Four leading disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have issued a list of 17 policies they want the next government to implement in its first 100 days.
Equal Lives, Inclusion London, The Alliance for Inclusive Education and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), published the list to help campaigners in the days leading up to tomorrow’s general election, and to “raise disability up the political agenda”.
They say that disabled people have been disproportionately affected by the coalition’s austerity programme, with more than £28 billion in benefits and entitlements stripped away over the last five years.
One piece of research, by The Centre for Welfare Reform, suggests that disabled people are paying nine times more towards reducing the budget deficit than most citizens, while disabled people who use social care are facing a burden that is 19 times greater.
And last August, Disability News Service revealed that the UK government appeared to have become the first country to face a confidential, high-level inquiry by the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as a result of alleged “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people.
The four organisations say the 17 demands are the “minimum” that the government must do to meet its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and ensure that disabled people “enjoy equal rights with non-disabled people”.
Many of the demands would reverse policies introduced by the coalition, such as the closure of the Independent Living Fund; cuts to social care; the introduction of the bedroom tax; cuts to Access to Work; laws to allow free special schools; cuts to disabled student’s allowance; and reforms and cuts to legal aid.
But other demands do not focus solely on coalition policies, including calls to scrap the work capability assessment; for closer government engagement with DPOs on employment, equality laws and implementing the UNCRPD; to scrap benefit sanctions; and for a building programme of accessible and affordable social housing.
The four organisations are part of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), which is hosting a conference in Sheffield on 14 July to allow DPOs to “take stock” of the new government, and its likely policy implications.
The conference will also examine lessons from the last 10 years of campaigning and working for disability equality, plan strategies for implementing the UNCRPD, and look at how to strengthen ROFA itself.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “Disabled people have been hit harder than most by austerity.
“We have seen the hard-won progress towards our equality and inclusion systematically undermined and weakened by a plethora of cuts that are stripping away our quality of life, dignity and independence.
“Meeting these 17 demands will begin to restore fairness and justice for disabled people and mark the moment government starts working with us and not against us.”
A DPAC spokesperson added: “Over the past five years, disabled people’s human rights have been systematically destroyed by vicious and unjust ConDem policies.
“We are now asking for these demands to be met within the first 100 days of a new government to start the long road to reclaiming those rights and to begin to rebuild our lives.”
Meanwhile, 100 disabled people have published an “open letter to the UK”, warning that “if the Conservative Party was to form the next government, either our own lives or the lives of others in our community would be in profound danger”.
They point to the “constant stream of propaganda” from the Conservatives which implies that disabled people are “fraudulent scroungers”.
Among the Conservative policies they say have harmed disabled people are cuts to legal aid; the closure of the Independent Living Fund; cuts to disability living allowance and the move to its working-age replacement, personal independence payment; the “aggressive sanctions and workfare regime”; the “bedroom tax”; cuts to social care and Access to Work; and the closure of the Access to Elected Office fund.
They add: “The overall feeling of disabled people after five years of these dishonest and abusive polices is fear and anxiety.”
Among those signing the letter are leading bloggers, activists, actors, students, academics, artists, writers and musicians.