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    Joint authors:

    Colin Slasberg Consultant in Social Care

    Peter Beresford visiting Professor University of East Anglia

    In September, while the Health and Care Select Committee Inquiry into funding for social care was still sitting, we wrote an article highlighting the case of Anna Severight. The Committee played a clip of Anna’s testimony to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State. Anna is a 34 year old disabled woman who receives enough support to be ‘fed and watered’, but not enough to have a life ‘worth living’. Hancock noted this was a sad example of people not getting ‘all they would like’.  He thus failed to recognise that having a life worth living is something very much more than what people ‘would like’, a mere wish or want. Characterised by dignity, control over life and services and being able to engage in society a life worth living is a need recognised in the law by the Care Act.

    We had prepared a submission to the Inquiry to give them advanced notice of the issues and how councils, encouraged by central government, are ignoring what the Care Act requires. We wondered in September whether the Committee when it finally reported would correct Hancock and identify what needs to happen to address Anna’s plight.

    What the Select Committee says

    We now know. The Committee’s final report, encouragingly, opened with Anna’s story as powerful testimony of the system’s failings. It then proceeded to do nothing about it. The Committee concluded the system needed £7BN more to meet demand from demography and to pay care workers what they should; £5BN more to make personal care free; £3.1BN to introduce a care cap.

    Although not much more than government has recently found to fund its failing track and trace system, such increases would represent more than doubling of current spending on social care. Even so, the Committee’s proposals would not give a single penny toward giving Anna the support she needs. Indeed, if a care cap and free personal care are introduced and not fully funded – which on past precedent is a high risk – Anna’s chances of a normal life would reduce even further. The increased gap in funding would be made up through yet further restriction of eligibility.

    Here is the nub of the issue. The eligibility regime has long allowed councils to adjust ‘need’ to their budget. When NHS clinicians make their diagnoses, the essential ingredients are the patient and the clinician’s knowledge and judgement. If not always working perfectly, the founding NHS principle that need must precede resources provides the policy context. As need outstrips resources, so waiting times go up. Not so in social care, where the equivalent of the clinical diagnosis is assessment of need. Whilst social workers gather information about the person, it is managers with responsibility for budgets, often working through ‘panels’, who make the decision as to whether a need is ‘eligible’ and therefore will be met. This enables councils to control the flow of demand to ensure spend matches budget. Councils, unlike the NHS, are permitted neither overspends nor to leave any need unmet.

    In an almost absurd denial of the empirical evidence of this reality councils hotly deny it. They claim the eligibility decisions are the social worker’s, are entirely based on need and resources never come into it. That they are able to get away with this is due in no small part to political leaders having no interest in challenging them. It is a system that keeps the lid very firmly on demand, whilst silencing the voices of the older and disabled people within. It’s a system that suits those political leaders indifferent or even hostile to the needs of older and disabled people who want to keep the pot as small as they possibly can get away with. It also suits more liberal or more generous leaders who want to make the pot a little larger, but who don’t want the true limitations of their generosity exposed. They are able to secure virtue from comparison against the worst of their kind, not comparison with the best of what older and disabled people hope for.

    Can there be a different future?

    One view that is strongly pressed is for Independent Living to become a legal right. Independent Living as defined by the United Nations is indistinguishable from the Care Act’s vision of control, dignity and participation. At the moment, making independent living a legal right can seem a utopian ideal that no-one with the interests of older and disabled people at heart will disagree with. However, under our present politics, its prospects of happening in any foreseeable future are remote. The huge variability in individual costs will mean the service would have to be delivered on an ‘open cheque’ basis if councils will be under a legal obligation to meet every need for independent living. Given that service users’ quality of life doesn’t even make it into the top political priorities if the cross Party Select Committee report is anything to go by, the prospect of Parliament giving councils blank cheques to make independent living happen is very distant.

    We will continue to make the case for an end to the eligibility regime as the source of much that is rotten in the social care system. But we do so having accepted that spending will still have to be controlled given it must take place within budgets which have been democratically determined.

    Spending should be controlled in a very different way. Councils should assess and cost all needs as the Care Act requires – in effect all needs for independent living. Councils must be honest about which needs they can and which needs they cannot afford to meet. Political leaders should know how much funding they need to make available so that Anna and the many thousands like her have the life right for them. Political leaders should no longer be allowed hide behind their officers disappearing needs that the budget they have given officers is insufficient to meet. Political leaders must be held publicly and transparently accountable for the quality of the lives of their older and disabled citizens.


    This is now our 13th weekly Socialist Health Association Blog about the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our observations and predictions have sadly come true. The leadership group of the UK Tory government remains extremely weak, without a clear strategy or plan of action. Policy announcements at the Downing Street briefings are aimed at achieving media headlines. The Prime Minister has declared that he is taking charge but on questioning in Parliament was unclear who had been in charge up to this point!

    In this Blog we look at the poor political and scientific leadership and lack of a credible strategy; the faltering start of Test Trace and Isolate (TTI); the demands for an urgent independent inquiry of the pandemic and financial audit of government investments in the private sector; and solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

    Lonely Ministers

    The last Downing Street briefing on Friday the 5th June found Matt Hancock (the Secretary of State in charge of the nation’s health) on his own, reading out the slides and reporting on the continuing high number of new cases and relentless roll call of COVID-19 related deaths. The PMs ‘sombrero’ epidemic curve’ has been suppressed but not flattened as it has in other countries in Europe. Deaths remain stubbornly high here as care home outbreaks continue to spread with 50% now affected and there is belated recognition that hospitals and care homes are places of work where transmission occurs. Transmission occurs between staff, patients/residents, within households and the local community.

    The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has challenged the way that statistics are presented at these briefings, and are arguably MISLEADING the public. Remember the international evidence presented on deaths, which was fine when we were on the nursery slopes of the epidemic but became embarrassing when we overtook Italy, France and Spain? World beating in terms of total deaths was probably not what the PM had in mind. Last week the total number of deaths in the UK exceeded that of all the EU(27) countries put together. We are now flying alongside Trump (USA), Bolsanaro (Brazil), Modi (India) and will shortly be joined I expect by Putin (Russia) as a group of the world’s worst performers.

    One of the areas of misrepresenting statistics that has exercised the UKSA has been reporting the number of daily tests. We have drawn attention in earlier blogs to how ridiculous it is to snatch a large round number out of the air and declare it as a target. And so it was with the 100,000 tests per day target and more recently the PMs 200,000 target. The challenge of meeting the Government targets meant that officials and private contractors started to count tests sent out in the post to households rather than completed tests. This was rephrased as test capacity. A similar change in data definition happened when we approached the end of May grasping for the 200,000 target. Suddenly antibody tests and the swabbing antigen tests were both included in the total figure. Ministers did not mention that that these tests have different applications and many thousands are used as part of epidemiological surveys rather than diagnostic tests on individuals as part of track and trace.

    What is the strategy?

    There are calls from politicians and in the media for there to be an urgent and time limited independent inquiry into what has gone wrong here. This is not to punish individuals but actually to help us learn lessons urgently and maybe make changes to the way we are conducting ourselves ahead of a possible second wave. One thing that is missing is a clear strategy that government sticks to and criteria that are adhered to in decision making. The Cummings affair has been a disgraceful example of double standards but the acceleration of changes in opening up the economy, increasing lockdown freedoms and reopening schools are examples where the scientific advice and the published 5 stage criteria are being disregarded. Wuhan eased their lockdown when RO was 0.2. (RO or R zero, where R is the reproductive value, the measure used to track how many people, on average, will be infected for every one person who has the disease.)

    Led by the science?

    The other noticeable change has been the change of mood amongst the scientists advising government through the SAGE committees. Many of them now seem willing to speak directly to the mainstream media and engage in social media interactions. The Independent SAGE group that we referred to last week has become the preferred source of scientific advice for many people. It has been interesting to see how many Local Authorities and their Directors of Public Health (DsPH)have not been urging schools to open up if not ready and the local RO is near or at 1.0. The Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) has lost control and must be reflecting nostalgically back to when he was at GSK earning his £780,000 pa salary (Ref. Private Eye). But he has managed to shovel a shedload of resources to old colleagues and friends in the industry involved in the endeavour to develop a safe and effective vaccine ‘game changer’.

    The CSA was absent from duty last Friday and so too the CMO and his two deputies. One wonders whether this is a short lived change but maybe they too realise that that they are being set up with the SAGE advisers to take the blame for the UK’s dismal record. The CMO needs urgently to catch up with his public profile and face the media on his own and build some trust with the population, now anxious to be able to believe in someone at the centre of government decision making. Finally there is the NHSE Medical Director who could not be there – no doubt to be the one to remain standing when the SoS announced at 5pm on a Friday evening that all staff in the NHS should wear surgical face masks and all visitors to wear face coverings! An impossible  logistical and supply issue for an organisation which employs over a million workers in many different settings of care. And there was no consultation with the leaders of the NHS or Professional bodies such as the RCN and Medical Royal Colleges or Trade Unions like the BMA/Unite. What a shambolic way to run things – you couldn’t make it up!

    Test, Trace and Isolate (TTI)

    Test, Trace and Isolate (TTI) continues to have a difficult ‘rebirth’ from when it was put down in mid March with a comment from a deputy CMO as a public health approach more suited to third world countries. Baroness Dido Harding (past Talk Talk CEO and wife of Tory MP John Penrose) is meant to be leading this.  She had an uncomfortable time at the Health Select Committee when she had to admit that she had no idea how many contacts had been traced by the 25,000 tracers who had been fiddling on their home computers for days after having self administered their on line training. Typically Ministers had announced the launch of TTI to the usual fanfare and she had to admit that the end of June was a more likely date for an operational launch.

    It is extraordinary that the programme is being run by private contractors, who have had no prior relevant experience. We are already witnessing the dysfunction in passing timely, quality assured information to Public Health England and local DsPH. Local public health contact tracing teams need information on names, addresses, ages and test results to get started on mapping the spatial location of cases, exploring their occupations and contact history. Local contact tracers may need to actually visit these people to encourage compliance after the Cummings affair. They should really get this information straight from local laboratories and be resourced to employ local contact tracers familiar with the local area.  Local DsPH would then look for support from the regional PHE team and not be dependent on the PHE or the GCHQ- sounding Joint Biosecurity Centre.

    This is what happened in Germany, where local health offices (Gesundheitsamter) were mobilised and local furloughed staff and students were employed to form local teams. We have positive examples of local government being proactive too such as in Ceredigion in Wales where rates have been kept extremely low. In the post-Cummings era local teams will get drawn into discussions about the civic duty to disclose contacts and of adhering to isolation/quarantining. Difficult for an anonymous call handler to undertake against the background sounds of Vivaldi.

    Auditing misuse of public funds

    One aspect that an independent inquiry will need to look at is the investment of public funds into private companies without due diligence, proper contracting and insider dealing. We have already referred to the vaccine development and governments and philanthropic organisations have provided over $4.4bn to pharmaceutical organisations for R&D for COVID-19 vaccines. No information is available about the access to vaccine supplies and affordability as a precondition of the funding. The deal with the Jenner Institute at Oxford and AstraZeneca has received £84m from the UK government. Apparently AstraZeneca owns the intellectual property rights and can dictate the price (Ref: Just Treatment). We gather that the company has refused to share the trial data with a WHO initiative to pool COVID-19 knowledge! National governments cannot manage alone this longstanding problem with global pharmaceutical companies who are often unwilling to invest in needed but unprofitable disease treatments, even though they often receive public funds and benefit from close links with University Researchers and Health Service patients and their data. There need to be global frameworks to govern such investment decisions.

    BAME communities and COVID

    We have referred in previous Blogs to the higher risks of developing severe illness and death in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups. The Prof Fenton report was finally published this week as a Public Health England report. The report is a useful digest of some key data on COVID-19 and BAME populations and confirms the higher relative risks of severe illness and death in these populations. The report steps back from emphasising the extremely high risks of death by accounting for other factors such as age, sex, deprivation and region. Even taking these factors into account they find that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had twice the risk than people of White ethnicity. Other South Asian groups such as those of Indian, Pakistani or Afro-Caribbean descent had between 10-50% higher risk of death.

    There has been some controversy about whether this report was edited heavily by Ministers, and in particular whether sections that might discuss structural issues of racism had been cut. Certainly by taking ‘account of’ deprivation and place of residence or region it is possible to choose not to see racism as part of health inequality. Many people will remember the early evidence from Intensive Care Units, which showed that while BAME communities make up 14% of the overall population they accounted for 35% of the ITU patients. How can we forget in the early stages of the pandemic, seeing the faces of NHS workers who had died from COVID? You did not have to be a statistician to notice that the majority of the faces seemed to be BAME people. The BMA have pointed out that BAME doctors make up 44% of NHS doctors but have accounted for 90% of deaths of doctors.

