The main points the Labour Party needs to make to convince the electorate it is representative of ordinary people are:
- Labour Listens
- Labour Cares
- Labour Understands
- Labour has the policies
Labour says what Labour means ; Labour means what Labour says
The first three are important but without the last two are meaningless rhetoric and will not convince the voters, many of whom need representation and expect Labour to be the party to provide that. Labour was formed specifically to represent the working class, to provide a voice for the vulnerable the needy, and to redistribute wealth.
Think Left welcomes the document Making-rights-a-reality-for-disabled-people, and Liam Byrne’s request for contributions to the debate. History has led some on the left to believe consultations are futile as New Labour pursued its scripted programme. Today’s electorate needs and deserves a government which meets its needs and not those of bankers and billionaires. We need policy proposals devised which address the needs of those with disabilities or long-term illness, and not the needs of private health or employment protection insurers.
All people are entitled to basic human rights, and it is the duty of government to protect them. Disabled adults are entitled to work and live independently, and with dignity and it is society’s responsibility is to ensure that is possible. Children with special needs are entitled also to a full life and access to be included in normal childhood experiences and opportunities.
Our school system is the key place in our society where people from all backgrounds learn to live together. Inclusion is not just about a few children with learning, physical or behavioural impairments being ‘placed’ in mainstream schools. It is about creating a society where all people can find their own unique place and work together for the benefit of all. If this work is not started at school – then what hope do we have as a society?
Where support may be provided for children with some disabilities when they reach adulthood, that support is withdrawn, leaving them unable to live independently. For example, young adults with ASD (on the autistic spectrum) find themselves no adult services for people with ASD, and 85% of autistic people are unemployed.
If some of us need a helping hand, it should be offered freely. Most people are intrinsically caring. However, there is an orchestrated argument presented by the Conservative-led-Coalition and right wing media that people who need assistance are shirkers. That is hardly surprising as it is in the self interests of the corporations. e.g. Insurance Company Unum. Labour must overturn this argument convincingly. See here for an explanation of why Unum have satisfied the status of an enemy of disabled people and co-conspirators in welfare reform or the cuts agenda.
Darrell Goodliffe points out that:
“Welfare is going to be a big issue in the next Parliament due to George Osborne’s much-touted plan to cut £10 billion more from the welfare budget.” “Polls have been published which showed opposition to welfare cuts for the disabled but the attitude towards those who are unemployed is actually dramatically hardening.” “What we are actually seeing is a growing division in the public hive-mind between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor – with something similar happening with their view of the rich incidentally – support for those viewed as ‘deserving’ remains strong but woe betide the undeserving.”
Think Left welcomes this document outlined here, and offers this response:
- THE RIGHT TO WORK: How refreshing to see Labour describing itself as the party of full employment. The decline in manufacturing industry must be reversed, investment in training made a priority and assistance provided where necessary. Many disabled people may be unable to work full-time, but able to work part-time, or require flexible working at home. Consultation with disabled people, and professionals understanding their needs is both sensible and fair. KPMG were commissioned to write policy or to manage implementation for government and wrote a report in March 2012 entitled: Analysis of Remploy Enterprise business and Employment Services’ KPMG do not act in the public’s interests, but their own, and avoid fair taxation.
- THE RIGHT TO LIVE INDEPENDENTLY: The wide variation in cost of care geographically is unacceptable. Disability Living Allowance, was a benefit which covered the costs of disability , allowing people with long term illness and disability to work, or live alone, providing support for care or adaptations as necessary. The DLA is being replaced by the PLP (Personal Independence payment). However, This will result in a considerable amount of people losing the support they need. Furthermore, reversing the argument peddled by the Coaltion is essential. Disabled people are not shirkers, as the right-wing press would have us believe! The arguments will not be easily won by Labour.
