Christian Wolmar responses to Disability Labour
Questions to London Mayoral Candidates
- 1. Why should disabled people vote for a London Labour Mayor and Labour Assembly in 2016?
In 2009 Labour signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). As Mayor I would ensure that clear targets were set to promote and enforce CRPD rights for disabled people during my term in office.
Disabled people are affected by the cuts 9 times more than everybody else. People with the most severe disabilities are affected by the cuts 19 times more than everybody else (source: DPAC).
Boris Johnson’s latest equalities report highlights key areas, like employment rates for disabled people, which have hardly changed during his tenure: http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Mayor%27s%20Annual%20Equality%20Report%202014-15%20final_1.pdf
A Labour Assembly will work in all boroughs in London to ensure that disabled people’s rights under the CRPD are treated seriously and with the priority they deserve.
- 2. Economic development: As London’s Mayor what measures will you apply to remove the barriers which stop disabled Londoners getting and keeping jobs?
As Mayor I would work with disabled people to develop a comprehensive plan of action to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment. I will work with the Business Disability Forum to achieve a substantial improvement in the employment rate of disabled people across London.
In each borough I would recruit a Mayoral Task Force of employed and unemployed disabled people to find out how the barriers to getting disabled people into employment can be overcome. The Task Force would be given a research budget and employment figures for disabled people in London would be published quarterly throughout my term of office. The Task Force would report back to me within six months and to the local media in each borough. Solutions will be found at the grassroots and I aim to prove that unemployment for disabled people is not an intractable problem.
The Government’s Disability Confident scheme has not penetrated the consciousness of most employers.
The Sayce Report, Getting In, Staying In and Getting On, (2011) recommended that the Access to Work scheme should have a proper website but this has never been produced. I will lobby central government to transfer funding for the Access to Work scheme in London to the Mayor. I will fund a creative and accessible website that people can go to for information and help with disability employment issues. This new website would:
- help employers understand what reasonable adjustments in the workplace are. It would contain videos from disabled people and employers, showing how adjustments have been made in different sectors across London. It would aim to help close the employment and pay gap of disabled people and would have space for employers to contact each other or to contact specialists if they felt they needed more advice on employing a disabled person.
- be a portal through which disabled people could obtain funds from the Mayoral budget to get qualifications to enable them to obtain employment.
- advertise paid and unpaid work experience positions disabled people could apply for.
- Include other information recommended by the Task Force.
As Mayor I would set up a fund to train managers from 200 Small and Medium sized employers from each London borough in Mental Health First Aid. See: http://mhfaengland.org/ Understanding mental health is key to reducing stigma and increasing employment opportunities for disabled people with mental health issues.
Funding will be made available to disabled people to shadow and gain work experience with London Councillors and London’s MPs. Disabled people are under-represented in politics. If the Access to Elected Office Scheme is not re-instated at national level, as Mayor I will ensure that London’s disabled residents will have funding on a similar basis to help them get access to politics.
As Mayor I would ensure that all contracts awarded across the GLA group of Transport for London, Metropolitan Police and City Hall would only be awarded to companies that fulfil measurable targets for the employment of disabled people.
Media portrayal of disabled people
Inclusion London published a report on the media representation of disabled people: Bad News for Disabled People – How the Newspapers are reporting disability (2011) As Mayor I would ensure that media portrayal of disabled people as ‘scroungers’ is challenged wherever possible and that advertisers on Transport for London buses and tubes are encouraged to include disabled people in adverts.
3.1. As London’s Mayor what will you put in place in a London Health plan, to promote the independence, dignity, choices and rights of disabled people?
I shall fund disability rights and good practice in health care training for all GPs surgeries across London.
As Mayor I shall press for ring-fenced funding for hospital transport. I shall lobby for disabled people to be excluded from hospital car park charges. People who have to visit hospitals frequently because of a disability find the charges very difficult to cope with. I am not, though, in favour of abolishing all car park charges. Also routine health screening for disabled people likely to be at a higher risk of developing certain conditions is needed. I shall target health promotion and awareness campaigns aimed at specific individuals which can make people better informed.
Public toilet provision in London is one of the missing links in creating a sustainable green city. If people are to leave their cars then they need better access to toilets. As Mayor I shall work to stop toilet closures and ensure that every town centre, shopping centre, bus and railway station has a free accessible toilet. I shall ensure a Changing Places toilet is provided where need is identified. People pay out of their taxes for toilets and proper provision of public toilets leads to higher retail turnover and increased tourism. People stay in an area longer if there are toilets available.
There are low levels of participation in sport and physical activity among disabled people. Social isolation is a part of this. I will establish a ‘Disability buddies’ network which helps put disabled people in contact with each other. Data Protection Act laws mean that local councils do not share names and email addresses of disabled people even when it could help disabled people to stop being isolated. I will enable them to opt in to sharing their data within the local disability community, to help people to make new friends and get support with sport and physical activity.
