Andy Burnham Responses
In the last Parliament, we didn’t do enough to defend disabled people from a range of damaging Tory policies and stigmatising language.
For me, cuts to disability benefits should be a red line for our Party. That’s why I’ve come out against the cruel abolition of the Independent Living Fund. My basic principle is that we cannot justify cuts to income that cannot be replaced by work.
I’m not convinced that the sanctions regime operates fairly or consistently, and the Government has ignored repeated calls by the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee for an independent review of the way in which they operate. There do not currently seem to be proper safeguards for vulnerable people, and some of the decisions made have been downright daft – but are no laughing matter for those left with nothing to subsist on.
I’m proud of our Party’s record on disability rights. We increased support for disabled people so that those who couldn’t work and their children were pulled out of poverty, but we also increased the employment rate for disabled people by improving the support available to those who could work.
Thanks to the last Government’s cuts, freezes, sanctions and deeply flawed assessment regime, disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as able-bodied people. And the Work Programme’s record on helping disabled people back into sustained employment is appalling.
We need to tackle the growing problem of a failing system of care for disabled people. I am committed to extending the NHS principle to social care - where everybody is asked to make a contribution according to their means and where everybody then has the peace of mind of knowing that all their care needs, and those of their family, are covered.
On housing, I’ve committed to major policies that would bring about the most radical home-building programme since the post-War period. If I’m elected Labour Leader, I will bring in a legal requirement for all sold social housing to be replaced, like-for-like, with affordable homes within walking distance. I will free councils to borrow to build new homes and set up a National Housing Commission to drive progress in every area, ensuring new homes are built with affordable rents. I will develop ‘rent to own’ schemes to help people out of the ‘rental trap’ and onto the property ladder. And I will introduce regulation of the private rental sector, including power for local communities to introduce rent controls.
And on transport, I will ensure there is proper and accountable public control of the railways, with passengers’ interests put first. A new ‘National Rail’ governing body should be created to end the fragmentation of privatisation. It will ensure that passengers again experience a truly unified rail and ticketing system across the country. We also need to see our buses properly regulated with more powers handed back to local government through combined authorities.
Labour under my Leadership would be strong voice in Opposition for disabled people, and in Government we would ensure that no disabled person is subject to the current Government’s efforts to impose poverty, indignity and disrespect on people with disabilities.