To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what progress his Department has made in fulfilling its statutory role as a public body to promote the rights of disabled people.
The Department is fully committed to equality and diversity. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 places new duties on public authorities to promote equality for disabled people, 'the Disability Equality Duty.'
Through the Act, we, like many public bodies, have an obligation to publish a Disability Equality Scheme every three years. Our Equality and Diversity Unit has begun work on the Department's first scheme, to be published later this year. Policy officials will be undertaking a full departmental-wide examination of our policies and functions in relation to disability and other equality issues. Action plans will be produced to address all issues and these will be monitored and reviewed through the annual business planning process. The scheme will be published on the Department's website. This information will contribute towards preparations for the Secretary of State's report on progress, due in December 2008. My Department has also provided support on implementing the new duties to a number of other public authorities including schools and other public bodies. Further information on this and other support is shown as follows.
Examples of DfES support for other authorities include:
Schools and early years:
The Department for Education and Skills is holding a series of events in May and June to launch the new resource "Implementing the Disability Discrimination Act in schools and early years settings" to help schools and local authorities implement the reasonable adjustments duty and planning duty they have under Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act by providing:
An explanation of the DDA duties and their relationship to the statutory SEN framework; a DVD resource filmed in over 40 schools illustrating how schools have made reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination against disabled pupils and increase their access to education; plus supporting written materials; templates for schools and local authorities to use in reviewing and revising their statutory accessibility plans; guidance for local authorities on increasing access to early years settings for very young disabled children.
The resource will help schools and local authorities to make adjustments for their disabled pupils both in the short and longer term by improving access to all aspects of school life. The guidance identifies how schools and local authorities' access planning arrangements will help compliance with the Disability Equality Duty.
The Disability Rights Commission will give a presentation at the events providing an overview of the duties schools and local authorities will have under the Disability Equality Duty. They will also make participants aware of the sixth section that will be added to the resource in the autumn as part of the non statutory guidance being developed for schools by the Disability Rights Commission on the new Disability Equality Duty.
DfES has been participating in a series of round-table workshops over the past year with the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), Learning and Skills Council, Higher Education Funding Council for England and external partners in the Further and Higher Education sectors, to prepare for the forthcoming public sector duty to promote disability equality. DRC plans to publish guidance for the FHE sector in May.
LSC's existing statutory duty to promote disability equality:
Section 14 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, requires the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), in carrying out all of its functions, to have due regard to the promotion of equality of opportunity in terms of disability, race and gender. In addition, section 13 requires the LSC to pay particular regard to the needs of young people and adults with learning difficulties and disabilities, when performing its duties to secure facilities and provide resources for education and training.
DfES are working with the LSC to run an equalities impact assessment across the skills strategy programme. This will include disability. We aim to complete this by the end of October 2006.