    To be fair, the NHS was quick to send a message out across the health system asking that risk assessments be done taking account of individual risks such as ethnicity, co-morbidities such as obesity/diabetes as well as occupational exposure to risk of transmission. Adequate supply of PPE and good practice does work as very few if any ITU staff have succumbed. As ever it is likely to be the nursing assistants, cleaners, porters, or reception staff who get forgotten.

    The recent demonstrations of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign in the light of the dreadful murder of George Floyd under the knees of US policemen is a reminder that there is a global and long standing issue of racism. The government and all organisations including the NHS need to reflect on the findings of the McPherson report (1999) following the death of Stephen Lawrence that defined institutional racism as:

    The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people’.

    We must work to rid our country of racism in individuals, communities,  organisations and government. It will only be achieved through commitment throughout the life course and by stamping out racism and inequalities to achieve a fairer society for all our people.


    Posted by Jean Hardiman Smith on behalf of the Officers and Vice Chairs of the SHA.


    You may have seen the Panorama programmes about the shocking crisis in social care. If not, please see links to iPlayer at the end of this post.

    Below is a motion that I’ll present at my local Labour Party branch meeting on 9 July next week.

    The motion has been agreed by the Reclaim Social Care Group (RSCG) with the aim of getting it discussed and accepted as union policy at Labour Party Conference this year.  Although I’m not ‘registered’ disabled, I’m a member of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

    The RSCG is co-ordinated through the umbrella group, Health Campaigns Together (HCT). It includes representation from Socialist Health Association (SHA), and KONP (Keep Our NHS Public).  Also included in RSCG are the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC), several unions including Unite and Unison branches, and a wide range of disabled people’s user-led groups, and writers and academics.

    Motion: Reclaim Social Care

    England’s social care system is broken. Local Authorities face £700m cuts in 2018-19. With £7 billion slashed since 2010, 26% fewer older people receive support, while demand grows.

    Most care is privatised, doesn’t reflect users’ needs and wishes; charges are high. Consequences include isolation, indignity, maltreatment. Disabled and elderly people face barriers to inclusion and independent living, thousands feel neglected.

    8 million unpaid, overworked family carers, including children and elderly relatives, provide vital support.

    Public money goes to shareholders and hedge funds as profits. Service users and families face instability as companies go bust.

    Staff wages, training and conditions are slashed. Staff turnover over 30%.

    This branch demands Labour legislates a duty on the SoS to provide a universal social care and support system based on a universal right to independent living: 


    • Free at point of use


    • Fully funded through progressive taxation


    • Subject to national standards based on article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities addressing people’s aspirations and choices and with robust safeguarding procedures.


    • Publicly, democratically run services, designed and delivered locally, co-productively involving local authorities, the NHS and service users, disabled people and carers


    • Nationally agreed training, qualifications, career structure, pay and conditions.


    • Giving informal carers the rights and support they need.


    Labour to establish a taskforce involving user and carers organisations, trade unions, pensioners and disabled people’s organisations to develop proposals for a national independent living support service, free to all on the basis of need.


    (250 words)

    Notes for members

    SoS – Secretary of state

    Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA).

    This is an alliance of Disabled People and their organisations in England who have joined together to defend disabled people’s rights and campaign for an inclusive society. ROFA fights for equality for disabled people in England and works with sister organisations across the UK in the tradition of the international disability movement. We base our work on the social model of disability, human and civil rights in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

    We oppose the discriminatory and disproportionate attacks on our rights by past and current Governments. Alliance member organisations have been at the forefront of campaigning against austerity and welfare reform and inequality.

    National independent living service

    The social care element of Disabled people’s right to independent living will be administered through a new national independent living service managed by central government, but delivered locally in co-production with Disabled people. It will be provided on the basis of need, not profit, and will not be means tested. It will be independent of, but sit alongside, the NHS and will be funded from direct taxation.

    The national independent living service will be responsible for supporting disabled people through the self-assessment/assessment process, reviews and administering payments to individual Disabled people. Individuals will not be obliged to manage their support payments themselves if they choose not to.

    The national independent living service will be located in a cross-government body which can ensure awareness of and take responsibility for implementation plans in all areas covered by the UNCRPD’s General Comment on Article 19 and by the twelve pillars of independent living, whether it be in transport, education, employment, housing, or social security. The cross-government body will also be responsible for ensuring that intersectional issues are adequately addressed.

    BBC Panorama – Social care 

    Part 1:

    Part 2 –


    The underfunding and commodification of support

    Social policy has always distinguished between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ in responses to need. When the post-war welfare settlement was decided, the battle lines against Beveridge’s 5 Evils of want, ignorance, squalor, disease and idleness were drawn with a vision of a ‘land fit for heroes’ to come home to. Injured servicemen and civilians were to have their sacrifice rewarded by the substantial provision of housing, work, education and health services, with a safety net of benefits for those unable to work. Disabled war heroes fell squarely on the ‘deserving’ side. Quotas were introduced to encourage larger workplaces to ensure that at least 3 per cent of their workforce were disabled, healthcare was made universal and accessible on the basis of need rather than the ability to pay, and charitable institutions providing long-term care for disabled people without family support were brought within statutory welfare.

    However, as values and expectations changed and healthcare improved, more and more disabled people found themselves trapped at the mercy of the institutions designed to provide care. Along with the changes imposed by the 1970s oil crisis, the 1980s saw the rise of a disabled people’s social and political movement. Inspired by the Civil Rights movements against racism and sexism, disabled people began to agitate for the removal of segregation and oppression through special education, institutional care, sheltered employment and residual benefits.

    Community care and independent living

    Sometimes, policy cycles come together in fortuitous ways. Alongside the bottom-up rise of a politicised disabled people’s movement came a top-down concern with reducing the role of the state and capping the rise of expenditure on residential care. Additionally, evidence from social work pilots in Kent that provided care services in the community showed that it could be more cost-effective than residential and nursing care. The 1990 NHS and Community Care Act was heralded as an opportunity to allow disabled people to be empowered and live independently. Services were to be provided in the community using a range of providers: a mixed market of care.

    Of course, community care was fraught with tensions. Feminist researchers pointed out that care in the community meant care by the community, and that this meant, overwhelmingly, that women would provide care. Social work researchers pointed out the balancing act of rationing access to resources whilst trying to support and empower people was impossible. Disability activists pointed out that the very idea of ‘care’ was disempowering for disabled people and the practice of social workers acting as gatekeepers made it impossible for disabled people to be full citizens. It became clear that commodifying care wasn’t working.

    Commodifying independence: direct payments and self-directed support

    As with the initial community care pilots, direct payments for disabled people started small. A number of English local authorities circumvented the rules preventing directly paying disabled people by setting up third-party trusts and enabling people to purchase their own care and support.

    These were hugely successful. Initial evidence showed that the services met people’s needs better, were more responsive and flexible, and were more cost-effective than statutory social care. Disabled people welcomed the opportunity to be in control and local authorities welcomed the opportunity to save money. With increasing pressures on social care spending leading to the forced integration of health and social care and increased rationing of services, another seemingly fortuitous bringing together of top-down and bottom-up policy developments seemed about to take off.

    However, the crisis in funding had a huge impact on what happened next. Social care budgets began to be effectively cut long before the 2008 economic and financial crisis led to austerity. The development of direct payments services were seen by many local authorities as an opportunity to further cut spending: rationing by need (by making payments only available to those with ‘critical’ or ‘high’ needs) and by design (by making the system of payments so difficult to use it effectively put people off).

    Whilst the budget for self-directed support and direct payments continues to rise, the actual care and support disabled people receive — whether that is measured in time or tasks — is falling. Effectively, the state has outsourced the responsibility for rationing resources onto disabled people. Faced with reduced payments and rising service charges, increasingly, disabled people are finding it difficult to purchase the care and support they need.

    A policy change that could have been marked by the significant empowerment of disabled people has instead turned into another way of reducing state support. The potential for direct payments as envisaged by disabled people themselves is huge. Our research uncovered ways in which creative and person-centred approaches were being used to enable disabled people to parent, to work, to take care of each other, to volunteer — to participate in society. But current ideologies and practices in welfare mitigate against this. Government can’t commodify independence unless it is willing to pay properly for it. All reduced budgets will achieve is placing disabled people in further precarious and vulnerable situations without empowering them at all.

    First published on the Social Policy Association blog

    Comments Off on Disabled people’s independence

    “It’s about including people – as simple as that. Let’s be a shining example of equality in action – it’s what we’re all about isn’t it?!”

    The Equality Act 2010 places statutory duties on political parties. It covers:

    • Branches, constituencies, regional and national structures,
    • Staff, officers, candidates, representatives and volunteers,
    • Services to members including meetings, events and campaigns,
    • Political activities, and
    • Positive action.

    The duties under the Act are continuing. They are not about doing something once. The duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people is anticipatory. It is not about waiting for a disabled person to ask for changes to be made. It’s very important that officers, representatives, volunteers and staff fully understand how they need to function under the Equality Act.

    When this document mentions the Party, it means all Party structures, officers, staff, candidates, representatives and volunteers.

    All information in the first section of this handbook is taken from guidance provided by the Human Rights and Equalities Commission.

    We are indebted to barrister Catherine Casserley of Cloisters Chambers (cloisters, com) for her pro bono work on this document.

    Disability Equality ACT Labour (DEAL), formerly the Party Participation and Disabled People Group, is the campaign for Labour Party compliance with the disability elements of the Equality Act 2010.

    The Equality Act 2010 and the Labour Party.

    The Equality Act makes it unlawful for anyone acting on behalf of the Labour Party (or any political party) to discriminate against people with protected characteristics. Being a disabled person is a protected characteristic. The other characteristics are age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

    The purposes of the Equality Act can be summarised using the acronym FEAT:

    • Fostering good relations between those with protected characteristics and others.
    • Eliminating discrimination.
    • Advancing equality of opportunities.
    • Tackling prejudice.

    The Act preserved the principle of “more favourable treatment” even when it means treating others less favourably. This is unique to disabled people and does not apply to other protected characteristics.

    The Party has an obligation to provide reasonable adjustments. If it fails to do so, it is guilty of unlawful discrimination.

    It also means the Party must create a comfortable, dignified environment for disabled people. If it fails to do so, it is guilty of harassment. If it fails to do so even when a disabled person isn’t present, it could be guilty of harassment by association.

    In addition to the main body of the Act  the following sections apply:

    Actions or inactions that result in discrimination against physically disabled people may sometimes be obvious, but that is far from always the case. That is why it’s important to ask people what adjustments they need rather than making assumptions.

    Actions or inactions that result in discrimination against people with mental health related impairments or neurological disorders is often about assumed norms within the Party or in wider society. For example, if a branch said that someone could not join, or be a prospective candidate, because they were always late to meetings; and the reason they were late was because their medication made them sluggish in the evenings; and their medication was for a mental health issue, this would be discrimination because of something arising in consequence of disability. This would be discrimination unless the treatment could be justified on other grounds, or the branch did not know that they were disabled.

    The Equality Act applies even when Party services, events, campaigns, membership or associate membership are free.

    Everyone who is carrying out a function for the Party, including staff, officers, candidates, representatives and volunteer activists, are subject to the Equality Act.

    Members of branches, constituencies, regions or national structures cannot override their duties under the Equality Act by voting to act in a way that would put the Party in breach of the Act, or by omitting to do something that would put them in breach of the Act. Chairs of Party structures must rule any such vote results null and void.

    Diagram shows a red circle with the Party logo inside. Text in the circle reads: the problems are Party rules, norms and perceptions. Around the outside of the circle are arrows pointing outwards to the issues faced by disabled members in the Party. The issues surround the circle. They are grouped as follows: Rules include: systems, structures, processes, strategies, services, and communication. Perceptions include: assumptions, discrimination, attitudes, disbelief, harassment, stereotyping, prejudice and apathy. Norms include: venues, transport, language, immediacy, the outside, the unknown. At the bottom is a text box that reads: using the Social Model of Disability we see the exclusion disabled members face is caused by the way the Party is run and organised


    There are four different types of unlawful discrimination that apply to disability:

    Unlawful discrimination can take a number of different forms:

    • The Labour Party must ensure all activities open to members, officers, candidates, councillors or MPs are accessible to disabled members, officers, candidates, councillors or MPs. If they do not, it is direct discrimination.
    • It must not do something to a disabled member in a way that has a worse impact on them and other disabled people than it has on other people. Unless the Party can show that what they have done is objectively justified, this is indirect discrimination. Doing something can include making a decision, or applying a rule or way of doing things.
    • The Labour Party must not treat disabled members in an inferior way because they incorrectly think they are a disabled person.
    • It must not treat disabled members badly or victimise them because they have complained about discrimination or helped someone else complain or done anything to uphold their own or someone else’s equality law rights.

