One of our key aspirations is that everyone living in Essex is able to live a meaningful life. This includes people with disabilities, and we are committed to ensuring they have the right to the best life they can.
This commitment has been at the heart of the development of our new Disability Strategy. The strategy outlines what we will do to support people with learning disabilities, sensory impairment and physical disabilities over the next four years.
We consulted with residents on the strategy between December 2022 and February 2023. It was important to us to ensure the voices of people with disabilities were heard during the strategy’s development. We spoke with them, their families and their carers, as well as our partners, to listen to their experiences and ideas. This feedback has helped shape the strategy.
The strategy was discussed further at a meeting of our People and Families Policy and Scrutiny Committee. The committee heard how the consultation had highlighted what was important to people with disabilities in Essex and the challenges many of them still faced. This includes the barriers which prevent them from being able to fully participate in society and build and maintain meaningful relationships.
The committee also heard first hand from Samantha Tracey, a registered deafblind Healthwatch Essex Ambassador, about her lived experience. She told the committee how she found it difficult accessing help and guidance and feels she could benefit from further support and technology to assist in her everyday life and help reduce her social isolation and give her greater independence.
Supported housing is an important part of facilitating more independence for people with disabilities. This needs collaborative partnership work with district councils and other partners to help increase this provision. As a result, the committee encouraged district councils to include provision for supported housing in their Local Plans.
Clear and direct access to support services is also essential to help disabled people to further develop their employability and fulfil their ambitions. The committee recommended that the final Disability Strategy be clear that it supports local schemes which provide work experience and job opportunities for people with disabilities. This helps them build greater independence and contribute to the local community.
Going forward, we will be developing our work with partners across the local system to drive the changes which will make a real difference to people with disabilities living in Essex.
Our Cabinet will review the strategy at its meeting in April. Once finalised, the strategy will be published and launched in May. A delivery plan will also be developed.