First Minister’s response on Commissioner for the Disabled disappoints AM
South Wales East Plaid Cymru AM Lindsay Whittle has said he is disappointed that First Minister Carwyn Jones is not treating the creation of a Commissioner for the Disabled as a priority.
Mr Whittle, the party’s spokesman for social services, raised the issue in the Senedd last week.
Asked by Mr Whittle what consideration the Welsh Government has given to establishing a Disability Commissioner, the First Minister said: “Our immediate priority is to consult on and then implement the framework for action on independent living. We believe that this will deliver positive gains for disabled people in the near future.”
Mr Whittle replied: “That response is relatively positive, First Minister, and this Government has been keen—rightly so—to establish commissioners for older people, children and, most recently, the Welsh language. However, is it not time to put party politics aside and show this Assembly’s commitment to providing a national voice for our disabled citizens, particularly after the amazing performance of so many Welsh athletes in the recent Paralympics? Are you going to take more positive action or not?”
The First Minister answered: “It is not a party-political issue; I do not see that there are political dividing lines on it. It is a question of what can be done as quickly as possible to help disabled people. In the extensive engagement that has taken place with disability groups, they have been clear that they want practical action that can change the lives of disabled people living in Wales. That is why the framework is the next step.
Speaking after the debate, Mr Whittle said: “I was disappointed with the First Minister’s response to my appeal because this is non-party issue. It is about ensuring they have a national voice, particularly after the amazing performance of so many Welsh athletes in the recent Paralympics.
“Everyone is aware of the incidents of hate crime against disabled people and establishing a Commissioner would send out a strong message that this is not being tolerated. I’m baffled that the First Minister is not supporting this, but I intend to continue my campaign until he does.”
Mr Whittle added: “Just because a framework for independent living is proposed, which I support, doesn’t also mean that the Welsh Government can’t get the ball rolling on creating a champion for the disabled. They are not mutually exclusive.”Follow @CaerphillyObsvr