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Disability: Black and Minority-ethnic Disabled People — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:36 pm on 22nd May 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 2:36 pm, 22nd May 2012

To ask Her Majesty's Government what they are doing to address access to and use of disability services by black and minority-ethnic disabled people, as outlined in the recently published Scope report Over-looked Communities, Over-due Change.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The Government recognise the issues around access to and use of disability services by people from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds. Our forthcoming cross-government disability strategy will reflect the input of disabled people, including those from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds, and will set out our priorities for ensuring that we can develop ways of tackling those issues.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for that Answer and the recognition of the particular issues that black and minority-ethnic disabled people face, which require a cross-government approach. The impact assessments of the effect of government policies on welfare reform, for example, are so important because this group is disadvantaged. I therefore seek a commitment from the Minister that the cross-government implementation plan will ensure that there is a strong working relationship between the Office for Disability Issues, the Government Equalities Office and her own department. When might that plan be available for us to look at?

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, as I am sure the noble Baroness knows, the Government are developing the cross-government disability strategy at the moment. It is cross-government, so the answer to her question about whether all departments will be involved is clearly yes. As to when the disability action strategy will be available, there is no date for publication yet as consultations are still going on. They include people from black and minority-ethnic groups.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

Do other factors come into this? Admittedly, the culture of black and ethnic minorities often means that people care for their own, perhaps better than we do and perhaps putting us to shame in that respect. Apart from that, does the Minister think that there is a lack of awareness? Are these people applying for help, or are they not aware that they need to or could apply for help?

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, the report identifies that quite often they do not apply for help. In part, that is because they are not known to the authorities. A large way of getting around that is for local government or health authorities to ensure that people are aware of the local groups that reflect black and minority-ethnic requirements, and can thereby find out what their needs are. However, I accept what my noble friend says: that in many of these groups there is a family commitment to look after their own and not to seek statutory help.

Photo of Baroness King of Bow Baroness King of Bow Labour

My Lords, I congratulate Scope and the Equalities National Council on the report, which draws to our attention the fact that nearly half of all black and minority-ethnic disabled people live in poverty, which is staggering. Given this extraordinary statistic, will the Minister agree to meet Scope and the Equalities National Council to discuss this point and look at how impact assessments can be improved in the future so that black disabled children in Britain do not have a 50% chance of growing up in poverty?

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that. I cannot give an absolute commitment myself because this goes further than the Department for Communities and Local Government, but I will see who the right person would be and I am sure that I will be able to give a commitment on their behalf that that meeting will take place.

Photo of The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Bishop

The Scope report highlights certain difficulties that migrants have in accessing services, with that of language among them. Are there any plans for the Government to review the provision of translation services through social services?

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, each local authority can decide what translation facilities it needs for its communities. Some require material to be published in their own language, but very many others just need to ensure that that material is available. It is, of course, necessary now for local authorities and health authorities to ensure that they have access to interpreting services as and when they need them.

Photo of Baroness Hussein-Ece Baroness Hussein-Ece Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I also welcome this very important report, which has shone a light on the desperate need of nearly 1 million people from black and ethnic-minority communities-a growing community. I want to press my noble friend the Minister a bit more. Given that demographics mean that this cohort of people is growing fast, will she consider developing a national race equality strategy, which would create a joint implementation plan for these two strategies, to be led by the Office for Disability Issues and the Government Equalities Office, to ensure that these people do not fall between the cracks and can access services?

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, I have already mentioned the disability plan, which is in the process of being put forward, and where that strategy has advice from black and minority-ethnic groups. The Government do not think that a race equality strategy would add very much to the current position, with its focus on the barriers faced by disabled people. There are duties under the equality strategy, which I think is now 90% introduced. This is not a question entirely of race and disability but of ensuring that individuals have access to the services that they need and are known to the authorities when they need to be so that their requirements are met. That goes across the board. In short answer to the noble Baroness, we do not think at the moment that a race equality strategy would add anything to the Government's position.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour

My Lords, will the noble Baroness seek to remedy the omission in the Scope report? It took no account of the needs of people with disabilities from the Gypsy and Traveller community. I remind the House that Gypsies and Travellers are a recognised minority-ethnic community.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, they are indeed recognised as a community, and I am aware that it is a community on which people concentrate. There should be access to information from them about their needs.

Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that the report has suggested very strongly that there is a danger of the needs of black and minority-ethnic disabled people falling between the remits of various departments, including the Government Equalities Office, the Office for Disability Issues and the Department for Communities and Local Government. Why is that happening? If there is to be an implementation plan, will she give particular attention to finding a way to ensure that that aspect is addressed?

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

My Lords, I think that aspect will be addressed by the disability strategy. We already have advice from the black and minority-ethnic groups. The strategy very much takes account of their needs and it then will be a requirement under it that local government, the health service-the people who are commissioning services-know where the people are who need them and can identify what they require individually. The short answer, again, is that that will be taken into account across government in the disability strategy.