THINKPIECE: One task force paying its way in the 'big tent'

Brian Lamb, RNID director of communications and member of the Disability Rights Task Force

Following the election of Labour in May 1997, new task forces were created on an almost daily basis, with remits ranging from football to urban renewal.

Even then, many commentators were cynical about their purpose. The widespread suspicion was that the Government merely wanted to flatter specific lobby groups by taking them into the 'big tent'. This was confirmed for many when initiatives that started brightly seemed to deliver little.

However, whatever the record of other task forces, one at least has been responsible for two major Acts of Parliament, with another in the pipeline.

In October 1997, the Government announced the creation of a Disability Rights Task Force with the specific remit of looking at legislation necessary for a Disability Rights Commission, and the fulfilment of the Government's manifesto commitment to create "comprehensive and enforceable civil rights legislation" for disabled people.

By December 1997 the task force was up and running, undertaking a huge agenda and making more than 150 recommendations in its final report.

By July 1999, the Government had passed legislation for a Disability Rights Commission. In 2001, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act followed, protecting disabled learners from discrimination at schools and colleges. Now the Government has published a draft disability bill, which takes forward most of the remaining recommendations of the task force.

Working in the 'big tent' can deliver results for charities. But only with the combination of campaigning persistence, continual consultation with members and supporters and - most importantly - a real focus on practical solutions.

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