Government must fully consult the disability sector ahead of Brexit
The SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron writes ahead of her parliamentary debate calling for a full consultation with disabled people on the effect on their services of the UK leaving the EU.
The Brexit debate in parliament has largely to date focused upon trade, access to markets and business objectives. Little has yet been characterised in terms of the type of society we wish to be after Brexit and even less has been said about the impact of Brexit for groups in society such as disabled people and for their daily services and human rights.
The debate this week in parliament is important because it highlights our need to consult widely and to think tangentially on Brexit. Brexit is fundamentally not just about markets and money, it is about people. To work for everyone, in our society Brexit must therefore be inclusive. For disabled people, Brexit must have equality legislation and vision placed at its’ heart.
Proportionally, disabled people make up one in five of the UK population. This is a significant sector of our population who will be affected by legislative change flowing from the decision of the UK to leave the EU. It is incumbent therefore, upon the UK Government to consult disabled people and their organisations on the issues of post Brexit Britain.
Disability Rights UK have started this dialogue and recently produced an excellent Disability Manifesto for Brexit. This highlights the importance of maintaining disability rights post Brexit, having a mechanism for ensuring these within the Great Repeal Bill and for keeping the UK ahead of the curve when it comes to future equality legislation.
It is also estimated that the post Brexit UK may leave a significant funding gap for disability charities and organisations working on inclusion and equality with the assistance of EU Grants. NCVO (2016) estimate that UK charities benefit from over £300 million in EU funding every year. Important questions remain such as how will this level of funding be replaced and what would the UK’s own funding mechanism look like in its absence? Crucially, what meantime can bridge the gap to make sure that charities and organisations working on a daily basis to support disabled people do not simply grind to a halt?
Freedom of movement has also been raised as a key issue for disabled people. One of the reasons for refusal of visa applications is ‘lack of self-sufficiency’ and ability to access comprehensive health insurance. Legislation must therefore ensure not to penalise disabled people using descriptors that exclude their ability to meet necessary criterion.
It is recognised that disabled people rely disproportionately upon NHS and social care. Grave concerns follow that Brexit restrictions may adversely affect our NHS and social care workforce which has in recent years been heavily reliant upon EU nationals. This is a crucial part of the debate in relation to the skills set needed to ensure ongoing NHS and social care available to some of the most vulnerable at the point of need.
Finally, there are EU Disability Laws, primary legislation and secondary legislation that may impact upon disability rights and that we must ensure these are enshrined in the Great Repeal Bill.
Post Brexit considerations may seem most significant to trade, but they are also significant to people and ultimately to the inclusiveness and nature of our society at large.
Dr Lisa Cameron is the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
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