Developing ICT skills and networks of support.
Recently I went with a colleague to visit the Office for Disability Issues (ODI). The ODI sits in the Department for Work and Pensions and helps the Government engage with disabled people. Our visit was organised by ODI civil servants. We met people from different departments as well as Jeremy Moore, who is the director of the ODI.
I began the meeting by discussing the Government’s reforms to Disability Living Allowance (DLA). The Government is planning to replace DLA with a new benefit, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Mencap is concerned that these changes might mean that people with a learning disability who need support do not get it. Mencap is also worried about how the new assessment process is going to work. I believe easy read versions of the assessment documents should be made available to those who need it. The civil servants from the ODI who I met with said the Government would try to protect people who have the greatest needs.
I also discussed employment for people with a learning disability. There are less then seven per cent of people with a learning disability known to social services in any form of employment. We discussed how the Government can help people with a disability into employment. One way the ODI is helping is through a project called Project Search. Project Search helps disabled people get and keep permanent jobs through a year-long programme of work training. It was interesting to find out about the involvement of people with a learning disability who want to work and how the project can help them get a job. I found my job through Mencap’s employment service and it is very rewarding for me and benefits me in many ways.
I also raised the issue of disability hate crime, which is a very important issue for people with a learning disability. Last year Mencap launched its ‘Stand by me’ campaign to challenge the police to do more to support disability hate crime victims. I am concerned that the lack of money in the economy might limit the Government’s ability to make the changes we would like to see. The civil servants from ODI told me that the Government is writing an action plan to help deal with hate crimes.
Finally, I talked about the how the ODI can make their website more accessible for people with a learning disability. I hope to work closely with the ODI and talk to them about Mencap’s easy read material and our website.
My visit to the ODI was interesting because I found out about the work they are doing to help people with a learning disability. It is important for departments like the ODI to listen to the views of people with a learning disability and I hope the Government will keep on listening and will make the decisions that are right for disabled people. I also hope that Mencap and the ODI can work together in future on things like the Welfare Reform Bill and on making accessible information more easily available. I would like to thank the ODI for organising my visit and for talking to me about different issues. I have found out a lot about the policy work they do and the changes that the Government are going to try and make in the next few years.