How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour’s conference

Labour have neglected the disabled at thier conference - at a time of their greatest need.

We used to be accustomed to watching Labour politicians while in power puff up and reel off a series of accomplishments.

In opposition, it is de riguer to rattle off apologies – for failing to spend every penny of public funds wisely, or regulate the city, or not ‘holding back immigration’.

But one place you will not hear that is in the debate around welfare reform. As detailed on Left Foot Forward, the government’s reforms are based on out-of-date understanding of who the disabled are and will effect the lives of tens of thousands of the most vulnerable people in our society – and are in large part built upon Labour’s legacy in office.

By contrast, the Liberal Democrats managed a full debate on the changes, despite being hamstrung as part of the coalition, with one disabled delegate receiving an ovation before she even started to speak.  It is now Liberal Democrat policy to stand up to ministers on many of the changes.

Yet the disabled only received a cursory mention in the prosperity and work session of Labour conference yesterday, set aside for issues of the labour market and benefits system. Byrne promised that:

 “If you cannot work, we will look after you.”

and that:

“To those in genuine need, who need extra help to live and live a full life; we say we will be your voice.”

That was it. There was also a mention of the letters sent out some benefit claimants about to face cuts, but nothing on the substance of the reforms.

One of the most ironic aspects was that while Labour member and disabled activist Sue Marsh was the focal point of the speech by  the main mover of the motion at Liberal Democrat conference, the ‘voice of the disabled’ was nowhere to be heard at Labour’s get-together.

Not only is this the abdication of the party’s responsibility to defend  some of the most vulnerable people in our society, but an amazing act of amnesia.

As mentioned above, the government’s disastrous welfare bill is building on Labour reforms.

It was Labour that brought in the work capability assessment that tests for flexibility as an indicator of whether you’re fit for work or not – even if, like Kaliya Franklin at the Broken of Britain you suffer from Ehlers Danlos, which essentially means you are double-jointed.   

The error of this administration is not the implementation of some evil tory philosophy. It is the logical conclusion of a Westminster conventional wisdom that thinks it understands politics but has an all-too loose grasp on policy.

And when we say ‘politics’ too often what we mean is what plays in the Daily Mail – as was clear by Liam Byrne’s speech where he spent far more time attacking ‘shirkers’.

This, despite the fact that fraud is so law in the incapacity benefits system that it costs us less than the measures to fight it.

Labour still appears wedded to the conventional wisdom that the large disability benefits roll is down to former workers in heavy industries who were shoved onto the benefit to keep unemployment figures down. They are increasingly not.

The proportion of people on incapacity benefit are suffering from more serious conditions – suggesting they had these from birth and not through industry – is growing.

The former assumption leads to many of the cruellest aspects of the new bill – means-testing Employment and Support Allowance if you haven’t got a minimum number of years of national insurance contributions,  removing benefits from 20 per cent of existing Disability Living Allowance claimants and time limits on employment support allowance.

Labour needs to fight this bill. But it can not if it continues to accept the Westminster conventional wisdom.

Maybe the party should apologise for the banks and the public spending. However, it should definitely say sorry to the thousands let down by the Westminster conventional wisdom that it took the lead in cementing – or at least mention it in a speech.

It could start by giving some very frightened people the sense that someone cared about them by truly giving them ‘a voice’.

See also:

•  Yet another nasty in the welfare bill: Means testing support for the disabled-since-youth – Declan Gaffney, September 22nd 2011

Disabled people fear further impoverishment as cuts begin to bite  – Kaliya Franklin, September 1st 2011

• Help stop government cahnges to welfare penalising families with disabled children – Sam Royston, August 15th 2011

• The three things Cameron should know about sickness and disability benefits – Declan Gaffney, July 27th 2011

• The ‘inexplicable’ rise in Disability Living Allowance explained – Declan Gaffney, February 14th 2011  

32 Responses to “How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour’s conference”

  1. Noxi

    RT @brokenofbritain: How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour's conference | Left Foot Forward #Lab11 http://t.co/G9ikvUhR

  2. Paul Rooke

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  3. liane gomersall

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  4. FocusForum

    News on people with disabilities and govt. policies from across the Pond. http://t.co/HXRBSvMp #GMIC

