A bill proposed to empower communities has been accused of doing the opposite by disability campaigners.
New laws designed to give more power to people in local communities shuts out those with disabilities, a leading campaign group has argued.
The Scottish Government refused to create an easy read version of the latest community empowerment bill consultation document despite it being a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People and the Equality Act 2010 said the Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA).
Introduced in November 2013, the consultation response closed on 24 January and was promoted by the Scottish Government as being a way to give communities decision-making power over their own public services.
“It is already challenging for communities to self-organise and this is compounded for disabled people, who face additional barriers
However GDA said it has been left bewildered that a bill supposed to empower people would ignore a whole section of society.
It disagrees with the Scottish Government who told the organisation the bill was “too detailed” to create an easy read version – a document which makes information more accessible to people with learning disabilities, for example, by using simple words and pictures.
“This is an unprecedented time for disabled people,” said Tressa Burke, chief executive of GDA. “We are five years into a very deep recession and the most vulnerable are the hardest hit.
“It is already challenging for communities to self-organise and this is compounded for disabled people, who face additional barriers.”
GDA, which submitted a consultation response to the bill after speaking to its members, said the new law could also restrict access to some services, such as community buildings, to particular groups.
GDA wants all groups to have the right to participate in decisions over land and community assets, such as community centres or schools. It said any transfer of services from the public to the community sector should benefit the widest set of community interests as possible.
It also wants the right of appeal should requests for access to assets, such as school buildings or grounds, be turned down by a public body.
GDA member Kirsty Birkner described the bill as a bad piece of legislation which will only widen inequality.
Whilst at the start of this process there may have been good intentions around the bill, the final proposals have little of real value or substance to the most marginalised communities in Scotland.
She said: “Whilst at the start of this process there may have been good intentions around the bill, the final proposals have little of real value or substance to the most marginalised communities in Scotland.
“It seems like the bill will help large, well-resourced organisations take ownership of even more public assets, whilst shutting out communities which are disadvantaged and deprived.”
GDA’s response has been shared widely among disabled people’s organisations and Burke said it has widespread support.
A Scottish Government spokesperson told TFN an easy read version was produced for the bill’s exploratory consultation in 2012 but a substantial part of the most recent consultation could not be paraphrased due to the specific language used.
The spokesperson added: “The minister for local government and planning, Derek Mackay, and officials attended conferences, events and meetings with stakeholders during the consultation period to discuss proposals in the bill.
“The Scottish Government will be producing easy read and accessible information on the bill once it is published.
“We will be engaging with GDA and other equality groups to ensure that the information is as accessible as it can possibly be to all members of society.”