When support was needed most during Covid-19, disabled people have been an afterthought
We are faced with an uphill battle to have the rights and needs of the disabled community at the forefront of society, writes Vicky Foxcroft MP | PA Images
The government's decision to ease the Care Act has been one of the most overt affronts on disabled people's rights. Now is the time to outline what the long-awaited national strategy for disabled people should look like
This month marks Disability History Month, an opportunity to celebrate pioneers of the disability movement, the many who fought hard and have achieved so much. This year is especially significant, for two very different reasons.
Firstly, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act. A hard fought for and landmark piece of legislation that acknowledged societies failure when it came to a disability. It was this Act which recognised that it was society which needed to adapt, not the other way around. A law which made it illegal for employers and service providers such as shops and restaurants to discriminate against someone because they were disabled.
It is easy to forget how controversial that legislation was. Between the early 1980s and mid-1990s there were 14 failed attempts to push civil rights legislation for disabled people through Parliament. Yet once again we are faced with an uphill battle to have the rights and needs of the disabled community at the forefront of society.
The Covid-19 pandemic has sadly set us back and brought to the forefront the stark inequalities that still exist.
Right from the start of this pandemic disabled people have been an afterthought. Poor accessibility of communications from government with many struggling to access food, medicines and PPE equipment.
When support was most needed, across the country, countless disabled people have been abandoned during the pandemic. The Care Act easements enacted by this government has been one of the most overt affronts on disabled people's rights.
In the space of nine months, the actions of this government have undone decades of hard-fought-for rights by disabled people
Is it any wonder that, throughout the pandemic, research has consistently shown that disabled people are afraid and feel like an afterthought?
In the space of nine months, the actions of this government have undone decades of hard-fought-for rights by disabled people.
So while we should all be celebrating disabled peoples rich history in the UK, the pandemic has left so many worried about the future. We must emerge from this pandemic vowing to never again have disabled people as an afterthought.
Now is the time for renewal, an opportunity to be creative in a new deal for disabled people. With the long-awaited announcement of the national strategy for disabled people due next year, Labour intends to kick start the discussion on what this strategy should look like.
Along with my colleague Marsha De Cordova MP, the Shadow Secretary of State of Women and Equalities, we intend to use Disability History Month as an opportunity to ignite this discussion. The Labour Party is committed to ensuring that disabled people are at the heart of this - the experts by experience.
Any national strategy must be forward-thinking and hold a prominent place, ensuring every department across Whitehall delivers on the principle that every disabled person can live a fully independent life. From accessible transport systems and inclusive housing to an accessible court system and a social security system which has compassion at its heart.
This strategy and the Minister with cross-departmental responsibility for disabled people must not shirk away from being a proper advocate and champion for disabled people.
I look forward to reading the strategy, I’ll be standing up for disabled people every step of the way and ensuring they get the deal they deserve.
Vicky Foxcroft is the Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford and shadow minister for disabled people.