Blog: The condition of Guernsey's Disability Strategy

John Fernandez

Former Reporter, ITV Channel

Credit: PA Images

It's been four years since Guernsey’s Disability and Inclusion Strategy was passed unanimously, to rapturous applause from the States.

Now, where 300 lobbyists once stood cheering on politicians to make this ground breaking step for the island community, much of the talk I hear is of campaigners preparing to collectively boo States members as they go into next week’s meeting.

The lack of progress for Guernsey’s Disability Strategy is a damning indictment of the glacial pace of progress within parts of the States of Guernsey.

Credit: PA Images

There’s a feeling from many that not enough human resource has been dedicated to this project.

I don’t doubt that the four driving figures behind this project - Deputy Emilie Yerby, Deputy Jane Stephens, Deputy Michelle Le Clerc and Ed Ashton -care about it. They do.

Deputy Yerby has devoted half her life to improving the rights of people with disabilities. While Ed Ashton and Disability Officer Caroline Mullins have both dedicated a lot of their time and effort to the strategy.

Nonetheless, the project has stalled, which means the work streams are critically under-resourced and at risk of failing.

Simply put, there are not enough people working on it. The committee knows it. The civil servants know it. The Guernsey Disability Alliance knows it.

So, the Employment & Social Security Committee has asked Policy and Resources for extra funds to hire more people.

Credit: Guernsey Disability Alliance

But as this is happening, members of the Guernsey Disability Alliance (GDA) are losing faith. The campaign, which had such gusto four years ago and which was seen as a lifeline for islanders with disabilities locally can only have so much steam.

The head of the GDA was almost in tears updating members at the annual meeting, on the progress of the strategy, such is her passion and levels of frustration.

She told me recently members are leaving the organisation, due to the malaise around this strategy and its eventual goals of discrimination legislation and an equality and rights organisation.

The lack of action though, strikes at a more systemic problem with Guernsey’s government. When this strategy was passed, it was full of promises that simply were not achievable with the budget and staff available.

This is happening less and less, which is promising, but it doesn’t mean these kind of actions aren’t being taken by some committees.

Work is going on behind the scenes to move this project forward, of that there is no doubt. The Policy and Resources Committee have made a clear indication that they want to support the strategy with the funds needed to progress the project and that can only be seen as positive.

There are steps towards the creation of an equality and rights organisation and it’s evident that, when it comes to legislation, the States wants to get it right through consultation and review.

But until something concrete is in place, the States as a collective needs to have a long hard look at itself.

President of Employment & Social Security, Deputy Michelle Le Clerc, told me recently if discrimination legislation isn’t in place by the end of this States term, then her committee will have failed.

There can be no bigger gauntlet laid down than that.