Wednesday 30 October 2013

Finally! What will Labour do for Sick and Disabled People?

Do you remember Ed Miliband's "I met a man speech"? Or Liam Byrne's "Strivers V Skivers"? How could we forget the workfare debacle?

Just how many times have we slammed our heads into the desk in despair, wondering if they actually live on the same planet as us mere mortals?

Before we can expect policies from Labour on "welfare", first we have to see they get it. Do they really see what's so horrifically wrong with this whole system? Do they truly accept it? Do they still think WCAs are the right thing or do they accept that they're fundamentally flawed, that tinkering around the edges is not an option?

In their hearts, is a system of punitive sanctions and cruel tricks still necessary? Do they still doubt and judge us as they did in power? Or have 3 years of constituent's tears and suffering thawed their resolve?

You might remember that during my conference speech, I referred to a document, Making Rights a Reality, the Labour response to a year long consultation up and down the country asking sick and disabled people and their carers what is wrong with the system as it stands.

I've read many "listening exercises" and usually there's nothing even vaguely controversial in them. They simply "listen" to the bits the politicians want to hear.

Well, here is the document, released at last.

The first section recounts the problems in the system as we reported them. I don't think much is left out.

The second section suggests ways forward if Labour regain power and would involve totally fundamental reform of the system. Far from tinkering around the edges, it suggests root and branch reform that would fundamentally change the entire nature of our social security provision for people with disabilites or long term illnesses.

When I first saw the document, we were asked what we thought. I said this :

"If the INTENT has truly changed. If we have truly persuaded you to approach the whole system differently, from judgement to trust, from sanctions to incentive, then I think this document and the suggestions within it are incredible. If we've truly persuaded ALL of the party that we need support not penalties, inspiration not punishment, then this is more radical than I ever dared hope for. But it's all about INTENT. Do you truly believe now that helping us to the best of your ability will create a more efficient, cost effective system? Because unless we've truly won your hearts and minds, unless we've truly persuaded you, this will fail as abjectly as ESA and PIP."

So, here it is. This document is a blueprint for our futures, it will affect our lives fundamentally if Labour regain power. I really hope you read it all. I think I may have given up hope that Labour were listening at all at times. I think I'd stopped believing they could hear us. This document gave me hope. I hope it gives you some hope too. Hope that they did hear us and hope that they might continue to.


  1. The only thing I have a problem with is it's already been proven by the current ConDem gov't that details can be in or not in a manifesto, and yet said party can pretend it was never there or edit it out. So while this looks all very nice, we have NO security it will ever be done. There's no legal repercussions for a party which reneges on its own manifesto (even though there damn well should be), Ergo, this nice piece of paper is still literally that - words on a page.

    1. And remember, these jumped up jackasses that claim to be our government will continually lie & go back on their words ad infinitum.

  2. IF they mean it and live up to it, it is the answer to all our prayers! Yes, it gives us hope but, call me a cynic, "seeing is believing"!

  3. Oya's Daughter - That's what happens when you have no bargaining chips. But thousands of us have worked tirelessly for years to win those chips. It's much harder to back out when a virtual army of people are watching your every move and make it impossible for you to backtrack

    We are NOT impotent any more, we have won power the hard way. If we like this we CAN make them stick to it now. They know we can rip them apart at will.

    To be honest, I think it's much easier to believe and cling to bad news too. As MacKenzie says, we've all been let down so often. But to be honest, that just leaves us with the politicians we deserve.

    1. I'm not "clinging to bad news" I'm just not going to be wildly optimistic about a piece of paper written by a party who isn't even in power. A bit of realism wouldn't go amiss - and I am not besmirching the hard work done by many people by acknowledging this is literally something written right now but not necessarily written in stone by a party which will follow it IF it gets into power.

    2. I didn't mean it as a personal criticism, just that if I tweet something dreadful, it goes viral, if I tweet anything with even a breath of hope, not so much. I completely understand why many won't trust this, I'm not sure they should, but it has to start somewhere

  4. The link wont work for will try again later.

  5. On paper this looks good. Of course it all hinges on a) whether labour win the next election, and b) if they keep their promises!

    I do have one concern regarding employment. It is all well to get employers on board to give the disabled jobs, but they must support them once there. This must include realistic expectations on what disabled can do, and not comparing them against able colleagues. None of us want a free ride and will work hard, but imposing targets which we cannot realistically meet will only force us out of a job. I speak from experience here, my work for my last employer was accurate and I took pride in my work, but because i could not do x number of y in an hour, I was discriminated against and subjected to bullying. This makes any return to work for me a difficult prospect.

