On Tuesday 30 November, Jane Hutt MS, the Minister for Social Justice, delivered a speech to the Senedd regarding the United Nations International Day of Disabled People, which falls on Friday 3 December. The theme for 2021 is ‘fighting for rights in the post-COVID era’.
The Minister acknowledged the work of the Disability Task Force, of which FTWW is a member organisation, following the Locked out report, which highlighted the devastating impact of the pandemic on disabled people in Wales. She also reaffirmed Welsh Government’s commitment to the social model of disability, saying, “We know that it is our society’s values, behaviours, structures, social and economic policies and the built environments that disable people.”
You can watch the full speech – and the debate that followed – below. A full transcription can be found here – we’ve also included a transcription of the Minister’s speech below.
Jane Hutt MS – Minister for Social Justice.
“Diolch yn fawr, Deputy Llywydd. This Friday is the United Nations International Day of Disabled People. In 1992, the United Nations designated 3 December as a day for promoting the rights and well-being of disabled people and to celebrate their achievements across the world. The theme for 2021 is ‘fighting for rights in the post-COVID era’, and this is a cause this Welsh Government is firmly committed to.
“There’s no question that disabled people are among the most affected by the pandemic. It has laid bare a number of the stubborn and deep-rooted inequalities disabled people face in our society. Many disabled people have had to face isolation, disconnection, disrupted routines and diminished services, which has undoubtedly impacted their mental well-being and their lives. It is also a terrible fact that, across the UK, six in every 10 of COVID-related deaths were of disabled people. Many of these deaths were not the simple inevitable consequence of impairment, with many deaths being clearly rooted in socioeconomic factors. Today, I’m not only reiterating that this Government recognises these inequalities, but that we are resolute in our determination to address them and have taken significant action to do so.
“You will know from my previous updates that, throughout the pandemic, the Government regularly met to discuss and address issues that affect disabled people in Wales. Part of these discussions led to the commissioning and publishing of the ground-breaking ‘Locked out’ report, a report that brought into clear focus the stark inequity being faced by disabled people and that has allowed us to take a critical next step of forming the disability rights taskforce, as announced by the First Minister. I’m very pleased to say that the inaugural meeting of the disability rights taskforce, chaired by myself and Professor Debbie Foster, took place on the eighteenth of this month. It was attended by disabled people with lived experience and expertise and organisations from across Wales who reaffirmed a determination to address the issues highlighted in the ‘Locked out’ report and beyond.
“It would be remiss of me not to pause here for a second and place on record my gratitude to all of the individuals that got us to this point. I would like to sincerely thank all the members of the steering group and Professor Debbie Foster, who produced the ‘Locked out’ report. I would like to thank them for their fortitude and perseverance not only in compiling this report but also in ensuring that we reached the point we have today. I’m also grateful to every member of the taskforce and those who worked to make it possible. We know that this is just the beginning, and yet we know also that we are resolute in our purpose.
“This taskforce has been formed to help us explore and implement the recommendations from the ‘Locked out’ report, but, more than that, it will need to make sure that disabled people are able to enjoy all of the benefits and rights that others take for granted. The disability rights taskforce will work co-productively and with mutual respect to create a new disability rights action plan for Wales. This will build on the ‘Action on Disability: The Right to Independent Living’ framework. With this, we can positively lay the foundations for a truly inclusive Wales.
“Crucially, we understand that there can be gaps during the development of any policy and the needs and aspirations of the people that it is intended to support. To address this, we’ve been clear that the taskforce will place the voices of disabled people at the heart of everything it does. The collective professional and lived experiences of the taskforce will be instrumental in identifying the root causes of discrimination and resulting inequalities and the short, medium and longer term actions needed to address them.
“To mark this international day, we reaffirm our commitment to the social model of disability. We know that it is our society’s values, behaviours, structures, social and economic policies and the built environments that disable people. We must do all we can to understand and take action to address these and ensure that this is not the way we continue to operate. Our work, and that of the taskforce, is grounded in a clear commitment to the social model of disability, and we’re committed to embedding the social model, as well as human rights, into our thinking as well as into our policy and practice. As part of this commitment, we will ensure there are opportunities for training on the social model of disability to ensure this is embedded in the work of the taskforce and the actions it will produce.
“We have, of course, made progress on a number of policy areas and I’m very pleased that our access to elected office fund is live and ready to support more disabled people to run for office, to increase representation, participation and to support their communities. I’m also pleased that we are finalising options for an equalities data and evidence unit in Wales. This unit will ensure that decision makers have the best information at hand regarding people with protected characteristics, and this, of course, includes disabled people. We also welcome to their positions our first disabled people’s employment champions. These champions are supporting employers across Wales to create a workforce that is representative and open to all.
“As a final note, Dirprwy Lywydd, the recently announced co-operation agreement between the Welsh Labour Government and Plaid Cymru, which commences this week, says that, working together, we will, and I quote: ‘Strengthen the rights of disabled people and tackle the inequalities they continue to face. We are committed to the social model of disability and together we will ensure the success of the Disability Task Force set up to respond to the Locked Out report.’
I look forward to working with Plaid Cymru’s designated Member to develop and oversee the delivery of work in this area over the coming three years.
So, thank you again to everyone who has helped us to reach this crucial point. I’m confident that when we mark the next International Day of Disabled People we will do so from a stronger position than ever. From the firm foundations we have laid together, we will be able to build a stronger, fairer and more prosperous Wales.”