Uncertainty reigns as UK disability minister is nowhere to be seen
29 March 2019 at 3:49 pm
Charities are furious at the UK government’s delay in appointing a new disability minister, with the role left vacant for more than two weeks amid the Brexit chaos.
Sarah Newton quit as minister for disabled people on 14 March to vote against a no-deal Brexit, and the role has remained unfilled ever since.
Disability charities including Sense, MS Society and Mind have slammed the government’s inaction, especially given the portfolio’s recent instability with five different ministers since 2013.
Sense chief executive Richard Kramer said the lack of clarity and the historic high turnover in the role gave the impression disability was not a high priority for government.
He said the delay caused uncertainty for the 13.9 million people with disability in the UK who needed a minister in government to champion their needs.
“Amid the Brexit debates, it mustn’t be forgotten that outside the walls of Westminster, life goes on,” Kramer said.
“Disabled people continue to not have access to the support they need, to experience barriers to employment and social opportunities, and to be subject to policy changes that negatively impact on their quality of life.
“We want to work with government to deliver a better life for disabled people. We can’t do that without a dedicated minister for disabled people.”
MS Society director Genevieve Edwards agreed the inaction reflected poorly on the government.
“A delay of nearly two weeks – and counting – to appoint a replacement will hardly give reassurances that the government is finally serious about tackling the challenges they face,” Edwards said.
Ayaz Manji from Mind added that the charity heard every week from people with mental health problems who were left completely without income, because of an assessment process not fit for purpose.
He said it was unacceptable the government was yet to appoint a minister to fix these problems.
Conservative vice-chairman James Cleverly admitted this week that a new disability minister was unlikely to be appointed until the Brexit crisis was resolved.
Speaking on BBC Radio, Cleverly said there was no point bringing in a new minister while there was a chance they followed Newton’s lead and walked out.
“There is a logic to say, until we have got through this very difficult and turbulent point in time, that a small gap – undesirable though that is – is better than what could be forcibly a series of reshuffles,” Cleverly said.
Since June 2018, 17 ministers have quit the government over Brexit.