Miliband’s US guru says disabled people ‘must be full partners in economy’


newslatestThe UK government must do more to enable disabled people to be “full partners” in the economy, according to a leading US academic whose ideas have been adopted by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Professor Jacob Hacker, a policy adviser, author, and director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, is best-known for devising the term “pre-distribution”, which was used by Miliband in a high-profile speech.

Miliband said in the speech in 2012 that Britain needed to become a “much higher skill, much higher wage economy”, rather than redistributing wealth through the tax and benefits system.

Hacker told an audience of civil servants, academics and campaigners at a seminar organised by Disability Rights UK in London this week that “pre-distribution” was about thinking “more fundamentally about how we can make the market and society work better”.

One of the ways to do that, he said, was to allow disabled people to be “full partners in our economy”, as research had shown that taking measures to do the same for women and black and minority ethnic communities had “expanded our economies”.

He said he did not believe that “the only way you can deliver social value is by work”.

He added: “One of the ways to address that is to think about some of the non-monetised contributions people are making and some of the broader elements of well-being as well [rather than just income].”

Hacker said that disabled people needed to be “full participants in society”, and that pre-distribution was “much more about the redistribution of power and opportunity then the redistribution of income”, as well as about creating “more equitable growth”.

He said that the idea that the state should be primarily about taking “remedial action” – for example, by increasing benefits or tax credits – was “extremely harmful”, and that it was vital to rebuild faith in the idea of “active government” and its role in areas such as public health, education and regulating the market.

The seminar – which was also addressed by three other leading academics, and was sponsored by Joseph Rowntree Foundation – explored how to develop economic policies that would support disabled people into employment.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said she hoped the event would lead to future co-operation with academics.

She said: “We really, really want to underpin future policy work on disability with the best evidence base we have, including particularly economic policy, because it is so significant to this government and future governments.”

15 December 2014