Disability Equality Roadshow Launch

15079092_1857348094500320_4787155487634212570_nI launched Labour’s Disability Equality Roadshow on Friday and this will go nationwide over the coming months. This engagement process will take the first steps in developing policies which can tackle the structural issues affecting deaf and disabled people and their carers across the UK, as well as the challenges we all face in building a fairer, more equal society.

It is part of Labour’s commitment to transform our social security system, ensuring that, like our NHS, it is there for us all in our time of need.

Thanks to everyone who attended and took part in the event in Manchester including Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn and my colleagues Rebecca Long Bailey, Margaret Greenwood and Andy Burnham MP. We had some great discussions on developing Labour policy with disabled people. 

My heart felt thanks goes to Paul Rutherford also for joining us at the launch and sharing his family’s personal story of how they have been affected by the bedroom tax. Paul and his wife, Sue have fought so incredibly hard against this cruel and unnecessary policy which would have meant them downsizing from a 3 bedroom home to a 2 bedroom home even though their grandson, Warren requires overnight care. Last week, the Supreme Court found in their favour but Paul reminded us that many families including five involved in the court case are still suffering. Labour would scrap the bedroom tax ending the misery faced by thousands across the country.

You can watch a brief video from the event below.


Please find below my speech from the event which highlights why Labour is holding this disability equality roadshow:

“It is wonderful to see you here today at the launch of Labour’s Disability Equality Roadshow. Thank you so much everyone for coming.

Can we give a big thank you to Unison for hosting us today – thanks Kevin and all your team. Can we also thank Anna and everyone at Regional Office? As well as giving my own fab team a round of applause for all that they have done in getting ready for today’s launch.

I wanted to take a moment to thank DPAC in particular Ellen, Linda, and Debbie Jolly who many of you will know sadly passed away yesterday, not just for their courage and determination but their steadfastness. They were not going to give up and have used every means they could to show what this Government, and the Coalition before them, are doing to disabled people.

They were instrumental in getting the UN to investigate the UK Government’s breaches in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2010, which on Tuesday this week reported that the Government were responsible for ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s rights.

And of course there are many other DPOs, including the GM Coalition of Disabled People, who have helped plan and shape today and the whole Disability Equality Roadshow process. My grateful thanks to you all.

I know Jeremy is going to introduce him to you, but can I just say how pleased I am to finally meet Paul Rutherford who as many of you will know cares with his family for his disabled grandson, Warren. Paul and his family very courageously took on the Government in the courts over the unfair and discriminatory Bedroom Tax. And on Wednesday, in the Supreme Court, the judges ruled in their favour! Thank you so much for taking the time to come and support us and the DER launch today.

It has been a breath of fresh air working with Jeremy. Not only is he a man of real integrity and decency, someone who brings kindness into politics, but also who values and believes in our social security system.

He is as offended as I am at the Government’s £28bn cuts in support to 3.7m sick and disabled people. The 5 million disabled people living in poverty because of the extra costs that they face associated with their disability, is set to increase as a result of this and yet more cuts to social security support.

This Government has fostered an insidious culture of fear and blame to justify their programme of cuts, deliberately attempting to vilify social security claimants as the new undeserving poor. If you haven’t seen Ken Loach’s new film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ please do – it sets out so clearly much of that is wrong with the current social security system.

At Labour’s Conference in September, I set out how I want to transform our social security system. It is not fit for purpose, designed for a very different age and a different labour market. For too long the labour market has been dominated by poor quality, low paid, insecure jobs resulting in two thirds of the 4m children living in poverty coming from working families. Four in every five people working in low paid jobs are still stuck in them ten years later.

And it certainly doesn’t meet the needs of sick and disabled people. Even the Government’s own research has shown that their punishing approaches make it less likely that sick or disabled people are able to return to work.

Time and time again, I hear of how worthless the system makes people feel. For the vast majority of people who have paid into it all their working lives, this is like a slap in the face. People often feel desperate, have been left destitute and have even died.

Fundamentally, I want to change the culture of our social security system – what it does and how it does it, how it is performance managed and how the public see it.

I believe that, like the NHS, it is based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity and the basics of life were we to fall on hard times or become incapacitated, giving us a hand up, not a hand out.

Work should always pay more than being on social security, but being in work shouldn’t mean living in poverty and neither should being on social security.

The Labour Party has already pledged to get rid of the discriminatory and unfair Bedroom Tax. But I announced at Conference that we will also scrap the discredited Work Capability Assessment. I want to replace it with a system based on personalised, holistic support, one that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether skills, health, care, transport, or housing-related. But I want your help in looking at how we might do this.

I also announced that we will get rid of this Government’s punitive sanctions too. This will mean Job Centre Plus and employment support providers’ performance will not just be assessed on how many people they get off their books.

I want to see disabled people better supported into and at work. But what would that mean? What would help in our commitment to halve the Disability Employment Gap? What about help to live independently? Or to participate in sport or politics?

These are just some of the questions that we want your help in answering.

The Disability Equality Roadshow is using the UN Convention on the Rights of DP as a framework to help develop policies not just on social security but on education, health and social care, justice and more.

We are going across the country to every region and to every nation state. And it starts today with you!

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