UPDATE AT END OF POST
Oh Spartaci, I have good news! I know it's rare and I know how hard it is to believe good news when it finally comes.
I know how hurt we all are, how abandoned we've been, how self sufficient we had to become.
But the battle was always about changing all of that. Sometimes I think we as campaigners forget that the point is to win. To change things. Not to fight the fight for the sake of it or become so entrenched we can never solve any of our problems.
When I started my blog I had one aim : to break the political consensus that assured the public we were all worthless scroungers. 2 years ago, every main party and nearly all of the mainstream media agreed. We had no-one and nothing.
I didn't want to half kill myself opposing the welfare reform bill, but we had no choice did we?
A few weeks ago, Ed Miliband replaced Liam Byrne as the head of Labour's policy review with Jon Cruddas. Jon had been involved in discussions about welfare - with campaigners and others - for a long time and back in June last year, wrote this amazing article with Jonathan Rutherford.**
It says everything that we had wanted to hear from a Labour party genuinely interested in changing. I could quote it all, but these snippets are the ones I think it was most important for sick and disabled people to hear.
"We need to address some home truths about the Labour government's welfare changes because they did not make a proper distinction between the unemployed and the sick. As a consequence, they have seriously eroded the protection of disabled people and those with limiting long-term illness. The methodologies that underpinned much of our argument are questionable."
"The conditionality built into Labour's welfare changes failed to take into account the high numbers of people with limiting long-term illness. It treated them as if they were simply unemployed and so made a serious misjudgment about the levels of incapacity that actually exist. It informed the design of the work capability assessment (WCA) introduced in the 2009 act. The WCA is not fit for purpose. It is a source of fear and deep anxiety for people who are mentally ill, parents of adult children with an autism spectrum condition, and literally hundreds of thousands of others with complex and intermittent illnesses who want to work but know that they cannot in the way expected of them by the government and employers."
"Labour has to come out fighting in exposing the cruelties, injustices and humiliation being inflicted by this government on the most vulnerable of our society. It means owning up to its own past mistakes. So be it, let Labour be its own best critic."
This man is now in charge of the policy direction of the Labour party. We may not have won the war, but this must be a significant battle. Jon has just confirmed to me that he stands by the article. No wriggling, no qualifying, just a confirmation that he meant what he said a year ago and that he means it now.
This isn't an isolated event. A few weeks ago, we heard this speech from Liam Byrne : http://www.demos.co.uk/files/LiamByrneBeveridge.pdf
and tomorrow I believe there will be a debate in the house of commons that we will enjoy. As soon as I get confirmation that I can, I will post the details here - please check back throughout the day.
To give Ed Miliband the credit he must surely be due (at least today ;) he did phone Kaliya after we put him on the spot at Labour conference last year. He did listen. He did appoint Anne MacGuire to the shadow disability role, did change the tone on disability after that and now, he has appointed Jon Cruddas to head up the policy review.
Politics is fluid, those "winning" today may not be those winning tomorrow. But as things stand, I am finally convinced that Labour mean to change their attitudes and policies on disability and illness. The first step in re-building our trust was always to admit they made mistakes, and the article above does just that.
It makes me very, very happy indeed.
Liam Byrne joins in the Labour sickness and disability love-fest with this motion on sickness and disability. Labour have given one of their Opposition day debates to a debate on Disability and Social Care tomorrow after PMQs http://liambyrne.co.uk/?p=3477
Here is the full text of the Labour motion to be debated.
That this House believes that cuts to support for disabled people and carers poses a potential risk to their dignity and independence and will have wider social and economic costs;
regrets that the Department for Work and Pensions has dropped the aim of achieving disability equality;
whilst recognising that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) needs to be reformed, expresses concern that taking DLA from 500,000 disabled people and contributory Employment Support Allowance from 280,000 former workers will take vital financial support from families under pressure;
expresses further concern at the Work Programme’s failure to help disabled people and the mismanaged closure of Remploy factories;
notes the pressing need for continuing reform to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to reduce the human cost of wrong decisions;
agrees with the eight Carers’ Week charities on the importance of recognising the huge contribution made by the UK’s 6.4 million carers and the need to support carers to prevent caring responsibilities pushing them into ill-health, poverty and isolation;
and calls on the Government to ensure reform promotes work, independence, quality of life and opportunities for disabled people and their families,
restore the commitment to disability equality in the Department for Work and Pensions’ business plan,
conduct a full impact assessment of the combined effect of benefit and social care cuts on disabled people and carers,
reform the WCA descriptors as suggested by charities for mental health, fluctuating conditions and sensory impairment
and re-run the consultation of the future of Remploy factories.