Policy and Politics: Question Time - Gordon MacRae of Leonard Cheshire

Has your campaign for a government office on disability rights paid off?

It's highly likely that such an office will be set up, because it seems that the Government came to the same conclusions as we did. We at the policy and campaigns office identified a gap between implementation and policy - about 50 new laws and initiatives have been passed affecting disabled people in the past seven years, but different government departments all have different interpretations of them. We called for a co-ordinating body that would be able to bring departments together to work in the interests of disabled people, and now the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit has recommended the same thing.

How did the lobbying campaign work?

We first published the proposal in Scotland in August 2004, when we also discovered that the Strategy Unit was undertaking an inquiry into life chances for disabled people. We got directly in touch with them and put forward our proposal at a meeting with Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It was well received by ministers and officials, who recognised the need for a co-ordinating body.

Was it different from usual campaigns?

This was a campaign about the workings of government, so it didn't entail the kind of policy consultations we're usually involved in. It didn't involve the usual process of reacting to proposals from the Government - it was much more proactive and involved actually taking a proposal to them. We had to find a way of engaging with them at a strategic level, rather than seeking to engage MPs with key messages.

So is this the end of the campaign?

It won't end until it's clear that all the recent policies are really working in the interests of disabled people. This is really the start of a longer-term engagement - we'll be monitoring how things work for some time yet. We'll continue to work with government departments and ministers to ensure that all new policies take effect through the same process.

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