    Unlawful discrimination is based on treatment that is meted out because of or related to disability. It is not limited to behaviour, rules or ways of doing things that only impact only on a disabled person. For example, if a non-disabled person, perhaps a personal assistant, carer, family member or supporter, is treated badly because of their association with a disabled person, or because it had been assumed they were a disabled person, they will have been unlawfully discriminated against.


    Harassment is not only about bullying. Harassment is any conduct that violates a disabled person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for any disabled person.

    Harassment is focussed on the environment the Party creates in branches, constituencies or any Party structure, activity, campaign or meeting. It doesn’t just cover verbal abuse, but it could be, for example, the atmosphere created at a meeting when someone is asking for adjustments.

    Harassment is based on treatment that is meted out because of or related to disability. It is not limited to behaviour or conduct directed to any disabled person. For example, if a non-disabled person is in a room and hears such conduct they will have witnessed harassment and ideally, will put in a formal complaint about the incident.

    Reasonable adjustments

    The duty to make reasonable adjustments is an anticipatory duty. The Labour Party must not wait until a disabled person wants to join or participate in meetings, activities, events or campaigns or stand as a branch or CLP officer or as a candidate. The Party is required to think in advance about what people with a range of impairments might reasonably need, such as people who have a reading impairment, a mental health impairment, a sensory impairment, a neurological impairment, a mobility impairment or a learning disability.

    The Party must think about reasonable adjustments for disabled members, associate members, guests, and disabled people who are:

    • seeking or might seek to become members, or
    • likely to become guests.

    A continuing duty

    The duty to make reasonable adjustments is a continuing duty. It is not something to be considered once and then forgotten.

    If a disabled person wants to participate in Party activities, events, campaigns or meetings or stand for office but finds barriers not previously identified, then the Party needs to think about reasonable adjustments. This applies whether or not it has already made any adjustments.

    If the Party changes what it does, the way that it does it or where, then it needs to review the adjustments it has made. What was originally a reasonable step to take might no longer be enough.

    The Equality Act duty contains three requirements that apply in situations where disabled people would otherwise be placed at a substantial disadvantage compared with people who are not disabled. These are called reasonable adjustments.

    Changing the way things are done.

    The Party has rules and ways of doing things, both written and unwritten, that can present barriers to disabled people. These barriers put disabled people at substantial disadvantage and even stop some people participating in events, activities, campaigns or meetings altogether.

    Making changes to premises.

    Where a physical feature puts disabled people at substantial disadvantage, the Party must take reasonable steps to:

    • remove the feature;
    • alter it so that it no longer has that effect;
    • provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature; or
    • provide a reasonable alternative way of making the service available to disabled people.

    It is better for the Party to look at removing or altering the physical feature or finding a way of avoiding it (such as replacing steps with a ramp or, if it is reasonable for it to do this, a lift) before it looks at providing an alternative service. An alternative service may not give disabled people a similar level of service.

    Providing aids and services.

    These might include:

    • providing equipment like hearing loops,
    • allowing personal assistants or other support staff or volunteers to attend meetings, events and activities with individual disabled people,
    • online meetings,
    • online voting,
    • giving people additional time to think about decisions at meetings,
    • delaying decisions for later online votes,
    • papers in different formats,
    • papers sent out further in advance than usual, or
    • job sharing by elected officers.

    The Party must take reasonable steps to provide aids or services if they would enable or make it easier for disabled people to participate in events, activities campaigns or meetings or to stand for election.

    Are disabled people at a substantial disadvantage?

    The Equality Act defines disabled people as having a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.

    The Act covers conditions like dyslexia, sensory impairments, neurological conditions, personality disorders, severe disfigurements, HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, depression and anxiety and many more.

    What is meant by ‘reasonable’?

    When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable the Labour Party can consider:

    • how effective the change will be in assisting disabled people in general or a particular member;
    • whether it can actually be done;
    • the cost; and
    • the Party’s resources and size.

    The Party can consider whether an adjustment is practical. The easier an adjustment is, the more likely it is to be reasonable. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t also be reasonable. If an adjustment costs little or nothing and is not disruptive, it would be reasonable. In deciding if cost is a factor, the Party’s resources must be looked at across the whole organisation. This means, if a branch, constituency or other individual structure can’t afford an adjustment, that cannot be used as a reason not to provide it. It is only if the Party as a whole could not afford an adjustment that cost would come into it.

    Who pays for an adjustment?

    If an adjustment is reasonable, the Party must pay for it. Disabled people must not be asked to pay for it.

    Where councillors, MPs and other elected individuals or staff receive remuneration from the Party to cover administrative and campaigning expenses, the cost of any reasonable adjustments must not form part of that remuneration. This would place disabled representatives or staff at a disadvantage when compared to other representatives or staff and would therefore be discriminatory.

    Political activities

    The law applies to parties at a national, regional, constituency and local level and to people working for them or making decisions about the party’s membership and activities, whether paid or unpaid.

    The Labour Party must not:

    • refuse membership to disabled prospective members or grant membership on less favourable terms because of impairments; or
    • offer membership terms, benefits or services that are discriminatory, whether that is direct or indirect discrimination.

    This includes activities that are directly related to political activity, such as meetings, events, activities and campaigns. Conditions put on membership or participation, such as door knocking as a requirement for becoming a candidate, are likely to be discriminatory.

    Reasonable adjustments for political activities may include provision of an online option at meetings or allowing extra time for decisions to be taken rather than taking decisions solely at meetings.


    The Labour Party must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in selection processes, elections to branch and Constituency office and in how members, associate members and guests (and prospective members and guests) access services and enjoy membership benefits and facilities.

    The aim of reasonable adjustments is to make sure that disabled people are able to join the Party and participate as far as is reasonably possible to the same standard offered to non-disabled people.

    Positive action.

    Equality law enables the Labour Party to take positive action for any of the protected characteristics. This means the Party could, for example, have physical or online meetings or ongoing forums specifically for disabled members, specify that Disability Officers become voting members on Executive Committees, employ disabled staff to provide support for disabled members at regional and national level, and require all information and publicity materials be approved by disabled members.

    Changes to selection arrangements could include steps the Party takes to:

    • encourage prospective disabled candidates to come forward, for example, by holding an event just for them or writing just to disabled members;
    • increase disabled candidates’ prospects of being selected, for example, by giving public speaking training only to disabled members;
    • identify suitable disabled candidates, for example, by reducing the time disabled people have to have been Party members to be allowed to stand for election;
    • Reserving places on electoral candidates shortlist for disabled members; or
    • having disabled members only electoral candidates shortlists.

    Standards of behaviour

    Sometimes, how someone behaves is linked to the impairment they have. For example, the behaviour of people with Tourette’s Syndrome or those with Asperger’s, Autism, Borderline Personality Disorder or other mental health or neurological disorders can seem unacceptable or disturbing to those who do not understand these impairments.

    Standards of behaviour that have a worse impact on people with a particular impairment than on people who do not have that impairment, must be objectively justified. Otherwise, it is indirect discrimination.

    The Party must make reasonable adjustments for standards of behaviour to avoid discrimination arising from a specific impairment.


    The Party can decide to monitor the number of disabled members it has, but if the Party asks you about your disability, you do not have to answer if you prefer not to.

    When monitoring the number of disabled members the Party has, and the reasonable adjustments that may be required, the Party should include people with physical or learning impairments, chronic illnesses and mental health conditions.

    Impairments can be acquired at any stage of a person’s life. The continuing duty means that cyclical disability and reasonable adjustment requirements monitoring is appropriate.


    • Kathy Bole
    • Emily Brothers
    • Sarah-Jane Brownlie
    • Catherine Casserley
    • Lesley Farrington
    • Henry Foulds
    • Marta Gave
    • Rory Heap
    • Lorraine Harding
    •  Matthew Luke
    • David R S Martin
    • Craig Potter
    • Nikki Ratcliffe
    • Rachel Salmon
    • Fran Springfield
    • Sophie Talbot
    • Sarah Taylor
    • Rona Lisa Topaz
    • Dave Townsend
    • Ruth White

    For Disability Equality ACT Labour.

    Campaigning document: It’s our Party – Let us in!

    This is our campaigning document proposing ways the Party can improve its disability equality performance.

    A circle with a map of the world contains the text: The problem is the disabling world. Arrows point outwards from the circle to the barriers put in the way of people with impairments. The Barriers are: Badly design buildings. Stairs not ramps. No lifts. Special schools. Few sign language interpreters. Discrimination. Inaccessible transport. No parking places. Isolated families. Poor job prospects. A text box at the bottom reads: The Social Model of Disability states that the oppression and exclusion people with impairments face is caused by the way society is run and managed

    The Equality Act covers each Labour Party branch and CLP as well as every other Party structure. Party structures must not directly or indirectly discriminate; they must ensure all disabled members are able to participate in decision-making, meetings, events, campaigns, standing for office and other activities.

    To comply with the Act, Party structures need to identify their disabled members, ask what reasonable adjustments they require and make those adjustments.

    Many disabled members are excluded from Party activities, events and decision ­making processes. Some have experienced branches refusing direct requests to make reasonable adjustments. Further, elected officers of Party structures have argued against making reasonable adjustments such as online participation at meetings, or being accompanied to meetings by a carer or personal assistant who may or may not be a Party member, because they require changes to internal custom and practice.

    Party structures are not routinely asking what reasonable adjustments disabled members require. When discussing what comprises a reasonable adjustment, many elected officers of Party structures do not understand the issue beyond basic physical changes like ramps for wheelchair users. Little, if any, attempt is being made to use technology and the internet to enable people to access their right to participate.

    Many CLPs do not have a Disability Co-ordinator/Officer and there is no equivalent of Party Women’s and BAME Forums or Youth Labour.

    Previous Party guidance has attempted to address the Equality Act duties, but this guidance is not being followed. Previous attempts to correct this situation have not succeeded.

    Disability equality training for elected officers in Party structures is not currently a requirement.

    To comply with the Act elected officers of all Party structures need to be aware of the legal requirements placed on them, and have a good enough working understanding of the ramifications of those requirements.

    In order to tackle stigma, The Labour Party should hold itself to more inclusive standards than current practice in wider society, rather than lagging behind. The authors of this document aim to ensure Labour Party compliance with Equality Act duties, informed by current good practice and past Party guidance, is firmly built into Party rules, guidance, systems and structures. We recognise that the Labour Party, as the party of equality, must take the lead in enabling full participation by disabled members.


    The only way to identify what reasonable adjustments we need to make is to ask disabled members what they require. Existing disabled members need to be asked in a one off survey, whilst new disabled members need to be asked as they join. Elected officers of Party structures can find contact details of their disabled members from the Party membership database.

    If a request is made to make an adjustment to custom or practice that elected officers do not understand, they will need to go back to the individual making the request to discuss their exact requirements and how they can best be provided. Debating whether these adjustments should be made is inappropriate. Consultation is vital, and no elected officer should act on an assumption that they know what is best for anyone.

    Party structures should use the following questionnaire which will be made available in print and online in a format suitable for screen reading software, in plain English and Easy English with images suitable for people with dyslexia or learning difficulties, and as an audio described file:

    Your response to this questionnaire will enable us to meet our duties under in the Equality Act 2010. Please complete and return to …

    • Name:
    • Membership number:
    • Do you identify as disabled? Yes/No.
    • Do you have an impairment &/or a long term (physical or mental health) concern which impacts on your day-to-day life? Yes/No.
    • Do you have a disabled family member or friend who you live with or provide some assistance to? Yes/No.
    • Are you satisfied with the way we notify you about meetings, events and other activities?
    • If no, how should we change this?
    • Are you satisfied with the way we provide print and online materials?
    • If no, how would you prefer us to do this?
    • Are you able to understand and participate in meetings, events and other activities?
    • If no, what should we do to change this?
    • Are there any other ways we can enable to you participate?
    • If you would like to make any other comments, please add them here:

    Any personal information gathered on an individual will be covered by the General Data Protection Regulations which come into effect in May 2018 or before then, the Data Protection Act, and should be treated as confidential unless otherwise agreed with the individual.

    CLP development plans should set specific goals towards achieving equality for disabled people. For example monitoring the number of disabled candidates, venues where access audits have been undertaken or meetings where full online participation has been made available. These goals are quantifiable and can be used to monitor progress periodically.

    Disability equality training for elected officers of Party structures.

    On being put forward for election all potential elected officers of Party structures should be supplied with Party guidance on compliance with the Equality Act, including these proposals.

    After election, all disability officers, chairs, secretaries and delegates to conference should be required to attend disability equality training provided by appropriately experienced disabled members so that they can avoid discriminatory actions, omissions or statements.

    An inclusion day, open to all members, should be held each year to provide training and opportunities for debate.


    A National Inclusion Fund to which all CLPs can apply for funding equipment which will enable all members with a disability to be able to access all CLP activities. This may include items such as; hearing loops, paying fora BSL signer to be present at meetings, equipment to privately video-cast meetings. (This list is not exhaustive and is to be used to provide guidance only.)