- THE RIGHT TO A HOME: Disabled people have a right to ensure housing meets their needs and people are given support regarding adapting property to meet their needs. The high cost of private and rented housing is a legacy from the last conservative government, and as a result many vulnerable people are being forced into poverty, or forced to live in unsuitable properties. A future Labour government must make Housing policy a priority, and an emphasis on ensuring that disabled and vulnerable individuals are not penalised is vital.
A red mist of despair poured from children’s and disability charities, stunned at yet another assault on those they try to defend. Already the £18bn benefit cut is “without historical or international precedent,” according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Cameron’s 17 “ideas” may not all see the light of day, but another £10bn will be cut: housing benefit and US-style benefit time limits yield the big money.
Few people realise that 88% of benefit cuts are still to come, with two thirds of disabled children to lose large sums. Housing benefit cuts, driving thousands of families miles from their homes and children from their schools, have only just begun. Guardian
THE RIGHT TO A FAMILY LIFE : Disabled children have additional needs beyond those of all children. No child should be penalised because of their disability. The Coalition government has raised the higher level but removed 50% of benefits for the lower rate disabled children.
‘As a DWP impact assessment makes clear, the benefit for less disabled children to fall from £53.84 to £26.75 a week. That’s a cut of £27.09 a week or £1,409 a year.
Severely disabled children will see their benefit go up very slightly, from £75.58 to around £77.
What counts as “severely disabled”? Individual children are assessed on a case-by-case basis according to their care needs. Those who need round-the-clock attention will probably get the full £77. For the first time, children who are registered blind will qualify for the higher payment.
But children who have Down’s Syndrome or are deaf typically fall into the less disabled category now and may well see their benefits fall, according to disability rights groups.
The government estimates that about 100,000 children will be affected negatively by the change.’ Channel 4 Blog
THE RIGHT TO LIVE A LIFE FREE FROM CRIME: – Legal Aid must be available as a right in any civilised society for those who ned it, and without it justice cannot prevail. Comparatively little reported or discussed, given its implications, MPs have overturned all the changes the House of Lords made to ministers’ plans to cut legal aid in England and Wales and intend to pass it into legislation in almost its entirety.
- The effects of this bill are diverse, and span across the board, affecting adversely the protection of children, domestic violence victims and disabled people. One particular letter to the Guardian seems to identify its purpose which is over and above the rather doubtful stated aim of speeding up the system and save £350m a year (research by King’s College London found that the cuts would cost at least £139m in unintended consequences).
The parent of a 48-year-old daughter with learning difficulties and other health issues, wrote in response to Amelia Gentleman’s article in the Guardian (Legal aid bill ‘puts most vulnerable at risk’, 17 April):
“It is, sadly, getting worse by the day. However, it is not the result of a genuine error, or rushed policy-making, but of a deliberate and callous plan.
The coalition knew full well that its planned attack on the benefits of the disabled and the weak would lead to a huge rise in challenges, supported by legal aid. It was also well aware that the cuts were going to be so callous that 90% of those affected who secured legal representation would win their cases and have their benefits reinstated. So the link between the introduction of the benefits cuts and legal aid cuts was deliberate, and it started from the first day that David Cameron arrived in Downing Street.
In the short period of time since then, people with serious disabilities have gone from being “poor dears” to “scrounging bastards”.
The rightwing press has helped in the preparation for the cuts in legal aid and the increasing attacks on the wellbeing of vulnerable people. Here in Barnet, Tory councillors are planning to make a profit from disabled services – and the only way they can make that profit is by destroying or cutting back to the bone their support services.
The attack on benefit claimants by this coalition government, along with the junta-style assessment panel, is for one purpose only, and that is to save money, no matter the human cost.
