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?
The social model of disability, is that what makes an individual disabled, is not their disability, but the structures and attitudes of society. If everyone were to be given equality and the structures for inclusivity, then the social model of disability would not exist.
It is imperative, that we as members with dis/ability, have a voice to present our views, experiences and play an active part, in setting the overall strategic direction of the party and policy development. This is something that I have lots of experience in with my local NHS trust, and educational authority over the last sixteen years.”
How do you see your role as the Disabled Rep on the NEC?
I see myself as an integral part of the NEC, representing everyone in the Labour Party who sees themselves as disabled. I have been an advocate for hundreds of families in Shropshire, who have a child/young adult with autism, adhd and any other neurological conditions that cause social isolation. I actively listen to concerns from each person and have helped to make positive changes for their family within the nhs and education. I see my role adapting to the changes put upon the party and I will adapt with that. My passion is that everyone has the right to be respected for who they are and what they can do. My ADHD has meant that I can multitask better than most, I have setup and run the local Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group, where I have organised people into delivering essential supplies to our most vulnerable, which has also had a positive impact on their mental health. With the current Covid situation, we cannot meet in person, however, social media Labour Disability groups are an ideal platform to gain information on members current concerns and issues.
How do you propose to gain the interest and support of those who are not currently personally impacted by disability?
During the election, I regularly spoke to constituents about the problems disabled members of society face and they were very shocked at the lack of funding for services, cuts to mental health services, cuts to public transport, lack of disability friendly transport. The thing about disability, is, that it can happen to anyone at anytime and this is the way I direct my conversation. Since lock down, the mental health of many of the general public has deteriorated, so people are much more aware of the impact that depression has on a persons ability to live, function and how hard it really is to get up each day. I have given talks to teachers, social workers, foster carers and police about the barriers my own children have faced, what I have done to fight for basic education and access to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. My own son was illegally expelled from a mainstream primary school at 6 years old, after diagnosis of autism and adhd and a statement of special educational needs. The same day, he attempted to hang himself using his school sports bag on his cabin bed, I walked into his bedroom just in time.
I have advocated for my children and many others for a long time, because I want/have to make positive change, we and our children deserve to be included and welcomed for who we are and I guarantee, I will gain the interest and support, my passion is infectious.
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?
I will ask for the views of every disabled member before each NEC member, via email and on the social media platforms. My email address will be available to all, so that if there is a concern and a member would like to contact me confidentially, they can.
What systems will use to report back to disabled members about what has happened at each meeting?
l would post the minutes to each NEC meeting on the; Disability Equality Act Labour and Disability Labour Facebook pages and send them to every email address of disabled members that are confidentially submitted to me.
What skills, abilities, experience and/or qualifications do you have that enable you to campaign and advocate on behalf of disabled people?
I am Mum to 18 year old twins with autism, adhd, pda, selective mutism, sensory processing disorder and anxiety. I have advocated for them for sixteen and continue to do so. They both have been repeatedly failed by the education system, the child and adolescent mental health system (CAMHS) and social care, primarily due to the repeated cuts that have been implemented by successive governments.
I set up and run Jigsaw Community group, which supports many families in Shropshire, by signposting and assisting parents to obtain an educational and healthcare plan, a diagnosis, obtaining benefits, crisis support and intervention.
I have previously organised inclusive activity groups for the whole family, inclusive outings and, advocated for families directly within schools and the CAMH service, whilst also doing sit-ins, when families are desperate.
I have organised a protest march to the CAMH service offices, where we had television, radio and newspaper coverage.
I have brought the heads of services; MP, Social Care, Education, CAMHS manager, Paediatrics, CEO of Shrewsbury & Telford NHS Trust and parents around the table, to discuss the failure of services and what needs to be done to provide a workable service.
I have attended many NHS Trust Governor meetings and spoken at the end of each one, to bring the experiences of families that I have supported.
I am a qualified diagnostic radiographer and have not been able to work, since the work schedules changed to start at 7am, with children who have major anxiety in the mornings, I could not continue.
I have qualified as a level 2 counsellor, currently doing a level 3 and have been undertaking an MSc in Autism Strategies.
