Disabled people: Labour manifesto offers little

Published in Solidarity 714

Manifesto drops key pledges to disabled people

Labour’s general election manifesto offers little more than vague mentions to disabled people, and drops many of the party’s specific pledges.

A thorough assessment of the manifesto by the Disability News Service website notes the absence of pledges to:

  • end care charges
  • make disability-related policy in conjunction with disabled people and their organisations
  • incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) into UK law
  • take action about the many deaths linked to the harsh benefits regime of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • review and improve Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • apply the social model of disability
  • do anything about the lack of provision of accessible housing.

The previous Labour leadership had promised an inquiry into DWP-related deaths, but this has now been dropped.

Last year’s National Policy Forum report, hardly a radical document, did include some positive wording, but this has not appeared in the manifesto. This included commitments to “ensure that respect and dignity are once more at the heart of our social security system”, to make “every stage of the social security system … supportive and accessible”, and to overhaul “the current unfair and punitive Tory system and end punitive Tory sanctions which strip away people’s dignity”.

Of the ten mentions of disability in the manifesto, the majority are related to work. Although better rights and pay at work is important for many disabled people, the emphasis echoes the Tory narrative that that ‘work is good for disabled people’, their pretext for forcing disabled people into unsuitable work.

The manifesto promises equal pay and statutory disability pay gap reporting, and to deal with the backlog in Access to Work payments.

Labour will ‘do something’ for disabled people

On several issues, the manifesto promises to ‘do something’, without specifying what that something will be. A Labour government will “review” Universal Credit, carry out “deep reform” of the care sector, and “build consensus for the longer term reform needed to create a sustainable National Care Service”. The manifesto states that the treatment of autistic people and people with learning difficulties is “a disgrace”, but does not set out what a Labour government would would do about it.

Other than that reference to autism, there is no mention of neurodiversity in the manifesto, despite a clear vote at 2021 Labour Party conference to include it in the policy review.

The Labour leadership is probably hoping that by making no promises, it has provided nothing for campaigners to hold it to, and that disabled people will be grateful for any little measure it does manage to take in government. The tenacity of disabled activists means that it more likely to prompt anger and determination to make Labour deliver more than it promises, and carry out the pledges made by the Corbyn/McDonnell leadership.

Download Page Content (.pdf)