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Beyond Absurd

Letusin.jpgMy previous post was about the formation of two new campaigning groups within the Labour Party. However it did not give the back story as to why Project 125 and Party Participation and Disabled People were formed. This post explains why.

The “official” Disability group within the Labour Party is called Disability Labour (DL). It has a constitution and is recognised by the NEC, Labour’s governing body. 

The way the group works, however, is bizarre. Whilst there is a committee consisting of a Chair, 2 Vice Chairs, a Secretary and Treasurer the people elected to these posts at the last AGM were not elected by the membership of Disability Labour as a whole. The electorate consisted of a small group of people who could afford to travel to Manchester to a venue that was not fully accessible. They elected members to an Executive Committee. The EC then agreed officer posts within themselves. Hardly democratic. There were requests for the meeting to be streamed to allow others members such as myself to participate. This was refused by the Chair. There were also calls to allow officers to be directly elected by the entire membership. This was also refused, despite it being allowed within the constitution.

Many members, including myself did not receive the calling notice for the AGM until 2 weeks before. This is a breach of the 28 day rule for calling a DIsability Labour AGM. The irony of the AGM being held on 1st April was not lost on us!

There is another absurd issue. All correspondence to members of Disability Labour can only be sent out via Labour HQ. The Officers do not have membership information and are reliant on others to send out mailings. I cannot fathom any reason for this. I’m a membership officer for a ward in my local Party. I receive the full membership list for that ward together with regular updates. Of course, I have to sign a confidentiality and proper use agreement. Why can the same system not operate within Disability Labour?

I cannot ascertain the number of members DL has. There are 97 members in their Facebook group. The majority of this group are vociferous in their dissatisfaction of the way the organisation is currently run.

The committee does not appear to meet at regular intervals. Members of DL are rarely given details of these meetings and in two years I and other members have never had sight of any minutes or decisions taken. There do not appear to be any audited accounts either.

Two of the current officers tell members that they have tried to resolve the issue of the membership list. However when some members have offered to assist with this process they have not received any response from the officers.

A recent thread on the DL Facebook page has asked if members are happy with the way DL is run. Not one person responding to that post is satisfied with the current arrangements.

I am also a member of LGBT Labour. Their membership system is totally different. No data is held by Labour HQ. Members who are eligible to join the group apply directly to the group and membership records are kept securely by the Secretary and Membership Secretary. There is absolutely no reason why the same system cannot apply to DL membership keeping. Nothing in the constitution of DL prohibits membership data being held by DL officers. 

If membership data were to be transferred to DL officers, all that would be required  is to inform members of the change and given them the opportunity to decline to have their personal information transferred. 

There is nothing in the DL constitution that prohibits members from attending an EC meeting as observers. Previously members have not been given any information about when or where the EC is meeting. This week is the first time I’ve seen the date of an EC meeting. One officer broke ranks and chose to disclose it. As yet we do not know where the EC will meet. I have asked for details, I hope I will be given them, but I’m not holding my breath.

All of this bureaucratic nightmare has a major consequence. DL is not able to represent disabled people within the Labour Party. Many of us experience discrimination and side-lining. This is not acceptable. All sections of the party must comply with the Equality Act 2010.

Party Participation and Disabled People and Project 125, have been launched as a direct consequence of DL’s failure to advocate for its members. We wanted to bring these changes through DL, but that doesn’t seem possible at the moment. 

DL should also be supporting the new Labour Shadow Secretary for Disabled People Marsha de Cordova in her role of challenging Tory policies thst cause misery to disabled people.

250 Labour Party members have joined Party Participation and Disabled People and Project 125 has 275 Labour members, both groups more than doubling the DL Facebook group membership. 

The two new groups are buzzing with ideas and have committed volunteers wanting to contribute. The skills we have are welcomed and the collaborative working is a joy to be part of. Websites are under design and campaigning materials are being produced.