    The Fund to be overseen in each Region by Disability Officers and/or disabled people acting as Disability Ambassadors who will be able to advise constituencies on their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

    Disability officers

    All CLPs should elect a Disability Officer. CLP Disability Officers should automatically become CLP Executive members. Disability Officers should be respresented regionally, at the National Policy Forum, the NEC and all regional and national party structures.

    Service Audits

    Elected officers of Party structures to be required to carry out an annual audit of the events, meetings and activities to see how disabled people have been enabled to participate.

    Elected officers should use the results of the audits to make legally required reasonable adjustments.

    Each Party structure to produce an annual report detailing results of Accessibility Questionnaires, audits and reasonable adjustments that have been, or are planned to be, made. These reports to be made available to all members in print and online in a format suitable for screen reading software, in plain English and Easy English with images suitable for people with dyslexia or learning difficulties, and as an audio described file.

    Accountability and transparency

    Constituencies to produce annual reports compiled from their branches. These reports to be made available to all members in print and online in a format suitable for screen reading software, in plain English and Easy English with images suitable for people with dyslexia or learning difficulties, and as an audio described file.

    The NEC to produce an annual report compiled from CLP reports and reports of all other structures. This report to be made available to all members in print and online in a format suitable for screen reading software, in plain English and Easy English with images suitable for people with dyslexia or learning difficulties, and as an audio described file.


    Disability Equality ACT Labour is campaigning internally-within the Labour Party- for change. It is vital that all Party structures comply with their legal obligations at the very least, and quickly.

    Campaigning is a key activity of CLPs and the Party as a whole. All campaigning activities must be made inclusive and accessible. A model of inclusive and accessible campaigning needs to be produced and used by all Party structures. There is the resource, talent and skill set within our movement to be innovative in our approach.

    Electoral slates

    Electoral slates are potentially disciminatory because of the danger of not including openly disabled candidates. Slates can be barriers to disabled members standing, substantially weakening the possibility of disabled members being elected to key positions. Careful thought needs to be given to the equality ramifications of slates.


    Members’ health and impairments should be taken into account when a member has a complaint about the behaviour of other members. Disabled members are often vulnerable and their health can be severely affected by the complaints process to a greater extent than for other members. Complaints from disabled members should be vigorously investigated and pastoral support be given throughout.

    Unacceptable language

    Comments like “playing the disabled card” made by members against disabled members should be as unacceptable as “playing the female, racist or LGBTQ+ cards” are.

    Loss of income

    Disabled members in receipt of benefits put themselves at risk of losing income should they stand for office or as a candidate. The Party needs to address this as a matter of urgency.

    A Disabled Members Section.

    The Party should actively encourage disabled members to set up a section in the same format as the Women and BAME members.

    A firm footing.

    When these proposals are bedded into the Party, we will be in a position to use our experience of implementing good practice to strengthen our position on equalities and campaign on a firmer footing.

    A circle contains the text: The problem is the disabled person. Arrows point inwards towards the circle from the problems presented by the disabled person. The problems are: Is housebound. Confined to a wheelchair. Can't walk. Can't get up steps. Can't see or hear. Is sick. Is looking for a cure. Has fits. Needs help and carers. A text box at the bottom reads: This is a diagram of the Traditional Medical Model of Disability which the Social Model was developed to challenge


    © Disability Equality ACT Labour 2018.

    Download the full version of the document and  alternative formats from

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    A manifesto with and for disabled people

    Over the last seven years disabled people have borne the brunt of the cuts inflicted on them by the Conservative Government and the Coalition before them. The cuts have had a detrimental effect on the lives of disabled people, cutting living standards and undermining their access to education, social care and to justice.

    Two years ago the United Nations  convened a committee to investigate state violations of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). Last year the UN published their report and concluded that the Conservative Government had committed ‘grave, systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities.’ This is a damning indictment of the treatment of disabled people by the Conservatives, one which shames us as a country.

    We believe in a social model of disability, a society which removes the barriers restricting opportunities and choices for disabled people. As such we will build on the previous Labour government’s commitment to disabled people in 2009 as signatories to the UN CRPD. A Labour government will incorporate the UN CRPD into UK law.

    We are proud of the manifesto we have developed with, and for, disabled people, and would like to take the opportunity of thanking everyone who has taken part in Labour’s Disability Equality Roadshow over the last year. We have crossed the length and breadth of the country to engage with disabled people and their carers, capturing their views on what needs to change for disabled people to live full and independent lives. We will continue to work with disabled people in government, fulfilling our promise of ‘nothing about you, without you’.

    Disability Equality


    Labour is the party of equality and diversity. The next Labour government will ensure that no-one in our society is held back. We know that fairer societies are better for all of us. To truly achieve this, the next Labour government  will build a Britain for the many: a fairer, more equal and diverse society that treats people of all backgrounds and abilities with dignity and respect.

    Over the last seven years, disabled people, including people with physical or mental impairments and long-term health conditions, have been scapegoated by the Conservative Government and the Coalition. A 2016 UN inquiry found that since 2010 the UK Government has been responsible for ‘grave, systematic violations’ of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Conservatives have stonewalled this unprecedented inquiry and refused to enact its recommendations.

    Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty compared with non-disabled people in part due to the extra costs associated with their disability. This has not stopped the Conservatives from disproportionately targeting disabled people with their destructive cuts. Currently 4.2 million disabled people live in poverty and new evidence indicates that this number is increasing as a result of cuts in support. According to Scope, the 2012 Welfare Reform Act has cut nearly £28 billion in social security support from 3.7 million disabled people. The 2016 Welfare Act cuts are adding to the real suffering many disabled people are experiencing. And of course this doesn’t include the cuts in social care, or the NHS, or education or transport, all of which have directly affected disabled people.

    In 2016, the Labour Party launched the Disability Equality Roadshow, to ensure as we developed new policies for government, we fully engaged with disabled people and their carers, committing to the principle ‘nothing about me, without me’. As part of the Disability Equality Roadshow, we travelled the length and breadth of the country, meeting with thousands of disabled people, carers and stakeholders. We discussed the issues they face and their priorities for the future, focusing on the articles of the UN CRPD. Disabled people who were unable to attend the events were able to submit their views to us online. We have collated and consolidated all of this information in the pledges that we set out here in this manifesto ‘With and for Disabled People’.

    Only Labour will champion the rights of disabled people and build a country where disabled people are supported to lead fulfilling and independent lives. We are committed to a social model of disability and will enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People fully into UK law. Labour will do away with the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic process which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether finance, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related. We will reverse cruel Conservative changes to Personal Independence Payments, which are denying 160,000 disabled people the support they need and we will scrap the Conservatives’ punitive sanctions regime. Under a Labour government, disability issues will be incorporated into every single government department. Labour will support disabled people into work, halving the disability employment gap. And we will reverse cuts to the Work-Related Activity Component of Employment Support Allowance, affecting half a million sick and disabled people.


    • Labour supports a social model of disability. People may have a condition or an impairment but are disabled by society. We need to remove the barriers in society that restrict opportunities and choices for disabled people.
    • Labour will build on the previous Labour Government’s commitment to disabled people in 2009 as signatories to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities . A new Labour Government will incorporate the UN CRPD into UK law.
    • Labour will transform our social security system. Like the NHS, our social security system should be there for all of us in our time of need, providing security and dignity in retirement and the basics in life should we become sick or disabled, or fall on hard times.
    • We will repeal cuts in social security support to disabled people through a new Social Security Bill published in our first year of office.
    • Labour will scrap the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether finance, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related.
    • Labour will change the culture of the social security system, from one that demonises sick and disabled people to one that is supportive and enabling. As a starting point we will scrap the Conservatives’ punitive sanctions regime and change how Job Centre Plus staff are performance managed.


    “ We [disabled people] are treated as being guilty by the DWP until we prove that we are innocent.”
    “The current social security system is taking away peoples’ choices over their lives and taking away their fundamental rights.”

    Disability Equality Roadshow participants


    • Labour will transform our social security system. Like the NHS, our social security system should be there for all of us in our time of need, providing security and dignity in retirement and the basics in life should we become sick or disabled, or fall on hard times. We will repeal cuts in social security support to disabled people through a new Social Security Bill published in our first year of office.
    • Labour will reverse the cruel cuts to Personal Independence Payments, Employment Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Group and Universal Credit Limited Capability to Work and we will repeal the hideous Bedroom Tax which has punished so many disabled and non-disabled people. The Conservatives’ punitive sanctions will go too.
    • Labour will scrap the discredited Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether financial, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related.

    Over the last seven years, disabled people have borne the brunt of the social security cuts from the Conservatives and the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition before them.

    The 2012 Welfare Reform Act has been estimated by Scope to have cut approximately £28 billion in social security support from 3.7 million disabled people in spite of it being well recognised that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people in part by virtue of the extra costs associated with their disability.

    The 2012 Act included the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), a new sanctions regime, and new assessment processes for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and PIP. All of these have had serious concerns raised about them, including from the UN inquiry who said there were ‘grave, systematic violations’ on the rights of disabled people, the Information Commissioner concerning the deaths of claimants following their Work Capability Assessment finding them fit for work, and indeed the most recent reviewer of PIP who raised concerns yet again about the quality and reliability of the PIP assessment process where two thirds of decisions are overturned on appeal.

    According to the Coalition Government’s estimates, by 2018, 600,000 fewer people will be getting PIP than received DLA. The mental health charity MIND has revealed that 55% of people with mental health conditions transferring from DLA to PIP are being assessed as ineligible for PIP or having their support reduced. These figures are before the disgraceful introduction of new PIP regulations without any debate in Parliament, which overturned two tribunal rulings that people with mental health conditions should receive the higher rate of PIP support. So much for parity of esteem for people with mental health conditions: another broken promise from the Conservatives.

    The Conservative Government’s own figures show that since 2010, we are spending less and less in supporting disabled people as a percentage of our country’s wealth (Gross Domestic Product, GDP). Eurostat data from 2012 shows that we ranked 17th out of 32 EU countries in spending on disability support as a percentage of GDP.

    In spite of the Conservatives pledging not to cut support to disabled people in their 2015 manifesto, the 2016 Welfare Reform and Work Act did exactly that. In addition to the four-year freeze in social security support affecting disabled people, the 2016 Act cut financial support by £1500 a year to half a million disabled people who had been found not fit-for-work but who may be in the future on the ESA Work-Related Activity Group.

    In Scotland, in spite of talking the talk, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has failed to tackle the difficulties disabled people face with the devolved powers at their disposal. The SNP Government had the opportunity to protect disabled people from the full impact of the Conservatives’ punitive social security cuts as the social security budget was due to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act this year. Although they now have control over 11 types of social security support, they have failed to make any discernible difference to the lives of disabled people.

    The Conservatives have fostered an insidious culture of fear and blame to justify their programme of cuts, deliberately attempting to vilify social security claimants as the new undeserving poor. Labour will transform our social security system to one that is efficient, responsive, and provides basic support. Time and time again, we have heard how worthless the system makes people feel. For the vast majority of people who have paid into it all their working lives, this is insulting.

    Work should always pay more than being on social security; but relying on social security should not leave people feeling worthless and abandoned as it does now.

    Labour has already pledged to get rid of the discriminatory and unfair Bedroom Tax, but we will also scrap the discredited Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a system based on personalised, holistic support, one that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether finance, skills, health, care, transport, or housing related. We want to stop the profiteering from these assessments, so we will use public or voluntary sector organisations which are local and accessible to claimants, not those private companies that have manipulated the system for maximum profits.

    The Conservatives’ punitive sanctions system must go too, so Job Centre Plus will be reformed and not just assessed on how many people they get off their books. Labour will change the culture of our social security system and how the public see it. Like the NHS, it is based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring our dignity and the basics of life were we to fall on hard times or become incapacitated. It is there for all of us should any one of us become sick or disabled.


    “ I declared my mental health condition [when I applied for a job] and even though my experiences and qualifications made me suitable for the position, I didn’t even get an interview. Even though I am similarly or better qualified than others going for the same job.”
    Disability Equality Roadshow participant


    • Labour will halve the disability employment gap by supporting employers retain employees who may have developed a long-term health condition or an impairment. Job Centre Plus will have a new duty to work with local authorities and local employers on recruitment needs and practices. Employees with an impairment or chronic condition will have a new right to flexible working.
    • We will require organisations with over 250 employees to report annually on the number and proportion of disabled people they employ.
    • We will commission a review to explore how we can expand Access to Work support, including for self-employed disabled people.
    • Labour will review specialist employment services and will work with local authorities, unions and the voluntary sector to develop local, alternative employment opportunities for disabled people transitioning into employment or who may need more supportive work environments, such as the social enterprise ‘Enabled Works’ in Morley, Leeds.

