Livability has been running the #PurpleChallenge on social media over the past month to raise awareness of disability issues ahead of the party conference season, which is now underway. Below we have explored what is being said about disability and will try to do the same for the Liberal Democrat and Conservative party conferences too.
Probably the biggest news from the Labour Party conference was that they have launched their own disability-focused branch called Disability Labour. It is a Labour affiliated membership organisation with an elected council of Labour supporters, all of whom have an understanding of the main issues affecting disabled people and also have a strong appetite for change. Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Disabled People) says that Disability Labour will help the Party to ‘abolish the bedroom tax, take tougher action on hate crime, and ensure disabled people are able to fully participate in society.’
The main focus for Gloria de Piero (Shadow Equalities Minister) in her speech was on breaking class boundaries and creating jobs regardless of ethnicity, sexuality or gender. Disability was mentioned in Piero’s speech in relation to the ‘bedroom tax’ and fighting for disabled people’s rights, but it was not central to her speech.
There was no particular mention of disability or the recent Special Education Needs reforms by Tristram Hunt (Shadow Education Secretary),who instead said, ‘my priorities are clear: childcare reform; a world-class teacher in every classroom; an education system that works for the forgotten 50 per cent.’
Rachel Reeves (Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary) was probably the most outspoken on disability issues, opening her speech with a bold statement likely to be popular among disability rights activists: ‘Just think conference, it could be less than a year left for the Bedroom Tax. Because the very first thing I will do if I am Secretary of State for Work and Pensions next May is repeal it.’ Part of Reeves’s 6-point ‘mission’ was to ‘ensure that disabled people who can work get the tailored support that they need.’