I fear we’re in danger of the disability rights agenda being too narrow, possibly lost, or even both.
I say this because of the following 8 impressions, which are by no means comprehensive:
- The emerging Green Paper from the Department of Health seems to be focused primarily on people with learning disabilities or autism 
- A related blogpost (which happens to be from my employer) calls for a progressive learning disability agenda across the sector and society that values “rights, independence, choice and inclusion for ALL people with learning disabilities” [my emphasis]
- Preserving the Independent Living Fund is presumed to be the same as preserving independent living, when I suspect in practice campaigning attempts will (if successful) preserve funding levels around individuals specifically related to care and support
- Welfare reforms and resulting campaigns have focused on specific issues like the Work Capability Assessment and who provides the assessment service, or the Bedroom Tax – both largely from a deficit-based, medical model perspective). There has been comparatively little focus on employment support for disabled people or what housing options are available
- There has been very little broad campaigning action beyond those interested in higher education on the proposed changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance
- Lobbying and campaigning regarding the Children & Families Act has been largely confined to children’s charities and SEN-related organisations, and doesn’t seem to have reached the broader disabled people’s movement
- Disability hate crime appears to have dropped off the agenda
- Anything relating to “people with mental health problems” largely remains a separate consideration to issues regarding “disabled people”.
There are some brighter spots, of course: the Care Act (albeit “only” in the sphere of social care) and positive attempts to mobilise the “disability vote” are two.
But, whilst there are arguments which could be made for each of the things listed above being separately needed, to my mind there is no overarching framework within which all of them hang together. There is no agenda around which all people with a commitment to disability rights and equality for all disabled people can coalesce.
In this context, the apparent disappearance of the Office for Disability Issues, the most recent, relatively lacklustre attempt at any sort of disability policy agenda (Fulfilling Potential), and the loss of whatever momentum there was from the Paralympic Games, are all major causes for concern. Irrespective of how effective they were, they represented the last political, policy and institutional bases of the disability rights agenda.
What to do? Clearly, we need to wrestle back a disability rights agenda into the political sphere. There are at least two active suggestions as to how this can be done:
- Establish a Disability Rights Taskforce after the next general election
- We should consider disbanding the Department for Work & Pensions and shift to an approach that works on a themed basis that more specifically has responsibility for a wide-ranging disability rights agenda, e.g. a Department for Inclusion.
 – I haven’t included any reference to the LB Bill because I believe its intention is for it to apply to all disabled people, not just to people with learning disabilities.