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Disability Rights Task Force

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the reasons were for the delay in producing a strategy to implement the recommendations of the Disability Rights Task Force in Northern Ireland; and when the strategy will be published. [101007]

The former Northern Ireland Executive agreed the Promoting Social Inclusion (PSI) priorities and the Terms of Reference and membership for the Working Group which was tasked with developing the strategy on 31 May 2002. The Group met for the first time on 2 July 2002.The original Programme for Government target for the strategy was December 2002. Work on the draft strategy requires close cross-departmental input and agreement on how best to implement the actions flowing from the Executive's response to the Disability Rights Task Force recommendations. Active consideration of other non-legislative issues relating to access to information, services and equipment by people with disabilities has been carried out. This has been a particularly important aspect of the work as it links in with work on the European Year of People with Disabilities (EYPD) 2003 which is of high priority and will raise public awareness of issues affecting people with disabilities.It is currently planned to publish the strategy in summer 2003. However, the delay in publishing the strategy has not resulted in delay in progressing the actions to be included within it. Many of the legislative recommendations for example are currently the subject of consultation in draft Regulations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for what reason the PSI working group developing the strategy to implement the recommendation of the Disability Rights Task Force in Northern Ireland contains no representatives of disability groups. [101008]

The Promoting Social Inclusion (PSI) Disability interdepartmental Working Group was established primarily to develop a strategy to implement the former NI Executive's response to the Disability Rights Task Force recommendations. Membership of the Working Group was agreed by former Ministers and comprises those who are responsible for implementing the recommendations. The consultation exercise on the Executive's response, which ended on 31 December 2001 included representatives from organisations representing the disability sector.The Group's remit also includes wider issues raised during the consultation process such as barriers to the provision of services and equipment for people with disabilities and taking forward this part of the strategy has involved representatives of disability groups. A focus group meeting was convened (last September) comprising representatives from those groups who had responded to the questions on barriers to services and equipment in the consultation exercise. Full and active consideration of those views is on-going as part of the Working Group's deliberations on the strategy.