David Buxton, an executive member of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association (LDDA), told colleagues at an LDDA fringe event at this week’s annual party conference in Glasgow that the meeting should be the starting point for a search for fresh ideas and policies to address the new challenges faced by disabled and deaf people.
He said LDDA had lost members in the last two years, mainly due to their unhappiness with the coalition’s handling of welfare reform and problems with the Access to Work scheme.
And he said the country had moved backwards since the progress towards securing disabled people’s “choice, control and independence” that followed Labour’s Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People strategy in 2005.
Buxton said: “Disabled people tell us we are now taking away this independence that they were enjoying.”
He said research had shown the impact of the government cuts on disabled people was nine times greater than on the general population, while for those with the highest support needs it was 19 times greater.
Buxton said he wanted to lay out a “road map” for a more “inclusive and equal society free from economic, social and cultural barriers”, that would give disabled people “the enforceable right to live independently and to live a life of full inclusion, spontaneity, choice, family, friends, education, work and community”.
He suggested the same seven key policy areas that were in the disabled people’s manifesto: on inclusive education; a legal right to independent living; welfare and housing; access and inclusion; a right to work and employment; a new disabled person’s citizen’s income, to replace the current range of benefits; and effective co-production.
He told Disability News Service later that he had been involved in producing the disabled people’s manifesto, through his role as chief executive of the British Deaf Association.
He said: “I am taking my inspiration from their model. I put that in my speech to impress upon my party that these policies are what disabled people want in a very representative way.”
He is hoping to put a motion on the new policies to the party’s next conference in the spring, or next autumn.
He and other members of the LDDA executive are hoping to influence Lord [Paddy] Ashdown, who chairs the party’s general election campaign, and to see some of the policies fed into the party’s next manifesto.
Robert Adamson, a fellow LDDA executive member, said he believed Buxton was “knocking on an open door” with the party, and added: “I would certainly like to see what he said tonight being put into a policy paper so it becomes party policy.
“The vast majority of Liberal Democrats would totally agree with everything David said. I have already asked David if we could work together on a policy motion for the next conference.”
George Potter, who leads on policy for LDDA, said the policy ideas were “brilliant”, although he feared the creation of a disabled person’s citizen’s income might be considered too “radical” by the party’s manifesto working group.
He added: “I would certainly hope to take verbatim many of the things in the [disabled people’s] manifesto and see how we can get them approved to be party policy.”
Kelly-Marie Blundell, LDDA’s vice-chair and the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Guildford, said she believed some of the policies suggested by Buxton could “definitely go into the manifesto”.
She said: “I think if you thrash out the detail it would provide us with policy that would be beneficial to people with disabilities. I would love to see a right to employment.”
18 September 2013