  5. Pamela Heywood

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  6. Rebecca Devitt

    How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour's conference: http://t.co/wMw6U3pH : writes @danielelton #labconf #lab11

  7. Marcus A. Roberts

    How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour's conference: http://t.co/wMw6U3pH : writes @danielelton #labconf #lab11

  8. sara

    How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour's conference http://t.co/T1m24zr0

  9. Dr Marc Bush

    See @leftfootfwd blog on absence of debate on disability and welfare by @Ed_Miliband @LiamByrneMP in contrast 2 #Lib11 http://t.co/Oxydnfdk

  10. Robert the crip

    This morning Miliband or return my old name for him Millipede, stated Welfare must change due to the banking crises, so it was not labour that fucked up, it was those on benefits, who for some reason attacked the banking, maybe our benefits which are massive was caused by buying shares in RBS

  11. Hayley Jordan

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  12. Deborah Fenney

    RT @leftfootfwd: How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour's conference http://t.co/kkbcBjx4 #Lab11

  13. London IWW

    How disability reforms were whitewashed from #Labour’s conference http://t.co/QBC3Syir | #UKpolitics

  14. liane gomersall

    RT @leftfootfwd: How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour's conference http://t.co/dYqYlVA1

  15. Miliband quizzed on disability reforms, apologises for omission from speech | Left Foot Forward

    […] raised by a member of the public in the Q&A session on Wednesday night. As Left Foot Forward reported on Tuesday, not only was the issue airbrushed from Miliband’s key note address, it had been […]

  16. Tories whitewash the many set to lose from welfare reform | Left Foot Forward

    […] also: • How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour’s conference – Daniel Elton, September 27th […]

  17. Julia Morgan

    How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour's conference: http://t.co/wMw6U3pH : writes @danielelton #labconf #lab11

  18. Sophia C Botha

    Here some stats on disabled for Dave – 70% who appeal WCA assessment w/representation have decision overturned: http://t.co/W5UUCa00 #cpc11

  19. Jamal Barry

    Here some stats on disabled for Dave – 70% who appeal WCA assessment w/representation have decision overturned: http://t.co/W5UUCa00 #cpc11

  20. CAROLE JONES

    Here some stats on disabled for Dave – 70% who appeal WCA assessment w/representation have decision overturned: http://t.co/Hodl7YdG #cpc11

  21. Redriderr

    Here some stats on disabled for Dave – 70% who appeal WCA assessment w/representation have decision overturned: http://t.co/W5UUCa00 #cpc11

  22. Andy S

    Here some stats on disabled for Dave – 70% who appeal WCA assessment w/representation have decision overturned: http://t.co/W5UUCa00 #cpc11

  23. Brummie Protestor

    Here some stats on disabled for Dave – 70% who appeal WCA assessment w/representation have decision overturned: http://t.co/W5UUCa00 #cpc11

  24. Aaron Chandra

    Here some stats on disabled for Dave – 70% who appeal WCA assessment w/representation have decision overturned: http://t.co/W5UUCa00 #cpc11

  25. Cameron's speech churns out the old Tory myths | Left Foot Forward

    […] of those on disibility benefits with serious conditions has been increasing for years. Indeed, seventy per cent of those with access to representation win thier appeal when government tests show they […]

  26. E Azicate

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  27. Blog: How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour’s conference « EDS Alert Newsletter

    […] How disability reforms were whitewashed from Labour’s conference | Left Foot Forward. […]

  28. Karen Lewis

    I have been disabled with very severe Rheumatoid Arthritis for 20years. I struck suddenly and viciously and took me from a healthy working mum to someone who couldn’t look after herself let alone her children. At one point I was unable to chew my food as it had attacked my jaw joints. Over the years it has destroyed many weight bearing joints, damaged many more, and is affecting my heart. Now after filling in a ESA form and without any other test I have been placed onto WRAG. I am unsure if I should appeal or ask for a review or just keep my head down. I certainly cannot work and will need assistance for my husband just to get to the job centre. The stress and fear is making my problems far worse.

  29. London IWW

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  30. @Parlez_me_nTory

    How disability reforms were whitewashed from #Labour’s conference http://t.co/F73v76zN | #UKpolitics

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