Councils ill prepared for disability equality law

17 Jun 04
More than a third of councils could face court action and fines unless they take steps to prepare for the impact of new equality legislation, the Disability Rights Commission has warned.

18 June 2004

More than a third of councils could face court action and fines unless they take steps to prepare for the impact of new equality legislation, the Disability Rights Commission has warned.

Fewer than four months before new duties in the Disability Discrimination Act come into force, 40% of councils have no disability strategy and no plans for one, according to a survey by the watchdog.

The extra duties, which come into force in October, will require local authorities to make all their services accessible to disabled people.

The commission said that although levels of awareness of the new duties were high at more than 80% of responding councils, almost a third still had not nominated a member to lead on disability.

The survey also found that half of authorities wrongly believed that conforming with the Best Value indicator 156, which measures building access standards, would cover them under the Act.

Marie Pye, head of public sector duty at the commission, said: 'It seems that councils would rather bury their heads in the sand than actually start preparing for the changes in the law.

'As a result, in a few months time, there will be thousands of disabled people in England with a right to access important council services like swimming pools, libraries and housing offices, yet unable to do so.'

A spokeswoman for the Local Government Association said complying with the DDA was a high priority and a major challenge for councils and required support from central government.

'The LGA teamed up with the DRC to produce guidance to help local authorities prepare for the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act, and we will continue to offer advice and support on complying with the Act's requirements,' she said.

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