Lothian MSP Jeremy Balfour launches consultation on Bill to appoint Disability Commissioner

Lothian Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour will today launch a consultation on a Bill he plans to bring to the Scottish Parliament for the appointment of a Disability Commissioner to protect and promote the rights of disabled people.

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

He said the pandemic had highlighted the inequalities faced by disabled people and underlined the need for additional safeguards.

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The proposed Disability Commissioner for Scotland would play a similar role to the Children and Young People Commissioner, a post established in Scotland in 2004. The commissioner would be viewed as the first port of call for all people with a disability – whether physical, learning or hidden – who were facing difficulties, and would work to promote the rights of disabled people across Scotland.

Mr Balfour, who is Scottish Conservative social security and disabilities spokesman, said the principles of his Member’s Bill had already gained support from disability groups and charities, but he was now seeking responses from anyone interested in or affected by the proposals, to ensure the proposed legislation fully reflected the views of the Scottish public. The consultation period will run for 12 weeks until August 3, 2022.

Mr Balfour said: “The Covid pandemic has highlighted the extent of the inequalities and discrimination that disabled people in Scotland still face today. However, from public facilities to government employment schemes, the needs of disabled people had been neglected and overlooked by the SNP for years even before the pandemic. We must urgently do more to support disabled people in our society.

“An independent Disability Commissioner would help safeguard and promote the rights of disabled people in Scotland and give people with any kind of disability someone to turn to if they face difficulties or discrimination. I urge Scots to respond to the consultation so that we can ensure our proposals fully reflect the views of the Scottish public – and I hope that this much-needed Bill will receive cross-party support when it eventually comes before parliament.”

Emma Walker, director of Camphill Scotland, which supports people with learning disabilities, said: “It’s now more than two years since Covid began, yet the rights of disabled people are still being ignored. We live in a discrimination-by-design society. Disabled children are being denied access to education, essential respite services are closing without explanation and archaic workplace practices are leading to limited work opportunities for disabled young people and adults.

Jeremy Balfour hopes people will their views on his proposed Member's Bill.

“There are now more barriers to equal citizenship for disabled people than ever before. We urgently need to prioritise the voices and experiences of disabled people, their families and unpaid carers. That’s why we welcome the consultation for the Disability Commissioner Bill, and I urge everyone to ensure that their voice is heard.”

And Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “A Disability Commissioner has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people with MS in Scotland. We are grateful to Jeremy Balfour for bringing forward this proposal and look forward to responding to it. We urge people with MS and the wider disability community to engage with the consultation and make sure their views are heard.”

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