Kendrick Fowler

Do you identify as a disabled person?

Yes

What do you understand by the social model of disability and how is it relevant to the NEC?

Unlike The Medical Model which sees disability as ‘something to be fixed’  by trying to make the person appear or function as less disabled. the Social Model says that the remedy is a change in the interaction between the individual and society.

In line with this, the role of the NEC is to fully support the identification of systemic barriers, derogatory attitudes and social exclusion (intentional or inadvertent) which make it difficult or impossible for individuals with impairments to attain full and equal inclusivity,

 It should also ensure that at every level of functioning within the Labour Party, this identification should originate with disabled members or relevant representative bodies such that the steps taken to provide inclusivity and respect are in line with what the disabled people themselves specify rather than anyone assuming anything on their behalf 

 This is relevant to the NEC as it means that the Labour Party as an institution must adapt to meet the needs of disabled members rather than disabled members adapting to meet the needs of the Labour Party

How do you see your role as the Disabled Rep on the NEC?

My role would be that of acting as a voice for disabled members, as effectively as I possible can.

This would include:

Raising specific collective issues on behalf of disabled members

Calling out any incidents of disability discrimination, bullying of disabled people or any use of inappropriate language within the NEC or the wider Labour Party and explaining the rationale for this in a comradely manner. 

To garner support from the NEC in all matters that would result in moving the party ethos on disabled people to one that adheres to the social model rather than the medical model of disability.

Additionally, with reference where necessary to legislation, I would seek to:

make sure that all policies take into account the needs of disabled people particularly in areas such as education, health, welfare social care and the environment

speak against rules changes and motions which are discriminatory towards disabled people 

ensure that all conferences, meetings and Labour Party events organised by or on behalf of or notified to the NEC are fully accessible to disabled people.

make representation for financial support to enable the full implementation of the Social Model of disability at every level of the Labour Party.

ensuring that disabled people who wish to stand for roles as MP’s, councillors, mayors  are not discriminated against.

Because of the current level of, albeit unintentional, discrimination against disabled members, to redress the balance there should be reserved places for disabled people in elections. These should include ‘safe’ MP and councillor seats.  

I would also act as a disseminator of information to NEC members on issues appertaining to disability through the support of disabled members specialist staff employed by the Labour Party, and by reference to campaign groups and other organisations of disabled people, news and affairs in parliament, and other background research. 

How do you propose to gain the interest and support of those who are not currently personally impacted by disability?

A lot of  people who are not impacted by disability often do not grasp the concept that disabled people want to live exactly the same sort of life they do.  Without realising it they have in their head a watered down version of equality for disabled people. Therefore I envisage there would be occasions when I may have to metaphorically shout long and hard to get peoples’ attention and to also forcibly maintain that equality means equality

However I also believe that people join the Labour Party because they want to create a fair and just society for all and they believe that solidarity is crucial to this.  

Therefore I believe that once they do listen and if they are made aware, through training sessions and having guest speakers at CLP meetings of the struggles faced by disabled people, they will start to  be interested in and supportive of those people who are personally impacted by disability.    

Also it should be pointed out to non disabled people that anyone can become impacted by disability through accident, illness or old age. 

 Your constituency is disabled members. What systems will you use to ensure you understand the views of disabled members on agenda items prior to each NEC meeting?

Make myself contactable by a number of methods such as phone, email, letter ,facebook and twitter so that disabled Labour members have a number of different ways to contact me depending on their preference.

Holding online meetings with the various  disability groups

Engaging with facebook groups representing disabled people in the Labour Party

Understanding the intersectional struggles facing disabled members by engaging with  groups such as  young Labour,BAME Labour and Labour women’s network.

Attend disability meetings at conference and elsewhere.

What systems will use to report back to disabled members about what has happened at each NEC meeting?

Publish my report on the various disability facebook groups

Publish my report on labour party forums

Set my own facebook and publish the report there

Ask for my report to be publish amongst the general Labour emails and on Labourlist

Give a verbal report at CLP meetings local to me.

Attend CLP meetings in my local area to give a verbal report

What skills, abilities, experience and/or qualifications do you have that enable you to campaign and advocate on behalf of disabled people?

During the last 5 years I have  attended a number of disability events across the country. I have confidently  spoken in front of large crowds about my own experience as a disabled people .But also  listened  to the experiences of other disabled people and in order to gain a wider knowledge of the issues facing disabled people in the Labour Party.

I’m currently the disability officer for my CLP in this role I have advocated on behalf of disabled people within my CLP, organised meetings to discuss the issues affecting disabled members within the CLP and chaired and organised online meetings discussing a wide range of topics in relation to disability.