The Labour Party seeks to be ‘For the many and not the few’, but within its own ranks disabled people are often marginalised or ignored. Many people with disabilities cannot attend ward or constituency meetings. Venues are inaccessible to wheelchair users, there is no loop system or microphones to enable deaf people to participate. This breaches the Equality Act 2010. As yet, no one has sued their local Party. Some are entitled to, as the EA 2010 applies to any organisation with over 25 members. Thus it applies to the vast majority of Labour Party Constituency Organisations.

The current situation is a disgrace. As a Labour Party member I’m ashamed that DL is so badly run, and that it seems impossible for ordinary members to have any meaningful involvement. Change is needed. Change will happen, either within DL itself or by involvement from MPs and the leadership. 

The question is when and by whom? It can’t come soon enough for me.

Disability Activists Challenging Labour

Last week the Labour Party had one of its most successful national conferences. Large numbers of delegates came from all over the UK to share ideas and take part in debates. Many fringe events were over subscribed. The World Transformed ran a parallel event. A festival of politics, art, music and culture, it attracted many who were new to politics. All their events were sold out and many had long queues to gain entry. The young labour people I spoke with were enthused to become more involved.

For the first time in a several years there was a separate one day Women’s Conference. I was very fortunate to be delegated by my constituency to attend. I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to over 2000 women delegates. Speaking of my 8 year wait to find a suitably adapted flat, I told of the difficulties I experienced getting my care package transferred from one London borough to another, less than 5 miles away. I pointed out the failures of the 2014 Care Act and the need for services for disabled people to be fully integrated. But despite all the good things, one practical issue dominated conference. Access for disabled delegates and visitors. There were enablers on hand at the main venues , but they were not always fully trained. 

The Women’s Conference was at the Metropole Hotel on Brighton seafront. The main hall was great once I got inside but the route to get there was tortuous! The access for able bodied people was up a sweeping staircase. The disability access was via a very small lift accommodating a wheelchair & one other person only. Then it was a shlep through back corridors, with narrow corners and fire doors to negotiate. For anyone who could not manage stairs, but could walk with assistance of aids, the walk would have been almost impossible. Whilst there were mobility scooters available to borrow, none would have managed that route. There must have been a level access from another part of the hotel, or from a side road, but no information about this was given to disabled delegates. This may have been for security reasons. But my guess is that arrangements were made without input from someone with a physical disability. 

Often it was minor stuff that was a problem. The ramp into the Metropole ended in a door which opened into the hotel, with a press button opener. Getting out again was impossible without assistance as there was no button on the inside! I was told that the disabled toilets didn’t allow for sufficient space to manoeuvre a wheelchair, a common problem. I will never leave my chair outside a loo unless I have someone guarding it. All of these things reduce one’s independence. 

There were difficulties for delegates who needed passes for their own helpers. If there were last minute changes to personnel, that meant lengthy queues to get passes sorted. My own delegate pass was not cleared when I arrived and even after it had been sorted when I got into Conference I was told that I only had visitor rights! There was a flurry of phone calls to enable me to be called to speak. 

Brighton is not the easiest of places for wheelchair users. Cobbled streets and narrow pavements require careful navigation. But all of the entrances for the Conference venue itself involved passing through safety gates, some of which were both narrow and steep. Others were on the edge of pavements covering dipped curbs, making crossing the road hazardous. Several of the venues for fringe meetings were not accessible at all. One that I attended had no signage and involved a temporary ramp. My helper had to go inside the hotel to find out how I could reach the venue room, then alert me as to where to wait for the ramp. Again, this precludes independence. 

Let us in!

One group of disabled people banded together to give out 5000 leaflets raising issues about access and involvement within local Labour Party organisations. Party Participation and Disabled People have been raising concerns throughout the Party. A letter to the General Secretary elicited a reply quoting legislation (The Disability Discrimination Act) that has been superseded. A lamentable level of ignorance. The group is seeking formal recognition of Disability Officers at all levels of the party with elected officers on the NEC and Conference Arrangement Committees. 

