13 September 2012By Mr Stephen Thrower, Head, Rights, Legislation and International Team, Office for Disability Issues
Since the fourth conference of States Parties last year, the United Kingdom has continued to make good progress in the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.
In November 2011, we submitted our first periodic report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The report set out our commitment to the Convention, and described what we have been doing to implement the Convention so that it becomes a reality in the lives of disabled people.
Our thinking has been evolving this year with the development of a new strategic approach called Fulfilling Potential. This is based on the expectations of the Convention. It describes how we are working with disabled people to enable them to fulfil their potential and have opportunities to play a full role in society.
In December 2011, we published our first Fulfilling Potential discussion document, as the basis to talk to disabled people and their organisations and learn about the issues that are important in their lives.
Since then we have been working on two documents that will be published later this year. One will set out the issues raised by disabled people, and how we are already addressing them by existing or planed action. For example, action in respect of hate crime, education and e-accessibility.
The second document is called Fulfilling Potential – Next Steps. This describes the government’s ambition to reform public services to support independence and participation in society for disabled people. For example, through the reform of welfare support and building the capability of disabled peoples user-led organisations.
In addition, an innovative aspect of the Next Steps approach will be the development of a non-government, cross-sector disability action alliance. The alliance will be expected to work with central and local government and agencies, and to help improve policy and programme development and delivery by bringing the expertise and experience of disabled people. We expect that it will initially look at three broad areas: early intervention and proactive approaches; increasing choice and control; and building inclusive communities.
We have developed our work on Fulfilling Potential around three themes: realising aspirations, individual control and changing attitudes and behaviours. These are relevant to all disabled people, including disabled women and young disabled people and children.
Our approach in Fulfilling Potential is one which is linked to, and demonstrated by, the powerful legacy for disabled people that will be built upon the success of the Paralympic Games in London last week. We have used the Paralympic Games to add momentum to existing priority policies and to deliver tangible outcomes for disabled people in the UK.
For example, transport improvements were made to underground, buses and trains to make London more accessible for disabled people. Sports and sports clubs now offer more opportunities for disabled people – including half of all English schools offering disability sport through the School Games programme. £50 million has been available to support Paralympic athletes, who will in turn provide the inspiration to get more disabled people playing sport in future.
Disabled people were actively involved in the planning, design and delivery of both the Olympic and Paralympics, and for the first time ever the Olympics and Paralympics were conceived, planned and delivered as one, with both given equal priority and attention.
Above all, we believe that the Paralympics will have helped change perceptions about disability in the UK, and we hope, because of the huge media coverage and public interest, they will have had a world-wide impact. They provide a massive impetus on which to build, and which can help achieve the ambitions of the UN Convention.