Friday, 12 October 2012
Dear Esther McVey...
Firstly, Congratulations on your appointment as Minister for Disabled People.
I've had a look at your blog over on the Wirrel Conservatives website, and I'm really pleased to see you wanting to be clear about your role as Minister for Disabled People.
I confess I do have concerns, but they may be unfounded, it may simply be that Maria Miller's tenure has left me mistrustful and scared that you have no idea of the challenges life lived with impairment brings, and have no genuine desire to actually engage with real disabled people to ensure Conservative policies don't leave us all far worse off.
A Minister for Disabled People has an important role, and should be doing a number of things:
- Working for disabled people's equality in society.
- Understanding the needs of disabled people by listening to disabled people.
- Challenging stigma attached to disability by:
- Openly challenging the media when they publish wrong or misleading stories about sick & disabled people.
- Openly challenging fellow ministers when they use wrong and misleading statistics in parliament, and in the media.
- Educating government ministers about disabled people's needs and rights.
- Being held accountable by disabled people.
You will do well if you listen to what disabled and chronically sick people are saying, then act on what you learn. Look at where disadvantage occurs and ask us why we think that is, and what we would like to do to fix it.
Please understand that there's a big difference between "fit for some work with the right adaptations" and "fit to compete in the current jobs market." I work in an organisation that employs people with a range of impairments - from those who require little support, to people that require 24 hour personal care so I know that almost anyone can work, however, it isn't as simple as just finding a job. That job must be correct for that individual, and the right support must be in place.
For those who can't work - and there are many who can't - realistic alternatives must be available. People must be given enough money to live on. Disability and chronic illness are not choices, and allowing people to live in conditions where they have to choose between heating and eating sees people's health deteriorate.
Please look at the cumulative impact the current cuts are having on the whole of disabled people's lives - don't see the cuts in isolation. We are people who use hospitals, GPs, allied health services, local authority services, libraries, leisure services, adult education, transport.We make up around 1/6 of the UK population, so wherever people are, disabled people are. Whatever services are out there, disabled people are using them.
I'd like to ask about your new Disability Alliance. Who will make up this alliance? How many disabled people will be part of it? What charities will be involved? How many are Disabled Led? How many charities were critical of the plans for PIP?
If you only take one thing from this please let it be that you actively listen to us. That's all.
Edited to add - Ms McVey responded - copy of letter here: http://misplacedmarbles.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/letter-from-esther-mcvey-dated-17th-nov.html