National Disability Strategy declared unlawful

Report: Disability Rights UK

The High Court has declared that the Government’s National Disability Strategy is unlawful due to inadequate consultation with Disabled people.

Disability activists Miriam Binder, Jean Eveleigh, Doug Paulley and Vicki Hon brought the case against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, arguing that the Secretary of State had chosen to consult with Disabled people through the UK Disability Survey which was launched in January 2021, but that she had failed to provide sufficient information on the proposed Strategy to allow for meaningful response.

The government argued that the Survey was an information-gathering exercise, not a consultation. The Strategy was published in July 2021.

The Court held that through the UK Disability Survey, the Secretary of State had voluntarily embarked on a consultation to which legal duties applied. The judge referred to press releases and documents published by Government, which included labelling the Survey a ‘consultation’ and writing that the Survey was to ‘gather views’ on the development and delivery of the Strategy. Reference was also made to putting Disabled people’s ‘lived experiences’ at the centre of the Strategy, and the Strategy said that the Secretary of State had ‘carried out the biggest listening exercise with Disabled people in recent history’.

The Court held that the Survey was presented ‘as being a way in which the Strategy could be shaped, would be shaped and (eventually) was shaped, but the information provided made that impossible’.

Given that the National Disability Strategy was informed by an unlawful consultation, the Court declared the Strategy to be unlawful.

Disability Rights UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “We have a phrase in the disability community: ‘nothing about us without us’. I pay tribute to the Disabled people who fought for justice and gained this landmark ruling.

“A Disability Strategy formulated without deep listening to the voices of Disabled people is doomed to failure. The Government must now go back and do what it should have done the first time round: dedicate time and resources to enable Disabled people to speak freely and fully on our lived experience, demonstrate we have been fully heard, and share draft Strategy proposals with us for discussion and comment.”