As Minister for Disabled People, one of my proudest achievements was leading on the Government’s National Disability Strategy - a cross-government effort to transform disabled people’s everyday lives.
Building on the National Disability Strategy, the Government launched its Disability Action Plan earlier this week. This initiative is part of the Government’s long-term plan to help disabled people fulfil their potential whilst ensuring that nothing holds them back.
Over 1,300 disabled people, their families and interested parties helped inform the plan, and its 32 practical actions to transform the lives of disabled people and make the UK the most accessible place in the world.
One of the measures included in the Action Plan is to help Councils create accessible playgrounds – something on which Swindon leads the way thanks to the fantastic work of Benjamin’s Smile and Mum’s on a Mission.
Both groups have worked tirelessly to improve the provision of accessible play equipment in play parks. I have been delighted to support their work for a few years now, and greatly appreciate their contribution to the National Disability Strategy.
On Monday, I was very pleased to again praise both these amazing groups, and the important work they do, in Parliament during a ministerial statement on the new Action Plan. I also took the opportunity to ask the Minister to confirm if there would be an annual review, so that the Government could be held to account on what we achieved and where we needed to work harder. It would also allow us to set out the next range of ambitious targets.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister commit to working with partners, such as Benjamin’s Smile and Mum’s on a Mission, to identify best practice among local authorities. In addition to this she confirmed that progress on the plan’s delivery will be reviewed in six months and 12 months.
It is amazing to see these two local charities having such a significant impact on Government policy, and it is testament to their drive and passion to improve experiences for children with disabilities. I will continue to champion their work and ensure that further progress in made.
This week was also National Apprenticeship week - which celebrates the high-quality opportunities that are now available to young people across the country thanks to apprenticeships.
I was lucky enough to meet local young people who had benefitted from apprenticeships at a special Parliamentary reception earlier this week – including Jacob and Josh from Reaction Engines.
It was great to hear about the opportunities which had opened up to them through their apprenticeships and the exciting careers they are now embarking on.
I was also very pleased to join Robert Buckland on a visit to the site of the new £31 million Emergency Department at the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. This project is the biggest ever investment into the Hospital to date - £26m in Government funding and £5.4m provided by the Trust.
The additional capacity and the co-location of services will ensure a more rapid discharge for patients, and quicker handover times for the ambulance, as well as increasing capacity across the hospital. It was amazing how quickly these works are taking shape with us now only months away from the opening.
Finally, I am sure that residents will join me in wishing His Majesty the King all the best following his cancer diagnosis this week. As the Prime Minister said, we hope the King has a full and speedy recovery.