Disability Labour: Questions to Leadership Candidates –Jeremy Corbyn
- Employment - What will Labour do under your leadership to remove the barriers that prevent disabled people obtaining and keeping employment?
Firstly we need to recognise that taking away benefits and support for disabled people is pushing many further away from the labour market. The cuts to Disability Living Allowance, becoming Personal Independence Payments, threatens to exclude some disabled workers from employment. The reforms to Access to Work also need to be closely monitored as it seems that individual payments are being cut.
I have proposed that all employers should publish mandatory equality pay audits to expose the pay gaps between staff - we know that women, BME workers and disabled suffer discrimination in the workplace. We also need to look at the strengthening the Disability Discrimination Act, to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made by all employers, with enforceable rights for disabled workers.
Many trade unions have good strategies to improve support for disabled workers in the workplace, and disabled people's organisations need to work with unions and encourage membership. Trade unions and government must play a role in educating employers and challenging prejudice, but too often recently government ministers’ rhetoric has reinforced rather than challenged this. Disability should not be seen as a problem but as a difference, and we should adapt to it, welcome and champion that diversity.
Most importantly we need to ensure that we have inclusive education so that schools, colleges and universities provide disabled people with equal life chances.
- Social Care - How would Labour under your leadership tackle the social care funding crisis, ensuring that levels of support for disabled people with high support needs will be met in light of the Independent Living Fund being closed?
We should integrate health and social care into a single service, with a ringfenced budget. We also need to sort out the NHS - mental health budgets have been cut, due to the pressure caused by PFI debts.
The cuts to local government budgets, especially in some of the poorest areas of the country, are putting an unsustainable strain on adult social care.
When the Chancellor can find billions for inheritance tax cuts and another corporation tax cut, he cannot tell us in the same breath that there is no alternative to austerity.
I opposed and campaigned against the closure of the Independent Living Fund, and was pleased to work with activists from DPAC, PCS and others to try to save it. At the outset of this campaign, I committed to reinstating the ILF when Labour returns to power in 2020.
- Social Security - How will Labour’s welfare plans under your leadership, support the independence, dignity, choices and rights of disabled people?
The whole debate around social security has become an appalling spectacle of demonisation and disrespect. Labour created the welfare state to stop people being humiliated and to give dignity to those unable to work.
I would scrap the work capability assessment and bring assessment in-house. We need to end the sanctions regime that is hitting those in the ESA WRAG group, and we must reverse the cuts to ESA announced in the Budget. Being unable to work through disability should not condemn anyone to poverty.
I have consistently voted against welfare cuts and reforms that have driven an ever more punitive system. Labour's social security policies will be driven by support and care – that is the essence of the welfare state that Labour founded, everyone caring for everybody else.
- Housing - What will Labour do under your leadership to solve the housing crisis facing families which include disabled or older people?
The bedroom tax has disproportionately hit disabled households, and I am glad that through our campaigning we made it safe for the last Labour leadership to oppose it. Tearing people away from their communities and support networks, simply for having a spare room, is a despicable act.
It cannot be right to remove people from homes, even spacious homes with a spare bedroom or two, when thousands may have been spent on adaptations for a disabled or older person - and will need to be spent adapting a new home again. The whole policy is inhuman and a false economy.
I have said that we need to be building at least 240,000 new homes per year, at least half of which should be council housing, to solve the housing crisis. You can read about more of my housing policy here.
- Transport - What will a Labour Government under your leadership do to promote and support better access to public transport, including the "Right to Ride" for disabled people?
This is an important campaign - and I was proud to address the Right to Ride lobby of Parliament in 2012. Disabled people must be able to travel with the same freedom and independence as everyone else. We need transport for all.
But this is also about stations being staffed to assist passengers with mobility issues, and why I'm glad that disabled people have come together with unions protesting against cuts to station staff and ticket offices.
I want to bring public transport like buses and trains into public ownership, but in the meantime we must press councils and government to ensure accessibility is part of procurement and budgeting decisions.