Let’s help disabled people fulfill their potential

If there’s one thing that we believe in more than anything else, it’s the power of people. That’s why at the core of us there’s so much passion and determination to unlock people’s potential, the potential that’s wasted by the right’s politics of “you’re on your own.” And it’s potential that’s wasted by social security that fails to empower disabled people and their carers and, instead, traps them in poverty. That’s not something we’re prepared to stand and watch. That’s something we want to change.

In Australia, someone is registered as disabled every half an hour. In Britain, it’s every three minutes. In both Australia and Britain, one in five adults has a disability of some kind. That means that unless we give all disabled adults the chance to contribute, we’re only drawing on 80 percent of our power. We’re only firing on four out of five cylinders. That simply can’t be right.

It’s not right morally and it’s not good economically. The result is bad for the country – and it’s bad for disabled people. We believe in something simple: because disability can affect anyone, it affects everyone. That is why social security has got to change so that we make the right to live as full citizens in a free society a reality for disabled people.

In Australia, the Labor government laid the foundations for a revolution in services for thousands of disabled people, their families and carers. DisabilityCare Australia will mean that Australians with significant and permanent disabilities will have more power to choose their support and more control over how that support is provided. The program, gradually being rolled out across the country, is creating personal plans that put the goals and aspirations of individuals at the center of the support they will receive.

The scheme will also give Australians peace of mind that their child or loved one will get the care and support they need in the event that they have a significant and permanent disability.

We think that Britain has a lot to learn from Australian Labor, so we’ll work together to study how the ground-breaking ideas pioneered by Labor can help make a difference in Britain.

Currently, in Britain, we support disabled people by putting them in the middle of a labyrinth and telling them to find their way out. There are assessments for social care. There are assessments for personal independence payment. There are assessments such as the work capability assessment.

Of course, we need assessments – but at the moment, hundreds of thousands of the assessments are wrong. Years are wasted in court, where eventually 40 percent of appeals around employment and support assessments are won.

It is a monumental waste of money – £74m, according to evidence provided to the public accounts committee by Disability Rights UK. We spend £900m on Atos. We’re about to spend £540m on Atos and Capita.

It’s time to end the labyrinth. We’ll be looking at how we take the radical ideas of “whole person care”, developed by Andy Burnham, to bring services and benefits together to support disabled people in a new way. And we’re delighted that in Britain, Sir Bert Massie, a great pioneer of disability rights, will be working alongside us to make sure ideas are co-produced with disabled people every step of the way.

Labour will be publishing a green paper on the idea next summer. It’ll be far stronger for the advice from Down Under.



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