The Direct Access team weighs in on the UK Government’s new Disability Action Plan

The UK Government has recently declared plans to engage with disability-related issues and make the United Kingdom the most “accessible place in the world for disabled people to live, work, and thrive” with the announcement of their 2024 Disability Action Plan.

This highly publicised document, which was published last week, details the UK Government’s “immediate actions” to improve the lives of disabled people through collaboration with disabled people, groups, and other disability stakeholders in 2023 and 2024 – ahead of the next General Election, which must take place no later than January 2025.

The Disability Action Plan has been met with criticism from many UK disability advocacy groups, most notably Disability Rights UK – who have rightly raised concerns over issues such as the timing of this plan, which references many “short term” proposals to improve the lives of disabled people that cannot take place until after 2025, raising uncertainty over whether they will happen at all as they are dependant on the result’s of the next election.

Moreover, the Disability Action Plan’s lack of commitment to long-term goals and systemic change has also been subject to scrutiny – as it fails to outline any changes that might be implemented after 2025, raising scepticism of how exactly the Government expects to break down barriers to access for disabled people such as the ongoing cost of living crisis, which has disproportionately affected the quality of life of disabled people more than non-disabled people, as well as the failure to address issues raised in the disability consultations by real disabled people.

Overall, positive feelings towards the document do not come close to outweighing the negative, with the consensus among advocates being that the Action Plan is insubstantial and superficial, acknowledging some issues but failing to address the majority. Rather than setting out a detailed guide befitting of an “Action Plan”, its critics would deem it much closer to an unclear, vague statement of intent. Moreover, it is apparent from multiple disabled people and disability organisations that the Government has ignored numerous requests for consultation on issues such as improvements to tactile paving systems and schemes.

What do we think about it? Our Senior Access Consultant Tom Morgan comments; 

“While the UK Government has outlined objectives with the Disability Action Plan, the document is lacking a detailed timeline for the delivery of those goals, as well as a clear strategy that would allow the Government to reach those targets within such a short time frame”.

“It appears to avoid addressing any major issues such as adult social care, accessible housing, and the ongoing cost of living crisis and focuses on information hubs and planning strategies without substance or resources.  This comes as no surprise given the previous record of the government on disability and their continuous reluctance to address the major issues that disabled people are faced with daily.  The previous DRAFT action plan followed a similar vein and was widely criticised by disabled people on the same basis.  The attitude of the government towards disabled people and representation of their issues at the highest level is demonstrated by their decision to axe the role of ‘minister for disabled people’ which has been established in the cabinets of successive governments since the early 1990s.”

The 2024 Disability Action Plan, a reform programme by the UK Government, can be read in full here. 

It was published on February 5th 2024 following a public consultation period in July 2023 with over 1300 people.

A close-up photograph of Direct Access Consultant Tom Morgan smiling.

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