On Thursday 5th May, Lord Low of Dalston initiated a debate on the impact of Governement Policy on Disabled People, and so far I think it was the most enjoyable debate that I have spoken in. As you would imagine there were a wide range of opinion, and it was time limited to two and a half hours.
Unfortunately Lord Freud was unable to be in the chamber due to personal circumstances, but Lord Taylor of Holbeach ably stood in, and although this wasn’t his area of speciality promised to write to all who took part to answer our questions that he wasn’t able to address at the time.
Lord Fellowes made his maiden speech and was, as we could have all predicted witty, inciteful and tackled the salient points of the debate. And of course he thanked all the right people! I know that I speak for many when I say that we are looking forward to his further contributions.
There was a bit of squash in the chamber as we had 4 Baronesses who are wheelchair users who all wanted to speak. In reality there is comfortable space for three, but there are other options to sit near the steps of the throne if you want to be present in the chamber. Unfortunately you cannot speak from there and with a little bit of shuffling we all fitted in
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton gave an impassioned speech about the future of the Independent Living Fund, Baroness Masham discussed nursing, and Baroness Wilkins the assessments and appeals procedures for people claiming benefits. Of course, there were many other contributions.
I raised questions about the inclusion of disabled young people in sport. There are many challenges for young disabled people. One of them is that those who are eligible to be on a Paralympic pathway is such a tiny minority of those who are eligible to take part in the wider disability sport. Although I obviously come from a background of elite sport, I am concerned that if disabled children are excluded from PE then there is less likelyhood that they will lead fit and healthy lives. This is not about medals at the Paralympic Games (although there is a risk to that), but about people being fit enough to move around, be in work etc.
I do admit that there are lots of challenges. It is hard when we don’t know where disabled children are in schools, and when there may only be a small number with a similar impairment who could ‘compete’ against each other. It is not an easy problem to solve, but we have to keep working on to make sure that we get it right.