I was the equalities officer for the Lancashire branch of Unite Community from 2015 to 2017 when I stood down to be vice chair of the branch.During my time as the equalities officer  I successfully completed a  level 1 equalities rep qualification which  means I am able to  identify the legal rights of minority groups and the legal responsibilities of employers and organisations to these groups.

As someone who was able to achieve a university degree despite being written off by the education system due to a learning disability I understand the barriers disabled but also the potential every disabled person has to achieve.

I have campaigned on a number of occasions for Guide Dogs campaigns.this has involved lobby MP’s on behalf of the organisation and getting signatures from the public.

I have organised and participated in a number of campaigns and elections for the Labour Party and I understand the barriers that disabled people can face when campaigning especially in regard to leadership roles.

I have supported fellow disabled Labour members ensuring that they are not overlooked for various roles in the party. And are  able to attend party conference.

In the past I have challenged landlords and employers and have had sanctions overturned so I’m not afraid to challenge those in power and hold them to account. 

Do you think that there is institutional disablism in the Labour Party, if so, at what levels and what would you suggest to the NEC?

Unfortunately yes a lot of people myself included feel that instead of challenging the structures that oppress disabled people and hold them down. The Labour Party often imitates these structures.

Many of the party rules don’t make allowances for disabled people.Motions and rule changes are often passed without any input from disabled members.

Many disabled people were not able to vote for  for candidates in the recent leadership elections at CLP level.

The party has also scrapped the guaranteed interview scheme for disabled people applying for internal party jobs which whilst not disablist has nevertheless meant disabled party members currently miss out on experience for interviews

Even when we do have rules for disabled people they are often paper rules that are not really enforced.

I would suggest a complete a review of rules and standing orders alongside a disability audit,Reinstate the guaranteed interview scheme for disabled members and ensure that all stages of internal elections are accessible to disabled people.

When and how did you first hear about the DEAL legal handbook?

I believe it was through our CLP disability officer in 2018

Are there any sections of the DEAL legal handbook you don’t agree with and why? Do you have suggestions for improvement?

There is nothing I disagree with however I think the job share option should be slightly amended so that it is at the discretion of a disabled person whether their role is a job share.We should also seek clarity on the reasons that the treasurer and some other CLP roles can’t be job shares and if we can legally change this.

Do you commit to actively working to make the handbook internal Party policy?

Yes

If yes to the previous question, how do you plan to get the NEC to acknowledge the DEAL legal handbook and make it internal policy?

I would make them aware of their responsibilities under the equalities act and also the benefits to CLP’s. We need to be a unified party to win the next election and implementing the DEAL legal handbook at CLP’S and making it internal party policy is one of the ways we can ensure this by alleviating tensions between the party and it’s disabled members.

 it would also make it easier for the party to fulfill diversity quotas and see an increase in member participation at all levels.

What do you understand by intersectionality and will it be important to your NEC role ?

Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of a persons indentity combines to create unique modes of discrimination and privilege.

This will be important to my NEC role as I will engage with various groups within the party to understand their individual needs and additional barriers relating to class,race,gender, age and sexuality.

For example someone on a low income may not have internet access and so something like proxy voting would be better at ensuring this person is able to fully participate in party activity.

When forming policies for young and BAME members I will ensure I work collaboratively with the NEC BAME and youth reps to ensure the best possible outcome.

I also have firsthand experience of the class power dynamics that exist in areas such as workplaces and jobcentres and will bear this mind when helping to shape policies for disabled people in these areas.

Are you committed to making the UNCRPD incorporated into domestic legislation and why?

Yes having UNCRPD incorporated into domestic policy would mean that there is a legal framework for disabed people to challenge discrimination in social care, work, education,housing and the welfare system.

How would you abolish WCA?

I would persuade our party to keep to it’s 2019 manifesto commitment to abolishing the work capability assessments.

What do you think should be the Party’s policy priorities in the areas of social care and social security?

Social care 

Move away from an ideology that views those using care as vulnerable to one that Supports independent living and those receiving care being able to take part in everyday activities such as going to the pub or the cinema.

Support independent living

Prioritise policies that are influenced largely by those receiving care over those that haven’t.

Allow disabled people to directly employ their carers

Routine testing of care home staff

As mentioned above incorporate  the UNCRPD into domestic law

Better pay and union recognition for care workers 

Social security

Scrapping all sanctions

Ending work capability assessments 

Reverse cuts to ESA

Reverse cuts to housing benefits

Reinstate housing benefit for under 25’s

Ending workfare and sector based work academies

Not reducing benefits for people who leave a job. This will make it easier for disabled people to leave a job because they are being bullied by an employer or to stand up for themselves in the workplace.

Keeping our commitment to make sure that the welfare system is one of support not one that criminalises unemployed people.

Making all services and resources in jobcentres accessible to all disabilities.

Would you support an independent disability commission?

Yes