Kate Green MP, Labour's shadow minister for equalities, writes ahead of a visit to the East Midlands
This week I am delighted to be in Loughborough, joining Labour’s Matthew O’Callaghan on the campaign trail. During my visit I’ll be meeting the Human Rights and Equalities group in Charnwood, where I will be listening and chatting to local people about human rights and equal opportunities for all.
It’s important that we take time to reflect on the huge contribution that people from all backgrounds have to make to our country. We see this everyday in our schools, businesses, families and boardrooms, but there is still more to do. It can’t be right in the 21st century that so many people continue to be denied the opportunity to make the most of their potential and live the life they want.
All too often whether it is hate crime or discrimination in the job market, millions of people are denied a fair chance to live independent, successful lives.
In Loughborough we’ve seen a Tory MP promoted to the role of Minister for Women and Equalities – an MP who voted against gay marriage. How can the Tories possibly explain a minister for equalities who didn't believe that gay people should have the equal right to marry?
And David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith are making matters worse, not better.
This government are forcing hundreds of thousands of disabled people to pay the cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax.
Almost 700,000 sick and disabled people are stuck waiting for months for Work Capability Assessments and Personal Independence Payment assessments, worried, struggling to make ends meet.
And the government are failing to help disabled people find jobs through the flawed Work Programme, which is getting just one in 20 disabled people on employment and support allowance into a job.
Labour will go into the next election with policies that offer a big difference for the lives of millions of people in Britain.
Here are six examples:
1. We will make disability hate crime a specific criminal offence. This will better recognise the impact of hate crime and ensure the system can punish those who commit hate crimes against disabled people.
2. We will overhaul the failing Work Capability Assessment. That means improving the quality of assessments by getting tough on failing contractors with penalties if they get assessments wrong. We will also give disabled people a real say in how Work Capability Assessments are improved. And we will help disabled people back to work with more joined-up systems and a statement of how their condition or impairment affects their capacity for work so more disabled people who can work are given the support they need to do so.
3. We will get a grip of the huge Personal Independent Payments backlog. Currently thousands of people are spending month after month waiting for help. The government said people would get a decision in 15 weeks but it moved the goalposts, with people now having to wait 16 weeks just to get an assessment, while 143,000 people had their claims disallowed because they couldn’t attend assessments. Many of them will reapply –another example of Tory Welfare Waste. Labour has called on ministers to set a time limit for making assessment decisions but the government has failed to get a grip.
4. We will replace the failing Work Programme with a new specialist Work Support programme to help disabled people into jobs, bringing together resources from the Work Programme and Work Choice to deliver a new locally commissioned specialist employment programme for sick and disabled people. We’ll also protect the role of specialist Disability Employment Advisers, and ensure Access to Work helps people to work.
5. We will make rights a reality for disabled people. The last Labour government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities. We are committed to making those rights a reality, ensuring disabled people have a real say in the policies that affect them and undertaking rigorous equality impact assessments of all policy proposals.
6. And finally we will scrap the cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax imposed on hundreds of thousands of disabled people and carers by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
These six examples show Labour can make the changes that will give disabled people new opportunities to get on in life and fulfil their dreams and aspirations. After four years of David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith that change can’t come soon enough.