"How will we know when we are succeeding?" I was once asked. "How will we know our society is accessible?" I replied "When the accessible entrance is no longer at the back of the building." Now the question is different. "How will we know when our economy is inclusive? My reply: "When there is one plan and we are in that plan." My mind was still on the experience of reading 46 Local enterprise plans and a great many supplementary others. With two exceptions Disabled People weren't just absent from the wealth creation plans but were in danger of missing out on the opportunities listed too like work experience or apprenticeships. The Government has a strategy but no plan. A plan would have targets and lines of accountability and apply to the treasury and by extension our economy. They need a plan. We need a plan. Here we share some elements of our plan.
The inclusive economy is one where the creation of money and its expenditure takes into account both the impact on disabled people and the opportunity to remove the economic disadvantage linked to having a disability or long-term health condition. This ambition does not overlook the economic disadvantage of any other demographic group in that there are disabled people in all nine protected characteristic categories and studies point to these people having multiple barriers to economic participation or opportunity; disability prevalence has been mapped and correlates closely with indices of poverty. If policy were a product or research or evidence alone we would already be a priority or even the priority.
Contrary to expectations this isn't simply a campaign benefiting people with disabilities. As we impact positively on the financial well-being of disabled people families will have more disposable income that they will get to spend within the local economy. For this reason we also expect their family supporters and communities to be our allies.
The DRN seeks to max out on options to be a priority. We need both changes in focus and changes in structure. The focus could be the metrics that determine the award of Government contracts. Guidance 6/20 permits the adoption of a metric on disability employment. The Government's response to the green paper on procurement published on December 15th 2021 confirmed the direction of Government policy as it withdraws from the EU Directive on Procurement. Up to 10% of the assessment can be on social value so it introduces a huge incentive to deliver on the metric of choice.
Priority is also likely to be easier to achieve if the FTSE 500 companies had to report on the profile of their workforce. Transparency particularly where there has been historically low levels of disabled people recruited could drive improvements. Its a no brainer when the Government isn't just the primary commissioner but may be just about the only purchaser for many e.g. construction, engineering, management services such as prison administration etc. Consultation on mandatory reporting issued by the Office of Disability issues is currently underway. Please respond. Positively.
The DRN is a network and we are already welding national representation to local activism. Our evolving structure will allow us to conduct constituency wide surveys of disabled people's experiences of Government policy and to disseminate what we learn via local media. We are already global, national and local but we also aim to get personal too. You may have heard that in the main you are only remembered for what you did for other people. Not your family and relatives. Not your friends. No it’s the people you never even met that count. The inclusive economy can be built from a pyramid of decisions: decision makers, policy makers, employers, HR managers, disabled people, their supporters and others. I think we are a priority group to ask the question to, "Did I have a wonderful life?