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Letter from Bristol Disability Equality Commission to Secretary of State on EDI

Official portrait of Michael Gove

Recently the UK Government distributed £500 million to local authorities to go towards the national chronic underfunding of social care. Whilst any funds to go some way to easing the pressures councils face in funding social care are to be welcomed, the distribution of the Social Care Grant came with a caveat that worried many Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs). Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, stated ‘we are asking local authorities to produce productivity plans setting out how they will improve service performance and reduce wasteful expenditure to ensure every area is making best use of taxpayers’ money. I encourage local authorities to consider whether expenditure on discredited equality, diversity and inclusion programmes meets this objective.’

DPOs have played a crucial role in reforming and improving adult social care in the UK. We have been at the forefront of promoting and developing personalised care and support models. We advocate for approaches that view Disabled people as individuals with unique needs and preferences, rather than as a homogeneous group. This has led to more tailored support services, enabling Disabled people to live more independently and be active members of our communities. By pushing for higher standards in adult social care, DPOs have helped to improve the quality of services provided to Disabled people and provide information, support, and training to help them navigate social care systems and make informed decisions about their support. DPOs have championed the importance of including Disabled people in the co-production of social care services. This approach ensures that services are designed and implemented in a way that truly meets the needs of those who use them, leading to more effective and efficient care solutions. Is this what the Secretary of State was refering to as discredited equality, diversity and inclusion programmes?

The Bristol Disability Equality Commission wrote to the Secretary of State to ask this question. With their permission we have reproduced their letter below:

Dear Mr Gove (and Mr Hunt),

We are writing to you on behalf of the Bristol Disability Equality Commission to express our dismay at aspects of the Statement you made relating to Equality Diversity and Inclusion on 24th January (Written statements – Written questions, answers and statements – UK Parliament) in the Local Government Finance Update that was sent to Local Authorities, (including ours in Bristol), which is now being reiterated in the Chancellor’s budget rhetoric.

Obviously we welcome the £500 million distributed through the Social Care Grant. As Adult Care services are cut to the bone, it is a shame that it  suggests ‘Where possible, councils should invest in areas that help place children’s social care services on a sustainable financial footing,’ and only suggests they should be, ‘mindful of the level of adult social care provision’. As I am sure you are aware, the cuts in real terms to adult care funding over the last decade or so, and the workforce crisis, have left Disabled people in dire straights, and Local Authorities barely able to meet their minimum legal obligations to meet our care and support needs.

We also do not feel the comments on ‘efficiency’ are helpful. Of course we agree that Local Authorities should ‘reduce wasteful expenditure to ensure every area is making best use of taxpayers’ money’ as you suggest, but we are quite sure this is what authorities like Bristol do, without needing to waste time and resources preparing a ‘Productivity Plan’ for yourselves.

However, we are particularly enraged and disappointed by your statement that ‘I encourage local authorities to consider whether expenditure on discredited equality, diversity and inclusion programmes meets this objective’. 

Organisations run and controlled by Disabled people in Bristol like ours, and others nationally, have worked hard for years with Local Authorities on a wide range of EDI (Equality Diversity and Inclusion) issues, to ensure that our human rights are upheld, and that our voices and views are heard in policy making, and in individual assessments and service delivery. More recently, we have been working on a Co-Production Policy with Council Officers. I am sure you understand that the best way to get cost effective adult care services, is to produce them with Disabled people, in an accessible way, so they are really targeted to meet our needs. All progress over the last few years on establishing Disabled and older people’s choice and control over how we live, as well as much improved efficiency through the use of direct payments, have come about due to EDI programmes.

As you have not said which programmes you think are ‘discredited’, your statement will only lead Councils to feel they have to stop the positive work they are doing to ensure our effective participation and inclusion in service provision, and I am sure this is not what you intended.

We would therefore request that you make it clear that Local Authority funding can legitimately and rightly be spent on any work that supports Disabled and older people’s rights. This would include developing co-production processes and systems to ensure our voices are heard, making services accessible, targeting specific resources (e.g. at marginalised Disabled and older people from Black and minoritised communities who often miss out on social care resources), developing initiatives to make information accessible to those with learning difficulties, and all the other EDI programmes that improve our care and support and uphold our rights.

I hope you understand this point, and the upset that your Statement and this narrative has caused to Disabled People.

Yours sincerely

Alun Davies MBE and Ruth Pickersgill MBE

on behalf of the Bristol Disability Equality Commission

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