Labour has promised to govern by co-producing its policies with disabled people, if it wins the next general election.
Following criticism of the party’s decision to leave out key disability rights policies from the report that will form the core of its next general election manifesto, it repeatedly stressed its commitment to co-production at its annual conference in Liverpool this week.
At a fringe event hosted by Disability Labour, the party’s shadow minister for disabled people, Vicky Foxcroft, sat alongside three other shadow ministers to demonstrate the party’s commitment to listening to disabled people and working with them on policy.
She said all four of them were committed to working with disabled people in co-production, and she added: “We are committed because we know that this will ensure that we get our policies right, not just for disabled people but actually for everybody.”
Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s chair and shadow women and equalities secretary, later told the conference that the party was “determined to break down barriers to opportunity for disabled people.
“That’s why we are committed to the social model of disability and the principles of co-production and independent living.”
Abena Oppong-Asare, the shadow minister for women’s health and mental health, told Sunday’s fringe meeting that she was keen to hear from disabled people and their organisations on how to improve women’s health.
She said she was concerned that disabled people and other equality groups “will be used as part of the culture war” by the Conservative government in the run-up to the next election.
She said: “I am concerned about the language and the narrative that will be used.”
Lilian Greenwood, the shadow minister for arts, heritage and civil society, told the meeting: “Disabled people have just as much right to enjoy the arts, music, theatre, film, sports, and not just to enjoy those things… we want to see more disabled people being able to participate in the workforce.”
Stephen Morgan, the shadow rail minister, spoke of the planned closures of nearly 1,000 rail ticket offices, and said the government needed to “see sense, come clean on the damage that their plans will do, and rethink the decision”.
Kathy Bole, chair of Disability Labour, told the meeting it was not good enough for policy-makers to say they were “in consultation” with disabled people.
She said: “Things have to be co-designed, co-produced.”
She said the impact assessments on policy proposals that are carried out by public bodies “do not have any teeth”, and she called for legislation that “puts teeth” into them.
She also told the shadow ministers: “It’s not corporations’ and charities’ voices you need to hear, you need to hear disabled voices, not the voices of people who are not disabled people themselves.”
Foxcroft told the meeting: “I hope you’ve heard how committed we are across the Labour party in terms of co-production.
“You’ve got many shadow ministers here at the moment who are talking about it and want to engage and make sure that they get it right.
“If Labour get into government, you won’t just have the minister for disabled people.
“Every single one of our ministers will be ministers for disabled people.”
Emily Pomroy-Smith, a leading disabled party member, who fought the South-West Wiltshire seat for Labour at the 2019 general election, said the appearance of four shadow ministers at the fringe event was “really positive”.
She said: “I was really pleased to see shadow ministers attending, really showing a commitment to understanding the challenges that disabled people face.
“‘Every minister will be a minister for disabled people’; that for me felt like a step in the right direction.
“Obviously it has to be delivered. If they don’t, we can definitely hold them to account, because they will be in government.”
Picture: (From right to left): Kathy Bole, Vicky Foxcroft, Abena Oppong-Asare, Lilian Greenwood and Stephen Morgan
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