I am deeply concerned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to remove the dedicated role of Minister for Disabled People, a position that has been part of government for decades. The move is regrettable, and its implications for disabled people are troubling.
Mims Davies has taken on the role within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), but remains a parliamentary under Secretary of State, the most junior level in government. Her predecessor Tom Pursglove was a minister of state when he held the job.
In demoting the post to a junior minister, with multiple briefs within government, it’s disheartening to witness such a retrograde step that sends a negative signal to the disabled community.
During my time as a producer at the BBC, on the now sadly defunct Radio Four disability programme Does He Take Sugar?, we had the opportunity to interview several Ministers for Disabled People, Conservative and Labour, including Nicholas Scott, Alan Howarth, William Hague, and Alistair Burt to name but a few. I understand perhaps more than many the importance of the role to disabled people, and for the visibility and awareness of disability issues within government.
Revelations at the Covid Inquiry recently have raised significant questions about how much the Conservative government cares about disabled people. Unfortunately, the removal of this dedicated ministerial role only intensifies these concerns.Millions of disabled individuals, along with their families and carers, will be unimpressed by this decision. As a disabled person I will certainly take this development into account when deciding where to cast my vote in 2024.
It is crucial that the government continues to prioritise the needs and rights of disabled people, and, just as importantly, is seen to be doing so.
But hey, at least we now have a Minister for Common Sense though, right? Maybe this move is one for the top of Esther McVey’s new in tray.
It’s certainly a decision that makes no sense to me.