- LABOUR’S PRIORITIES FOR THIS PARLIAMENT:
Labour must continue to listen to those who are disabled, ensuring people are given every opportunity to be included in policy making and do not deserve to be patronised. The disabled person is usually the expert of their own needs. Labour needs to listen to and give support to pressure groups for the disabled and should devise legislation in co-operation with the disability lobbies in marked contrast with the Coalition who have adopted legislation wholesale written by McKinsey, UNUM, KPMG etc
It is a welcome document. It is recognised that some people, because of their illness or disability, will not be able to work, some permanently. It is important that the emphasis is on recognition of the need to consult individuals, rather than appointing ” experts’ as if those who are disabled cannot speak for themselves. It is not comprehensive, and it would be appropriate to include a section on a “Right to Education”. Indebting people to banks for years of their lives is not inclusive and benefits no one except the banks. Harold Wilson’s Open University was aptly and appropriately named, but now is subject to fees and closes doors to many, especially those who are disabled. In addition, people who are disabled need physical and financial support to remain mobile. Such support may make it possible for someone to work, and cuts remove that right.
Jayne Linney’s comments:
I would initially like to thank the Labour Party for the document Making Rights a Reality for Disabled People, in it Liam Byrne MP asks for contributions to the debate.
My primary suggestion is that the team take real note of the experiences we as disabled people have endured since the introduction of the WCA assessment, but particularly in the last 2 years.
Labour must accept its responsibilities in devising a structure that in principle opposes the Law of the Land wherein, the claimant is supposed to be guilty of if not lying then certainly exaggerating the difficulties their condition from the start. Irrespective of whether the ‘descriptors’ are flawed, I and many others I communicate with believe the WCA is fundamentally flawed through the decision making process – how can a computer programme, albeit ‘inputted’ by a medical professional, and an administrative civil servant; take decisions about the health and abilities of a claimant, that overrule the knowledge of the GPs and Consultants?
I believe Labour must be brave enough to accept the whole process of assessment is wrong and that the focus of assessment must be supportive of disabled people and inclusive of the knowledge of our own medical professionals; further Labour must concede that the identification of the tiny 0.3% of people acting fraudulently CANNOT be the primary reason for assessment
With regard to our right to work, I too believe it is true we as disabled people have much to offer to the Country but we need to do this in ways which limit damage to our Health and general wellbeing. It is imperative that Labour understands we know our limits and that going out to work, in a particular place for designated hours is regularly problematic for many of us; the fact that so many of us utilise social networks suggests many of us are computer literate enough to work from home, real opportunity to do this widens our chance to actively engage in employment at times that suit our conditions and without further damage to our health, and reduces costs for employers. There are many jobs that I believe can easily be undertaken in this way, if only employers could recognise the benefits; and this change in employment culture is something Labour could influence, thereby making a positive difference to both the lives of disabled people and employers.
Further I believe many of us have the potential to become entrepreneurs, given the opportunity and access to financial support, I make this claim based upon the fact that learning to live with a disability requires us to be flexible in our thinking and forces us to make adaptations to our lives; this ability is regularly unrecognised and unacknowledged, often by ourselves, but I remain committed to the idea that, if given the appropriate opportunities we are best placed to support, advise and enable other disabled people to fulfil their potential.
I would like to request that the team responsible for this document also ensure they consult outside of the usual Charities for disabled people, this is because disabled people are more than capable of speaking for ourselves are many people I communicate with often share their disillusion with regard to the big Charities; who at the end of the day, seem to be more interested with their own survival than with supporting the disabled people they purport to represent.
These are my initial responses and I would welcome any opportunity to engage further with the development of this exciting paper.
We only need to remember the lesson of the Holocaust. Icy memories of what happens when societies do not recognise every member as equal should never be allowed to thaw.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Darrell Goodliffe’s blog: http://momentsofc.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/re-framing-the-welfare-debate/
The Labour Party Making-rights-a-reality-for-disabled-people
Guardian: Response re cut to Legal Aid
Guardian : Legal aid bill puts thousands at risk
Guardian: Cameron’s Big Cuts will backfire
Disabled People Against Cuts: On Remploy Factory Closures
Channel 4 Blog: Cameron Cutting Disabled Benefits
Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: Labour finally accept ESA isn’t working
Tom Pride: On Cancer patients
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