1. Disabled people make up a fifth of Scotland's population yet, despite progress in some areas, they continue to experience high levels of inequality compared to non-disabled people - to the detriment of all. To find out what needs to be done to address this, in 2004 the Scottish Executive's Equality Unit established a Disability Working Group ( DWG). This report presents the DWG's recommendations - not just for the Scottish Executive ( SE) but for local authorities, employers, educators, community care providers and others.
2. The DWG's recommendations are directly relevant to many wider initiatives. Perhaps the most important is the introduction of the Disability Equality Duty ( DED) in December 2006. The forthcoming Commission for Equality and Human Rights, the Social Work Review, changes to direct payment policy, the recent publication of the 'Employability Framework', and new policy from Westminster on welfare to work are other key developments. The outcome of the Equal Opportunities Committee's disability inquiry 'Removing Barriers and Creating Opportunities', focusing on access to work, further and higher education and leisure and the arts, will also raise the profile of disability and strengthen the call for action.
3. Overarching themes have an impact across the board:
3.1 Attitudes and actions: The SE should launch a campaign to challenge negative attitudes towards disability. This might be accompanied by targeted campaigns, e.g. to encourage positive attitudes to disabled people in employment. Demand for disability equality training ( DET) is likely to increase with the introduction of the DED. Disabled people need to assess recent research on DET to identify gaps and issues for further research. They should lead the development of standards and accreditation, and be encouraged to become trainers. The SE should encourage the take up of DET. It should be part of initial education/training and ongoing professional development, and be included by accrediting bodies for the professions. The diversity of disabled people needs to be recognised, in terms of gender, ethnicity, age, etc. as well as impairment type. This means legislation, organisations or initiatives affecting anyone or for any group (e.g. the SE's strategic group on ethnic minorities in the labour market) is relevant to disabled people.
3.2 Institutions and their operations: Given its wider leadership role the SE should clearly state its commitment to equal opportunities for disabled people. To promote consistency and 'joined-up policymaking', in partnership with disabled people it should agree and publish a set of principles based on the social model of disability to underpin the work of all departments. For the Disability Equality Duty ( DED) to end institutional discrimination, a range of action is required. Research should map disability organisations and their capacity for involvement. Action then needs to be taken to address gaps and build capacity. All staff should take responsibility for their organisation's Disability Equality Scheme, with leadership from senior management. DRC guidance on involvement should be supplemented by broader SE guidance on consultation and engagement. The SE should promote joint local or regional approaches to involving disabled people. A framework of standards needs to be considered by the DRC, SE and audit and inspection bodies. Knowledge and implementation of the DED should be a key competence for public sector staff.
3.3 Disabled people's lives: Without independent living - choice and control over how, when and by whom assistance needs are met - full citizenship is but a distant dream. The SE should consult disabled people on how it can be supported nationwide. Access to independent advocacy is critically important and should be supported by the SE. Failure to meet communication support needs can have a devastating impact on life chances. The SE should develop guidance on inclusive communication and consultation, a website on good practice and signpost sources of expertise. It should implement and promote the Scottish Accessible Information Forum's standards. The SE should also research disabled people's information and advice needs. Public information work should be fully accessible and copyright exemption extended to all with a print disability. To promote full citizenship for disabled people school materials on the subject should be reviewed and promoted. Young disabled people experiencing discrimination should have access to advice and guidance. Disabled people's participation in public life should be promoted and resourced and targets for public appointments reviewed.
4. Subject areas: these should be seen in the context of the overarching themes and are themselves often interconnected.
4.1 Education: HMIE should work with young disabled people and disability organisations to develop indicators of good practice. FE and HE student consultation panels should be fully inclusive of disabled students and inspection bodies should monitor their progress. Necessary support and equipment should be available throughout transition points in the education system. Disabled students should be promoted to employers as good employees. Disabled people should be encouraged to take up careers in the education sector - and education employers encouraged to retain newly disabled staff.
4.2 Employment: Positive messages about disabled people need to be conveyed to all employers, not just those covered by the Disability Equality Duty. The Enterprise Networks should consider establishing a business award for good practice on disability. Disabled people and employers need advice and support and the SE should investigate the effectiveness of regional resources. Jobcentre Plus could do more to promote the Access to Work Scheme and, with disabled people's involvement, strengthen its provision of financial assessments and employment information.
4.3 Community care: To maximise disabled people's choice and control, and ensure effective delivery of the Disability Equality Duty, disabled people should be proactively engaged at a strategic level in the design and implementation of services. Wherever possible they should be full partners in decision-making on their own care management, with advocacy support if required. Research on care and support services should be reviewed and further research commissioned to fill any gaps identified.
4.4 Health: Disability should not be confused or conflated with ill-health. However, the SE should consider extending free prescriptions to all people with a chronic illness. Like anyone else, disabled people benefit from healthy work environments. The Scottish Centre for Health Working Lives should consider its role in relation to disability. Also, like anyone else, disabled people need access to the full range of health-care services. The 'Fair for All' campaign should continue to take access, including communication support needs, into account.
4.5 Poverty: Disabled people are at particular risk of poverty because social barriers restrict their access to earned income and they can also incur extra costs. Although the SE cannot legislate on social security, in the wake of escalating fuel costs it should consider how the fuel poverty schemes could be extended to cover disabled people, including families with disabled children.
5. The recommendation in this report (see annex 1 for full text) provide both an agenda for immediate action and a platform to build on. Progress should be reviewed and reported on after two years. There is no doubt more that can and will be added over time as barriers are removed and the voices of more disabled people are heard.