Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
The Welsh Government’s Framework for Action on Independent Living is being published on 19 September. I attach a copy of the Framework, which will also be available on the Welsh Government web-site.
The Framework sets out action to promote the rights of disabled people in Wales to live independently and exercise the same choices as other citizens. It is a cross-government approach which I have developed with the Deputy Minister for Social Services.
The aims of the Framework are:
- to set out a positive vision for disabled people in Wales in the challenging context of recession and welfare reform;
- to challenge stereotypes and negative attitudes;
- to set out for the first time a strategic approach to disability in Wales;
- to set out what the Welsh Government is doing to promote an inclusive and enabling society, and
- to highlight the key roles of local delivery partners and stakeholders.
The Framework sets out how we are fulfilling our obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It also contributes to the implementation of our Strategic Equality Plan, and supports our plans to tackle poverty. The Framework demonstrates that tackling barriers for disabled people will not only advance their rights, it will have wider benefits in terms of access and inclusion, and will promote more sustainable and responsive services for all.
Economic recession, spending cuts, and welfare reform will affect many disabled people in Wales, and with rising living costs many will find it difficult to make ends meet. The Welsh Government does not have control of either the benefit system or the key economic levers, so there is a limit to what we can do to make life better for those individuals who will feel the impact of the cuts. We can only address matters that are within the Welsh Government's devolved powers so the Framework focuses on what the Welsh Government can do to move this agenda forward. It builds on the specific priorities identified by disabled people and sets out how we will address the barriers to equality.
The feedback we received to the consultation on the Framework demonstrated widespread agreement with the priorities identified within the Framework, and a warm welcome for the co-productive approach taken in developing the document. It was also clear from the consultation that involving disabled people in decision-making is crucial for delivering inclusive services and getting it right first time. This is where encouraging the development of social enterprises, co-operatives, and user led services , including Centres for Independent Living, can provide a model in which co–production, partnership and co-operative activity can help support our aims to give people a stronger voice and real control.
The current economic climate makes it more important than ever that we continue to drive forward this agenda. Supporting people to live their lives in the way that they choose is the right thing to do. The Framework therefore includes the message that the Welsh Government and local service providers must all do our best to ensure that we develop person-centred policies and programmes, and adopt an outcomes-focused approach to service delivery. The key message is that it is not impairment that prevents people from achieving a reasonable lifestyle, but restrictive environments, disabling barriers and negative attitudes.
I know Assembly Members and others will welcome this document, but also share my view that the Framework alone will not realise our vision for an inclusive Wales that empowers disabled people to have choice and control over all aspects of their lives. That will require a change of culture, from one where disabled people are passive recipients of services to one where we develop the trust to work together to make things change.This is about how we are supporting the rights of disabled people in Wales to live independently and exercise the same rights as other citizens.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.