    As I say all well and good on paper but how will it work in practice?

  6. Sara, good point. There was a paper out yesterday (I think) where they advised training and supporting people IN work, rather than training them in the hope they get work. Seemed like a sensible shift to me. We know that keeping people in jobs is vital as once people fall out of the work market with illnesses and disabilities it's 100 times tougher to get back

  7. The last Labour Government brought in reforms in 2008 with what seemed reasonable calls that no-one should be left languishing on benefits when they could work. But we all know what happened next. This looks a bit better - a joined up approach to support for the disabled - and no obvious big stick.

    Is there a commitment to provide adequate resources necessary to help and support disabled people who are able to do some work? And is there a commitment to unconditionally support those who cannot work at a better than poverty level of household income?

    The Tories have made sure that things will be difficult - the introduction of PIP will actively undermine support for those in work and time limited ESA means household incomes for a lot of people with long term conditions will be miserably low - £7,500 a year for a couple is below the poverty level. But reversing these will cost a lot of money. Can it be done?

    Labour also swallowed the UNUM argument that the social security safety net should not be too secure - have they changed their views on this?

  8. Liam Byrne isn't shadow DWP. The useless Rachel Reeves is, and her first statement of intent was to agree with everything this government is doing. Expecting the neocapitalist party that Labour has become to return to its roots is, IMO, very naive.

    I wish I was wrong.

  9. My concerns echo Mikes' above - this is all about people in work / going to work & nor is there any mention of PIP -What happens to those of us left at home?

    Good first try Labour Can do better

  10. this is never going to happen it could only happen with people like you and i sue of a balanced mind only who understands small detail

    none of the mp's understand small detail and there lies the main problem as with not getting that right from the off everything will not gel together in a positive way for ALL

  11. It is great to look to the future, and the what if, and what might happen!
    There is a load of water to go under the bridge, and a lot of people in trouble right now; losing homes, money, and their lives.
    I just hope we can survive long enough to see the change, and I pray it might happen:-)

  12. The only thing I can add, is that if you look at Labour in opposition and then in power, they do actually keep most of their promises. If you believe in Ed Miliband (as I do) that we have an honest, decent person who refuses to lie, then we have hope, you have hope and I have hope.

    The only way we are going to find out is if we can get Labour back into power - if we can't then none of us has hope.

    1. In addition, of course you to Gracie have an eye for small detail :)

  13. As Sue said, it depends on how much Labour have internalised this. But these things always, every single time start out as high ideals for helping people who want to work and then later transform into opportunistic and cowardly attacks on those who don't. Events since Reeves became shadow W&P secretary have assured me of my dread.

  14. This document was released earlier in the year, I attended one such meeting with Anne McGuire & Liam Byrne before one was pushed and other left by own steam and labour are listening. It was posted all over facebook for people to look at and download. they did listen and consultation was also published for folks to input to labour. This has been commented on by Kate Green .

  15. Yes, that was when they launched the consultation doc. This one I linked to today is the results and proposals from it which was only published last week.

  16. It's all well and good talking about how to improve the prospects of people with disabilities getting into the work place but the true reality is that employers DON'T want to Employ people with disabilities?

    Large companies will hop on board any scheme that makes them look good and so will politicians, the real truth is that Disabled & sick people can only look forward to a punitive system in the future from any political party and I'm afraid that includes the so called Labour Party.

    Sadly when all the political parties are full of people who basically have no real idea of the day to day struggles of individuals with or without disabilities then what do you expect, Miliband a Multimillionaire, Cameron the same, the clegg the same, pray tell me of a MP who's not screwing the expenses and disabled people have to fight just to keep their arses warm?

    I have no trust in any politicians with the exception of the "Beat of Bolsover" maybe.

    Serious direct action is what's needed, this country needs a huge shakeup for the little man and woman to flourish...

  17. From Sheila Gilmore MP:

    Up to now we thought that the [WCA] assessment was getting about one in ten fit for work decisions wrong – far too many in most people’s eyes – but now we know the Government have been fiddling the figures, the reality could be much much worse.

    ... Ministers led us to believe they were publishing figures that showed the number of people awarded benefit immediately after assessment and before ANY appeals. It now turns out that informal appeals to officials – as opposed to formal ones to judges – were being taken into account.

    This has clearly masked the true extent of the failings in the ESA assessment process.

    This revelation follows the omission of the number of successful appeals from October’s round of figures.

    Taken together, these events suggests that rather than trying to fix the test to reduce the number of incorrect decisions, Ministers’ priority is to fix the figures to downplay the extent of the problem.

    More here: