16 May, 2002
Proposals to create a single body to deliver equality and fight all forms of discrimination have been opposed by disability groups.
The plan, outlined in a speech given by Cabinet Office Minister Barbara Roche yesterday, is to introduce a unified body to deal with six areas of discrimination – including age, race, gender and disability.
She described it as the “most significant” proposal of its kind in the last 25 years.
It could mean that the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) – which has fielded more than 144,000 helpline calls and has backed around four and a half thousand cases in the past two years – would effectively cease to exist.
The DRC issued a statement warning that the establishment of a single Equality Commission risked “weakening the newly established rights of 8.5 million disabled people.”
Bert Massie, DRC Chair, said: “We must ensure disabled people’s voices continue to be heard and their rights enforced.
“A single Equality Commission should not precede a Single Equality Act,” he added.
A spokesperson for the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP) said the organisation was “strongly opposed” to a unified commission, warning “the equality of disabled people will drop down the government’s agenda as a result”.
Meanwhile Steve Winyard, Head of Public Policy at the Royal National Institute for the Blind said: "RNIB, like many other disability organisations, campaigned long and hard for the creation of the Disability Rights Commission."
"We are not about to sit back and watch it being abolished by the back door 2 years later."
Tim Boswell, Tory spokesman for disability told Youreable that while the commission concept was not “unthinkable”, there would be problems amalgamating the DRC.
“The particular problem with the DRC is that, unlike the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality, it is still establishing itself,” he said.
“We don’t want to lose the specific voice of disability,” he said.
The plans will be reviewed over the next six months with firm proposals being unveiled in the autumn.