Videos from Labour conference! – see these attempts to get answers on disability funding cuts…

Update 17 March 2015:

Although Andy Burnham committed to a meeting with disabled people about protecting Independent Living Fund recipients when the ILF closes (he made that commitment on Saturday – you can listen to him talk about it in the video below), he’s now said he can’t meet. I realise he’s busy and that Labour has an election to fight/screw up in the coming weeks, but honest to god. Can’t a single senior Labour figure commit to keeping that fund open so that the disabled people who receive it can live. The ILF is due to close in June. If Labour is going to commit to anything to protect those people, now is the time to do it. Can we take Labour’s refusal to make that commitment as evidence that disabled people aren’t people that Labour plans to represent?


Original post:

To the Labour Spring conference in Birmingham yesterday! – where a group of Independent Living Fund recipients, Disabled People Against Cuts and me did our best to get answers from Labour worthies about the party’s plans for disabled people’s benefits and funds. The aim was to hear from various horses’ mouths what will happen if Labour forms part of whatever monster administration we end up with in a couple of months, etc.


It wasn’t a bad day out if you fancied a mid-morning cake. There were croissants, piles of those great little pastries with jam and icing, and awesomely big chocolate squares laid out on oddly morgue-y concrete slabs. Answers to the funding questions were a little harder to come by. The people I tried to speak to either ran away, stamped off when compared with Tories, or said they had families to get home to. Not to worry. Plenty of time left before the election (54 days they kept saying yesterday). I think I might get along to a few more of these junkets and hustings. Even the most committed MPs and parliamentary hopefuls can’t spend 54 days legging it from the rabble.

But let’s not carp about that. Let’s go to some of yesterday’s responses. The electorate requires a few decent responses on these issues. Disabled people have taken the brunt of austerity cuts. I personally feel that Labour needs now to be offering something a bit more substantial than “That’s Sad,” or “How Awful” (heard both yesterday) on the topic of this government’s disability funding slaughter. A rigorous commitment to social security from a party that ought to see the point of it would be nice.

We had two questions for MPs:

1) Would Labour scrap the hated and dangerous Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance?

2) Would Labour change its mind and keep the Independent Living Fund (ILF) open – the ILF being an all-important fund that profoundly disabled people use to pay for the extra care hours that they need to live independent lives? The current government plans to close the fund by the end of June this year.

You’d expect a reasonably straightforward set of responses, given that the answer to both questions ought to be a resounding Yes. Unfortunately, things weren’t quite as simple as that, as you’ll see.

Out of the blocks (literally) in the video below was Yvette Cooper. I asked her for her views on the WCA and whether Labour would scrap it. She said to talk to Rachel Reeves, because she, Yvette, was in hurry for her next meeting. To be fair, this may have been true, although I noted that she went from walking to her next meeting to sprinting for it very fast when I tried to talk to her. I was asking “Will Labour get rid of it [the WCA]?” as she went. Not a lot of joy there as you’ll see:

Transcript for video (pdf)

No luck finding Rachel Reeves back at base, either. But not to worry, as I say. Am already on the search for a next time.

Onto Andy Burnham next. The great man was in the NHS corner in the top assembly room. In the video below, he speaks with DPAC’s Linda Burnip about the fast-approaching closure of the Independent Living Fund.

Burnham agreed that the profoundly disabled people who rely on the ILF needed protection when/if the funds closes. Which they do, to say the very least. Without the ILF to pay for the extra care hours they require, those disabled people will either be pushed into care facilities, or left at home to try and get by with dangerously low levels of care. It is no exaggeration to say that many won’t get by. The big problem now, of course, is that the ILF is due to close in a matter of months. It’s very late in the day for politicians to be wafting on in a non-specific way about protections for people whose lives will depend on those protections. As DPAC says in the video, Burnham’s integrated health and social care plan is still a long way off. There are also those of us who feel that in a general sense, Labour council attempts to protect social care budgets and facilities in the past five years have been beyond woeful, so putting further hope in widespread protection for disabled people could be a bit – hopeless. Burnham did commit to a meeting with DPAC and Inclusion London about the ILF/these “protections”, so I very much look forward to that:

Transcript for video (pdf)

Next up – I spoke with Liam Byrne about the Work Capability Assessment. God only knows why I decided to do this to myself. I’m starting to think that I may need to re-nose this aspect of my approach. Quite a lot of my life has already been wasted on conversations with fading worthies. You can actually hear my will to live leaving me via my voice in this one. Needless to say, Byrne thought that outsourcing assessments for disability benefits was still a good idea, despite the Atos experiment ending up as a pile of turds. One thing I will say for modern politicians – once they’ve chosen a disastrous ideology, they stick with it. They don’t flail through life looking for new ways to fail like the rest of us. I raised the ILF with Byrne, but didn’t get anything there, because he had to go and talk to some (possibly more important) blokes and also remembered he had to get home to the family:

Transcript for video (pdf)

What next. Oh yes. There was a “conversation” with Angela Eagle near the start where one of our number made a comment about Labour’s approach to WCA not being far removed from the Tories’. She apparently got all upset about that and left because she was a) genuinely angry or b) quietly delighted because she felt that the Tory comparison gave her an excuse (it didn’t) to leave, and on her high horse. Her Spad person told us to “send an email” as Angela marched off. I think I’ve got an audio from that one, but might go for a drink before subjecting us all to it. Definitely let me know if you’ve got hustings coming up in your area, though. Am right up for more of these face-to-face chats.

