Mayoral Candidate questions – Diane Abbot Responses
Why should disabled people vote for a London Labour Mayor and Labour Assembly in 2016?
Labour has a strong track record in extending disabled peoples' rights and as the Labour candidate for London Mayor I will be committed to continuing that record. As an MP I have been consistent on fighting for equality and social justice for all. We now have a Conservative government for the next five years. Under the last Coalition government we saw a dramatic increase in the use of language targeting benefit claimants as 'scroungers' and a false focus on 'cracking down' on claimants and fraud as austerity was implemented and benefit support was cut. There were also 24 major pieces of equality legislation repealed that disproportionately hit disabled workers, the fight for equality in the workplace and access to justice. The result has been an increase in hate crime directed towards disabled people and a benefit system increasingly geared towards punishment rather than independence and dignity. If we are going to reverse these trends and fight for a better, more just and equal future we need a London Mayor and Assembly that will defend all Londoners against this governments' reactionary agenda on austerity and benefit cuts.
Economic development: As London’s Mayor what measures will you apply to remove the barriers which stop disabled Londoners getting and keeping jobs?
We need to begin to make employers take responsibility for meeting their obligations under the law as well as positively promoting opportunities for disabled workers. As Mayor one way you can directly do this is by using the procurement power City Hall has as a lever, ensuring that those you contract with don't just have equal opportunities policies on paper but are implementing them and proving they are through audits. As Mayor, I would ensure that equality objectives are a central, meaningful part of all the power I exercise over transport, policing and justice, the environment, and housing. We don't just need tickboxes. We need to make our whole City as accessible as possible if we are going to economically develop in a way that delivers for all; and if people are going to work they need to be able to travel to work, to have a home that is affordable and to live in an environment that is as healthy as possible. How we best do this is where the voices of disabled Londoners need to be heard - through City Hall actively engaging with disabled rights groups and ensuring that the views of disabled Londoners are taken into account when we are developing plans and applying our formal - and informal, campaigning powers - to best use in dismantling the barriers disabled people face.
Health: As London’s Mayor what would you put in a London Health Plan to promote independence, dignity, choice and rights of disabled people? What is your vision for a 21st century London mental health care system?
We need a human rights based approach to all aspects of public service delivery and access to services. A new London Health Plan needs to be developed that is backed up by genuine action to tackling inequality in health outcomes, is wide ranging and holistic in its look at health and well-being and defends Londoners. I have been a lead campaigner in holding the current Mayor and the government to account on not taking action to achieve clean air for London. It is also not enough for London to have a good Health Plan on paper, if the Mayor does not also take on the attacks against benefits and social security - sources of income that are often vital in people living with independence and dignity. Our mental health system, always underfunded, has been further devastated by spending cuts. It is also a system in which inequalities run deep - not only does there continue to be a stigma attached to those with mental health problems, it is a system which has badly served women and black people. These are issues which must be addressed.
Crime, Policing and Justice: As Mayor of London what would you do to ensure disabled people get equal access to justice? As London Mayor and Chair of MOPAC what would you do to address the policing of Disability harassment, discrimination, hate crime and domestic violence?
Harassment, discrimination and hate crime against disabled people is an area where there is beginning to be a wider recognition that it exists and is unacceptable. As an MP I have a dedicated record to holding the police to account and working to try and transform the relationship between the Metropolitan Police and the citizens they are supposed to protect and to take seriously the voice and experience of those who face hate crime, harassment and violence. This is true across ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality and for disabled people. It is not just about recognition that it happens, and the appropriate recording of incidents and the subsequent outcome after investigation. It is also about the attitude of the police in how they deal with victims, and having appropriate, resourced and if needed specialist support services in place.
There also needs to be a recognition that across all of these areas, language matters. And as a politician you have a responsibility to use positive language - not language that gives succour to those who already hold prejudices, or language that promotes negative stereotypes, as we have too often seen used around benefit claimants.
Housing: What would you do to solve the London housing crisis facing families which include disabled or older people? What would you do to make sure that Lifetime homes standards is implemented throughout all types of housing in London?
I have been clear in my commitment to implement rent controls and decent homes standards in the private rented sector, to hold private developers to account in meeting their obligations to include affordable housing, and in working with local councils on undertaking a large scale council house building programme. We need to address the underlying problem of lack of supply to address affordability in the medium to long term and ensuring that we have homes to meet the needs of all Londoners. We need to not just make sure that bricks and mortar buildings are as accessible as possible by incorporating design criteria that are inclusive, such as the Lifetime homes standards, but also about making sure that local authority support services are in place for people who require them. As London Mayor you don't have direct power of this, but you do have an important platform from which to argue against the policies of this government which are devastating such services and to set out the argument for better resourced services, as part of ending austerity.
Transport: What would you do as Mayor for London to promote the "Right to Ride" in all modes of transport across London for disabled people? Would you work to extend the Freedom Pass to National Rail services throughout Greater London, in particular where there are no Tube or Overground services? 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?
Part of City Hall's most important, but least used, power is to effectively communicate with all Londoners, from all backgrounds. This includes using creative Londoners to use the space on public transports, in public spaces and through social media and traditional media forms to promote services and peoples' rights. Positively promoting things such as 'Right to Ride' doesn't just have the benefit of ensuring disabled people know what rights and services are available, it is also about promoting a positive, inclusive London for all Londoners.
I would work to extend the Freedom Pass to national rail services and would ensure that City Hall had ambitious targets on accessibility across all public transport. This won't just take my commitment as Mayor, it would need to be done in partnership with disabled rights groups to say what changes and design features were needed. This includes step free access, but also could encompass staffing levels, signage, ensuring induction loops always work, and much more.