I have made weighted blankets, at cost for families around the UK and Ireland, using my BSc (Hons) Degree, to create a technical file, as the blankets are classed as medical devices.
I helped to set up a specialist autism school, with six other people.
I now work as a specialist support worker, for pupils who have disabilities in a mainstream secondary school.
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?
Personally, I have only ever had support from the Labour Party, when I arranged a parents protest march about the cuts to my local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, local Labour members turned up and I wasn’t a member then. The only support from a political party, has been from Labour, when my son at 11 years old had been held in a police cell, handcuffed for 4.5 hours, due to a mental health crisis and nowhere else for him to go due to financial cuts, it was Labour members who tried to bring it to the forefront. Our Conservative MP, wanted me to discuss the situation, at his surgery, which just happened to be a table in the middle of our central library, where lots of people stood to watch me breakdown in public.
If members state there has been institutional disablism in the Labour Party, then as the NEC Disability Rep, I will ensure the NEC is fully aware, that an independent enquiry is undertaken, that changes are made, that the Labour Party values are written to include those with disabilities and other minorities, as an inclusive party.
When and how did you first hear about the DEAL legal handbook?
I heard about the DEAL legal handbook at start of the coronovirus lock down., as I have been working from home.
Are there any sections of the DEAL legal handbook you don’t agree with and why? Do you have suggestions for improvement?
I agree with all of the contents of the DEAL legal handbook. It is something that should be included in the membership handbook.
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?
I have emailed the secretary of my CLP, requesting that we motion to support it. If I am elected to be the NEC Disability Rep, it will be the first thing that I will discuss and ask for the NEC’s motion in support.
What do you understand by intersectionality and will it be important to your NEC role ?
Intersectionality, is that minority groups such as; gender identity, disability, race, class, religion, colour, sexuality are all linked in their overlapping identities and experiences of oppression, discrimination and disadvantage. It will be extremely important to my NEC role, I firmly believe that the many experiences we have all had, will help in the development of equality, respect for individuality and mutual tolerance within the party.
Are you committed to making the UNCRPD incorporated into domestic legislation and why?
Yes I am committed, because it has taken a lot of work and time, to get those of us with disabilities, to be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms, that those without disabilities have enjoyed for much longer. This must be incorporated into domestic legislation, because of its detailed approach.
I am aware of children being removed from their parents, because of their own disability. The repeated cuts to funding in social care, NHS and mental health support, means the ability to keep families together, becomes increasingly difficult.
Now that the government is close to being able to decide what it can put into place and remove, at the risk to those with disabilities, a risk to freedom of speech and equality provisions. Their vote not to retain the European Human Rights Charter in UK law, is once such worrying change.
How would you abolish WCA?
I would shut it down straight away. Having gone to court with my daughter and the judge having to apologise, whilst she had a panic attack, it’s not workable, it fails the very people that it’s assessing.
The assessment of individuals, has to come after an audit is carried out on employers, on how accessible work is for everyone who has a disability, how much employers understand about disability. If training for employers was provided, accessibility was seriously considered and funded, meaningful employment could be provided at an individual level, with a liveable wage and the chances of promotion.
Assessments can then be provided on the individuals views, how to support them in employment and support if they cannot be employed, without the degrading and bullying behaviour that we have seen.
What do you think should be the Party’s policy priorities in the areas of social care and social security?
The Party’s policy priorities should be; more funding for the NHS, especially in the Mental Health Services, which has seen major cuts from the current and previous government, plus funding to increase staffing levels within the NHS. Funding needs to be poured into; youth services, addiction services, social care and educating within social care, so they provide actual support to families and mental health support for all children, especially for those who have a developmental neurological condition that causes social isolation and a barrier to education. A full overhaul of social care and police services, to provide an empathetic, supportive service to all. I worked in the medical wing of Shrewsbury Prison, 14 years ago and then, it was thought that 75% of their population, were undiagnosed autistic, adhd, schizophrenia and other neurological conditions. They had come to the forefront of criminal activity, due to self-medication to help with mental health problems due to not being able to gain access to the CAMH Service, they then move onto theft to fund their addiction and moving onto more serious crime.
We have to change social care and social security so that we have a humanistic approach, not the current blame culture we have in the UK.
Would you support an independent disability commission?