The United Kingdom Disabled Peoples Council (UKDPC) initially had welcomed the long awaited publication of the Government Disability Strategy, Fulfilling Potential. This important document would have guided the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and been a public declaration of intent to support disabled people to exercise full participation in every aspect of society.
UKDPC was surprised and disappointed to find that the action plan, Fulfilling Potential Next Steps, has set out the intention of creating a Disability Action Alliance, convened by Disability Rights UK, (DRUK). This alliance is apparently intended to be a partnership of ‘organisations from the voluntary, public and private sector who have expertise and influence’.
UKDPC is unable to support this action based on the following:
• The contracting of DRUK to convene such a group was not obviously opened to expressions of interest or tendering by any other organisation. Alongside the appointment of the CEO to lead an employment review commissioned by Lord Freud without public tender, this places DRUK in a position of preferred supplier to the ODI.
• The continued contracting of DRUK by the ODI and the convening of an unaccountable group could be construed as the creation of a Quango, which is against the principals of co-partnership and accountability.
• This is a ‘top down’ structure that excludes disabled people from setting the agenda or defining the terms of reference. The creation of this alliance by the government is antagonistic to the principals of the CRPD which advocates the value of consulting and full involvement of disabled people.
• Without clear terms of reference there is the possibility that the service providers or corporate employers represented would have a potential conflict of interest, eg if participating in government backed schemes such as Workfare or if being awarded contracts determined by changes in the benefits system.
• The use of the name, Disability Action Alliance, gives rise to potential confusion with Disability Awareness in Action, a human rights based disabled peoples organisation that closed last year, with a well earned respect not just within the sector but also internationally.
• As UKDPC considers the convening of the alliance as a flawed process then it follows that the function of such a group would similarly be flawed.
UKDPC wishes to state these concerns publically, and calls for:
• The process of contracting DRUK as the convenors be questioned and an open response be sought from government.
• The potential for forming a Quango be questioned and an open response from government.
• Any proposed alliance be guided by disabled people with agreed terms of reference drawn up by the participants.
• Any further move to implement this alliance be suspended pending the questioning and satisfactory response to these concerns.
UKDPC will not be planning to participate in the proposed alliance until such a time as the above matters are successfully resolved. We await a response.
NB For information, UKDPC would like to state publically that there is no link or working relationship between Disability Rights UK and the UKDPC Disability Rights Watch UK, a web based project established in 2010 that allows disabled people and organisations to report breaches or failures in the implementation of the CRPD.