Permission has been granted by the Court to four disabled individuals to bring their judicial review challenge to the consultation on the proposed National Strategy for Disabled People.
In granting permission to bring the claim, the High Court found the Claimants’ case that the Secretary of State had breached her public law duties arguable and that the case is ‘important in the public interest’.
The National Strategy for Disabled People was first announced in April 2020 and has been described by the government as a strategy to ‘remove barriers and increase participation’ and ‘transform’ the lives of disabled people.
In January 2021, the government launched the UK Disability Survey to ‘gather views’ on the development and delivery of the strategy. However, virtually all the questions in the survey were multiple-choice. Only four questions allowed free text responses, three of them being limited to 100 words and the other to 250 words. At no point did any of the questions outline any proposed content for the strategy or seek views on such content. Questions instead focused on data gathering, such as ‘Does your health condition stop you from doing everyday things?’ to which the possible responses were ‘Yes’; ‘No’; ‘Don’t know’; ‘Prefer not to say’. Access to the survey was solely online, with easy read copies required to be printed and posted by participants.
The Claimants are challenging the consultation on the basis that limited information was provided about the strategy in the consultation and the survey was designed in such a way as to preclude proper and effective response. The Claimants are also arguing that there was a failure to consult with Disabled People’s Organisations in relation to the Strategy.
Whilst the Strategy was due to be published in spring 2021, it has not yet been published.
Doug Paulley, one of the Claimants in this challenge, said:
I am pleased that we have permission from the Court as it shows that the Court recognises this is a serious issue. The consultation was deeply flawed and raises concerns as to the government's wider approach to the National Strategy. It would be counterproductive for the government to publish the Strategy now, having been aware of our concerns on consultation since February. I hope the Secretary of State reconsiders her position and carries out a proper, well designed consultation with disabled people and their organisations, to ensure the National Strategy includes the views of those directly affected by it.
Shirin Marker, solicitor at Bindmans LLP who is acting for the Claimants, said:
In granting permission, the Court has understood the importance of this issue, which is of potentially huge significance to disabled people. We hope that the Secretary of State will now recognise the sense in delaying publication of the Strategy until after the Court has ruled on whether an unlawful consultation has taken place, as any strategy predicated on unlawful consultation may itself be subject to challenge.
The Claimants are represented by Jamie Potter, Shirin Marker and Amy O’Shea of Bindmans, and Steve Broach and Katherine Barnes of 39 Essex Street chambers.
Further details on the case are available here.