“We now have a disability movement in this country of which we have not seen the equal before” John McDonnell MP tells U.K. Parliament

June 22, 2012 By our partners Social Welfare Union

John McDonnell MP, LRC chair, speaking in the House of Commons debate on disability benefits and social care, 20 June 2012.

This has been a helpful discussion about policy, but the best policy is informed by our own experience of what is happening in our own constituencies. I want to put on record what my constituents are experiencing at the moment. In addition to surgeries, we now have an open-door policy four days a week, and in some ways I wish that we had not. Sometimes we want to hide, because we have been inundated with people who have problems with lost benefits.

I also help with disability living allowance appeals. This is not just about legal aid cuts; it is about the cuts overall. We have lost advisers in the area, so I represent people at DLA appeals, and we mainly win. That is not because of my articulateness, as you can tell; it is because once those presiding over the appeal see the people concerned, they can see that they have been wrongly assessed. Another problem is that people’s appeals are taking so long to arrange, once they have lost their benefits. They can wait for up to six months for their appeal, having lost their benefit, which is causing immense problems.

On the work capability test, I opposed the privatisation of the process and the bringing in of Atos, but if we are going to have a private company doing this work, we should at least be able to understand the contract involved. We should at least be given open access to what has been agreed with that company in our name, and be told what level of performance it is supposed to undertake. I am not sure what other Members have found, but when people come to see me, having gone through an Atos assessment, they tell me that they feel degraded, shamed and abused. I raised the point about suicides with the Secretary of State some weeks ago, and I was not exaggerating. Other Members will have experienced this as well. People come into my constituency office and tell me: “I can’t take any more of this. I’ve had enough.” I am really worried by the anecdotal reports of individual suicides, and it behoves the Government to monitor the situation and assess what is happening on the ground.

People have had enough of being called scroungers. We have seen the increase in hate crime towards people with disabilities because of the atmosphere that has been created by the media and by some politicians using loose language on this subject. Those people feel shamed, simply because they are claiming the benefits to which they are entitled. That is the experience in my constituency office at the moment, and it just goes on.

This is carers week. Other London MPs will also tell the House about constituents who have gone on to personal budgets, and that those budgets do not cover the wages of the carers whom we want to care for our people. It is virtually impossible to pay enough to get someone to stay overnight. Most of these arrangements have now been privatised, and people are getting a different carer coming in every day. The relationships with the carers have been broken down by this process.

Respite provision is now critical in my constituency, but what is my local Conservative council doing? It is closing the centres where people used to get respite. This is all part of the modernisation programme. It is closing three centres and modernising one. Of course, two of the centres that are being closed completely are in the most needy area of my constituency; a working-class area. It just goes on.

After the Southern Cross debacle, the company was broken up and some of the residential homes were given back to their original owners. I give this warning now: that arrangement is beginning to break down already, because the management in those individual homes are not competent to manage the process of disaggregation and the long-term planning of care. Why? The local authority role in providing those services has been so undermined and the resources have been cut, even for the management of those individual contracts. We are facing a crisis. A number of people are trapped in this whirlpool of deprivation, and it will be almost impossible to pull them out if we continue with these policies.

I went to the GMB conference last week, spoke to the manufacturing section and met many Remploy workers. They are now absolutely desperate, and they feel completely betrayed. They might not have agreed with the Sayce report, but at least there was a process there that they saw they were working through. That has now been torn up and everything in that report has been reneged upon. They feel absolutely vulnerable, with some saying, “We will not work again.”

In the early 1980s, I sat on the first committee established to remove restrictions against people with disabilities. It was called CORAD— the Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People. I was nominated to sit on it by the TUC. It took us 25 years before we secured anti-discrimination legislation. I congratulate the last Government on achieving that. I was one who wanted to mainstream employment. In fact, I was an ardent advocate of that; over the years, experience taught me that we always need an element of supported employment. That is what Remploy does well. What does it do badly? As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) argued, the management has been abysmal. All the workers are saying is, “Listen to us; we can manage these resources more effectively than the current management, but we also need the support of the Government.” As my hon. Friend said, what happened to the commitments about public procurement that we were promised over the last two years? If it had not been for the individual efforts of people such as my hon. Friend and others, as exemplified today, no procurement would have happened because the Government have done nothing.

