I was Labour’s Minister for Disabled People between 2001 and 2005. During that time, I delivered our ambitious manifesto commitment to extend and implement full civil rights to disabled people completely in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. (Now consolidated into the Equality Act 2010) That Labour Government also recognised British Sign Language and set about improving job opportunities and mapping out an ambitious programme for securing independent living for disabled people.
Whilst the LibDemTory and Tory Governments have been in charge since 2010, much of the practical progress which improved the lives of disabled people has been reversed and disabled people have been hit particularly hard by cuts in support and Government hostility and indifference to their plight.
Government has encouraged the view that disabled people are scroungers by targeting benefit cuts at them and through their harsh rhetoric about benefit recipients and as consequence, poverty and hate crime faced by disabled people have increased. The switch from DLA to PiP and the introduction of Universal Credit is hitting disabled people particularly hard, not least because many disabled people are already poor and find dealing with the processes particularly difficult.
The UN report on Poverty in the UK said recently that almost half of people in poverty (6.9million people) are from families where someone is disabled. It is these very families who have suffered most from Government cuts. Some families will have lost 30% of their annual net income, £11,000 on average by 2021/22 and they can least afford to cope with this level of reduction in support. We need another Labour Government to repair the damage that has been done to the lives of disabled people by the cuts and hostility propagated by the Tories.