A second group of disabled people lead by Jonathan Fletcher an activist from Ashton Under Lyne, have come together to form Project 125. At least 20% of people in the UK have a disability. The Labour Party has all women short lists for council and parliamentary elections. There are requirements for constituencies and committees to have BAEM (Black and Ethic Minority) places. No such arrangements are in place for disabled candidates. The group is seeking to ensure at least 125 people with disabilities have the opportunity to stand as parliamentary candidates. With 650 seats in parliament, 125 represents the 20% of disabled people. Both groups are getting backing from MPs. The issue of participation will be raised within the upcoming review of democracy within the party, which will be lead by Katy Clarke, who is currently Jeremy Corbyn’s political secretary. 

Disabled people are making sure their voices and viewpoints are heard. There is no excuse for lack of accessibility and a failure to consult. Disabled people must advise on conference planning. I am involved in both groups, we are working together. Our activism and solidarity will enable us to succeed. 

This post first appeared on my Huffington Post blog

Marching against the DUP

Supporting Grenfell too

For the first time in many years I joined a demo a couple of weeks ago. In my pre-wheelchair days I had been a frequent attendee at CND, Anti-Apartheid and other marches. Having seen the overtly aggressive actions from police increase over the years, I was scared to be part of a demo again. Further damage to my spine could leave me paralysed. That was a risk I was not willing to take.

But as I read the postings on Facebook for the anti-DUP demo and saw friends were going I decided to join them. My anger as a gay woman at the lack of LGBT equality, was one reason. However it was my experiences as a Nurse supporting women from Northern Ireland who had come to the UK for termination of pregnancy, that was my deciding factor.

Forcing a woman who had been the victim of rape or incest (or both) to continue with a pregnancy is beyond cruel. Maybe carrying a child to term would be harmful for other reasons. The psychological damage these women carry throughout their lives isolates them. They can never speak of the wounds they bear. These women need support, not condemnation and religious intolerance.

To force them to travel to another part of the UK and then pay for the operation they quite rightly seek, is wrong. Why should where a woman lives determine if she pays for a operation she needs?

So I found my bright red pro-choice t-shirt and set off the join my friends. I even managed to park in the first disabled bay I found at the back of Westminster Abbey. A minor miracle, that bode well for my day.

I soon found the friend I’d arranged to wheel with. Jay introduced me to one of her friends and another woman who was on her own. We soon swapped stories and found common threads in our lives. 

The biggest obstacle I faced all day? No ramps onto the grass at Parliament Square! Why? Are wheelchair users banned from the grass? It may be difficult for us to sit on, but don’t separate us out. Luckily my friends helped me get on to the grass and back to the pavement again. 

The speeches at the beginning were inspiring. I was so pleased that supporters of the Grenfell Tower victims were able to join us. That was making our women’s only march mixed gender, unusual but absolutely right at this time. The march was also trans-inclusive, which was another positive action by the organisers. I’m always pleased when the TEFs (trans exclusionist feminists) don’t get to inflict their displaced irrationalism on other women.

Officially the wheelchair users were to be at the front of the march,  but as we moved up towards Downing Street, I soon found myself cocooned in the center of a mass of women. I felt fully included and safe. On Theresa May’s door step the chanting begun to increase. “No racist, sexist, anti gay, no DUP no way.” “Torys, Torys, Torys, out, out out”, we continued. Then came the chants for Corbyn. Never in all my 40 years of demonstrations have I been amongst a group of protesters who not only wanted the current government out of office, but knew exactly who they wanted as the next PM. 

As I watched Jeremy Corbyn speak at Glastonbury a few hours later, with that enormous crowd supporting and cheering him, I felt the same solidarity that I had been part of in Whitehall. I cannot recall a time I have ever known this strength of positive feeling towards a party leader in the UK.

Slowly, but very surely the political tide is turning. The anger about Grenfell, and the untold stories yet to come. The chaos of the Brexit negotiations and this poison-pact with the DUP will all unravel soon.

Decent, safe homes, a woman’s right to choose, a society that does not discriminate, these are values for all. We will continue to demonstrate until they are achieved. 

This post first appeared on my Huffington Post blog.

