Authorities’s disability technique ‘have to be grounded in UN conference’ – Incapacity Information Service
Disabled activists have urged the government to ensure that their long-awaited disability strategy leads to stricter anti-discrimination legislation, based on the social model of disability and the UN Disability Convention.
They spoke at an event hosted by Labor’s Shadow Secretary for Disabled People, Vicky Foxcroft (pictured above left), which marked both UK Disability History Month (UKDHM) and today’s International Disabled People’s Day.
Disabled activists both inside and outside the labor movement said the government’s national disability strategy – which is not expected to be published until next spring at the earliest – must be based on the civil rights of disabled people.
Almost 200 people have registered for the meeting.
But there were also messages for Labor and its continued failure to address discrimination against its own disabled members.
Ellen Morrison, newly elected as Labour’s first representative of its disabled members on its national executive committee, said the government’s strategy must be underpinned by the social model of disability and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was guaranteed in British law incorporated.
And she stressed that disabled people and their organizations, including the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, have already done “really detailed work that the government could do if they really wanted to work with us as experts in our lives”.
But she said Labor must also “put its own house in order first”.
She said: “We are currently in a vicious circle in our party where disabled Labor members do not have access to Labor spaces, or some can and are discriminated against, and we have no structures of our own embedded in the party to help ourselves to organize.”
Establishing branches for disabled members locally could provide the network needed to reach consensus within the party on what disabled people need, she said.
She said there is also a need to ensure that disabled people have an adequate say in policy-making within the party, while pointing out that the Disability Equality Act Labor organization had already drafted the changes needed within a party are, “which has historically excluded us”.
But Morrison warned that any government disability-friendly strategy “would likely disappoint us” and urged Labor to produce its own shadow version.
Richard Rieser (pictured below left), UKDHM coordinator, said the “fundamental” change in the government’s disability strategy is to move from “disability as a problem in the person” to a problem in society.
He said that all major political parties are paying “lip service” to the social model of disability and that the way to change this is through “strengthening the disability movement”.
He said oppression is “deeply ingrained in our society, so when something goes wrong, like the COVID crisis, the cracks emerge and we are seen as a life that is not worth living,” which is what is in the government’s “eugenic approach” while was seen the pandemic.
He said the UNCRPD’s human rights values need to be “anchored in society as a whole” and urged Labor “to take a strong position on this matter”.
He said the annual UKDHM started in 2010 because the organizations that supported it realized that the conservatively-led coalition would “take back the small gains we had made over the past few years”.
He pointed out that the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which celebrated its 25th anniversary last month, was called a “leaky sieve rather than a civil rights law” at the time.
He said it was clear that the Equal Opportunities Act, which included some but not all of the DDA and subsequent legal improvements to the original act, needed further development.
And he pointed out that more than four years ago a House of Lords committee recommended 55 improvements to the impact of the Equality Act on Disabled People that Labor should be considering.
Fazilet Hadi, policy director for Disability Rights UK (DR UK), said it was important that the strategy was not just a series of “incremental optimizations” or existing departmental guidelines that the government would “repackage as a strategy for the disabled.” .
She said, “I want it to take us to the next stage of our journey to an inclusive society for disabled people that we really belong to.”
She said the pandemic “put the spotlight on the inequalities we still face as disabled people” and gave the government “some really obvious clues about what needs to be changed”.
She said an engagement exercise by DR UK spawned a number of demands from disabled people, including stricter anti-discrimination legislation, funding for disabled people’s organizations (DPOs), proper co-production and engagement for disabled people, a new social security system that really gives us empowerment “Choice, Control and Connection” and a social security system that “enables us to thrive rather than punish”.
Svetlana Kotova (bottom right), Head of Campaigns and Justice at Inclusion London, said the disability strategy was needed to bring about “radical reform” and not just “tinker with the margins”.
She said there must be reforms to ensure that the equality law “works for us and that the enforcement burden is shifted from us as disabled people to regulators and public bodies”.
She said there must be a social security system that “recognizes the right to a decent standard of living and does not subject us as disabled people to a regime of punitive conditionality.”
Kotova also called for investment in data protection officers and “a radical reform of mental health and mental capacity laws so that people with mental health problems are not exposed to serious human rights abuses when they need assistance most”.
She advocated the introduction of a National Independent Living Support Service and a legal right to independent living in place of the current “oppressive, severely underfunded system” in which “a lot of money is wasted on helping institutions where people are at greater risk of abuse and their lives are at greater risk, as we saw with the COVID pandemic. “
Speaking to the meeting, Marsha de Cordova, a disabled MP and shadow minister for women and equality from Labor, said: “What is needed is a human rights response and approach.
“The benchmark for this must be the UNCRPD. The government claims it has a national disability strategy. To measure whether this is good enough, the standards and requirements set out in the UNCRPD must be met.
“I don’t have much hope and so Labor must lead the way.”
She said COVID-19 had “exposed and shed light on” the injustices, inequalities and hostilities that people with disabilities have faced in recent years.
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