Left Unity Disabled Members’ Caucus: a contribution to our pre-conference discussion

Left Unity’s Disabled Members’ Caucus has published this paper for discussion at our next national conference which takes place in June. Full details will be published shortly.

This Left Unity Conference reaffirms its belief that the Left Unity Disabled Members Caucus exists to support and help educate disabled members whilst working with the wider organisation to understand that the dominant definition of disability is an oppressive social construct.

To assist the work of the Caucus disabled members of Left Unity will invite other disabled people who are non members, but nevertheless simpathetic to the broad aims of Left Unity, to work with us on our policies and campaigb strategies.

Conference encourages disabled members to support and participate in the Caucus and its work.

Conference also reaffirms the policy areas identified by the pre-conference discussion that took place via the Left Unity Disabled Members Group Facebook page and the LU National website.

The LU Disabled Members Caucus’s starting position is that:

Since 2016 it has proved difficult to maintain the Left Unity Disabled Members Caucus. In the run up to the National Conference there will be an attempt made to kick start the Caucus by encouraging discussion around the following proposal – motion to Conference:

This Left Unity Conference reaffirms its belief that the Left Unity Disabled Members Caucus exists to support and help educate disabled members whilst working with the wider organisation to understand that the dominant definition of disability is an oppressive social construct.

To assist the work of the Caucus disabled members of Left Unity will invite other disabled people who are non-members, but nevertheless sympathetic to the broad aims of Left Unity, to work with us on our policies and campaign strategies.

Conference encourages disabled members to support and participate in the Caucus and its work.

Conference also reaffirms the policy areas identified by the pre-conference discussion that took place via the Left Unity Disabled Members Group Facebook page and the LU National website.

The LU Disabled Members Caucus’s starting position is that:

Disabled people, internationally and nationally, have redefined disability as the social restrictions imposed on top of impairments by the nature of given societies. This is the social approach – which is also intersectional by nature – is supported by the Left Unity Disabled Members Caucus and informs our practice.

A broad outline of the key areas Left Unity Disabled Members Caucus will be developing as policy.

 Access, Social Inclusion and Full Participation for Disabled People     

  •  We believe past and existing legislation on anti-discrimination and equality has failed to address the denial of access, social inclusion and full participation of disabled people into mainstream. This failure Is the result of a culmination of various ideological and practical factors including the individualistic legal approach to redress, the existing definition of disability and the absence of enforcement for protecting disabled people from discrimination and systemic social exclusion.
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People offers a framework for the betterment of the lives of disabled people and should be used to replace the oppressive elements of the Equality Act 2010.
  • Social inclusion and the full participation of disabled people into mainstream structures and activities will always be problematic in an exploitative market economy. As socialists we should sow no illusions, but nevertheless fight for inclusive policies and practice that challenge social restrictions, forced segregation and inequality. We need to ensure that our own policies and practice do not exclude or marginalise disabled people. Measures need to be taken to increase the representation and participation of disabled people in all avenues of life. The slogan, “Nothing about us, without us” must inform our praxis.

 Improving Welfare Support:

  • There must be an end to the neoliberal assault on the welfare system which includes halting paying private firms massive amounts of public money to carry out degrading assessments which are not fit-for-purpose. It is inadequate for Labour to hold the position that all it needs to do is overhaul the Work Capability Assessment and ensure that sick and disabled people are involved in reviewing its effectiveness. We support disabled people’s demand that the Work Capability Assessment be scrapped and replaced by an assessment process that has both health and social contexts in relation to ill health and impairment. This should include policy recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work.
  • We would expect an immediate end to punitive benefit sanctions which have led to deaths and increasing poverty. Ensure that the detrimental changes to how people within the Work-Related Activity Group are stopped and ensure there is no conditionality of JSA or ESA WRAG on seeking treatments and no linkage with treatment and receipt of benefits.
  • We reject completely the continuation of the Personal Independence Payment which was always ideologically driven and inherently oppressive. The methodology of PIP promotes body fascism and is at complete odds with UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The basic principles behind the Disabled Living Allowance remain valid and should inform the basis of assessing the extra cost incurred while living with significant ill health and/or impairment.
  • We call into question the failed policies of countless governments who have wasted public money on scheme after scheme to support disabled people into work. The major benefactors of these schemes are not disabled people, but the voluntary sector, local authorities and charity organisations that run them. Without a fresh appraisal of what constitutes work, the nature of work place environments and identifying the means of supporting disabled people into, and maintaining their place, at work; any new scheme will simply repeat the pattern of past practice which sets disabled people up to fail.
  • Left Unity Disabled Members Caucus notes the interest shown by the Labour Party and sections of the disabled communities in discussions around Basic Income and some form of a disabled persons citizens’ income. LUDMC would urge extreme caution in going down either of these routes.
  • We fully support a publicly funded benefit system and oppose any introduction of insurance schemes.