3.2. What does a 21st century vision for a London mental health care system look like?
It doesn’t look like the one we have got now! In Boris Johnson’s own constituency, based in Hillingdon, mental health services have been rated as “inadequate”. See: http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/health/nhs-trust-apologises-inadequate-mental-9736909
Waiting lists for NHS treatment like counselling, which could prevent many hospital admissions, are far too long. Owing to years of not listening to people with mental health conditions, services have not been designed to provide effective support. Cuts have meant that treatment centres have been closed and people now have to travel further afield to get access to services.
As Mayor I will fund additional counsellors in all boroughs across London, in order to reduce waiting lists for this vital service.
Training for more employers and MPS officers in Mental Health First Aid is a priority for me.
- 4. Crime, Policing and Justice:
4.1. As Mayor of London what will you do to ensure disabled people get equal access to justice?
As Mayor I would provide grants for independent advice agencies to advise disabled people and others on the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. There would be at least one agency per borough which could advise on civil rights for disabled people. This would include a fund to enable cases with a good chance of success to be taken to the Employment Tribunal or the County Court if no other public funding was available.
Improving the number of underground stations with step free access will also help disabled people who have to go to court. Court closures mean that people have to travel further away to give evidence in cases.
4.2. As London Mayor and Chair of MOPAC what will you do to address the policing of Disability harassment, discrimination and disability hate crimes and domestic violence?
In Northern Ireland, Leonard Cheshire Disability have run a successful project called ‘Get Support to Report’ which provided a disability hate crime advocacy service. As Mayor I shall establish a similar scheme across the Greater London area.
All police in south Wales have been trained on Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). As Mayor I will ensure that all MPS officers get MHFA training. This is vital to ensuring that people with mental health issues can be diverted from the criminal justice system into receiving the care and treatment they really need.
5.1. What will you do as Labour’s Mayor for London to solve the London housing crisis facing families which include disabled or older people?
Labour is committed to scrapping the bedroom tax, which has failed because there are no suitable alternative properties available for tenants to move toeither in the council or private rental sectors..
In Scotland, steps have been taken by the government to alleviate the impact of the bedroom tax on disabled people. As Mayor I will establish a discretionary fund to which disabled people adversely affected by the bedroom tax can apply.
Funding of adaptations in people’s homes is essential if disabled people are to continue to live independently as provided by the CRPD. Nearly two thirds (62%) of UK councils broke the law at least once last year by failing to fund agreed adaptations within the legal deadline. (Source: Leonard Cheshire Disability).
5.2. What will you do as Mayor for London to make sure that Lifetime homes standards are implemented throughout all types of housing in London?
As Mayor, I will ensure that 90% of new housing meets the Lifetime Homes Standards and that 10% of new homes are built to wheelchair accessible standards. I am committed to creating a Housing Delivery Authority to use the mayor’s funds and bring together councils, housing associations and developers.
The GLA will continue to support the Built Environment Professional Education Project to ensure that professionals understand accessibility standards and I will require developers to consult with disabled people to make sure they meet the needs of disabled people.
I will ensure that all London boroughs can join the London Accessible Housing Register, so that disabled people can easily identify homes that work for them, and adaptations can be reused rather than being needlessly ripped out of homes when someone moves.
As Mayor I will support London councils to prioritise funding Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) to ensure that no disabled person is left waiting longer than the legal maximum between applying for a DFG and having the their adaptations installed.
- 6. Transport:
6.1. What will you do as Mayor for London to promote the "Right to Ride" across all modes and in all parts of London for disabled people?
I will pledge to involve disabled people at all stages of planning changes and future developments and continue to improve access for all disabled people.
One of the main obstacles to the Right to Ride is lack of step free access on the underground.
Also, Transport for London’s policy of not putting Countdown indicators at all bus stops that will support them is a barrier for many disabled and older people. Not everyone carries or can use a mobile phone to check bus arrival times. Not all places in London feel safe to get a mobile phone out. So I would install more Countdown indicators at bus stops across London.
Wheelchair priority over pushchairs on buses needs to be better communicated. I shall fund disabled campaigners to make a video about wheelchair priority which will be sent to websites like Mumsnet.
As Mayor I shall ensure that Transport for London has an additional director with a disability. This director post will be elected from amongst people with disabilities who register to take part in the election.
I shall invest in accessibility improvements along the waterways.
6.2. As Mayor for London will you work to extend the freedom pass to national rail services which run throughout the whole of the Greater London and in particular where there are no tube or over ground services such as in parts of South London?
6.3. A quarter of London's tube stations are step free from street to train, what is your plan for extending this to the rest of the underground system?
Step free access is one of my top priorities. More sources of funding have to be obtained to speed up the rate at which stations are retrofitted with step free access. I have been sent a short video by campaigners about how to leverage in more funds for step free access to the underground system.
I will set up a Public Fund for Access which invites crowdfunding for step free access. I would also like to use unused Oyster card money for this purpose. An average suburban station might take £3 million to fit with step free access. Other stations are more complex and will cost a lot more.
There are also some private funds available for this work and I will try to access them.For example, there are many high net worth inviduals in London who have never been asked if they would like to contribute towards a project like installing step free access. They would be rewarded by purple plaques inside stations and the eternal thanks of the travelling public.
I aim to be a Mayor who listens to and works with disabled people from all parts of London and I hope you will give me your vote.