2. 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.
For me, cuts to disability benefits should be a red line for our Party. That’s why I’ve come out against the cruel abolition of the Independent Living Fund. My basic principle is that we cannot justify cuts to income that cannot be replaced by work.
I’m not convinced that the sanctions regime operates fairly or consistently, and the Government has ignored repeated calls by the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee for an independent review of the way in which they operate. There do not currently seem to be proper safeguards for vulnerable people, and some of the decisions made have been downright daft – but are no laughing matter for those left with nothing to subsist on.
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?
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.
We need to tackle the growing problem of a failing system of care for disabled people. I am committed to extending the NHS principle to social care - where everybody is asked to make a contribution according to their means and where everybody then has the peace of mind of knowing that all their care needs, and those of their family, are covered.
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.
Awaiting a response…………………
4. 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.
On housing, I’ve committed to major policies that would bring about the most radical home-building programme since the post-War period. If I’m elected Labour Leader, I will bring in a legal requirement for all sold social housing to be replaced, like-for-like, with affordable homes within walking distance. I will free councils to borrow to build new homes and set up a National Housing Commission to drive progress in every area, ensuring new homes are built with affordable rents. I will develop ‘rent to own’ schemes to help people out of the ‘rental trap’ and onto the property ladder. And I will introduce regulation of the private rental sector, including power for local communities to introduce rent controls.
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.
Awaiting a response………………..
5. 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.
On transport, I will ensure there is proper and accountable public control of the railways, with passengers’ interests put first. A new ‘National Rail’ governing body should be created to end the fragmentation of privatisation. It will ensure that passengers again experience a truly unified rail and ticketing
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.
Awaiting a response…………………….