A disabled peer has told a minister that her government’s failure to assess the impact of its policies on disabled people was like building a nuclear power station on a fault-line and then waiting for an earthquake.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell asked Maria Miller, the Conservative minister for disabled people, why the government had still not carried out an assessment of the “cumulative” impact of its policies on disabled people.
Three months ago, a report on disabled people’s right to independent living, by the joint committee on human rights – in which Baroness Campbell played a major part – called on the government to produce an assessment of the cumulative impact of its reforms on disabled people.
The crossbench peer was appearing in the Lords for the first time in six months, following serious health problems, and was co-chairing a meeting in which Miller answered questions about progress on her delayed disability strategy.
Baroness Campbell told the meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group – and other disability-related groups: “I left [six months ago] saying ‘impact assessments, impact assessments, impact assessments’. I am interested in where is the analysis of the cumulative effect of these changes.”
She added: “For me, it is like building a nuclear power station on a fault-line without thinking about what would happen if there was an earthquake.”
She said she had relatives who worked in aviation and shipping, industries which would “make sure people can fly without danger and sail without danger” before allowing a plane or boat to be built.
Miller admitted that her last conversation with Baroness Campbell six months previously had been about the need for a cumulative impact assessment, and said that her “words continue to ring in my ears”.
But she claimed that a number of disability-related policies were still “under development”.
And Miller appeared to blame the failure to carry out such an assessment on the need for “co-producing” policies, or consulting with disabled people and their organisations.
She said: “Because we are committed to co-production… it makes it very difficult to do cumulative impacts on policies that have not yet been finalised.
“They haven’t invented something where I can do an impact assessment when I haven’t finalised all the parts within it.”