 

A Very Reasonable Adjustment

Jared O’Mara MP

The Speaker of the House of Commons ruled recently that male MPs need not wear a tie when in the Chamber. There has been much fuss made in various newspapers about this. As well as ill-informed comments by MPs themselves. Many correspondents to letters pages seem to regard it as a lowering of standards. 

The House of Commons is a strange and at times, eccentric place of work, with its old traditions and rules. All MPs still have a ribbon attached to their coat hook for hanging a sword on. Less than 20 years ago MPs still had a wear a collapsable top hat if they wanted to raise a point of order. MPs are also never referred to in the Chamber by their own name. My MP, for instance, is the Honourable Member for  Vauxhall. MPs who are members of the Privy Council or have a knighthood are addressed as Right Honourable. 

Such old style forms of address hardly sit well within a 21st century House of Commons. Many new MPs find themselves baffled by the procedures and customs. They do not make for a welcoming work environment. Some have likened it to going to Public School for the first time or even arriving at Hogwarts. 

The Speaker, John Bercow gave no specific reason for his decision about ties other than it was for him as Speaker to decide what was “seemly and proper”. He continued saying that in his view; “a tie was no longer an essential part of business attire”.

But there is another story behind this announcement. That of making a “Reasonable Adjustment” at work for disabled people, as required by the Equality Act 2010. The new Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, Jared 0’Mara has cerebral palsy and is unable to do up buttons on a shirt or fasten a tie.  He had previously indicated that he may need to ask for such an adjustment. 

John Bercow, like any manager in a workplace has had to make a sensible and pragmatic decision. And not wanting to cause embarrassment to a new MP who has a disability, he made a general announcement. Would it have been better to give a more specific reason? I think not. As disabled people we do not what to be  called out for our differences. But we do need employers to make suitable and reasonable adjustments so we can do our jobs easily and well. 

This is precisely what John Bercow has done. He has also handled his decision with tact and sensitivity. I wish all employers would behave in the same way. 

Many City firms, still require their female staff to wear skirts and high heeled shoes to work. This sexist and outdated attitude should be long gone. It was at the end of the 1960’s that the then Speaker Dr Horace King decreed that women could wear trousers in the House of Commons.

Surely this too, is a change that all employers should be making? Women should have choice in what they wear to work.

The law requires reasonable adjustments for disabled people. I can see no reason to restrict dress codes just to those of us that need them, they should be equally valid for all. 

This post first appeared in my Blog on the Huffington Post UK site, where more of my writing can be found.

The Strangest of Elections

But some wonderful outcomes

I have been involved in helping to run election campaigns since I was 14. Then I was helping at the constituency office in Okehampton, Devon where I went to school. For many years I was an organiser and then Election Agent. I worked in by-elections as well as General and European elections. I’ve seen a lot in 45 years.

But this election was unlike any other I’ve ever been involved in. 

For the first time, Social media had a huge impact. I was running two different twitter accounts. I was also re-tweeting for our next door candidate, who is a personal friend. I could have spent my whole time doing nothing but tweeting everyday. There were also two Facebook pages to maintain and update. I also had a very sharp learning curve in how to use Instagram. I still don’t really understand why the memes I posted had so much impact. 

The next thing that was so different was the diametrically opposite campaign strategies of the two main party leaders. Theresa May, seemed very reluctant to meet any of the public. Possibly a sensible strategy, bearing in mind how badly she came over when people tried to talk to her. Jeremy Corbyn was the opposite, and welcomed meeting voters and listening to what they had to say. 

But the most noticeable difference to me was the lack of political mud slinging from Jeremy’s team. It made a refreshing change and was clearly popular with the electorate. 

For many people it wasn’t ‘All about Brexit’ as Theresa May wanted it to be.  Talking to people on the doorstep, what excited people were the Labour manifesto pledges. The memes about them were some of the most popular images shared on social media.  

