While there is still a red flag hanging over the whole Disability and Inclusion Strategy, it is perhaps better to see it as a call to action rather than a source of frustration. Certainly, the Committee for Employment and Social Security seem to see it that way. They are working diligently to keep the project moving forward, and to ensure that the proposed discrimination legislation is brought to the States before the end of this political term.
While there has been a lot of focus on the Discrimination Legislation and the proposed Equality and Rights Organisation, other matters have not been ignored. While it is the role of the Disability and Inclusion Strategy Project Board to complete policies, there is a recognition that policies without implementation are in many ways worse than useless, since they raise false hopes and dash expectations. As a result, the Project Board is looking for ways to highlight areas of concern where completed policy work has stalled at the implementation phase.
The Project Board has also taken responsibility for the support of the States Disability Champion. It is recognised that things have gone wrong, and that the current structure does not allow for two crucial roles to be safely and effectively fulfilled. The Board is looking at ways of ensuring that the Disability Champion can be made a more effective political voice by being better informed and supported. It is also looking at ways of providing advocacy and support for individual cases as they arise. The GDA is working hard alongside the Project Board to help identify appropriate structures for that crucial work.
While the team working on the Disability and Inclusion Strategy lost two valuable members when a secondment and a contract came to their respective ends, the situation came as no surprise. It is good to announce that one of those posts has already been filled by Sarah Harvey who is well versed in Disability and Inclusion, because she was part of the team at the very beginning of the Strategy. It is also, I think, a good time to congratulate the new Disability Officer, Gill Evans, who has settled quickly into her new post and has already got a good grip on many facets of this complex role.