A plan to transform the lives of disabled people has been published by the Scottish Government today.
“A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People” outlines five ambitions for Scotland which aim to aid independent living, safeguard decent incomes and fairer working lives including removing the barriers to employment, improve accessibility, promote active participation, and protect the rights of disabled people.
The 93 actions outlined in the plan include halving the employment gap for disabled people, offering the highest level of financial support to disabled Modern Apprentices and introducing a new work experience programme. They will also enable the delivery of more accessible homes and transport, and working with local authorities to ensure effective points of transition into all levels of education.
Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman launched the delivery plan this morning at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow, where she met with disabled staff, interns and Modern Apprentices from businesses and organisations around Glasgow.
She said: “Over a million disabled people contribute to Scotland’s communities and add talent, diversity and richness to our society.
“Our goal is for everyone of that million to have choice, control, dignity and freedom to live the life they choose with the support they need to do so. This plan, developed in consultation and engagement with disabled people, sets out the actions we believe will help to achieve this goal and secure the transformational changes we need.
“We know many disabled people are still unable to live their lives as they would want to because of the barriers in their way. It is not the impairment which disables people, but society’s failure to adapt our environment, workplaces and information so they are open to everyone on an equal basis. This must change.
“And there are financial barriers too. At a time when the UK Government is undermining the human rights of disabled people with its programme of austerity and welfare cuts and a blatant disregard for the impact it has on disabled people’s lives, we are committing to furthering rights.
“Given that the UN declared last month that there was evidence of ‘grave or systematic violations’ of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it’s no wonder disabled people feel this is an assault on their wellbeing, and makes the need for change more pressing.
“And so the time for talking is over and it’s time for action. We cannot achieve these changes unless we work together across the public sector and with the direct involvement of disabled people. Our strong collaboration is essential as we take the 93 actions forward.”
Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “At Scotland’s national conservatoire we aim to provide a vibrant performing, learning, teaching, working and research environment for our staff, students and audiences.
As an education and arts institution as well as an employer we’re committed to delivering on the equality of opportunity. We welcome all steps to improve accessibility, embrace diversity and promote active participation across the performing arts, as well as across Scotland’s communities.”
Layla Theiner, from Disability Agenda Scotland, said: “We welcome the publication of the Disability Delivery Plan and the efforts that have gone into developing the plan. While progress has been made in some areas, DAS is only too aware that many disabled people still do not feel equal and still face discrimination, poverty and prejudice. It is good to see this being recognised in the document.
“As the plan notes, public spending cuts to services and social security have negatively impacted a large number of disabled people and exacerbated inequalities. It is key that the ambitions and actions in the report are realised to ensure a difference is made to their lives.”
Chief Executive of Inclusion Scotland, Dr Sally Witcher OBE, added: “This plan sets out a positive direction of travel towards a fairer Scotland for disabled people, based on a firm foundation of human rights. Specific commitments on funding for internships, to promote volunteering and to help address the under-representation of disabled people in politics and public life are particularly welcome. But the challenge now is to transform ambitions into actions that will, in turn, transform disabled people’s lives and the country we live in. There is much to be done and no time to lose.”
Commenting on the extension of the Access to Elected Office Fund, Jamie Szymkowiak, from One in Five, said: “The Scottish Government’s decision to continue the Access to Elected Fund (Scotland) for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 is fantastic news. An early announcement confirming financial support for aspiring disabled politicians is exactly what we at One in Five were calling for. Safe in the knowledge that the financial barrier to elected office has been removed, this early commitment provides disabled people with plenty of time to develop in to political representatives of the future.”