Disabled people’s organisations have been urged to “make a hell of a lot of noise” to promote a radical new manifesto that would tackle “the root causes of our oppression” if adopted by the next government.
The Disabled People’s Manifesto calls on the next government to take action across the “four pillars” of representation and voice, rights, independence, and inclusion.
The manifesto was launched in Manchester at a conference of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) from across England (pictured), with the next general election likely to be no more than 12 months away.
It was the first significant in-person gathering of English DPOs since a conference in Sheffield in 2016, and was organised by the DPO Forum England, Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance and Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP).
Among the manifesto’s demands is for funding to support a network of DPOs across England, for action to ensure co-production of policies at local and national level with disabled people and DPOs, and for a new fund to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates at elections.
On rights, it calls for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to be fully incorporated into UK law, for long-awaited action on disability hate crime law, for new laws to abolish forced detention and treatment of people on mental health grounds, and for an inquiry into deaths linked to the Department for Work and Pensions.
The publication of the manifesto came in the same week that a Labour policy document suggested that the party had ignored calls for an inquiry into benefit deaths, and had scrapped its previous promise to incorporate the UN convention into UK law.
On independent living, the manifesto calls for an end to social care charging – another omission from the Labour document – a legal right to independent living, measures on accessible housing, and a series of demands on disability benefits, including an end to sanctions and a significant increase in the level of both means-tested and non-means-tested disability benefits.
And on inclusion, the manifesto demands action across education, access and work, including a call for the next government to work with DPOs to develop plans to move disabled children and adults out of all institutional provision.
Launching the Disabled People’s Manifesto, Fazilet Hadi, head of policy for Disability Rights UK, said it was vital to keep telling politicians “like a drumbeat” that disabled people “want a radical transformational plan for disabled people to be put in place by the next government in complete co production with disabled people”.
She said: “We don’t want a plan that tinkers. We want a plan that transforms our lives and it won’t be done overnight, and we want a government to have that commitment and that dedication to fight that injustice with us.”
Hadi said the manifesto does not mention “everything that disabled people need or want or deserve or are entitled to” but acts as “a political marker for the change we want to see from the next government”.
She said: “We won’t get everything, you know, this month, this year, next year, but we will lay the groundwork for other disabled people who come after us.”
She said disabled people were facing “great, great hardship” and “some people haven’t survived”, while the “dial” was “going backwards” in nearly every area, “whether it’s economic, whether it’s education, whether it’s employment, whether it’s wellbeing”.
And she told the conference that DPOs could “create that drumbeat” and “make a hell of a lot of noise” if they worked together to promote the manifesto in the run-up to the next election.
Dennis Queen, GMCDP’s co-chair, told the conference that DPOs would play a vital role during the general election campaign and “need to be shouting from the outside as well as doing that policy work inside”.
She said: “We’re really looking forward to carrying on this work and in the next 12 months, let’s get out there.
“Let’s get all of our demands as perfect as we can, so they’re intersectional, so they apply to everybody, and so they work whatever age we are, whatever group we’ve come from.
“And let’s go and show them this future world that we want to see, because it’s going to be ours.
“We are in it, and we’re not going anywhere. So they better just move over and let us in.”
The conference was held at the People’s History Museum*, which is currently hosting a co-produced exhibition of the history of the disabled people’s movement, Nothing About Us Without Us.
There was also a speech from the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham (see separate story), as the region prepares to celebrate five years since the launch of its ground-breaking Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel, a formal partnership between Burnham and DPOs.
*Other representatives of DPOs watched the conference and took part in discussions online
Picture by Disability Rights UK
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