‘Cultural change’ in council policy as all scrutiny reports to include disability impact

A “cultural change” is in the offing in how Camden Council shapes its own policies in relation to disabled people.

The planned reforms are in response to calls from the Town Hall’s disability oversight panel for council’s scrutiny committees, which hold the executive of the borough to account, to build a focus on accessibility and support into their reports.

A report on the challenges faced by Camden’s disabled people has been presented to the chairs of the scrutiny committees, with concerns including:

  • accessibility issues faced by residents at bus stops, as well as those caused by street clutter, and inaccessible businesses and public buildings
  • the council “repeatedly” telephoning people who are deaf and hard of hearing
  • barriers for disabled people accessing employment opportunities
  • inaccessible leisure centres and venues, partnered with financial constraints and mobility and transport issues

Cllr Roger Robinson (Lab, St Pancras & Somers Town), chair of the disability oversight panel, said: “In many parts of the world, in national and local government, disability tends to be very much forgotten very easily.

“The scrutiny committees come up with ideas and proposals. We want to make sure that what comes out of that, as this has effects on disabled people, we want to make sure that whatever you decide, we have got a say, to make sure that whatever comes out of it is accessible.”

Cllr Robinson added that disability awareness training should be rolled out for Town Hall employees.

Cllr Larraine Revah (Lab, Gospel Oak), the panel’s vice-chair, said: “We need to educate people around disability. Scrutiny committees have strategy and policy coming to their meetings, but how often do you see things written down about how these will affect people with disabilities?

“We all want to be singing from the same hymn sheet.”

Cllr Alison Kelly (Lab, Haverstock), chair of Camden’s health and adult social care scutiny committee, said: “These issues will be taken away by the chairs of each scrutiny committee, and we will work with officers on devising a set of key questions that have to be signed off for every report in relation to disability.

“It will get people to start to be thinking on every issue, ‘What are the disability issues we should be thinking about?’

“It’s about bringing cultural change within and across the organisation for every single issue.”