Do you identify as a disabled person?
What do you understand by the social model of disability and how is it relevant to the NEC?
Attitudinal,environmental barriers are what disable us. We have many different physical or mental long-term impairments but we face a common oppression of disabilism that manifests itself through the above barriers. Therefore we must unite in solidarity to struggle against removing these barriers and creating equality for disabled people. If elected I will be guided by the above in seeking to remove barriers and make the Labour Party habitable and supportive of disabled people and our issues on NEC.
How do you see your role as the Disabled Rep on the NEC?
To be engaged in consultation and debate with disabled members to represent our issues in policy and practice in the proceedings of the NEC and to help create a Labour Party that progresses the engagement and involvement of disabled people, not least by making sure the Equality Act 2010 is fully implemented in Labour Party functioning. This will involve setting up an access fund and positive action in selection of candidates and officers.
How do you propose to gain the interest and support of those who are not currently personally impacted by disability?
I will argue for developing our Labour network of Disability Equality trainers and the key components of that training. I will campaign for all branch and constituency officers, MPs, Councillors, NEC members and prospective Councillors and MPs to undertake disability equality training on a mandatory basis. This training to include intersection with other equality issues.
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 meeting?
Prior to NEC meetings I will canvas opinion on the relevant issues on the agenda. I will campaign for the setting up of disabled member branches in each constituency, the holding of a representative national disabled members’ conference every year to develop policy, then publicise the deliberations and outcomes widely through social media and by accessible newsletter. I will encourage local campaigns for disability rights in the local area and publicise these in local media.
What skills, abilities, experience and/or qualifications do you have that enable you to campaign and advocate on behalf of disabled people?
Having been a disabled person from 1949 I have learned that we need to embrace our identity as disabled people, regardless of the type of impairment – physical (mine), sensory, psycho-social or mental. Disabilism is an oppression and it can only be tackled collectively, where we work, live, play and in our political party through ‘social model’ policies. I fought as a teacher and trade unionist (NUT/NEU). I fought for disability equality justice for disabled people in many cases and campaigns. I have been involved in these struggles as Chair of the Alliance for Inclusive Education (1990-2002), BCODP/UKDPC Rep. at the European Disability Forum (2004-2013). Advising the Labour government on Inclusive Education (1997-2003.) Representing UK Disability Movement in New York at negotiations on the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2005 and 2006.) Coordinator of UK Disability History Month (2010 to date). Currently Director of World of Inclusion and General Secretary of the newly formed Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum. For the last 3 years I have been CLP Disability Officer and set up a Disabled Members’ Forum in Islington North and organised Disabled People for a Labour Victory. As a Party we need to relate to the key issues in the lives of the 13 million disabled people living in the UK. I have been a disabled member of the First Tier Tribunal of SENDIST (19 years) and Social Entitlement (5 years) so have a lot of first hand experience of Disability Living Allowance, PIP and SEN and Disability issues as experienced by disabled people. As founder of Disability Equality in Education, I developed the largest network of disabled equality trainers in the UK and a wide range of training materials.
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?
I think whenever equality issues are talked about disability is rarely mentioned which demonstrates institutional disabilism. There has been a lack of progress on making the Party habitable and proactive in responding to disabled people’s access needs and taking up our issues vigorously. On NEC (as mentioned above) I would argue for setting up a substantial grant to provide access for disabled members at all levels of the Party. I will call out disabilism when it occurs. I will prioritise the setting up of disabled members’ branches and having standing items on branch and constituency party meeting agendas on disability issues; mandatory disability equality training, continuing use of Zoom for meetings even when face to face meetings resume and an annual disabled members’ conference.
When and how did you first hear about the DEAL legal handbook?
In 2016 and I have promoted since.
Are there any sections of the DEAL legal handbook you don’t agree with and why? Do you have suggestions for improvement?
I think the outcomes of the democracy review need incorporating. It needs a section on inter-sectionality and an international section, examining disability and development issues and UK responsibility to ‘Build Back Better’ in line with SDGs and UNCRPD. It would also be useful to include the core demands on an incoming Labour Government with regard to disabled people.
Do you commit to actively working to make the handbook internal Party policy?
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?
Procedurally raise the issue and get the authors to come and speak to it.
What do you understand by intersectionality and will it be important to your NEC role ?
Intersectionality is multiple oppressions experienced by people with one or more protected characteristics. It is very important to raise issues of sexism , racism including anti- semitism, homophobia as they interact with disability and disabled people. It will be necessary to break down single issue silos. Support rights of trans people where these do not curtail women’s rights. It is vital that the NEC gives a clear lead on equality issues, especially sexism and violence to women, opposing hate crime, promoting an understanding of racism and its roots in British Imperial history and challenging the racism being promulgated over cross channel refugees.
Are you committed to making the UNCRPD incorporated into domestic legislation and why?
Yes this is essential. I was involved in representing BCODP/UKDPC in negotiating and drafting (especially Article 24) the Convention in New York and them led the campaign in the UK for ratification without reservation, which unfortunately was not successful. The position of disabled people in the UK would be much improved by the incorporation of the UNCRPD into domestic law.
How would you abolish WCA?
I will campaign for its immediate abolishment. I will campaign for a Universal Income which makes much more sense in the wake of Covid 19. I will argue for a fully funded Independent Living Service for the additional costs of being disabled in a society full of barriers. I will argue for an adjudication of need by a panel of disabled people. In the interim claimants will have their needs met by interim measures. Essential to this process is to have properly funded local DPOs with democratically elected representatives who will support claimants and adjudicate.
What do you think should be the Party’s policy priorities in the areas of social care and social security?
I will campaign for a Universal Income which makes much more sense in the wake of Covid 19. I will argue for a fully funded Independent Living Service for the additional costs of being disabled in a society full of barriers. I will argue for an adjudication of need by a panel of disabled people. This to be part of a seamless Social Care System.
Would you support an independent disability commission?