What was also new in this election, particularly in the Labour Party was the involvement of Momentum, the campaigning organisation set up to back Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership bids. Momentum ran an excellent social media campaign. They also attracted large numbers of young people to help with phone banking. Some of the training sessions were run by staffers from Bernie Sanders’ campaign team.

Two other organisations, Collective Voice and EL4JC, produced wonderful literature and memorable short videos. The endorsement from actors, film makers and grime artists ensured the enthusiasm of the younger generation.

They also surprised the pollsters by going out and voting.

For me as a disabled person, I was able to be involved in campaigning from my bed. Many other disabled people helped the campaign by being able to phone-bank from the comfort of their own homes. There will always be room for more inclusion, but we have made a good start.

Two Labour candidates with disabilities won seats, and a third came within 1,200 votes of winning. Marie Rimmer who retained her seat of St Helens South and Whiston has a hearing impairment.  She was Shadow Minister for Disabled People before the election. So Labour now has three MPs with declared disabilities. 

Stephen Lloyd is the only Liberal Democrat MP with a declared disability. He has had a hearing impairment since childhood. Two Conservative MPs, Paul Maynard and Robert Halfon both have cerebral palsy. I have been unable to discover any other MPs who have disabilities. By having less than 1% of MPs with a disability, Westminster is clearly not representative of the 19% of disabled people in the UK. 

It is often difficult for people with a disability to get accepted as political candidates, either for local councils or for Parliament. For a few years the Access to Elected Office Fund was able to give financial support to disabled candidates to cover extra expenses. But this fund closed in 2015, just four years after its launch. It leaves prospective MPs or councillors who are disabled with no additional funding support. 

One previous parliamentary candidate was unable to stand during the recent campaign. Emily Brothers who has both vision and hearing impairments, was a Labour candidate in 2015. She was financially supported and able to campaign effectively. This time with no funding available she felt unable to be a candidate.

Mary Griffiths Clarke, was another Labour candidate with a disability. She  has ME. She stood in a Tory/Labour marginal in Afron, Wales. Mary was beaten by just 92 votes. I’m sure the extra money would have supported her and enabled her to win. It is disgraceful that the last Tory government closed the AEO Fund. I would expect any future Labour government to restore it as soon as possible. Disabled people have a right to enter public life and should be assisted to do so.

The two new Labour MPs, Marsha de Cordova, who is visually impaired and Jared O’Mara who has cerebral palsy both had historic victories.

Marsha won Battersea, overturning a Tory majority of almost 8,000. She ousted Jane Ellison, a Treasury Minister, in an amazing campaign. She had hundreds of young people, many from Momentum, door-knocking and delivering leaflets for her. This, together with Marsha’s own work ethic, activist background and focus on local issues assured her victory. I’m proud that I played a part, albeit a small one. 

Jared’s victory over Nick Clegg was considered one of the most dramatic results of election night. He again was a local activist and campaigner, who like Marsha had worked for disability charities. I know little of his campaign, but he must have got the vote of every student in the city who wanted revenge on Nick Clegg. A former Liberal Democrat leader, he dramatically u-turned on his party’s policy of free university tuition, once in coalition. 

I wish the our new Labour MPs well and will be keeping my posters and t shirts ready for when this current coalition of chaos implodes.

This blog was also posted on the Huffington Post 

 

 

Should Nurses go on Strike?

An ethical dilemma.

Last month I watched my Royal College of Nursing colleagues give Jeremy Corbyn a standing ovation at the end of his speech to RCN Congress. I felt proud of the support they gave him.

But 24 hours earlier the RCN made a worrying announcement. They have been balloting nurses about the current pay crisis. 91% of nurses said they’d take industrial action short of a strike. 78% of members who completed the poll said they were prepared to go on strike. This is the first time in 101 years of the RCN that nurses have decided to strike.

I have been a qualified nurse for 40 years. Never in my career have I known nurses wanting to strike. We’ve previously protested about pay. As a student nurse in the 1970s, I and many of my off-duty colleagues marched through the streets of Exeter. I will never forget the reaction of some of the by-standers. Whilst the majority were supportive, some spat at us and accused us of killing patients by being on the march. Nurses were only allowed to march if off duty or given formal permission by a Matron. No patient care was affected by our actions. It took some time for my student nurse pay of £11 a week to improve!

