Keir Starmer is set to face pressure from the disabled people’s movement to commit his party to keep a series of pledges he made during his successful campaign to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.
Among the most striking of those pledges was to back calls by disabled people’s organisations for the introduction of free social care and a legal right to independent living.
Starmer (pictured) – who was elected this week with a victory that was variously described by the mainstream media as “stunning”, “resounding”, “commanding” and “a landslide” – called during his leadership campaign for “radical action” on social care.
He also backed a motion that was passed at last autumn’s party conference that called for a new National Independent Living Support Service for England that would provide a universal right to independent living that was “enshrined in law”.
He told Disability News Service (DNS) in February that he supported the party conference motion, and he added: “Everyone has the right to the support they need to live independently no matter where they live in the country.
“I believe that principle should be hardwired into everything we do.”
He has also backed calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the actions of the Department for Work and Pensions, describing those deaths as “deeply disturbing” and calling for justice for the families of those affected.
As a constituency MP, he has provided years of support to the family of Michael O’Sullivan, a disabled man from north London who took his own life in September 2013 after being found unfairly fit for work.
Starmer also told DNS in February that he would push as prime minister for the government to “fully resource” the Equality and Human Rights Commission, to ensure it can “more effectively enforce” the Equality Act and stop discrimination against disabled people.
He also backed the idea of incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into UK law and pledged that addressing the poor provision of accessible housing “must be a priority for any future Labour government”.
One area in which he was less outspoken than his leadership rivals Lisa Nandy, the new shadow foreign secretary, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, the new shadow education secretary, was on inclusive education.
Unlike Nandy and Long-Bailey, he did not emphasise the importance of an inclusive education system when answering DNS’s questions.
But he did say that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) were “all too often being left behind because of a lack of government funding and the perverse incentives brought about in our school assessment system”.
He said he also supported measures proposed by Labour in 2018 to end the “off-rolling” scandal, in which mainstream schools force pupils off their books to boost their academic results and which is more likely to affect pupils with SEND than non-disabled pupils.
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