The new Disability Equality Duty (DED) came into force for some 45,000 public bodies yesterday – and the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) has said that organisations which fail to meet the new requirements will be facing it in court.
Publicly funded organisations with specific duties under the DED had until yesterday (4 December) to publish a disability equality scheme that shows how they intend to fulfil the new duty.
The DRC started scrutinising the schemes today. Its chairman Bert Massie explained: “The DED will have a major impact on the lives of disabled people and will radically shift the way public authorities deliver their services.
“Public bodies – from the local library to the NHS – will have to consider what disabled people need when planning their services. This is a step-change away from individual disabled people having to complain about discrimination after an incident has taken place.
“The DED will help public bodies become more efficient and save money because it involves providing services that disabled people need. Those who fail to meet their new legal duties risk facing us in court.
“Ensuring that disabled people’s needs are thought of at the beginning of policy and service development will help enhance the service that many disabled people receive.”
There are four key elements to the duty, which require organisations to:
- Eliminate unlawful disability discrimination and disability-related harassment
- Promote equality of opportunity for disabled people
- Promote positive attitudes
- Encourage disabled people to take part in public life.
In preparing its plans the Department for Work and Pensions held a number of events for customers and local representative groups to gather their views. It also ran workshops involving large numbers of disabled customers and met with leading disability charities to find out their views.
Improvements suggested included:
- Simpler letters and instructions and making better use of telephones and typetalk
- More staff training in both general disability awareness and for specific conditions
- Better joining up of services to avoid customers having to provide the same information to several different parts of the department
- A review of how disabled customers are involved in setting the department’s priorities and implementing improvements
- Spreading the excellent practice that can be found at local level across the whole of the department.
John Hutton, the secretary of state for work and pensions, said: “Discrimination of any sort is unacceptable. Yet the truth is that many disabled people still face barriers in all walks of life which prevent them from reaching their full potential. My department will do all that it can to enable them to do so.”
More information about the DED is available from the DRC’s website