Last year (2012) the Parliamentary Information Office reported details of the Scope Report "Overlooked Communities, Overdue Change” which presented new, wide-ranging evidence about disabled people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.
Last Thursday, 9th January 2013, the House of Lords debated the Report, which recommended how policy-makers, local authority commissioners, and service providers can improve BME disabled people's access to services.
The key points in the Report were:
o There are at least one million disabled people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK. Many face considerable difficulties in their daily lives, yet are unable to access the services they need.
o Demographic change means there will be many more BME disabled people in the future. If the needs of this growing community are to be met, it is vital that the accessibility of services is improved.
o Increased community involvement in the design, commissioning and delivery of services is essential for such improvements to happen. More accurate evidence, better communication, and greater recognition of this group in policy-making are vital steps for developing fully inclusive services.
Lord Boateng (Labour) opened the debate in the Lords. He said:
"Disabled people from black and minority ethnic communities and their families are often left disengaged from the decisions of policymakers and practitioners, disconnected from support systems and services, and disempowered from finding local solutions to the problems that they face.
In this House this afternoon we have an opportunity to address that issue. We will have the opportunity to do so again in the weeks and months ahead as the government take forward their own legislative programme, particularly in relation to the children and families bill.”
Baroness Browning (Conservative), vice president of the National Autistic Society and the Alzheimer's Society, focused on recommendations for policy makers. She said:
"These include, for example, a theme throughout the report: involving disabled people themselves, along with their immediate carers, and the black and minority ethnic (BME) communities with experience and background in what the needs and solutions are.”
Baroness tyler of Enfield (Liberal Democrat), declared an interest as president of the National Children's Bureau. She explained:
"It is vital - the report makes this very clear - that we understand that the disadvantages of disability can be amplified for children from within the black and minority ethnic community.”
She continued: "In addition to poverty and language barriers, the disabled children of black and minority ethnic communities also face a number of more subtle disadvantages of social isolation and stigma.”
Baroness Hollins (Crossbench) stated:
"My Lords, people from BME communities are significantly under-represented in the uptake of learning disability services. This is despite the much higher prevalence of learning disability in certain BME groups.”
She continued: "Differences in perception of mental health within various cultures and poor knowledge of availability of services can also significantly influence the health-seeking behaviour of people who have mental health problems and individuals with learning disabilities or their families.”
She concluded: "I want to end by thinking about the importance of cultural competency as an essential component to our services. I hope the minister will agree above all that a person-centred and culturally competent approach will be key to the success of services in the future.”
Baroness Thornton (Labour), Equalities Office opposition spokesperson, said:
"Scope has been very concerned about the potential shift within government to a more watered-down commitment to assessing equality implications as a crucial part of decision-making.”
She explained: "If we see a diminution in the commitment to monitoring, consulting and impact measurement, that also needs to be seen in the context of the impact of the welfare reforms that the Government are pursuing with regard to disabled people.”
She added: "Impact assessments should consider not just aggregated impacts from one specific policy but the cumulative impact of several policies on individuals and their families.”
Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government. She said:
"We are working as a united government to break down barriers of disability, race, religion, gender, age and social background. We are taking a personalised approach to enable people to reach their potential, rather than assuming that one size fits all.”
The Parliamentary Information Office will continue to report on inclusiveness within all communities as we go through the months ahead.