Council could face prosecution

Norwich City Council could be taken to court after it was named and shamed for ducking out of its obligations to disabled people.

Norwich City Council could be taken to court after it was named and shamed for ducking out of its obligations to disabled people.

The authority is among more than 60 public bodies across the UK - including fire services, colleges and probation boards - that have been warned they could face legal action from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) for missing a deadline of last December for producing a disability equality scheme.

Under the scheme, organisations were supposed to show what measures they were taking to help disabled people get better access to education, facilities such as sports centres, training and jobs.

The DRC sent warning letters in March, but the city council has still not provided them with a scheme along with a blacklist of museums, Channel 4 Television, universities and NHS Trusts.

Sir Bert Massie, the Commission's chairman, said: “The disability equality duty is a real opportunity to transform disabled people's experiences of the society we live in.

“I am really pleased that the public sector as a whole has done a great job in responding to the requirements of the duty, with more than 96% of organisations producing a scheme.

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“The question is - why have a small minority failed to do so?

“We will now be considering issuing compliance notices to offending authorities which could lead to court action.'

The DRC found that 72pc of public authorities covered by the audit had published a scheme, with the city council being the only organisation in our region which has failed to do so.

A spokesman for the city council said: “Norwich City Council is proud to be an equal rights employer and is committed to promoting inclusion.

“While we are part of a countywide partnership with a disability equality scheme, have worked alongside Disabled Go to produce a pioneering access guide, and completed diversity impact and assessments for each department, we have not finalised our own written plan.

“So, the Disability Rights Commission is right in 'naming and shaming' the council for not having met this deadline.

“We hope to be in a position to go out to consultation on this in May, with a completed scheme ready for implementation in June.”

The Disability Equality Duty came in to force on December 4 last year and requires public authorities to actively look at how they can deliver services, and carry out functions, in a way that creates greater equality for disabled people.

The duty falls within the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and specific duties within the act, which were laid down in 2005.