    The disability employment gap – the gap in employment between non-disabled and disabled people – is currently 31%. In 2015, it was 32%. The Conservatives pledged to halve the disability employment gap in their 2015 General Election manifesto. At the current rate it will take 50 years for this to be achieved. Although four million people with disabilities are working already, there are another three million who are available to and want to work, but are currently unemployed. As the vast majority (90%) of disabled people have worked previously this is a waste of their skills, experience and talent.

    There are implications for the economy and society as a whole. Research from the Social Market Foundation has estimated that halving the disability employment gap and supporting one million more disabled people into work would boost the economy by £13 billion a year.

    There are many reasons for the disability employment gap including a lack of information and advice for employers. A recent survey showed 15% of disabled people felt they had been discriminated against when applying for a job, and one in five while they were in work. That’s why the next Labour government will work with employers to overcome these issues through stronger laws and proper enforcement of the Equality Act.

    The Conservatives’ warm words have not been followed up with any meaningful action. After closing 48 Remploy factories for disabled people in 2013, making 2,000 people redundant in the process, they failed to transfer the money that they had saved from these closures to support disabled people into work. The chaos and inadequacy of the specialist employment support programme, Access to Work, which last year supported just over 37,000 disabled people into and at work, and Job Centre Plus’ Disability Employment service show the Conservatives are not serious about tackling the disability employment gap.

    The SNP government in Scotland also promised to reduce the disability employment gap by at least half. However, since they took office they have failed to propose any policies that would help disabled people find meaningful employment and to tackle the disability employment gap.

    Labour has already pledged to halve the disability employment gap. Over the next ten years we want to see a cultural shift in attitudes to people with chronic and fluctuating health conditions and disabilities in work and across society as a whole. To raise awareness of disability and work issues, every year we will require organisations with over 250 people to publish the number of disabled people that they employ.

    We will support disabled people to stay in work or get back into work by increasing the numbers of disabled people who will be able to receive Access to Work support. We also want to expand Access to Work support to self-employed disabled people. We will ensure specialist disability employment advisers are there to support disabled people as part of our reform of Job Centre Plus.

    Labour recognises that for some disabled people it may not be possible to participate in mainstream work; as such more supportive work arrangements need to be developed. We will provide ‘seed corn’ funding for the development of local enterprises such as the co-operative ‘Enabled Works’ in Morley, Leeds. It is over 70 years since legislation was first introduced to prohibit employment related discrimination against disabled people. Labour will lead the charge for a fair deal for disabled people in work and beyond.


    “ Disabled people must be properly supported to access all available education and training opportunities.”
    Disability Equality Roadshow participant


    • Labour will tackle the discrimination against disabled children in accessing education, including in Free Schools and Academies.
    • We will address the disability education gap, which stops disabled children fulfilling their potential, replacing the flawed Education, Health and Care Plan assessment, which has been used to restrict access to support. We will also address issues with skilled support and resourcing, and ensure effective transitioning to adult services.
    • Labour will deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.
    • Labour will make sure that the Modern Apprenticeship programme is open to all, and increase the numbers of disabled trainees included in the programme.
    • • Labour will place a duty on all higher education institutions to ensure that their courses are accessible to disabled students, including through scrapping tuition fees, course support and support for living costs.

    The school funding crisis means that disabled pupils with Special Education Needs (SEN) are not only inadequately supported in mainstream schools, but are being excluded from these schools seven times more than non-disabled peers. Often they and their family’s only choice is special residential schools. Labour believes disabled children and their families should be able to attend a mainstream school when they want to.

    The Conservative Government has failed to tackle the disability employment gap and has failed to deliver an education policy that enables children with special education needs, physical or learning disabilities (SEND) to reach their potential which would enable them to participate fully in society.

    SEND young people are more likely to not be in education, employment or training at 19 years of age. The Conservatives have failed to engage with children and young people and enable them to have more autonomy over their lives and empower them through education and employment. Labour will deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.

    Although the 2014 Children and Families Act introduced Education Health and Care Plans (ECHPs) from birth to 25 years providing the potential for a more joined-up needs assessment and care plan, it is clear that the ECHPs are in effect restricting access to support for all but those with the most severe needs. Getting an assessment in the first place requires monumental efforts from parents and teachers alike, and on top of that there are issues with the quality of these assessments.

    But help in caring for disabled children has also been hit by the Conservatives. On average, it costs three times as much to raise a disabled child. Families with disabled children face considerable additional expenditure on heating, housing, clothing, equipment and other items compared with other families. And yet the Conservatives’ programme of social security and social care cuts are making it harder for families to cope, let alone thrive so that their children can develop to be the best that they can be. Transitioning to adult services is also still a huge issue, with severe financial pressures facing social care adding to the difficulties of moving from children’s services.

    Similarly, young disabled people have found it really hard to get on apprenticeship schemes and with Conservative cuts to disabled students’ allowances (DSA) the onus has been placed on universities or disabled students themselves to ensure that their access needs are supported.

    Labour has pledged to tackle the disability education gap and to reform the ECHP process, including improving access to and reliability of assessments, and adequate support to implement the ECHP.

    We will make sure that Modern Apprenticeships are open to disabled people, increasing the numbers of disabled apprentices year on year. And we will increase accessibility of higher education to disabled students by placing a duty on all universities and higher education institutions to define in their access scheme how disabled students will be supported, including through tuition fee structures and bursaries for living costs.


    “ Lack of safe and secure affordable housing is a barrier to disabled people living independently.”
    Disability Equality Roadshow participant


    • Labour will develop environments that enable disabled people to live independently, and not in isolation, reflecting our commitment to Article 19 in the UN CRPD.
    • We will build more accessible and disabled-friendly new homes as part of our affordable housing programme.
    • Labour will stop the expansion of driver-only operation on board trains. Guards are essential for allowing disabled passengers access to trains.
    • Labour will reverse the cut to the funding to the Access to All programme, which was set up to improve accessibility to all of Britain’s railway stations.

    Conservative cuts to public transport have disproportionally impacted on disabled people who rely more heavily on it to get around. In particular, cuts to local bus services, especially in rural areas have had a profound impact on disabled bus users, as many disabled people live in a household with no car, and disabled people use buses more frequently than non-disabled people. Fewer than one in five railway stations is fully accessible and train providers have been criticised for the decline in the quality of the services they provide for disabled passengers, including something as basic as toilet facilities.

    The Conservatives’ cuts are also impacting on where disabled people are able to live, affecting their ability to live independently. The Bedroom Tax, cuts threatening the viability of supported housing projects for disabled and older people, and the freeze in Local Housing Allowance are all having a big impact on disabled people being able to afford to continue to live in their homes. This is on top of a national housing crisis with the lowest level of house building in peacetime since the 1920s, and a ballooning of insecure and poor quality private rental housing.

    Labour has promised to ensure that we will build more accessible and disabled friendly new homes as part of our commitment to build 100,000 new affordable homes a year.

    We will also stop the expansion of driver-only operated trains, which has a direct impact on disabled people’s ability to travel. By removing guards, disabled passengers lose the guarantee that they can turn up and travel when they want; instead disabled people will be forced to give 24 hours’ notice that they wish to travel.


    “Cuts to the NHS are falling hardest onto disabled people.”
    Disability Equality Roadshow participant


    • Labour, in partnership with disabled people, will seek to develop a network of local, ‘one-stop-shop’ independent living hubs to be led by disabled people, reflecting our commitment to Article 19 in the UN CRPD.
    • Labour will give the NHS the resources it needs by investing an additional £37 billion over the next parliament.
    • Labour will ensure the social care system is fully funded by investing £8 billion in the next parliament, and laying the foundations for a National Care Service.
    • Labour will increase the status of domiciliary care workers by introducing training and career pathways for carers to progress. And we will exclude people’s homes from the means-test for domiciliary care.
    • Labour will increase Carer’s Allowance to £73 a week, an increase of 16%, in recognition of Britain’s dedicated, unpaid carers.

    There is strong evidence that the Conservatives’ austerity measures have had detrimental effects on the health and care of disabled people, as well as their ability to live independently. In addition to failing to deliver ‘parity of esteem’ for people with mental health conditions, the number of specialist learning disability nurses has discernibly decreased. Under the Conservatives there has also been a reduction in training commissions for learning disability nurses.

    Since 2010, the Conservatives have cut £4.6 billion from social care which means that across the country, people with chronic health conditions, disabled and older people who go into crisis or have an accident are being admitted into hospital when this could have been avoided had they been better cared for in the community. And the lack of social care in the community means that many people end up staying much longer in hospital than they need because they can’t be safely discharged.

    In 2015 the SNP government proposed ‘a real alternative to austerity’ in Scotland. Instead, they have slashed more than £1.5 billion from local services like social care. The SNP has had the powers to top-up Carer’s Allowance since September 2016, but they are yet to use it. Carers are still waiting for the promised increase in the allowance. After two manifesto pledges in 2015 and 2016, a six month feasibility study and endless questions, carers in Scotland are no better off.

    Labour is committed to the equal right of all disabled people to live in the community, with choices equal to others as expressed in Article 19 of the UN CRPD. We will work with disabled people and local agencies seeking to develop a network of local, independent living hubs – a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all a disabled person’s needs – to enable this. These would be run by disabled people, foster independence, facilitate peer or advocacy support, as well as providing practical support for disabled people. Several examples of good practice were visited or mentioned at different Disability Equality Roadshow events, including Sheffield’s Centre for Independent Living and Equal Lives in Norwich.

    Labour wants to improve the status of domiciliary care work, which we believe for far too long has been seen as low-skilled, low-paid work. We will develop training with career pathways and progression for paid carers.

    And we will also support Britain’s unsung heroes; our unpaid carers, who provide millions of hours of unpaid support to loved ones, friends or neighbours every week, and are estimated to save the country over £132 billion a year. A Labour government will increase Carer’s Allowance from £62 a week to £73 a week in recognition of the contribution carers make.


    “ The justice system can leave disabled people feeling scared and alone. Some cases of hate crime have been so bad that disabled people have had to move homes in order for the abuse to stop.”
    Disability Equality Roadshow participant


    • Labour will ensure disabled people have the same access to justice as nondisabled people. We will strengthen the Equality Act in order to empower disabled people to confidently challenge all forms of discrimination and prejudice, wherever it occurs.
    • Labour will ensure annual reporting of the levels of disability hate crime and violence against disabled women, putting into place comprehensive national action plans to stop these crimes.

    Disabled people’s ability to access justice has been hit by the Conservatives’ cuts to legal aid support, to local government and to local law centres that provide free legal advice to communities.

    Cuts to legal aid mean less support to challenge social security decisions, affecting up to 80,000 disabled people. Although welfare rights agencies have tried to fill the void, the Conservatives have plans in the pipeline to abolish face to face tribunal hearings on social security matters.

    In addition to the Conservatives’ legal aid cuts, tribunal fees of up to £1200 introduced in 2013 have made it harder for disabled people to challenge discrimination. As a result, disabled people find it very difficult to challenge employers’ potentially discriminatory behaviour.

    The Conservatives have also failed to expand the scope of the law to cover crimes committed against people on the basis of disability, even though these hate crimes are now on the rise.

    Given the Conservatives’ continued threats to abolish the Human Rights Act, there are concerns that equal recognition under the law for disabled people may be at risk. Similarly, the Conservatives’ proposed Great Repeal Bill has yet to define what EU legislation will be transposed into UK law, including that which promotes and protects the rights of disabled people.

    Labour will ensure that disabled people have equal access to justice as nondisabled people. We will strengthen the Equality Act so that it works better for disabled people. A Labour government will reinstate the public sector equality duties and seek to extend them to the private sector, ensuring all citizens benefit from this Labour legislation. A Labour government will enhance the powers and functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, making it truly independent, to ensure it can support people to effectively challenge any discrimination they may face.

    We will ensure that under the Istanbul Convention, there is annual reporting of the levels of disability hate crimes and violence against disabled women, and comprehensive national action plans to stop these crimes are put in place, including training for the police.


    “Disabled candidates are deterred from standing as candidates; they receive very little support or guidance. There’s a complete lack of information on how to participate and stand in local, regional and national elections”.
    Disability Equality Roadshow participant

    Disabled access


    • As a political party, Labour will adopt accessible selection processes at local, regional and national levels of political office, and ensure reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates in recognition of the additional costs that they face.
    • Labour will undertake a review of sports, arts and leisure venues to determine how access to people with different conditions and impairments can best be improved.

    The Conservatives have failed to build on the work Labour undertook in government enabling disabled people to participate in cultural life.

    Disabled people are still under-represented in many walks of life, from drama to sport to politics. Similarly the opportunity for disabled people to participate as spectators and enjoy a football match or concert is too often still denied to them.

