After the General Election in May, we took the opportunity to write to the Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson MP, asking him for a meeting to discuss the impact Government policies are having on visually impaired people in the UK. Much to our surprise we have been invited to meet him on 14th September at Caxton House in London. Douglas Gilroy, Andrew Hodgson and myself will attend this meeting which is scheduled to last just 30 minutes.
The Ministers responsibilities include:
- cross-government disability issues and strategy
- Employment and Support Allowance, Work Capability Assessment and Incapacity Benefit Reassessment Programme
- disability benefits (Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance)
- appeals reform
- fraud and error (including debt management)
After much discussion with his Civil Service team we have submitted the following three question for discussion and possible commitment from the Minister:
1. There are many issues of freedom of movement around the built environment and people with sight impairments are being designed off the streets of our towns and cities.
Question: What is the Government doing, at national and local level, to ensure that we are able to exercise our right to freedom of movement, and what monitoring mechanisms are in place to enforce the Disability Equality Duty.
2. The Government is combining social and medical care services across the country.
Question: What steps are the Government taking, at both national and local level, to ensure that services for Sight Impaired people are maintained at a high level across the board?
3. Benefit cuts and changes are impacting disproportionally on people with sight impairments, due in part, to the fact they are older. Unlike younger people, we cannot work our way out of poverty and isolation.
Question: What is the Government doing to ensure that older blind and partially sighted people are protected against these cuts?
We have also submitted information about us and some of the issues that are affecting our lives as visually impaired people.
It is clear that we will not solve all these issues in a 30 minute meeting with the Minister. However, for the first time in many years we have a foot in the door and we need to capitalise on this opportunity to our best advantage, emphasising that we, as visually impaired people, expect to be consulted on these issues directly and more constructively in future.
It would assist us if you can tell us your experiences within these three topics to see if we can build case studies to present to the Minister.
It may not exactly be a Neil Armstrong moment but at least we are getting somewhere.
Many thanks for your support.
Nothing About Us Without Us.
Bill Campbell, General Secretary