Equality Report – Wheelchair users
Plenary Tuesday 31 January 201715:34:00
We can’t get on the train
Spoken Contribution – 17:27:15
Thanks to the Minister for bringing today’s debate. We broadly support the aims of the report, and we also support the Conservative amendments. One of these deals with having measurable objectives. We can occasionally become overly obsessive about targets. However, an absence of meaningful targets will make it increasingly difficult for any Government to gauge how well its policies are going. I did comment on a comparative lack of targets in the ‘Taking Wales Forward’ document when we discussed it last year. I’m sure that many other Members did as well. This is also a feature of this equalities report. It is a basic rule of management technique that organisations need to be SMART. In the other words: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed. So, the lack of targets does cause some anxiety.
We have a number of regulations in Wales that attempt to tackle the problems of lack of equality. The question is: how effective are they, in practice, and how effective can they be made to be? This morning, I sat in the Petitions Committee where we had a very good presentation from the Whizz-Kidz group. This was all about the problems faced by wheelchair users in accessing public transport. It was extremely eye-opening. There is clearly still a whole catalogue of problems facing wheelchair users, whether they travel, or rather attempt to travel by train, bus or taxi. The briefing we received from the Assembly’s research department indicated some of the regulations governing this area, some of which have been introduced in relatively recent years, yet still these problems persist. I asked the Whizz-Kidz if these problems needed stronger legislation, in their opinion, or simply better enforcement of the laws and regulations that already exist. The answer given was that what we needed was better enforcement.
My conclusion is that, sometimes, the Assembly legislates in a broadly appropriate manner but that, somehow, within a short period, there is a lack of effective enforcement, which allows inequalities to persist. This has also been apparent from recent inquiries undertaken by the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. It seems that we need very regular engagement with the affected groups to tackle this problem. One possible solution, or partial solution, being proposed by the Conservatives today, and which has also been included in recent legislation, is co-production. This is a policy that is being repeatedly pushed by my next-door neighbour, Mark Isherwood. So, given the problems that I heard about today, would a greater use of co-production allow or help facilitate better enforcement of existing regulations? Thank you.