What should we expect in the Government’s overdue National Disability Strategy?

Kevin Armstrong

Policy Lead

8th July 2021



The need for a National Strategy for Disabled People has increased every day of the pandemic that has delayed its publication. At long last it looks like the Government’s Strategy – which could be significant for social entrepreneurs - will soon be released. So, what do we hope to see in it?

At the 2019 General Election, the systemic barriers facing disabled people were already enough for the Conservatives to pledge a National Strategy ‘before the end of 2020’. They said it would improve access to things like housing and education, improve the benefits system (e.g. by reducing the number of reassessments) and reduce the disability employment gap.

Since then, the gap has widened as disabled people’s careers were disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Tragically, in 2020 disproportionately high numbers of disabled people died from Covid-19.

Earlier this year, a report by the Centre for Social Justice reached a damning conclusion: “Every headline indicator – across employment, education, housing, transport, and goods and services – reveals significant inequality between disabled and non-disabled people, no matter the type of disability or health condition.”  

Social entrepreneurs and other experts have a wealth of ideas that would help address these inequities. We hope that the following clear and crucial actions from five experts, along with the proposals UnLtd put forward, will be strongly present in the government's paper in July:

Starting with a short video recording from Diversity & Ability’s Atif Choudhury.

“Any disability strategy needs to be led by a range of people with lived experience of disability (as opposed to tokenistic ‘consultations’ with large disability charities, or online questionnaires). The fundamental foundational principle of any disability strategy should be the social model of disability – focusing on removing disabling barriers (institutional and otherwise) which prevent proper access to services including housing, transport, employment, education, healthcare, care support and so on.

The government, and all public services, need to lead by example – inclusion being embedded into all processes including recruitment and employment practices internally and service delivery externally.

The strategy needs to be human rights-based and embedded into accountability mechanisms, including more powerful legislation, government tender/procurement processes and mandatory reporting for all institutions and employers.”

Jane Hatton, Director, Evenbreak

“Business Disability Forum is calling for a number of measures in the National Disability Strategy, with a particular focus on employment and the infrastructure around work including housing, transport and the urgent need for social care reform.  We want to see job retention and return to work schemes, which are inclusive by design, plus reform of Access to Work.

This includes streamlining the application process, increasing its flexibility to enable disabled people to start their own business and removing the cap to enable more people who need ‘human’ support (such as sign language interpreters) to thrive at work.

We also want to see better joining up of the Disabled Students Allowance and Access to Work as part of a “whole life” approach to support provision. We are calling for a ‘Tech for life’ fund to ensure disabled people have access to the right assistive technology at every stage in their lives.” 

Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer, Business Disability Forum

The Social Enterprise Mark would like the Government to support disabled people into decent jobs that can provide career progression, job fulfilment and aspiration. In achieving this there should be recognition that certain types of businesses that have social aims at their heart are the best types of employers, because they are motivated by creating social value rather than shareholder financial gain.

These businesses need to prove their social and environmental credentials through accreditations such as the Social Enterprise Mark and for those that are specifically aiming to support disabled people into better jobs as their main aim, accreditation through the Social Enterprise Disability Employment Mark and the Local Authority Disability Employment Mark.

Lucy Findlay, Managing Director, Social Enterprise Mark Company CIC

“Ability Today is providing training and qualifications to create pathways to employment for the disabled community. Our biggest issue is there is no clear understanding or guidelines on how a person receiving benefits can move into employment or receive some financial income, without jeopardising those benefits.

Some of our students have care packages in place and the stock answer from DWP can be ‘why would you want to work’?

We need concise and straight forward guidelines on how a person with disabilities can move into paid work without losing the support they have in place. A massive grey area in policy needs to be corrected and put in black and white.

Grant Logan, Founder, Ability Today

Come back to our blog page and social media during the coming month to see whether everyone’s ideas get incorporated into the Strategy.

UnLtd is committed to 50% of our grants going to social entrepreneurs who identify as being Black, Asian, from a minority ethnic background and/or Disabled across all of our grant giving. Underscoring this is a particular focus on supporting social entrepreneurs with personal experience of the issue they are working to solve.

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