Government’s National Disability Strategy declared “unlawful”

Disability activists have been successful in their case against the UK Disability Survey

A Government-led disability survey failed to consult with disabled people effectively and has been ruled “unlawful” by the Senior Courts of England and Wales.

National Disability Strategy is unlawful

Disabled people didn’t receive adequate consultation regarding the UK Disability Survey, which was used to inform the Government’s National Disability Strategy published in July 2021, said the High Court.

The decision follows a case brought by disability activists against Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey. The claimants argued that Coffey had chosen to consult with disabled people via the survey but had “failed to provide sufficient information on the proposed strategy to allow for meaningful response”, leaving the community feeling disenfranchised by a process that promised to help them.

While the Government said the survey was to gather information and was not a consultation, the court decided that, nevertheless, Coffey had “voluntarily embarked on a consultation to which legal duties applied.”

The court referred to Government press releases and documents that called the survey a “consultation.” These documents showed writing that the survey was to “gather views” on the development and execution of the strategy. Reference was also made to putting disabled people’s ‘lived experiences’ at the centre of the strategy.

The court judge Mr Justice Griffiths said: “The defendant took on a duty to consult, which she did not properly discharge and, as a result, the consultation she carried out, principally using the survey, was not lawful.”

The UK Disability Survey was launched in January 2021 and asked disabled people for their views on their daily experiences; it gained 14,000 responses. The survey consisted of multiple-choice and open-ended questions, including “what are the top three changes that would make your life better?” Responses were collected and used to inform the strategy, published later the same year.

Disability Rights UK is a national organisation led by, run by, and working for disabled people. Commenting on the court’s ruling, CEO Kamran Mallick said: “We have a phrase in the disability community: ‘nothing about us without us’. I pay tribute to the disabled people who fought for justice and gained this landmark ruling.

“A disability strategy formulated without deep listening to the voices of disabled people is doomed to failure. The Government must now go back and do what it should have done the first time round: dedicate time and resources to enable disabled people to speak freely and fully on our lived experience, demonstrate we have been fully heard, and share draft strategy proposals with us for discussion and comment.”

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