Socialist society

Working for equality

Liz Kendall MP

Liz Kendal

 

Employment - What will Labour do under your leadership to remove the barriers that prevent disabled people obtaining and keeping employment?

 

Under this Tory government, those who suffer first and the most are those who require a little extra support. It is obvious that those people who have borne the greatest burden of Tory cuts are disabled people, family carers and paid care workers.

 

Rhetoric about 'workshy scroungers' has been incredibly damaging to disabled people. This has only increased the barriers to employment as disabled people now have to contend with barriers such as lack of appropriate social care or transport, but also a widespread public perception that not all disabled people are genuine.

 

The government currently define 'vulnerable' as people having physical conditions and exclude those with mental health issues and learning disabilities. That is discriminatory and I will press for it to change.

 

We must accept that some people are too unwell to work. We must accept that some people have so many barriers to work relating to their disabilities that it is not reasonable to expect them to work. Until we as a country reduce these barriers we will not be able to do anything to improve disability employment rates. If someone is unable to walk more than a few hundred meters but does not qualify for disability benefits on that basis, nor are they entitled to a wheelchair, all the punitive measures in the world will not move them closer to the workplace. The only thing that would work is to provide the equipment and support they need to become mobile.

 

We recognise that this issue reaches across many departments and that it will not be possible to solve overnight. However, by reintroducing specialist disability employment advisors, working with employers to provide the information and support they need to employ disabled people and ensuring that disabled people have the equipment, social care and support they need will enable this incredibly motivated group of job seekers to compete on a more equal level in the employment market.

 

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? 

 

It is time to stop considering those who require support to live as financial burdens. The social care industry is worth £20bn per year and creates a million jobs, yet those who provide that front line care are amongst the most poorly paid workers in our country and those who need that care are all too often not treated with the dignity and support we all need.

 

So we must seek to encourage good, local provision of care provided by community interest companies and social enterprises. The government I’d lead would introduce a proper living wage for qualified care workers and a system of apprenticeships and training schemes to bring social care into line with health care - a proper, funded career option which is attractive to young people in the same way that health service careers are respected and desired.

 

For some disabled people with very high support needs the closure of the ILF has caused a great deal of stress, uncertainty and fear now that the ILF has been closed, especially as future funds to local authorities have not been ring-fenced. 

 

I have already committed to the closure of Assessment Treatment Units, because warehousing disabled people in 'special' institutions away from the wider community is disastrous for both disabled people and tax payers.

 

As social care funding drops, and the care needs of our population increase, local authority social services departments are placed under immense pressure and it is inevitable they will lose sight of the need for independent living support in their fear about ensuring basic support for more people.

 

 

 

 

 

Social Security - How will Labour’s welfare plans under your leadership, support the independence, dignity, choices and rights of disabled people?

 

We must accept that some people are too unwell to work. These people will always need our support and as a country we should be proud to provide that support, not to target and blame this group for an economic crisis not of their making. 

 

Yet too many others are denied the chance to fulfil their ambitions and support themselves because too little is done to support them overcoming the barriers that prevent them from working.  As a country we cannot afford to write so many people off - only 7% of adults with a learning disability have ever had paid work, but a significant majority want paid work.

 

Extra support may mean providing equipment, social care, the time to learn to cope with a newly acquired impairment, the flexibility to allow people to work just a few hours a week. There are millions of adults who are desperate to contribute to and participate in our society, that our benefits system so often prevents this is a scandal.  

 

Housing - What will Labour do under your leadership to solve the housing crisis facing families which include disabled or older people?

 

We are in the midst of a national crisis, and again disabled people and their carers are bearing the brunt of this issue. Accessible housing leads to increased participation in community life, simple things like grab rails keep people safe and independent for longer. The previous government chose not to mandate that the construction industry work to the highest standard of accessible homes, a shortsighted decision which will inevitably cost more money in the longer term.

 

Universal design means that homes can work for everyone - extra space to store a wheelchair is also the space young families need to store a pushchair. Having wider doorways means that people are able to stay in their homes should they become disabled. Having wheelchair access to homes as standard means that people can continue to access the world when they become disabled. 

 

 

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?

 

Everyone should have the right to access public transport.

 

It is not reasonable to expect people to participate in employment and everyday life when they are unable to get on a bus or train when they need to.

 

Not enough has been done to force the transport companies to provide access, when countries such as Sweden provide universally designed transport accessible by all. It is not acceptable that there are only 2 places on each national train for wheelchair users. It is not acceptable that disabled people must book a minimum of 24 hours in advance if they wish to use a train, and that they can be refused travel if someone has booked that space before them.

 

It is of course a long term project to improve the transport infrastructure, but as the Paralympics showed us, with careful design and increased staffing the transport system can be properly accessible to everyone. It is commendable that companies such as Virgin Trains provide some disabled access - the decision Richard Branson made many years ago to provide access because 'its the right thing to do' has clearly not been more widely adopted across the sector.

The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better.

Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.

To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.