Headlines: July 26th, 2004

The public sector has been told it must lead the way in changing attitudes and making the rights of disabled people a top priority. The Minister for Disabled People, Maria Eagle, has called on the sector to deliver a programme of change and said she wanted to see real commitment from public bodies to be leaders both as employers and as service providers.As a new document – “Delivering Equality for Disabled People” – went out to consultation, the minister said, “The public sector has a key role to play in making sure that the rights and opportunities of disabled people are not ignored.”

She said the consultation process was vital if the public sector was to champion the rights of disabled people and she wanted everyone working in the public sector or outside it to say what they thought. A series of public events is being organised to help people get involved in the process.

The recommendations of the Draft Disability Discrimination Bill will place public bodies under a new duty to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people as well as making sure there is no discrimination in the way they carry out public functions. Organisations delivering services such as health and education will be required to publish and implement plans detailing how they will improve the way they deal with disabled people.

The minister said discrimination had no pace in modern society and that in the same way the race relations legislation introduced the need to eliminate racial discrimination, the new measures were part of a package to end discrimination for Britain’s 10 million disabled people