HC Deb 03 July 2000 vol 353 cc77-8W
Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of SCOPE's report on disability access entitled "Left Out"; and what action he is taking to encourage employers(a) to comply with the requirements of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and (b) to accept the business case for disabled access. [127597]

Ms Hodge

[holding answer 27 June 2000]: The Government have seen a draft copy of the report on SCOPE's Left Out campaign and we will consider it after it is launched on 3 July.

The Government are taking a number of steps to encourage service providers to comply with the requirements of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and accept the business case for disabled access. On 29 June 1999, we published a Code of Practice which explains the duties under Part III and gives practical guidance on implementation. On 1 October last year, to coincide with further rights under Part III coming into force, we published an information booklet called "An Introduction for Small and Medium-sized Businesses". This explains the duties businesses and organisations have under Part III.

On 1 October 2004, the final stage of rights under Part III of the DDA will come into force. From then, in addition to their current duties, service providers will have to take reasonable steps to tackle physical features which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service. On 8 May 2000 the Government and the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) launched a joint consultation exercise on a revised version of the Part III Code, a Practical Guide for service providers and the Government's proposals for a small number of Regulations under the Act. The consultation documents have been sent to a wide range of businesses and organisations. The exercise will last for three months. The DRC will consider the views expressed in the consultation before preparing final versions of the Code and Guide.

The DRC also has a part in encouraging employers to accept the business case for disabled people. Part of the DRC's remit is to be a central source of information and advice on the DDA. Employers and service providers are a key target audience and the DRC's Helpline is currently being promoted to business via advertisements in the regional and trade press. An interactive service is available between 8.00 and 20.00, and a range of leaflets and factsheets on all parts of the DDA is available free of charge. An ordering facility is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.