Labour Is Not Going to Deliver on Disability

It is absolutely obvious that most disabled activists are unhappy with this coalition government, and many dislike and even hate Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) with a passion. This government, particularly in terms of welfare reforms, has made many major and undisputable mistakes however you wish to look at it or what you think on the policies. However, the important question is will Labour do any better? My answer to this, as a Labour supporter and someone who wants a Labour government, is I don’t think so.

The problem is although so many people believe IDS has been a terrible minister, the reality is that his policies has not only dominated the coalition government, but it has without doubt framed Labour’s own policies on welfare and disability whether we like it or not. When Labour’s disability spokesperson, Kate Green, seems to suggest that Labour’s welfare policy is to continue to implement IDS’s dream on welfare reforms “but better”, this is a far cry from what many of the left of the party are expecting.

I actually probably agree with Kate in terms of the welfare reforms to a degree, and my like for the principals of the reforms, as opposed to its appalling implementation, has put myself at odds with many other activists. But anyone who has watched Utopia may better understand we live with limited resources and at times, tough decisions need to be made to ensure a fairness in the level of support provided for the long term to individuals along with the need for social responsibility.

Where I am concerned about Labour so far vague policy on disability is that I believe they made the fatal mistake on carrying on this government framing of disability issues in terms of just welfare and social care. Right now, politics tries to fit disabled people into two neat holes divided by a mythical line. The first is for people with lesser impairments who are regarded as just needing a gentle or not so gentle push into work, who are the property of DWP. The later is for people with greater impairments who need social care and therefore are the property of their ‘carers’ or families, who have to fight for the leftovers of a social care system designed to infantilise and disempower older people.

When previous Labour governments have been forward thinking on disability issues, the prospective next Labour government appears to have forgotten the totality of the situation. As I have written before, disabled people have 12 main needs and I am sure plenty more that needs considering if we are to ever achieve the full inclusion we deserve. This government’s framing of disability has created a new movement of sick and disabled people prepared to accept this framing, as well as Labour, and this means the inclusion of disabled people on a rainbow of issues has slipped through our hands as something out of fashion with current thinking.

Labour needs to be bold and radical on a wide range of disability issues, with consultation with a wide range of disabled people, not just those currently vocal on welfare issues. But this process should have started in 2010, not just over half a year away from the next election. This therefore suggests to me that if we do get a Labour government, they are likely to blunder from crisis to crisis on disability issues, making it up as they go along, just like this current government has.

I do not think it is a case that Labour do not wish to deliver what disabled people need or want, but rather it is a case that they do not know how to deliver it, leaving disability in the big political and ideological mess it is in now for at least another 5 years.

from Simon Stevens


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