Clause 14 - Accessibility Strategies and Plans

Part of Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 29th March 2001.

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Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Employment) (Employment and Equal Opportunities) 3:45 pm, 29th March 2001

That useful exchange follows a lengthy debate on those matters when the clause was considered in another place, and those matters concern the disability rights task force a great deal. Sadly, the hon. Member for Uxbridge has left his seat, so I shall address my remarks to the hon. Member for St. Ives. We do not suggest that all schools should be accessible immediately. Everyone recognises that increased accessibility needs to be planned, which is why the Bill imposes those planning duties on LEAs. However, it must clearly be done within resources.

I can tell the hon. Member for Daventry that we are far from being coy. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak on the work that he has done on behalf of disabled people and his commitment to them as a Member of Parliament. The duties will start for schools in 2002; recognising the greater complexity in the post-16 sector, the basic duties will start in September 2002; the duties of auxiliary aids will start in 2003; and the changes to physical features for the post-16 sector will start in 2005. That is part of the sensible planning in which we are engaged.

The amendment is unnecessary because those planning to increase accessibility schools, including post-16 institutions, would need to bear in mind the resources available. With as many as 24,000 schools, and a huge range of post-16 institutions, and with no work having been done yet, it is difficult accurately to estimate the cost of securing total accessibility.