    Despite the commercial success of the Premier League, a recent study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that just seven out of 20 Premier League teams are providing the minimum recommended space for wheelchair users, and just seven of 20 have adequate ‘changing place’ toilet facilities for disabled people.

    Labour will address these issues by undertaking a review of access and inclusiveness in sports, arts and leisure venues, considering the needs of people with different disabilities.

    We will also promote the use of British Sign Language (BSL) by developing a BSL National Plan for England, reflecting a similar scheme developed in Scotland by Scottish Labour. The next Labour government will also introduce legislation to give legal status to BSL through an Act of Parliament.

    Labour will open up democracy to disabled people, many of whom have felt disenfranchised for too long. We will develop an inclusion and access strategy that ensures disabled members are able to participate fully in all local party activities, and that there is a fair and accessible selection process for all candidates for local, regional and national levels of political office.

    As a political party Labour will provide training and ensure reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates in recognition of the additional costs that they will face.


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    The government promised to help disabled people back into work. They’re failing – and now it looks like their Welfare Reform is targeting those who need higher levels of support.

    The Government published its long-awaited ‘Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability’ Green Paper at the end of October 2016 after originally promising a White Paper in 2015. The White Paper was supposed to define how disabled people would be supported into work and meet the Government’s manifesto pledge of halving the disability employment gap of 34% by 2020 (currently it stands at 32%).

    The employment gap was used to justify further draconian cuts in social security support for disabled people in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill published last summer. In particular, the Bill announced cuts of approximately £1,500 a year in Employment and Support Allowance to half a million people in the Work-Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) – those people who had been found not fit for work, but who may be in the future – to be introduced in April 2017.

    The 2016 Welfare Reform and Work Act followed the 2012 Welfare Reform Act which Scope estimated by 2018 will have cut nearly £28bn of social security support to 3.7m disabled people. Of course this doesn’t include £4.6bn cuts in social services support since 2010 or the NHS crisis, both of which affect disabled people.

    The Green Paper, the consultation for which closed on 17th February just 6 weeks before the ESA WRAG cuts come into place, makes the bold claim that ‘…employment can…promote recovery.’

    The issue I have with this statement, and the tone of the Green Paper as a whole, is that this implies that disabled people and people with chronic conditions would recover if only they tried a bit harder, or their doctors weren’t such soft touches. It doesn’t mention ‘shirkers’ directly but comments on how some people with the same condition languish in the ESA Support Group whilst others “flourish at work”, making it clear that’s what they’re thinking, ignoring their own rhetoric about “not treating everyone in a one-size-fits-all way”.

    As a former Public Health consultant who researched into the health effects of work and worklessness, I agree that some work is good for health, but I don’t agree with the Government’s flawed thinking underpinning this: that it’s OK for people to return to work when they are still not fit, because it may help. This is not just unsound, it’s dangerous.

    The scapegoating of disabled people, which includes people with physical or mental impairments and long-term health conditions as defined under the 2010 Equality Act, has been a hallmark of this Government and the previous Coalition. But even the conclusion of the United Nations inquiry that the UK Government has been responsible for ‘grave…systematic violations’ of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2010, has been met with Government stonewalling.

    It is already well established that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people as a result of the extra costs associated with their disability. Currently 4.2 million disabled people live in poverty and I have been informed from unpublished analysis by an Economic and Social Research Council research project that this is getting worse.

    The Government has refused to stop the cuts to ESA WRAG and Universal Credit’s Limited Capacity to Work which come in this April, which will undoubtedly increase the numbers of disabled people living in poverty, threatening their health and well-being. Various discretionary funds may be available, for example the Flexible Support Fund, but there is no guarantee of support and they are quite specific in what they can be used for.

    The timing of these cuts when there has been a negligible reduction in the disability employment gap is quite shocking. The Green Paper rings alarm bells that people in the ESA Support Group are the next to be targeted by Welfare Reform. Linked to this, the new Work Capability Assessment criteria which the Government announced last September (after I committed to scrap the Work Capability Assessment) will be published later this year. These will give a clear indication what the Government’s real agenda is.

    The Green Paper also talks about employers and the need for them to invest more in workplace health and occupational health support. This is, of course, very important; 90% of disability and long-term health conditions are acquired, so it is absolutely right to examine what can be done to reduce the risk of employees falling ill and how employers can make reasoned adjustments to support an employee to stay in work if they become disabled. But Access to Work helped only 36,000 disabled people stay in or access work in 2015 out of the 1.4m disabled people who are fit and able to work.

    Welfare Reform

    To date, the Disability Confident Campaign launched in 2015 has been a dismal failure making a negligible impact on the disability employment gap. Changes in employer attitudes and behaviour needs practical support, including Access to Work. But what is the Government doing to support employers, especially small businesses given that nearly half the workforce is employed by them? How can a small business access affordable, timely occupational health support? With the NHS in crisis and waiting times for non-urgent treatments escalating, how will timely interventions to help people back to work be delivered?

    As always with this Government and the previous Coalition, they are happy to point fingers at everyone else without taking any responsibility themselves. They talk about the impact of work on health and the need for ‘culture change’ and to ‘reinforce health as a work outcome’ but what about the impacts of the social security system on the health of claimants? Their policies have a direct impact on people’s health in the punitive, humiliating way they are too often implemented, but also through the real, enduring poverty and hardship people are forced to live under.

    Labour will hold this Conservative Government to account on all these areas, developing meaningful, alternative, approaches with disabled people, employees, and employers as part of our Disability Equality Roadshow. If this Government is committed to a fairer society, they should stop trying to rebuild the economy off the backs of poor, sick and disabled people.

    Labour believes, like the NHS, our social security system should be there for all of us in our time of need, based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity.

    First published by Open Democracy

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    1. Introduction

    As a nation we have made huge steps tackling issues around inequality and discrimination against disabled people in our society, from passing the historic 1995 Disability Discrimination Act to becoming signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009 and to defining protections afforded to disabled people under the Equality Act 2010. While progress had been made, disabled people still continue to face discrimination and disadvantage.

    The Labour Party is the party of equality and that is why we launched the Disability Equality Roadshow (DER) on 11th November 2016 in Manchester with the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The principle behind the DER is that future social security policy needs to be co-produced with its stakeholders including disabled people and their carers, service providers and the public at large.

    Our aims are to engage with stakeholders and hear their views and experiences of social security policy, in addition to a wide-range of other policy areas. Disabled People Against Cuts proposed the road show and together with Disability Labour, TUC Disability lead, Disabled People’s Organisations and Charities have been instrumental in setting up the Disability Equality Roadshow.

    The Disability Equality Roadshow will involve deaf and disabled people, their carers and service providers at engagement events across every region of the country, and each nation state. In addition we will ensure anyone who may not be able to attend events in person can still engage with the process online via written, audio or video submissions. Live streaming will also be available for some events.

    The Disability Equality Roadshow will start from a position that values our social security system, not denigrates it or its users, and, like the NHS, starts from principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity and the basics of life, giving us a hand up, not a hand out, should any one of us become ill, disabled or fall on hard times. It will also be essential to engage with the wider public on what a new social contract will look like.

    We are seeking to develop policies that enable disabled people to lead full and rich lives, reflecting a social model of disability, so contributing to our obligations as signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Labour takes these obligations seriously, which is why we will be travelling across the country to hear your views.

    The DER will be supported by the Disability Equality Commission, which will pull together the evidence from all the events as well wider evidence. It will also be responsible for drafting a report on this to Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.

    Disability Equality Roashow

    The report and recommendations will be incorporated into our wider policy development process through our National Policy Forum. In conjunction with the DER, we will also be launching Disability Equality Watch (DEW) – a platform for you to share the impacts of this Government’s so-called welfare reforms. You will be able to send us your evidence of the impacts this Government’s social security policies are having on you and your families.

    2. The Disability Equality Roadshow events

    Debbie Abrahams and other members of the Shadow Work and Pensions team will attend each DER event. Approximately 30 DER events will take place over the coming year; information on each event will be published on the Labour Party Policy Forum website. Each event will be will be free to all participants and open to deaf and disabled people and their carers. Anybody with access needs should specify their requirements at least two weeks before the event. During the event, there will be a number of round discussion tables where participants will explore their experiences and priorities for change under the following themes:

    • Adequate standard of living and social protection
    • Health and social care
    • Education and training
    • Work and employment
    • Independent living
    • Access to justice
    • Participation in cultural, political and public life

    These themes reflect articles from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

    3. The questions

    For anyone who may not be able to attend the events but would like to submit evidence to the Disability Equality Roadshow, you can do this on the Labour Party Policy Forum website .

    The questions we would like your input on are:

    Adequate standard of living and social protection:

    1. What have your personal experiences of the social security/protection system been? Points to Consider:
    • What are your experiences with Employment and Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit, Work Capability Assessments, Personal Independence Payment or Disability Living Allowance, the Work Programme/Work Choice, Universal Credit or other support?
    • How was the process of applying and being assessed for social security support?
    • What are your experiences of sanctions?
    1. What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to reshape social security so that it is better suited to your needs?

    Health and Social Care:

    1. What have your experiences of health and social care been like? Points to consider:
    • Which health care providers did you see, e.g., GP, nurse, consultant, mental health specialist, occupational health?
    • How quickly did you get specialist care?
    • What was the process like to get specialist care?
    • How would you rate the quality of care you received?
    • What communication did your healthcare providers have with DWP?
    • How did your condition and treatment affect you and your family, including anybody who had to care for you?
    1. What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to ensure the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health of disabled people?

    Education and Training

    1. What have your experiences of mainstream/non-mainstream education and training been? Points to consider:
    • How is the reform of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities improving the educational outcomes of disabled children, including Education Health & Care Assessments/Plans?
    • What have your experiences been with post-16 training/experiences such as apprenticeships, further/higher education and vocational courses?
    1. What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to ensure disabled people have access to the same educational and training opportunities as non-disabled people?

    Work and Employment:

    1. What have your experiences of work and employment been? Points to consider:
    • How have you found employers and colleagues in relation to your disability?
    • What were your experiences of the NHS or occupational health providers in helping you to stay in employment?
    • What are you experiences of the DWP in providing social security support to help stay in employment?
    • What have your experiences been of asking employers to make reasonable adjustments?
    1. What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to enable sick and disabled people to stay in and/or to return to work?

    Independent living:

    1. What have your experiences of living independently been? Points to consider:
    • What are your experiences of housing, housing adaptations and independent living?
    • What are your experiences of transport, particularly public transport and independent living?
    • What are your experiences of social care both formally and informally to help you live independently?
    • What have your experiences been of the social security system and how did they impact on your ability to live independently?

    10.What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to ensure disabled people are able to live independently?

    Access to justice:

    11.What have your experiences of accessing the civil and/or criminal justice system been like?

    Points to consider:

    • What are your experiences of dealing with the police for example to report a crime, particularly disability hate crime?
    • Have you ever applied for legal aid, what was the experience like?
    • What are your experiences with discrimination in employment and employment tribunals or Social security tribunals?

    12.What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to ensure access to justice for disabled people?

    Participation in Cultural, Political and Public Life:

    13.What have your experiences of participating in cultural, political and public life been? Points to consider:

    • What are your experiences of engaging in sports and other physical activity?
    • What are your experiences of engaging with the Arts?
    • What are your experiences of political engagement, at a local, regional and national level?

    14.What are the three most important things that a Labour government could do to help ensure disabled people are able to participate in cultural, political and public life?

    4. And finally

    Labour’s commitment to people-powered politics means that the Disability Equality Roadshow  process involving Deaf and disabled people, carers and service providers, will feed into our National Policy Forum. We are mindful of our commitments to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and are working across our Shadow Teams to incorporate disability issues into all policy development. Through this consultation we will incorporate your views into evidence based policies for disabled people. Together with your help we can transform our social security system, based on the principles of dignity, independence and support.

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     Magical thinking or evidence-based policy?