RCN members have now voted at Congress to begin a summer of planned protests. And so they should. There is currently a 1% cap on public sector pay rises. Unless there is a change of government, this will continue until at least 2019-20. The effect being that the average nurse has suffered a real-terms pay cut of 14% since 2010. This is not acceptable. Nurses are now being forced to use food banks.

Our professional registration and indemnity insurance fees have risen. We have to pay these before we can work. Pay and conditions are worsening. Most nurses are now working long 12 hour shifts. When I started to train these had just been phased out, apart from Night Duty. We were told that such long shifts meant nurses were too tired and could make mistakes. Why is the same advice not valid now? 

What can nurses do to highlight their plight? There are few actions they can take without jeopardising care. Working to rule, what would that involve? Not staying on after a shift has ended if there is an emergency? I guess some nurses if they have pressing family issues, such as collecting children from nursery, may feel they can’t stay on. But most nurses I know would willingly stay on to help. Not helping a patient in some extra way? I doubt it.

What would I do if I were still working in the NHS? I really don’t know. I would certainly ‘cover’ so more junior nurses can protest in some way. I suspect when it comes down to taking strike action, most nurses will be very reluctant. I went into nursing because I cared about people and wanted to learn how to help people get better. That still holds true for nurses today. The word vocation may be rarely heard, but nurses still care, deeply.

This current government knows this. It’s why they have treated nurses and other healthcare workers so disgracefully when it comes to pay and conditions. Theresa May did not even bother to acknowledge her invitation to the RCN Congress. Whilst the two other party leaders did attend, Theresa was nowhere to be seen. There are 675,000 nurses in the UK how many votes did she loose? 

I have seen at first hand over the last 6 years how hard nurses work. During that time I’ve had 4 different operations as well as other treatment. Most of my nursing care was good. I saw nurses having to care for confused and elderly post-operative patients in a High Dependency Unit. The unit was understaffed, the nurses not adequately trained. There were not enough doctors  on duty either. 

Visiting a friend in a psychiatric hospital last year, the picture was the same. The ward was chaotic and noisy, with not enough staff. There were no extra staff to provide activities either. The reason? More bed closures including the specialist high care unit.

Yes, nurses can protest outside hospitals or Downing Street. But I cannot imagine any nurse leaving the ward to actually withdraw their labour. In itself that would be a breach of the NMC Code of Conduct. Nurses could refuse to do overtime. But the effect of that will be to reduce their pay even further. 

All I know, is that when nurses are protesting – I will join them. Both as a patient and a nurse. 

 

 

#CripTheVoteUK

Getting disabled people to vote

Crip the vote started in the US in February 2016 during the run-up to the last presidential campaign. It is a nonpartisan online movement activating and engaging disabled people on policies and practices important to the disability community. It is grounded in online conversations encouraging individual and collective action in the face of inequality, ableism, and oppression in all forms.

Their campaign was – and is –  high profile and has incentivised many disabled people to get involved in politics and vote for candidates whose views would best serve disabled people. Although that election is over the campaign continuesActivists are now looking to move into other forms of political participation.

Now Crip the vote has launched in the UK. Started by some campaigners from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), it has had its own blog, and is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

DPAC have organised or been involved in all the Direct Action protests against Austerity Cuts in the UK since 2010.  Their visibility for those of us who may be unable to be involved so publicly for whatever reason, has highlighted the inequalities faced by disabled people.

I’m proud to be part of #CripTheVoteUK. As my friend Dennis Queen said; “Disabled people are quite literally voting for our lives. We need ALL voters to know this is an emergency for thousands of disabled people and help us fight back.” 

You can read more about the campaign here.

Did you know both the United Nations and the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, have condemned the UK government for many abuses against disabled people?

