On Saturday 16 February at CLR James library, Hackney North and South Labour Parties teamed up on an event focused on giving members a space to discuss access issues within the party and where we should focus our campaigning around disability. 30 people attended from 15 of our 21 branches and one member accessed the meeting via a Zoom link. In this report we outline what was said and what action points we identified.

Contributions from speakers

Fran Springfield, Chair of Disability Labour (DL) and a mental health nurse, outlined Labour’s Annual Conference access and safeguarding issues, especially in Brighton. DL’s links with the Party have improved. At a national level the NEC (National Executive Committee) and CAC (Conference Arrangements Committee) elections of disability reps are currently contested. Fran is preparing a paper for local parties on how conference delegates are funded. DL is rolling out training in mental health access. The party is starting to monitor disability among members. Disability Officers may set up a disability forum and model rules will be available for these soon. The DEAL booklet gives guidance on taking up access issues in the party. It is available via this link.

Andy Greene, an activist in Disabled People Against Cuts, argued that Labour’s disability politics are unimaginative and disability nearly always linked to benefits issues. The social model of disability must be adopted as standard. This meeting lacks diversity and grassroots activity is needed, being radical and fearless in how we engage with the party. Language: we must shift away from ‘workers’ and ‘rights’ to humanity and love.

Richard Rieser, Islington North Labour Party disability officer and leader of The World of Inclusion, outlined the lack of access and difficulties he met in getting support for policies on disabilities at shadow cabinet level. The party does not have policy to scrap Universal Credit. A system is needed to draw on the experiences and expertise of disabled people. Activists in branches need training. Hackney has the highest rate of unofficial exclusion from schools and inadequate provision for pupils with special educational needs.

Disability Event
Disability Event

Action points going forward

Access within the party:

  • Transfer agendas etc into MP3 files so that people can access them as speech.

  • Do a skills audit of members’ knowledge and experience with disability and access.

  • Build capacity for mandatory disability training for local Labour Party officers.

  • Tackle the bullying and intimidation that happens in meetings.

  • Develop practices on making reasonable adjustments for speakers such as allowing more time for some people and making this clear to others at the meeting

  • Think about different and inclusive ways of campaigning by people who may not be able to do doorstep or telephone canvassing.

  • A top-down approach is needed on process and a bottom-up approach to bring issues and policies to branch and constituency meetings.

  • Campaign to make The World Transformed more accessible.

Wider access activities

  • Campaign to scrap cuts in Students’ Disability Allowance.

  • Campaign to scrap and replace Universal Credit, developing ideas for its replacement that build on disabled people’s knowledge and experience.

  • Research and publicise all those in Hackney offering advice.

  • Use canvassing to seek to identify and offer advice to disabled voters.

The meeting was organised by Dot Lewis and Barb Roberts, Hackney North and Hackney South Disability Officers

Disability Event
Disability Event
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