    “To own the discourse is to win the argument”
    The Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability  was published online late afternoon of Monday 31st October.  The DWP had been briefing since the Saturday before, that a major reform was proposed to the Work Capability Assessment and that all the evidence was that work is good for people’s health.
    Newspapers and television news highlighted the proposals but no-one actually saw the document until news media had been running the DWP storyline for almost 48 hours  The BBC initially intended to film some interviews at a London disabled people’s organisation on Monday afternoon but cancelled it as by then the story was no longer news.
    The consultation on the Green Paper is running until 17th February, long enough for individuals and organisations to get to grips with what is really being proposed.
    I’ve focussed in this blogpost on three important contentions made in the Green Paper, on which some of its proposals are based.  I’ve tried to get behind the spin which accompanied its launch to see what exactly is being proposed.
    Contention No 1:  There is a causal relationship between work and health, such that if someone moves from unemployment into work their health will improve.
    The Green Paper opens with the statement that “The evidence that appropriate work can bring health and wellbeing benefits is widely recognised”. The reference for this is the major review of evidence, published by the DWP in 2006.
    On the face of it, this is a fairly uncontentious statement.  The word ‘appropriate’ recognises that not all work has a positive impact and the phrase ‘can bring’ indicates that this is not a claim of a unilinear causal relationship.  Indeed, early on in the Green Paper the complexities of the relationship are acknowledged:
    …….whilst work is good for health in most circumstances, the type of work matters. Many factors such as autonomy, an appropriate workload and supportive management are important for promoting health at work.
    This reflects the conclusions of the 2006 review.  The Green Paper could also have drawn on more recent longitudinal research from Australia which found that low paid, insecure jobs, characterised by a lack of control, were associated with poorer health than that found amongst those people who remained out of work.
    Getting a high quality job after being unemployed improved mental health by an average of 3 points, but getting a poor quality job was more detrimental to mental health than remaining unemployed, showing up as a loss of 5.6 points.
    This is an important finding, particularly bearing in mind the conclusion of the DWP’s 2006 literature review that: “After leaving benefits, many claimants go into poorly paid or low quality jobs, and insecure, unstable or unsustained employment. Many go on to further periods of unemployment or sickness, and further spell(s) on the same or other social security benefits”.
    Unfortunately, the tone of the rest of the paper and its proposals assume a straightforward unilinear relationship between being in paid employment and good health, as illustrated by what the DWP calls an ‘infographic’ on page 4 of the Green Paper.  This shows two circular relationships, good health and work on the one hand and worklessness and poor health on the other.
    The Green Paper would have been more accurate if it had concluded that, while paid employment can increase your standard of living, social interaction and self-esteem, it can also be bad for your health and can create or worsen illness or impairment. Whether work is good for your health will depend on your state of health and the nature of the job. As, according to the DWP’s own evidence, people leaving benefits often go into poor quality jobs, they are less likely than the average person to find that paid employment has a good impact on their health.
    Contention Number Two:  Withdrawal or reduction of income (or the threat of withdrawal) will increase entry into employment.
    The payment of out of work benefits has always been conditional but since 2010 the conditions have increased and withdrawal or reduction of payment can now last from four weeks to three years.The assumption is that this threat of, or the actual experience of, withholding income will make it more likely that a person will take steps that increase entry into employment.
    The recent decision to reduce, by almost £30pw, the money paid to people who have been assessed as being unfit to work but able to take on work related activity (the ESA Work related activity group) is based on the same assumption: the DWP claimed it will “remove the financial incentives that would otherwise discourage claimants from taking steps back to work”.
    In an earlier blogpost I examined the evidence that DWP relied on to make this claim.  It’s worth reiterating that there is no evidence of a causal relationship between a reduction in benefit levels and an increase in employment amongst disabled and sick people.
    There is, in fact, a more convincing case to be made that reducing or withdrawing income will make people less able to gain employment. An evaluation of the impact of benefit reduction found that the more benefit was removed the less likely they were to move into employment.  A study which carried out four ‘natural’ experiments in the US and in India concluded that poverty undermined people’s ability to think clearly, carry out tasks and to make good decisions (a conclusion which is perhaps obvious to anyone who has experienced the pressures that come with even short-term financial difficulties):
    The poor must manage sporadic income, juggle expenses, and make difficult tradeoffs. Even when not actually making a financial decision, these preoccupations can be present and distracting. The human cognitive system has limited capacity. Preoccupations with pressing budgetary concerns leave fewer cognitive resources available to guide choice and action.
    The widely disseminated conclusion from this study was that, because people living in poverty expend more of their mental capacity on managing with a low income, government programmes aimed at helping them should not impose what some called a ‘cognitive tax’ – such as complicated forms, frequent monitoring systems, onerous requirements to prove eligibility.  As the Behavioural Insights Team argue:
    “The worries involved in making ends meet every day already deplete [cognitive] bandwidth so government services aiming to tackle disadvantage – such as savings schemes, employment advice and parenting programmes – should be required to pass a cognitive load test to ensure these services do not make it harder for people on low incomes to make good decisions for themselves.”
    The Behavioural Insights Team is an organisation originally set up by the government (the ‘Nudge Unit’) and still partly owned by them. This study was carried out in partnership with the Cabinet Office.  We would normally expect their conclusions to be treated seriously but that does not appear to be the case in this instance.
    Contention Number Three: ‘Employment support’ will reduce the numbers of people on long-term out of work benefits
    The Green Paper indicates an intention to reduce the numbers of people in the ESA Support Group. These are people who have been assessed as having limited capability for employment and also limited capability for work-related activity – meaning that they are exempt from complying with requirements to take ‘steps back to work’.  Concern that there are ‘too many’ people claiming this type of benefit dates back to the 1990s when Invalidity Benefit was replaced by Incapacity Benefit.   A series of changes since then in the method and process of assessment have not had the desired effect of reducing numbers qualifying for long term sickness and disability benefit.
    The Green Paper proposes yet another change in the assessment regime and an extension of ‘employment support’ to people who have been assessed as not able to either work or to engage in work-related activity.  Instead of one assessment (the Work Capability Assessment) there would be two: the WCA would assess financial entitlement and then everyone on ESA, whether in the Support Group or not, would be subject to a “separate process” which would decide whether “someone should engage with Jobcentre Plus or specialist programmes”.
    People would be required to have continuing contact with a ‘Work Coach’ who: could have full discretion to tailor any employment support to each individual claimant. This approach would be truly responsive, allowing the work coach to adjust requirements and goals dependent on changes in a person’s condition or circumstances.
    While Damien Green previously announced that those in the Support Group would not have to undergo repeated WCA assessment, this new system could potentially require repeated and continuing ‘discretionary’ assessment by a work coach as to what a person should be required to do.
    So let’s look at whether there is any evidence that the ‘support’ to be offered by this new system is likely to increase employment amongst disabled people or people with long-term health conditions.
    The first thing to point out is that the assumption underpinning the Green Paper’s proposals is that people who are unfortunate enough to experience ill health and/or disability and unemployment are not capable of – or are not to be trusted to – make decisions in their own best interests.  Instead it is the role of a State employee or contractor to do this.
    So the Paper proposes that “trained work coaches could have discretion to make case-by-case decisions about the type of employment support a person is able to engage with” (para 132).
    The second thing is that anyone entering this system gives up all right to privacy about personal information held on them by the “NHS, the adult social care system or through other benefit applications, such as from a Personal Independence Payment application” as the assessment for financial support (the current WCA) and the work coach would draw on these sources of information (para 135).
    A third point is that the employment support programmes have not in the past been very successful at helping people on long-term out of work sickness/disability benefits to find and retain paid employment.  Only 12.5% of ESA new claimants on the Work Programme get a job outcome within two years. The equivalent figure for people moving onto ESA from Incapacity Benefit is 4.7%.  Work Choice, the specialist programme aimed at disabled people has a higher rate of success but less than 1 in 5 of participants are on ESA with the majority being on Job Seekers Allowance, so the programme has not proved its effectiveness with people on ESA.
    As the government has previously announced, the Work Programme and Work Choice are being discontinued and replaced with a new Work and Health Programme.  However, this will only have 20% of the funding previously invested in employment support.
    The Green Paper also proposes that the:
    “earlier engagement between an individual and a work coach in Universal Credit will also serve as a gateway to a wider, integrated system of support offered by the Department for Work and Pensions and other agencies, such as the NHS and local authorities”. (Para 84)
    This “wider, integrated system of support’ is called Universal Support and is intended to “assist people with their financial and digital capacity throughout the life of their claim”.
    “Through Universal Support we are transforming the way Job centres work as part of their local communities to ensure they more effectively tackle the complex needs some people have and support them into sustainable employment”. (Para 85)
    Unfortunately, this transformation is not borne out by the DWP’s own evaluation of Universal Support in the trial areas.  The evaluation, published in July this year, concluded:
    “the results suggest that participation in USdl had no statistically significant impact on either digital or financial capability…..Overall, the estimated annualised cost of the eleven trials was just over £4 million. Staff costs made up £2.7 million of the total.”
    So £4 million was spent with no resulting improvement in claimants’ ability to engage with the UC system or with managing their finances. (Incidentally, the Green Paper also holds up the Troubled Families programme as ‘another example of an integrated approach’.  It’s surprising that they infer that this programme makes any difference as the evaluation published recently “was unable to find consistent evidence that the programme had any significant or systematic impact”)
    It is unlikely therefore that there will be sufficient assistance available through the specialist employment support programme.  And Universal Support is unlikely to be of much assistance in terms of helping people to navigate the complexities of the system. So what will be offered to people in the Support Group as part of the ‘claimant commitment’?  The Green Paper does not spell this out explicitly but it would seem that the intention is that Work and Health coaches will decide what kind of health-related intervention someone needs.
    How long before part of the ‘claimant commitment’ includes a requirement to participate in a ‘health intervention’ of some kind and sanctions are attached to non-compliance?
    It isn’t really employment support that is on offer – rather we are on the road to a situation where people who are too ill or disabled to work are required to subject themselves to health interventions that an employee (or contractor) of the DWP decides is good for them.
    In summary….
    It’s important that responses to the Green Paper home in on what is actually being proposed, rather than merely respond to the questions posed by the DWP.  The proposed changes are merely the latest in a long line of attempts to reduce the numbers of people qualifying for long-term out of work sickness/disability benefits.  If the assumptions on which the proposals are based are not backed up by evidence then they will be unlikely to have any more impact on reducing the disability employment gap than their predecessors.
    And finally…..
    Magical thinking refers to the false attribution of causal relationships. In the context of psychology it refers specifically to the belief that one’s thoughts by themselves can bring something about – or that thinking something is the same as doing it.
    Not only does this Green Paper ascribe a fallacious unilinear causal relationship between work and health, but it replicates a common feature of government policy – the assumption that saying something will happen makes it happen.
    This is the fourth time in my engagement with social policy that a government has complained about the number of people ‘languishing’ on long term out of work benefits.  The fourth time that proposals are made which will supposedly reduce these numbers.  Any bets on how soon we will see a fifth?
    First published on Jenny’s blog
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    I’m deeply concerned that trust between disabled people and the state in relation to employment has been eroded – to such an extent that offers of employment support get viewed through the filter of possible sanctions and benefit loss.

    For instance, we sometimes see protests against employment programmes run in GP surgeries and the like. Even where such programmes state they are voluntary and have a commitment to confidentiality of data, disabled people fear they could become mandatory at a later stage, that data could be shared with DWP, that taking part could impact on benefit eligibility (and more).

    Since the regime of the (broken) Work Capability Assessment and sanctions came in, activities linked to the state (whether the NHS or any organisation contracted by government) seem to get tainted by the fear of compulsion – and fear of poverty. When benefits can be reduced just because you don’t comply with something meaningless or worse (like CV writing courses when you have a CV but no employer prepared to take you on with your sickness record) it’s not surprising people feel afraid.

    On the other hand, if you ask disabled people what they want from services, support to get or keep a job is almost top of the list. The largest group of people on ESA are those with mental health problems (48% of incapacity-related claimants have a mental health problem as their main impairment[1]).

    A 2015 national survey of people with mental health problems found that only 25% got employment support; 47% said they didn’t get it but wanted it. Compare this to the figures for getting talking therapies/treatment – the exact opposite: 47% got talking therapies, and only 25% said they did not but wanted it.

    The survey – and studies of other groups of disabled people – show repeatedly that people are not getting the support they want with life issues and not getting the peer support they want: 43% in this survey didn’t get support with accommodation but wanted it, 48% didn’t get support from others facing similar challenges but wanted it. There was nowhere near this level of dissatisfaction on any of the treatment questions. And the dissatisfaction with lack of employment support has got worse since 2014.

    Incidentally, as Rachel Perkins and Julie Repper have pointed out[2], this does rather beg the question of why mental health organisations are campaigning so hard for more treatments, beds and other traditional mental health services when what people want most is support with housing, employment and benefits.

    The survey also shows that there is a desperate need to meet the demand for employment support. People – simply – want jobs and careers. They generally don’t want to lose their jobs if they develop health conditions and do want to get jobs when out of work.

    There are several learning points from this.

    First we should campaign vigorously against sanctions and the culture of coercion and fear that they engender. If they frighten people off even voluntary employment support something is going very wrong – and the government’s own plan to halve the disability employment gap is undermined.

    Second, we need collectively to develop alternatives to coercive employment support. Disability Rights UK is working with DPOs and with the Work Foundation to identify good practice – based on peer support; and with DPOs we have proposals that would make careers massively more flexible, with incentives and support for employers to do so and opportunities for large numbers of disabled people to get skills and apprenticeships that equip them for careers, not just jobs. This could include people being able to work when well – with back-up from the state in the form of better support for both disabled people and employers. And let’s not forget this is against a backdrop of the dismal track record of the Work Programme and Work Choice. We need alternatives that work for the people they are there to serve.

