Labour has promised that it will take a “rights-based approach” to protecting the interests of disabled people, if it wins power at next week’s general election.
At the centre of that approach will be incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into UK law for the first time.
Labour’s Kate Green, a former shadow minister for disabled people, made the pledge at a disability hustings event in Westminster that had been organised by the Disability Charities Consortium, the Disability Benefits Consortium and the Care and Support Alliance.
She said a Labour government would produce a “comprehensive strategy to advance the rights of disabled people”.
She also told the event that an incoming Labour government needed to introduce a “comprehensive and holistic strategy to make disabled people’s rights a reality”, including investing in services and financial support and “the access they need to fulfil their full potential”.
She said: “It means reversing the damaging cuts that have taken place since 2010 to social security benefits, to public services.
“It means investing in the support and the means of enabling disabled people to reach and fulfil their ambitions, and in particular ensuring maximum access to and participation in top quality education.
“It means under-pinning our ambitions with an institutional and legal infrastructure through domestic legislation, our Equality Act, compliance with international obligations, and with adequate resources for our watchdogs, [including]our Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), to ensure that the interests of disabled people are kept at the forefront of the incoming government’s agenda.”
She told Disability News Service later that incorporating the UN convention into UK law was “all the more important now because of the whole uncertainty following the Brexit result and the opportunity that that may be seen to be to water down rights.
“So having a firm, clear legal basis in UK law becomes even more significant.”
She said that ensuring the convention was part of UK law would have significant implications, including placing “a lot more expectation on public service design and provision”.
But she warned that such a move could not be made immediately, and would need a “comprehensive strategy” that would lead eventually to full implementation of the convention.
Green agreed that Labour’s manifesto was stronger on disabled people’s rights than it had been at the 2015 election.
She said: “The party is more confident about some of its political stances. I guess that reflects Jeremy’s leadership.
“He’s confident about his stance and that’s filtering I think into the policy agenda.”
She said Labour was “absolutely committed” to investing in public services, such as education, health and care, and built environment infrastructure.
But she said it was also committed to disability equality and disabled people’s rights “through the UN convention, through the Equality Act and through strengthening the EHRC’s capacity, resources and its authority”.
And she stressed that this would mean increased funding for the commission.