Did you know that at least 10,000 disabled people have died in the last 7 years (since 2010) within 6 weeks of being declared ‘Fit For Work’, and the government has ignored warnings from its own research about the impact of their regime? The next Labour Government has pledged to scrap these cruel tests.

Those two facts alone, should make any voter think hard about what sort of a country the UK has become under the last three Tory led governments. Don’t forget the LibDems were part of this too. 

This is why I’m voting Labour at this election. If you live in a constituency that is already a Labour seat or could become one, please join me. If you live in a seat held by a Tory or LibDem vote for the party who can most easily unseat the sitting MP.

Disabled people, our families and friends make up almost half the UK voting population. Think what a difference your votes could make? 

By voting for a Labour MP you could, quite literally, be saving the lives of disabled people.

A shorter version of this blog post has been published on the Huffington Post UK site, where I will be blogging regularly.

Why this election is personal

The disability vote and why it matters

The UK is now in the midst of a General Election campaign. I have been a political activist in the UK and US since I was 14, and this time is no different. I’m involved in organisation and campaign strategy. I also manage several social media accounts to support our local candidates. 

I’m doing all of this because I want a change of government.

But for me, this is not just about voting Labour, a party I passionately believe in. A party that has the best policies to give us greater equality. In Jeremy Corbyn we have a leader who seeks a great distribution of wealth, and goverment for the many, not the few. The election is also about what this cruel and heartless government and the two preceding ones have done to disabled people.

Almost 19% of UK citizens have a disability. For most of us, we were either born with the disability, or we have become disabled having worked for many years. Those of us who have congenital conditions often suffered as children. Sometimes through neglect and sometimes through ignorance. Those of us who have acquired disabilities frequently find that even though want to work again, even part-time, that option is not possible. 

I have one friend, A GP who used to work with drug addicts. He has had a stoke, and as a result needs a wheelchair to get around. But his home is not wheelchair accessible, so he is denied a wheelchair. If he had a wheelchair, kept in his car or in a garage, he would be able to work again. But this is now denied him. All his years of training and expertise have gone to waste. He cannot afford to move, as he can’t get a mortgage because he’s not working. 

I have another friend, she has a congenital condition, and experienced a abusive childhood. She has trained as an actor and voice coach. Most of her work opportunities are in London. But she can’t afford to live here. So she struggles to survive on part-time hourly paid jobs with no security. She is also in constant pain and cannot afford ‘time out’ for the surgery she needs.

These storied are replicated all over the UK. I know other people who could work part-time, but cannot get the care support they need to enable to be employable.

So this election is personal for me and for my disabled friends. We are asking to become valued members of society again. It is wrong to view us as scroungers or cheats. We have skills aplenty – but need accessible transport and work environments. We need employers to treat us, and all workers, fairly. Did you know most people who use food banks are actually in work?

We need an NHS, free at the point of delivery that is run for the benefit of patients, not for managers or private companies bidding to run services. We need more nurses, especially in mental health, who are paid properly for the work they do. We want properly funded schools for our children and grandchildren. The money this would take can easily be found if companies and Tory backers no longer have ‘sweetheart tax deals’.

The only way that can happen is if people vote out Theresa May and her cronies.

Disabled people are becoming more involved in this election than ever before. My next post will give the story of what’s happening. 

 

I just don’t believe it!

No access at a disability AGM
 
Today is the Disability Labour AGM. It’s a 2 hour meeting being held in Manchester. For health reasons it’s not possible for many of us living down south to travel so far for such a short time.
 
My friend Sophie asked for, what in legal terms is called ‘a reasonable adjustment’, under the Equality Act 2010. Practically this means that she would like to take part in the AGM via Skype – or a similar video conferencing system. 
 
This would have been wonderful not only for Sophie, but for me too as well as others in a similar position.
 
But Sophie’s request has been refused. A refusal for a reasonable adjustment at a disability event – you couldn’t make it up! 
 
This is not an April Fool – but a real situation.
 
We are hoping that a mutual friend, who will have a laptop and mic with her will be able to and allowed, to link up with Sophie. 
 
Watch this space……………………
  
Will it happen? 
 

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