Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip
This pandemic has laid bare the stubborn and deep-rooted inequalities in our society, which we must do more to address. But as we mark the first anniversary of the pandemic this is also an opportunity to look to the future.
Last year I commissioned our Disability Equality Forum to examine the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on disabled people. I was extremely concerned about reports from this Forum, and other data of the impact of Covid-19 on disabled people. It was becoming increasingly evident that disabled people were being negatively affected by the pandemic to a disproportionate degree. The Forum resolved to establish an evidence-based enquiry with a view to understanding and learning from disabled people’s experiences.
The First Minister, the Minister for Health and Social Services and I met with members of the Disability Equality Forum Steering Group last week to discuss the findings of their Locked Out: Liberating disabled people’s lives and rights in Wales beyond Covid-19 Report.
This report is the result of six months’ hard work and commitment by its authors. It has been co-produced by Professor Debbie Foster of Cardiff Business School and a Steering Group of disabled people representing Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and charities chaired by Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales. The group considered the influence of Covid-19 from a number of perspectives, including the impacts of socio-economic inequality in our society and how it further influences health, wellbeing, employment, travel, education and accessing services.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Debbie Foster and the members of the group for giving generously of their time and expertise – and also those who contributed evidence and shared their personal experiences of the wide ranging impacts Covid-19 has had on their lives. The Report is based on a large body of evidence considered by members of the Steering Group and is structured around 5 main chapters
- The social versus the medical model of disability
- Human rights
- Health and Well-Being
- Socio-economic disadvantages
- Exclusion, Accessibility and Citizenship
Prior to publishing the report, the Welsh Government will now consider its findings and its recommendations in detail and provide feedback on the initial report where necessary. We will set up a Taskforce to address the inequalities highlighted by the report and oversee the implementation of actions. The report suggests a range of actions to be addressed by Welsh Government and in conjunction with our partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors.
I am pleased to say that some of the recommendations are already being addressed, including the call for more robust data and evidence on which to base decision making. The Welsh Government is currently scoping the options for an Equalities Data and Evidence Unit in Wales. In addition, the research we have commissioned on strengthening equality and human rights in Wales is due to report shortly. Any legislative models to emerge from it will be consulted upon in the new Senedd term.
I would also like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the Welsh Government’s commitment to the Social Model of Disability, as called for in the report.
Equality and Human Rights remain central to the work of the Welsh Government and our vision for a more equal Wales; a country which ensures equity of access to services, tackling inequality and seeking fairer equality of outcomes for all our citizens, now and for future generations.