Finally, the Government should not think that this issue or these people are going to go away because they are not: these people are mobilising. We now have a disability movement in this country of which we have not seen the equal before. Black Triangle occupied Atos offices in Scotland; members of DPAC—Disabled People Against Cuts—chained themselves in Trafalgar square. These people are not going to go away. They will be in our face—and rightly so. I will support them, including if Remploy workers opt to occupy their factories.

Read the full debate on Hansard


Labour Representation Committee

9 thoughts on ““We now have a disability movement in this country of which we have not seen the equal before” John McDonnell MP tells U.K. Parliament

  1. DAVID A SHAW says:

    And we shall grow stronger and more effective. When the decision was made by this government urged by their corporate friends of whom we know, they made a mistake of epic proportion. For we are not weak, and we are not afraid. This abusive and bullying bunch of charlatans in Westminster would do well to take that fact on board.

  2. muffie02 says:

    and NOT forgetting the individuals around the country ,who are also fighting against all this – and will be fighting even harder once PIP comes in – but are not able to hit the streets – and use the pc as their weapon ( thank god for the internet – imagine if we did not have it – no info – no news- and no hope )

    at least someone in government has realised that we are not the scrounging scum that most of the rest of the politicos would have the sheepel beieve

    and that we are NOT GOING TO GO AWAY ANYTIME SOON !!!

    now if we can just get that throughthe rest of the rich toffs thick skulls ……………….

    1. Mo Stewart says:

      Thanks for this comment. Sometimes I wonder if people realise that not all disabled people can make a public appearance but we do what we can and there is no doubt that every political party are now aware of this vast and growing disability movement. Well done. Mo xx

  3. jeffery davies says:

    sir you speak well of us the sick and disabled but cant you see that atos is theproblem and shouldnot be involed at all with the dwp and should be given the boot not try to work with them.They been given enough chances and failed at it every time by their failure and lies at these so called medicals (interigations) his just and pack of lies after another so we need not talk about working with them as they CANT be trusted as shown in america why cant our mps show this and get rid of this EVIL firm who made up by blair became the sick beating stick ,thus the goverment get atos to get the hate whilst they say its not to do with us WHOT they are the ones in power and only have to make the move ti kick them out ,BUTno the torys want us all gone but like the turning of the wheel we WILL hAVE our day they should bewarned its becoming a bigger mess and they the politicians will pay the bill for treatment of the sick and disabled .unum virgin atos serco kills the nhs rip jeff3

  4. Sue Marsh says:

    Awesome, I almost feel guilty that I judged #DisabilityDebate before I’d heard Anne and John’s speeches. I’ll search them out now and take a look.

    The detail in John’s speech above is so knowledgeable. He puts so any other MPs who attended that debate to shame. Particularly D Poulton, who didn’t even know the difference between DLA & ESA. Had to be slapped down twice (once awesomely by Anne McGuire)

  5. Humanity2012 says:

    This Country in it’s Present Political and Economic State is a Horrible Nasty Mess
    Thanks to Politicians and Capitalist Profiteers .

    Things look Likely to Get Worse without a Massive Sea Change in Policy for the
    Better a Political Earthquake

  6. kasbah says:

    No , they can’t silence us because we shall shout louder and louder. We are strong, determined, resolute and united. We have no flies on us. We are wise to their ways, policies and systems. We shall prevail.

  7. eve charles says:

    We need to get this government kicked out by a vote of no confidence. They are diminishing the rights of the working class disabled and turning us all into worse than terrorists. I am being looked at in my home town as if I have a plague and should be put down like a rabid dog. What’s this country going to do with this government? We will all keep on writing on every site we can find and shouting at every opportunity until we are treated like HUMAN BEINGS again. It is not our fault or wish to be the way we are. We would just like to be accepted again.

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