A new cross-government disability team will place higher accessibility standards for new housing at its core as part of an effort by the Prime Minister to remove barriers for disabled people to fully participate in society.
Incorporating the Office for Disability Issues, the new team will sit alongside the Government Equalities Office and Race Disparity Unit in a new Equalities Hub at the heart of government.
This team will work closely with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and charities to develop a new approach to disability, aiming to put their views and experiences at the forefront of new policies.
The government will consult on mandating higher accessibility standards for new housing. This could help deliver up to 300,000 new accessible and adaptable homes every year. Guidance will also be published to help councils meet current standards for accessible housing in England.
The news comes after Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said the government will review accessibility requirements in building regulations following a report showing less than a quarter of new homes due to be built by 2030 are planned to be accessible.
Habinteg’s report, which analysed 322 local planning policies, claimed that only 1% of new homes are set to be suitable for wheelchair users.
Mr Brokenshire said: “Every person, whatever their ability or age, must have the opportunity to succeed in life – that means providing new homes that meet the everyday needs of whoever lives in them.
“However, too many of the homes built in the past have not lived up to this basic promise, which is why we’re looking very closely at strengthening accessibility requirements, including making them mandatory for all new homes.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said she wants to identify and tackle injustices while she remains in power.
“We all have a crucial role – businesses, government and civil society – in working together to ensure that disabled people get the support they need, and go as far as their talents can take them.”
A consultation on new measures to help employers better support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions in work will also be published next month.
The Work and Pensions Secretary will also explore how to improve support for those on disability benefits through a Green Paper, for which her department will engage with disabled people’s organisations and charities.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said: “Disabled people encounter too many challenges in life and I want to see these end. We want to change the landscape for disabled people and to make sure there is always a level playing field for them.”
Richard Kramer, chief executive for the disability charity Sense, said: “Today’s announcement is a significant one for disabled people, and addressing the inequalities they face. For too long now, disability policy has been focused on what benefits or services disabled people do or don’t access, rather than the lives they want, and have a right to lead.
“Equality for disabled people is everyone’s business and cuts across all areas of policy and life, which is why we have been calling for and welcome this new cross government approach.
“We know that today is just the beginning of the journey, but we look forward to working with the government as this work takes shape, and ensuring it is led by and centres around disabled people to truly deliver meaningful change.”