Independent Living and Self-Determination:

 Left Unity supported the campaign by disabled people to stop the closure of the Independent Living Fund; however we recognise that this was only accessed by a minority of disabled people who want support to live in their own communities and have control over their lives. The neoliberal agenda under three governments has changed the meaning of independent living and has locked it into the capitalist market economy.

  • We call upon the next Labour government to work with disabled people’s organisations to address the issue of disabled people having the legal right and means to live independent lives. More attention has to be paid to the UNCRDP method of ensuring human rights and the 12 pillars of independent living need to be central goals underpinning new policies on independent living. Labour needs to clarify its understanding of the relationship between independent living and current social care provision and policies. Labour’s current position is unacceptable and is likely to have a detrimental impact on elderly and disabled people who fail to fit into the policy’s outdated thinking.
  • There should be a root and branch review of all aspects of social support given the acute crisis within social care. Labour should halt the Sustainable and Transitional Plans (STPs) and bring to an end localism and the current postcode lottery that exists.
  • An end to zero hour contracts for home care staff.
  • Changes to the system also need to be made in order to provide better support to family carers both financially and practically.

Access to Health and Support Services:

  •  National Health Service funding must be protected and all forms of privatisation of our NHS should end with immediate effect.
  • Funding for mental health services including crisis teams should be protected and where necessary increased to former and safer levels. There should be an end of rationing of primary Mental Health care services and treatment tailored to needs.
  • More funding and investment is needed for children’s adolescent mental health services.
  • GP and nurse training should include compulsory training on mental health conditions and treatment.

Left Unity Disabled Members Caucus agrees with the position of Disabled People Against Cuts in their 2015 Manifesto that ‘there must be changes made to the Mental Capacity Act which is failing people it is supposed to protect. The Best Interests concept means that substitute decision making has become the default position rather than supporting people who are disabled or have Learning Difficulties to make their own decisions.’ (https://dpac.uk.net/2015/03/manifesto-asks)

Housing:

In line with the national policy of Left Unity, the Disabled Members Caucus believes a Labour government needs to tackle head on the country wide chronic shortage of social housing and a rise in homelessness and to put an end to landlords and property developers profiting from the housing crisis.

  • We call upon Labour to initiate a massive expansion of the publicly owned and democratically controlled housing sector and for social housing in the first instance to be allocated according to need. This strategic and sustained programme of building social housing must be to the standards of universal design and accessibility.
  • Labour’s new council or social housing building programmes must be funded by government at very low interest rates.
  • Axe the bedroom tax and the Benefit Cap.

Education:

  • The Disabled Members Caucus is not currently able to express a position regarding the educational needs of disabled children and adults beyond a rejection of an education system which unnecessarily excludes and marginalises them. We believe a future Labour Party needs to reverse the harmful policies of both the Coalition and Conservatives governments which have increased segregation and basic rights to educational choice.
  • The Disabled Students’ Allowance needs to be restored to a level where it fulfils its original aim and supports all disabled students who encounter extra cost within learning.

Employment and Socially Meaningful Activities:

Left Unity Disabled Members Caucus would expect an incoming Labour Government to break with its patronising and ineffective methods to address the restrictions disabled people face when either seeking or maintaining employment. We acknowledge the view held by DPAC in 2015 that:

  • A comprehensive plan of action is developed with disabled people and their organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in employment and the labour market.
  • Access to Work (AtW) must be extended to include unpaid voluntary positions and the changes that limit and reduce the support provided through AtW should be reversed.
  • The policy of charging fees for taking an employer to Employment Tribunal must be repealed.
  • There is an urgent need to acknowledge that employment is not an option for all disabled people. Disabled and nondisabled socialists should consider what constitutes ‘work’ beyond the confines imposed by the capitalist system. To look at ways of increasing disabled people’s social worth and seek acknowledgement of their existing contributions to society. This requires a better understanding of what is meant by ‘socially meaningful activities’.

Access to Justice:

 All legal aid changes must be repealed and disabled people’s rights to access justice must be restored.

  • The Disabled Members Caucus believes the issue of Disability Hate Crime remains a major concern and calls upon an incoming Labour government to review the legal definitions associated with Disability Hate Crime as we believe they are too narrow and ignore key aspects of why disabled people become targets of hate.
  • A Labour Government should not only reverse the watering down of the Equality Act 2010 since its introduction but look to strengthen it. Key aspects of the UNCRDP need to be brought into UK laws.
  • Ensure restoration of funding for advice and advocacy services such as Citizens Advice.

 


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