To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on her Department's progress in fulfilling its statutory obligation as a public body to promote the rights of disabled people.
Disability Equality Duty
The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 placed new duties on public authorities to promote equality for disabled people, the Disability Equality Duty.
The legislation requires DEFRA to publish a departmental disability equality scheme outlining how it will meet the duty. In order to reflect the creation of the single equality body the Commission for Equality and Human Rights and also reduce the burden to the business DEFRA has decided to do this as a joint equality scheme (JES) that will fully address both race and disability issues. The JES can be adapted to include other legislation as it comes on line, for instance gender and age.
DEFRA's diversity and equality unit (DEU) wrote to all business units earlier this year seeking information on the impact of the equalities legislation on their areas of work and the actions they would take to address this. The information provided has been used to develop a draft JES, including a departmental action plan covering a three-year period from 2006–09. At the end of the three year period, DEU will have responsibility for reviewing the scheme. As a result of the review the DEU will launch a revised scheme, which will run for a further three years.
In addition, the Secretary of State will report annually on progress for the JES covering core DEFRA and all its Executive Agencies and NDPBs. It will also set out actions for the future.
Other Issues That Promote Equality For Disabled People
DEFRA has a staff network for employees with disabilities that provides advice for policy makers on disability issues. The Department is a member of the Inter-Departmental Disability Group sharing best practice between Government Departments and is also a member of the Employers' Forum for Disability.
DEFA has good relations with its Executive Agencies and NDPBs and is working with them on promoting the service delivery aspects of disability such as access to the countryside and how disabled people are consulted about new rural and environmental initiatives.