received from the Minister at the time said that it was a matter for the Department of Health as they were responsible overall for wheelchair provision.
Our Policy and Research Officer recently asked the Minister Mike Penning how he saw his role as a Minister and whether he would reach out to other departments to tackle issues that affected disabled people where responsibility was in other government departments. The response was positive and at the time, the Minister did say that such a group would emerge in the pipeline.
We hope that this way of working will mean that the Minister for Disabled People has more strategic oversight on how policies affect disabled people across the board.
There is still room for improvement. Greater involvement from the Prime Minister and secretary of states would signal that this is of greater importance and show that it is high on the agenda of government. However, on the whole, it is a very positive start and Aspire hopes the group will address cross departmental issues and that this has a positive impact on policy development.