    20 years ago as disabled people we campaigned for the right to work, the right not to be underestimated or written off. Since the sanctions regime kicked in, campaigns have grown for the right not to work – to have the realities of impairment, pain, fatigue and confusion recognised. ‘Impairment impairs’ as Pat’s petition puts it. In this climate, any emphasis on employment can be treated with suspicion – seen not as meeting what disabled people want, but as promoting the agenda of the state to compel people to do inappropriate work or work-related activity.

    We need to campaign against the poison of coercion and sanctions; and to argue vehemently for an expansion of the voluntary employment support that people want.

    For people to seek careers, we need hope. The very last thing we need are cultures of fear.

    So let’s campaign for employment support – and against coercion. It isn’t one or the other – it’s both. We shouldn’t throw away the baby of employment support with the bathwater of coercion.

    And as people try approaches to employment support that aim to be better than the Work Programme – let’s subject them to scrutiny. If they are voluntary, if they respect everyone’s confidential data, if they foster hope and opportunity – then let’s support them and learn from how disabled people find them. If they don’t – let’s campaign against them.

    [1] Reform (2015) Employment and Support Allowance: the case for change. See

    [2] Perkins R and Repper J (2015) ‘Parity of esteem’ for mental health services or parity of life chances for those experiencing mental health challenges? Mental Health and Social Inclusion 20 (1) p 1-4

    This was first published on the Disability Rights blog

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    The biggest secret of personal budgets is no one wanted them, not users, not professionals, not the government, and not even Simon Duffy. We all wanted Individual Budgets! The idea of individual budgets was that funding from local authority social care, Independent Living Fund, Access to Work and others would come together to form a single budget, great idea.

    I was part of the Individual Budget pilot in Coventry and maybe one of the few people in the country who can claim they still have an individual budget. The problem was the Independent Living Fund refused to cooperate and I don’t think Access to Work had a clue what it was. So Individual budgets quickly became personal budgets that only focused on local authority funding but unlike a direct payment, it could be, and is often, merely an itemised bill of what is spent on behalf of a user.

    The problem with personal budgets was they came with the demand from DH ministers that local authorities adopted the Resource Allocation System (RAS), the brainchild of Simon Duffy. I know he will be reading this and that we have not been on each other’s christmas card list for many years, and we have actually never met. I will let Duffy explain what RAS is. RAS works well when you are sharing out a packet of sweets to those who don’t really depend on them. Decommissioning unneeded day care services for people with learning difficulties, taking out the savings, and divided the money up ‘fairly’ so they can be used creatively, works. But transferring the Resource Allocation System model en mass to all the client groups was a disaster as a ‘right’ quickly became an ‘indicative budget’ and a pointless exercise of a failed policy that wasted so much money.

    The bigger picture in that sadly even if you brought all the cutting edge ‘disability activists’ in the country in one room, they would be metaphorically discussing improving the treatment of black slaves, not their liberation. There is now a clear divide in how current politics and the media generally regards people with lesser impairments and those with higher support needs. I am aware that considering SHA asks me for a contribution knowing my unusual background, many readers will refuse to acknowledge this fact. But it is a fact the new/old Labour Party needs to understand and work with, and meaningful personal budgets is one solution.

    One of  the oddest issues I have had working in the social care field is that despite people understanding I employ my own personal assistants and I am self-employed, I am still politely asked by the most senior of people who pulls my strings as they hope there is a comfortable and acceptable puppet master who is keeping me under control when I misbehave. When the penny drops I am the puppet master, you can see the colour go from their faces!

    I believe real personal budgets is about creating puppet masters not puppets. This is extremely scary for national and local government, professionals, charities (like Learning Disability England), service providers and even families, who have depended on disabled people being puppets for power, financial benefits and other reasons for many decades. Trying to get people to let go of this power is the greatest challenge of social care as this is not happening as fast as some people would suggest.

    If I had the opportunity to start again with personal budgets and change any laws, I would scrap every ‘additional cost’ monies and benefits like DLA/PIP, a part of ESA, current local authority funding, Access to Work, education and health support etc and roll it into one super personal budget. These would be coproduced between professionals and users, and made up from a number of awards designed by them, like work, evenings and weekends, so someone does not have all their eggs in the same basket in terms of reassessments.

    These new personal budgets will be managed by local public bodies, like ‘Support Coventry’ connected to local councils and working within the national framework of ‘Support England’. Depending on the level of funding, it will go to ‘panel’ that will include trained service users from other areas. Most importantly, there will be an effective appeals and complaints system.

    We need to end label based entitlements whether they are real, imagined or expected. Having diabetes or any other impairment label should not automatically mean being entitled to a Motability Car. People should get what they need when they need it. Two people with the same degree of any specific condition may actually have a very different set of needs and outcomes.

    My impression from many discussions with people over the last decade is that my idea of ‘super personal budgets’ is on the cards and its a matter of time whoever is in power. The current way disabled people need to access relevant support is broken culturally and functionally, going back to 1948, and this is the way out for a fresh start.

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    …the evidence below appears to indicate that it will…

    Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits

    (Charlotte Pickles, Ed Holmes, Hannah Titley, Ben Dobson, February 2016, Reform Research Trust)

    In the UK many disabled people want to work but are trapped on what remains a broadly passive system – almost three quarters of claimants who have had their Work Capability Assessment (WCA) are in the support group with no requirement to engage with, and little access to, support services. As the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has argued: “what is needed is to bring the disability benefit scheme closer in all its aspects to existing unemployment benefit schemes”.

    (Charlotte Pickles: Senior Research Director at Reform spent two years as Expert Adviser to Iain Duncan Smith helping to design and deliver the Government’s welfare agenda. Before that she was Policy Director at the Centre for Social Justice.)

    Chancellor George Osborne’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 speech

    From: 25 November 2015

    We confirm we’ll extend the same support and conditionality we currently expect of those on JSA to over 1 million more benefit claimants…we’ll increase in real terms the help we provide to people with disabilities to get into work.

    Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits

    When ESA was introduced it was expected that “the vast majority” of claimants would be subject to “a clear framework of rights and…responsibilities” – a minority of claimants would be in the support group. Instead, almost three quarters of claimants who have had their assessment are in the support group and subject to no conditionality, with very little support to return to work. This will have to change if the Government is to achieve its ambitious pledge to halve the disability employment gap.


    We will aim to halve the disability employment gap: we will transform policy, practice and public attitudes, so that hundreds of thousands more disabled people who can and want to be in work find employment. We will help you back into work if you have a long-term yet treatable condition. We will make sure the hardest to help receive the support they need for a fulfilling life.

    Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits

    With limited access to employment support and no work-related conditionality, people in the support group are completely detached from the labour market…This is bad for the individuals, society and the wider economy.

    Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP: speech on work, health and disability: Reform event 24 August 2015

    We need to be relentless in our efforts to get more people into work and off welfare…that means getting 1 million more disabled people into work. The poor quality of support they receive leads too many sick and disabled people languishing in a life without work, when work is actually possible for them. Under Universal Credit, people can expect early and continued support about what work they can do and what support they need to do it, until they leave the benefits system.

    Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits

    The vision for a single allowance: In practical terms, a single out-of-work allowance would mean removing the support group component, or in UC, the LCWRA element. [LCWRA is Limited Capability for Work Related Activity].

    The ‘Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity’ descriptors only require one to be satisfied for admission to the ESA support group… 60 per cent of those in the support group have been on ESA for more than two years.

    The Welfare Reform and Work Bill

    As stated in the Explanatory Notes published by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Bill seeks to introduce the following measures:

    • Removing the work‐related activity component in Employment and Support Allowance [ESA] and the limited capability for work element in Universal Credit.

    The Bill’s third reading in the House of Commons took place on 27 October 2015. Speaking on behalf of the Government, the Minister for Employment, Priti Patel: “Our welfare reforms are focused on transforming lives by helping people to find and keep work. We are focused on boosting employment and ensuring fairness and affordability, while supporting the most vulnerable, and on making sure that people on benefits face the same choices as those not on benefits and in work”.

    Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP: speech on work, health and disability: Reform event 24 August 2015

    Under Universal Credit, people can expect early and continued support about what work they can do and what support they need to do it, until they leave the benefits system…with ESA becoming part of Universal Credit it is that access and human interface which opens the way for us to re-think the relationship between sickness benefits and work. I want to look at changing the system so that it comes into line with the positive functioning of Universal Credit. A system that is better geared towards helping people prepare for work they may be capable of, rather than parking them forever beyond work. We need a system focussed on what a claimant can do and the support they’ll need – and not just on what they can’t do.

    Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits

    The Occupational Health Plan and personal budget – The Proximity to the Labour Market Diagnostic will result in a score which will determine which of four broad employment support and conditionality regimes the claimant will be placed in. If the health questionnaire triggers an Occupational Health Assessment [this] will be used to develop an Occupational Health Plan, which would be accompanied by a personal budget to facilitate implementation. This rehabilitative programme will be co-created by the health professional and the claimant, and the personal budget will be unlocked via a ‘dual key’ – the claimant and their employment adviser – to increase choice and control. For example, a plan might include talking therapies and recreational activities for suffers of mental health conditions. Those with muscular skeletal conditions might receive a course of physiotherapy. Once the plan is agreed, it becomes subject to conditionality.

    Adult Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme

    The programme has already helped over 100,000 people move off sick pay and benefits. In the coming year, the focus for the programme of work will be on the following areas:

    • working with services to address the wide variation in access and quality
    • increasing the integration of psychological services with persistent physical health conditions
    • strong focus on support for those in employment or seeking employment
    • exploring how other mental health services can adopt an IAPT-like approach to service delivery i.e. outcome-focused; with core standards and performance monitoring; and developing datasets to build the evidence-base.

    Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits

    Occupational Health Plan conditionality: The Government is now considering whether claimants who are unable to participate in the labour market due to ill-health might also be subject to greater conditionality relating to that condition. In February 2015 the Prime Minister announced that he had asked Dame Carol Black to undertake a review to “consider how best to support those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions back into work or to remain in work”, including “consider whether people should face the threat of a reduction in benefits if they refuse to engage with a recommended treatment plan.”

    The requirement would simply be that individuals claiming out-of-work benefits due to a mild or moderate health condition which with support could be treated or managed should be expected to take reasonable rehabilitative steps. The Government should pilot this approach to ensure it is applied sensitively and

    appropriately, before rolling it out as part of the UC model.

    The new out-of-work benefit model laid out in the previous two chapters allows a more personalised approach to conditionality for benefit recipients with a health condition. Effective conditionality helps to ensure claimants are taking the necessary steps to move off benefits and into work, thereby improving their health and wellbeing.


    People who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need so they can return to work. If they refuse a recommended treatment, we will review whether their benefits should be reduced. We will also provide significant new support for mental health, benefiting thousands of people claiming out-of-work benefits.

    DWP Central Freedom of Information Team

    Increasing disability employment is a key part of the Government’s aim to achieve full employment. That is why this Government is committed to halving the disability employment gap by creating the opportunity for a million more disabled people to work. The Spending Review announced a new ‘Work and Health Programme’ which is intended to provide the best possible support for claimants with disabilities or health conditions as well as those who are long term unemployed. The Department will work with stakeholders on the design, including the structure and how people will be referred to the programme. (DWP Strategy FoI Team)

    Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits

    The more than 1.3 million people currently in the ESA support group have been completely written off.

    Policy paper: Spending review and autumn statement 2015 (Updated 27 November 2015)

    As the numbers claiming unemployment benefits come down, spending on employment programmes can also fall. But at the same time, there is more to do to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from the growing economy and higher wages. The Spending Review and Autumn Statement announces further measures to support people into work:

    • doing more to get people into work and make the system fairer – Universal Credit will extend the same Jobcentre Plus support that people on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) get to 1.3 million additional claimants who currently get little or no support, by 2020
    • introducing a new Work and Health Programme after current Work Programme and Work Choice contracts end, to provide specialist support for claimants with health conditions or disabilities and those unemployed for over 2 years

    Increasing employment levels amongst people with disabilities and health conditions is a key part of the government’s aim to achieve full employment…the benefit system continues to deliver poor outcomes for people with disabilities and health conditions. Universal Credit will provide greater up-front support for claimants with disabilities and health conditions from the start of their claim and enable them to be referred to specialist support from day 1 where appropriate.

    In addition to these measures the government wants to improve links between health services and employment support, recognising timely access to health treatments can help individuals return to work quicker. The government will publish a White Paper in the New Year that will set out reforms to improve support for people with health conditions and disabilities, including exploring the roles of employers, to further reduce the disability employment gap and promote integration across health and employment.

    Lords Hansard text for 07/03/2016 Welfare Reform and Work Bill Commons Reasons Motion A Moved by Lord Freud

    Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope (LD): “we must now engage in careful and urgent monitoring across the piece of how the ESA support group is catered for in future.”

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