The number of staff working in the government’s Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has plummeted by more than two-thirds under the coalition and Conservative governments, new figures released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.
In March 2010, just before the Tory-led coalition came to power, there were the equivalent of 48 full-time staff working in ODI.
By March 2012 that had fallen to 29 full-time equivalent staff.
Although there are no figures for 2013, 2014 and 2015, by 1 January 2016 there were just 20 full-time equivalent staff working at ODI.
DWP insists that part of the reason for the fall is that “elements of the work that was carried out by ODI is now being taken forward by specialist units across government”, such as the Work and Health Unit (WHU), jointly set up with the Department of Health in 2015.
But following the launch of WHU, the numbers continued to fall, to 13.65 in January 2017 and just 11.5 in January this year, although they rose again slightly to 15.45 by May this year.
The numbers were released to Disability News Service by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in response to a freedom of information request.
Meanwhile, the ODI website has not been updated in more than six months.
In all of 2017, the website was updated just three times, compared with five updates in 2016, and 17 in 2015.
Only last month, DWP admitted that none of the bodies it set up to engage with disabled people and their organisations as part of its disability strategy had met in nearly a year.
And earlier this month, DWP refused to say whether it still followed the Fulfilling Potential strategy, which was supposed to describe the government’s commitment to “a society where disabled people can realise their aspirations and fulfil their potential”.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “ODI remains the focal point for cross-government disability issues, working on a range of issues to empower disabled people and enable them to participate fully in society, but their team is [by] no means the only people working on disability issues.