UK hosting summer Special Olympics considered as part of Disability Action Plan

Accessible playgrounds, support for people who have assistance guide dogs and help for aspiring disabled politicians are all part of a new action plan which aims to “transform the lives of millions”.

The Government has announced a 32-point Disability Action Plan which also commits to looking into the potential for the UK to host the 2031 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Campaigners have welcomed the plan, but warned they will be watching to check whether promises are kept on the various steps.

Mims Davies, minister for disabled people, health and work, announced the Disability Action Plan (Roger Harris/UK Parliament/PA)
Mims Davies, minister for disabled people, health and work, announced the Disability Action Plan (Roger Harris/UK Parliament/PA)

The Government Equalities Office said the plan was informed by the views of more than 1,300 disabled people, their families and interested parties and aims to “transform the lives of millions, ensuring disabled people can participate fully in society”.

Measures include a new fund to support disabled people who want to be elected to public office and an online information hub for local authorities on creating accessible playgrounds.

A new working group will educate businesses on the legal rights of assistance dog owners, with Government saying this will make it easier to report when people with guide dogs are refused access to a business.

The Government said it is also leading new research into emerging issues affecting disabled people in the UK over the next 20 years.

The Cabinet Office’s disability unit will work with other Government departments to look into bidding for the UK to host the 2031 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said he was supportive of these plans, adding: “As an event it is both important as the pinnacle event for athletes across the world and inspiring and uplifting for everyone who attends or is involved.

“As a passionate advocate for disability sport, I am eager to explore the tangible benefits that could come from this initiative in this country, as well as the other more immediate actions in the Disability Action Plan, all aimed at improving the lives of disabled people.”

Mims Davies, minister for disabled people, health and work said: “This new wide-ranging plan means disabled children can rightly enjoy the fun of the playground, disabled customers can use the services they’re entitled to and businesses who break laws around assistance dogs will be firmly held to account amongst other impactful changes.

“I look forward to seeing the immediate impact of the Disability Action Plan while we deliver on long-term reforms to make this country the most accessible and importantly equal place to live in the world – so everyone can live their lives to the full and thrive.”

Richard Kramer, chief executive of the national disability charity Sense, said it is a “relief” to see that Government had listened to feedback on the plan and “created more ambitious proposals than previously published” but added that “the proof, as always, will be in the pudding”.

He said: “Government has set itself six and twelve-month reporting milestones, and Sense will be monitoring these carefully to see if the plan turns into actions.”

He said key issues such as the rising cost of living, challenges with the benefits system and the ongoing social care crisis are of utmost importance in the lives of disabled people and warned these “require long-term solutions”.

He said: “In a year where we will be heading to the polls, we hope to see all parties commit to creating the bold changes disabled people desperately need.”

Stephen Kingdom, campaign manager of the Disabled Children’s Partnership, said it welcomes some elements of the plan such as increasing the accessibility of playgrounds.

But he added: “However the plan doesn’t amount to a complete strategy to address the systemic failures for disabled children and young people.”

The Government said the plan sits alongside the National Disability Strategy, which it described as outlining a longer-term vision for transforming disabled people’s lives.