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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 16:31 GMT
Disability plan to cut inequality
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website disability affairs correspondent

Photo of wheelchair user outside front door
Disabled people need more support to live in their own homes
A plan aimed to substantially cut the inequalities faced by disabled people has been launched by the government.

Measures in four key areas are set out in a report published on Wednesday by the prime minister's Strategy Unit.

It says action is needed to help people to live independently, and families with disabled children need extra help. The transition to adulthood should be smoother, and disabled people should have a better chance in the job market, the report adds.

The report, called Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People, is backed by four government departments.

The hope is that, by 2025, disabled people will be accepted as equal members of society.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the strategy would mean "increased choice and control... and ultimately a better quality of life for disabled people".

"We remain totally committed to improving the opportunities for disabled people and I really believe that working together we can achieve this goal," he said.

'Radical vision'

Under the plan, a new Office for Disability Issues will be set up to co-ordinate the government's work.

The move follows frequent complaints that separate agencies have not been working well together.

Minister for Disabled People Maria Eagle said the strategy built on the government's existing work to tackle discrimination and improve civil rights.

It is fundamental that there should be an end to people being placed in residential or nursing homes against their wishes
Bert Massie,
Disability Rights Commission

"This report is the next step, which sets out a radical vision for delivering choices and opportunities for disabled people over the next 20 years," she said.

The proposals include significantly expanding the Direct Payments scheme - increasingly used by disabled people to purchase their own care - so that individuals would have their own budgets.

The parents of disabled children would benefit from greater support, improved childcare and early education that would help the children to lead "ordinary lives".

As young people reach adulthood the government wants the support they receive to be smoothed out to help them to make the most of the opportunities available to them.

And disabled people would receive extra support to find work, improve their skills and retain jobs.

Choices

The Disability Rights Commission says the proposed measures should help to put people in control of their own lives.

"Disabled people expect choices, and it is fundamental that there should be an end to people being placed in residential or nursing homes against their wishes," said DRC chairman Bert Massie.

Disability charity Leonard Cheshire said the proposals were in line with suggestions it had already been making.

"An office for disability issues is very close to what we have been calling for," said head of policy, John Knight.

The government's proposals have also been endorsed by disability charity, SCOPE. "It is vital to build an infrastructure managed and led by disabled people, their organisations and allies," said SCOPE chief executive, Tony Manwaring.


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