Meeting with the Minister for Disabled People

On 14th February, six of us from DPO organisations across the UK met Sarah Newton, the then Minister for Disabled People, to promote DPOs. David Bateman, the lead for involvement at the government’s Office for Disability Issues (ODI) was also present. The six DPOs represented at the meeting were: Inclusion London/the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, NSUN, the Equalities National Council, Disability Wales, Independent Living in Scotland and Disability Action Northern Ireland. We talked with Sarah Newton about the difference between mental health charities and DPOs, emphasising that DPOs have a unique knowledge/understanding to bring because it is rooted in lived experience. We strongly pushed the need for the government to involve DPOs in the ways set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), relating this particularly to Articles 4 and 33 and to General comment No 7 from the UNCRPD. We emphasised the key role which DPOs should have in the development of law and policy, in national and regional networks and in services related to disabled people.

We reminded Sarah Newton of the UNCRPD Committee’s recommendations to the UK government, which now date back to the autumn of 2017, and the fact that there continues to be a lack of adequate government involvement with DPOs despite these recommendations. We expressed strong concerns about the insufficient involvement of DPOs in the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill and the Mental Health Act Review and about serious human rights shortfalls in the Bill and in the Review recommendations. We drew to Sarah Newton’s attention the large numbers of DPOs which are having to close because of a lack of funding and the vital need for DPOs to receive adequate resources. However, because she stepped down from her ministerial role shortly afterwards, our liaison with her was cut short. We are now requesting a meeting with the new Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson.

Dorothy Gould.