Questions to Mayoral Candidates- David Lammy’s Responses
It’s tougher than ever for London’s disabled citizens – in addition to a range of problems relating to the transport network, they are also bearing the brunt of the government’s austerity cuts. Boris Johnson has done a woeful amount to support the needs of disabled Londoners, especially with regard to transport – we’ve seen 1000 ticket offices close, leaving users with minimal support on the Underground, and we’ve also witnessed a total failure to roll out the much needed step-free access across the network. But there are other issues, like supporting disabled people in the workplace, which have not even made it on to the current Mayor’s agenda. It’s shameful that such a large proportion of the capital’s population continue to have their needs ignored – especially in the context of a city that is enjoying continued economic growth. Prioritising the needs of disabled Londoners would be one of my very top priorities if I were to be elected as the next Mayor of London.
Transport and housing are two areas in need of urgent reconsideration. It is a scandal that so few rail, Underground and Overground stations have level access provision. The Olympics was supposed to deliver more step free access, and while there has been an increase, some stations that were step free in 2012 are no longer accessible, and the excellent ramps in use for the games have disappeared. We need a transport network for all Londoners, and that’s why I would double the target number of tube stations with step free access by 2020.
I recently met with disability campaign groups Transport for All and Inclusion London – the stories they shared about disabled users being left stranded on platforms showed the very real need for the feedback of disabled users to be integrated at every stage of the planning process. They also revealed that disabled users had not been approached during the initial consultation process of the Crossrail project – and it was instead up to them to highlight the requirements of users. This is simply unacceptable – I would introduce a planning requirement that all new transport initiatives must engage disabled users at the very first stage of planning, I would also guarantee that all new and refurbished Underground stations have level access as standard.
Too many of the new homes built in London are smaller than a Tube carriage, and it’s safe to say that the developers are not considering lifetime mobility needs when they build. The Mayor’s office has a great deal of power over the planning process in London and I would build on the current London Plan policies for inclusive environment. I want to see all homes in London built to Lifetime Standards and a minimum of 10 per cent of all new homes designed from the outset to be easily adaptable for occupation by a wheelchair user. City Hall should make independent living for persons with disabilities a policy priority.
It is also worth noting that I am the only candidate with a clear plan to build the quantity of social homes that the capital needs. I have said that I would build 30,000 social homes in the capital, by going to the bond market and issuing London Housing Bonds in order to raise £10 billion. These homes will go a long way to help deal with the housing crisis facing London’s families – many of which include disabled or older people. I would insist that these homes meet minimum criteria for disabled access.
It is unacceptable that persons with disabilities are twice as likely to suffer a violent attack. I have a plan to revitalise the Met by restoring 1,400 officers lost under Boris Johnson, and to appoint 1,000 more Police Community Support Officers for a more diverse Met focused on restoring community trust and crime prevention. This includes requiring officers to be trained in dealing with persons with invisible disabilities and to take disability hate crime seriously.
Invisible disabilities are another area of unmet need, especially in relation to mental health. Whether it’s stigma at work, a lack of awareness within the police force, or inadequate access to healthcare and education; the status quo is unjust. There’s only so much the Mayor can do about healthcare and education – central government makes the decisions in those areas – but there is a public health remit for every borough and I would like to see it directed to mental health. The next mayor can do much to coordinate the delivery of mental health provision across the capital, making it a much more joined up process. With the right leadership, this is an area where real progress can be made.
One of the biggest challenges facing disabled Londoners relates to employment. It’s extremely worrying that large proportions of London’s disabled community are unemployed, and reporting that there remain huge obstacles to having successful careers. The buck stops with employers on this issue. Too many employers remain unwilling to make adequate adjustments in relation to staff who have disabilities – and seem especially unable to deal with staff who have conditions which vary day to day. London needs a mayor who is willing to promote equal employment rights for all Londoners and who isn’t afraid to put pressure on those employers who fail to meet these standards.
Workplace stigma remains especially prevalent in relation to mental health. Employees fear the consequences if they tell their employers, and employers often don’t know how to receive a disclosure of mental health problems from an employee. The Mayor’s office needs to get behind the ‘Time to Change’ initiative from Mind and Rethink to encourage businesses in London to shake off the stigma. In fact, I would like to make signing up to the Time to Change pledge a requirement for all contractors with the GLA. With strong leadership we can see the end of mental health stigma in London.
As many of you will know, there’s a huge amount of progress that needs to happen under the next London mayor – with your help, that’s what I’ll bring.