Manifesto could provide ‘rallying point’ for disability movement


theweeksubFour leading disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are hoping a new manifesto will provide a “rallying point” for the disability movement in the lead-up to the next general election.

A draft version of the Reclaiming Our Futures manifesto has been produced by Inclusion London, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), the Alliance for Inclusive Education and Equal Lives (formerly Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People).

They hope as many disabled people and DPOs as possible will put their names to the manifesto, and use it to lobby politicians and campaign in the run-up to 2015.

And they hope the final version of the manifesto will allow the movement to develop a united voice, and fight back against the “systematic and unprecedented level of attack” disabled people have faced under the coalition’s austerity measures.

But they also see their manifesto as an action plan for the government to “live up to its responsibilities” to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The draft manifesto stakes out policies in six key areas: inclusive education; independent living; access, inclusion and participation; work; welfare support and housing; and achieving “real” co-production.

Among the policies, it calls for all disabled learners to have the right to attend courses in mainstream education; independent living legislation that fully implements the UNCRPD; and true portability of support.

It also calls for the Independent Living Fund to be saved from closure, and for the government to set up an independent living taskforce, as well as a co-produced review of care and support to flesh out the need for a new national care service.

The manifesto says social care should be free at the point of need, funded by general taxation, and with that funding ring-fenced, like the NHS.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said the manifesto recognised the need for a “fundamental shift” in social care, which “should have the same priority as the health service”.

She said: “By no means do we have all the answers but we think there is enough to point us in the direction that we should be going.

“The detailed mechanisms? That’s why we are calling for a review. But we know that social care cannot carry on being the poor relative of health.”

Other policies include a fully-accessible public transport system; a disability employment task force to review the provision of employment support; and user-led disability equality training for employers.

The manifesto also says there should be adequate and long-term core funding of DPOs to ensure “meaningful, resourced and accessible co-production with disabled people and their organisations at a local, regional and national level on all issues affecting us”.

The four DPOs are also suggesting that both the hated “fitness for work” test – the work capability assessment (WCA) – and the coalition’s new personal independence payment (PIP), should be scrapped.

They want to see PIP replaced with a new disability living benefit, co-produced with disabled people, and fitness for work determined instead by GPs and other health workers.

The draft version of the manifesto has now been put out for a short, three-week consultation that ends on 12 August.

The hope is that disabled people and DPOs will see the “achievable, realistic” manifesto as an attempt to reclaim their rights.

The final version will be launched on 29 August, to coincide with the start of DPAC’s UK-wide Reclaiming Our Futures week of action.

Both the manifesto and the week of action came out of last September’s national conference, Rethinking Disability Equality Policy and Practice in a Hostile Climate, which was organised by the four DPOs.

Lazard said it would be a “tough challenge” to unite the disability movement around a single manifesto.

But she said: “We hope it is going to be a tool for the movement and DPOs and individuals to use with campaigning and lobbying in the lead-up to the next general election.

“It is an attempt to reclaim our rights and to start to look at the kind of life and society that we think is needed and wanted.”

She added: “It is exciting and we hope it will be a kind of rallying point for the movement to gather around and to use, and we are very excited that it is being linked in with DPAC’s Reclaiming Our Futures week.”

25 July 2013