11 thoughts on “Videos from Labour conference! – see these attempts to get answers on disability funding cuts…

  1. It’s no good looking to Labour to come riding in to the rescue, as far as the WCA and ILF are concerned. They long ago accepted the Tory view on these issues, as did the LibDems. At best if Labour form the next government they might be a bit less ruthless, that is about all that really be expected.

    • And yet people still believe…

      I think this is probably the aspect of the austerity years that has made me angriest – the utter lack of political opposition. No surprise that political opposition is emerging regardless, particularly in Scotland.

  2. The way to change Labour is to put pencil cross to paper in England’s Tory and Lib Dem marginals, where the massive poor disabled vote of all ages, now outnumber all other voters against:

    – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC±)
    running 122 MP candidates and rising
    ex Labour MPs and councillors sacked out of Labour for being
    anti austerity cuts.

    – Class War
    double dole and pension

    Mebyon Kernow
    – Cornwall has the slimmest majorities of all sitting Tory and Lib Dem MPs. MK is running in all Cornwall’s voting areas.

    – Socialist party of Great Britain (Socialist GB)
    Although The Greens in Brighton, there are 3 voting areas in Brighton.
    Brighton Kempton has a Socialist GB candidate.

    Labour cannot rule alone or even with the SNP and Plaid Cymru, to get sufficient for the 323 MPs and above to rule in the UK Westminister parliament.

    So a group of parties are needed to shut the Tories out of power.

    Because right now, the Tories are planning to just sit in government and rule for next 5 years even if their Tory MPs lose their seats.

    With a group of parties above 323 MPs this shuts the Tories and Lib Dems out of government.

  3. Re the question about Labour and the Work Capability Assessment, Yvette Cooper (aka Mrs Balls from a two-income household) changed from a walking pace to a sprint, and Angela Eagle was horrified about the idea that Labour and Tory approaches might not be too dissimilar.
    How might they have responded if asked whether they had learned anything from the fallout of the WCA Mk II that — though the Tories piloted it and got the flack for — was actually AUTHORISED by Labour’s 2010 DWP Secretary Yvette Cooper?
    Re the promises made by any political party, there does need to be some sort of costing done re how those policies would be implemented. And while voters need to consider a party’s record on disability policies and the fact that every political party is in effect a coalition in itself with different issues emerging at different times. Manifesto coverage in elections can either be described as ‘topical’ or ‘bandwagon jumping’, while at best manifestos can also help to educate the GENERAL voting public that, say,
    family-based carers on Carers Allowance for a minimum 35 hour weekly commitment,
    paid carers going from ever diminshing care session to
    and from care sessions and only paid for ‘contact time’, and
    disabled people in or out of waged work and jobseekers without disabilities but with Claimant Commitment, JSA agreement, Universal Jobmatch, Daily Signing and all that crap
    are not only excluded but scapegoated by those who emphasise ‘hard working people’ but extremely hardworking in their own ways for far too little reward.

    Dude Swheatie of Kwug

  4. In general, it’s bluster and evasion from Labour, and has been for a long time now. They are distinctly uncomfortable when they encounter normal, working people, unless they know about it well in advance and they’ve been briefed. Any working person who votes for them is being conned. I hate to see so many Labour posters up house windows in the deprived working class town in the north where I live, each election. For God’s sake, Labour conferences are literally sponsored left right and centre (so to speak) by corporations. And my Labour MP spews forth comforting rhetoric to the town each week, supported by the local sycophantic newspaper, while he is in fact a member of ‘Progress’, a pro-privatisation pressure group within Labour, sponsored by Lord Sainsbury and a number of private equity companies (John Woodcock, in case you’re wondering).

    There is nothing worse, these days, than those dreaded words uttered by the working person when asked by the media: “I’ll be voting Labour. Been a Labour supporter all my life, parents were, and I am too…” – irrespective of their actual policies.

  5. Pingback: This is what people in need look like. Take a good look, Rachel Reeves | Kate Belgrave

  6. Pingback: Mary says “I left the Tories and joined the Greens because of the Independent Living Fund” | Kate Belgrave

  7. Pingback: The hell with this garbage. Let’s rule ourselves. | Kate Belgrave

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