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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 16:43 GMT
Disability watchdog is launched
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website age & disability correspondent

Anne McGuire
Disability minister Anne McGuire said ministers had acted quickly
A new cross-government office which aims to tackle the inequalities faced by disabled people has been launched.

The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has been set up to create "joined up thinking" so that disabled people remain a priority for all departments.

The move was recommended in a report from Downing Street's Strategy Unit earlier this year.

Tony Blair said the launch showed that progress was being made in tackling inequalities faced by disabled people.

The prime minister said a lot of work had been undertaken since he had first asked the Strategy Unit to look at ways of tackling the marginalisation of disabled people in the UK.

"There is commitment right across government to work together in delivering a better future for disabled people," he said.

Disabled people want to be involved in designing the policies that affect them and not merely at the receiving end of policies designed by others
Bob Niven
Disability Rights Commission

The ODI will have a cross-departmental brief and will support the work of a ministerial steering group from Work and Pensions, Health, Transport, Trade and Industry and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

It will publish an annual report on progress made.

For many years disabled people have complained that support comes from a number of sources and is fragmented.

The ODI is an attempt to co-ordinate policy and ensure that disabled people themselves have a say in the decision-making process.

To this end, the National Forum for Organisations of Disabled People will be developed by the ODI and will support its work.

Minister for Disabled People Anne McGuire said the government had acted quickly to put one of the key recommendations from the Strategy Unit's report into action.

'Equal citizens'

"The new Office for Disability Issues will drive forward our overall strategy, and will play the central role in ensuring that all government departments work together more effectively on issues relevant to disabled people," she said.

The launch has been welcomed by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) - the body that oversees disability rights in the UK.

"Disabled people want to be involved in designing the policies that affect them and not merely at the receiving end of policies designed by others," said DRC chief executive Bob Niven.

"Disabled people want to contribute and participate on equal terms and as equal citizens."

The Royal National Institute for Deaf people (RNID) also said the creation of the ODI was a welcome improvement.

It's crucial that the new office really does get cross-government support
Brian Lamb
Royal National Institute for Deaf people

"For too long government policies and departments have been too disjointed in their approach towards tackling the widespread disadvantage and discrimination faced by millions of deaf and hard of hearing people," said RNID communications director Brian Lamb.

But Mr Lamb warned that co-operation between departments had to be something that worked in practice.

"It's crucial that the new office really does get cross-government support including a more joined up approach to budgeting across government departments."

The government says the ODI's work will be to challenge it from within, changing the way in which it engages with disabled people, influencing public perceptions of disability and providing a centre for excellence.

Setting its sights this high will certainly create an expectation of action rather than rhetoric among disability rights campaigners.

Disability plan to cut inequality
19 Jan 05 |  Politics


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