UK Disability History Month exists to reflect and raise awareness of the marginalized position those with disabilities and neurodivergences hold within society. The significance of disability liberation to UK history is often understated, even forgotten about specifically in the context of the welfare state. Yet despite this, and with the “diagnosed” population at around 24%, it is shocking that such great disparities still exist. For example, according to the House Of Commons Library those with disabilities are less likely to have a degree, less likely to be in work and less likely to be experiencing happiness. In addition, they are at a higher risk of crime and up to 333% more likely to be experiencing loneliness. This is not yet even taking into account the cost of living crisis, the climate emergency, changes to electoral law, cuts in health and social care.
Importantly it is necessary to recognise that disabled people belong to various communities, many of which have become marginalized and made voiceless, including young people who despite experiencing a similar level of exclusion have few opportunities to be heard. As a prime example of this the Local Government Association records the average age of councillors at 60, with 16% being under the age of 45. This is extremely pertinent as young people particularly benefit from council run/ funded services, particularly transport and leisure that is accessible, along with inclusive education and planning. With the cost of living crisis and the appalling state of renting in the UK it is no surprise that civil participation is not at the forefront of many young people’s minds. This is no different for those with disabilities who have to fight extra hard and for longer to even be in a position to have their voices heard. It is of no help that in combination with this there is an attack on devolved powers and absolutely no funding at all for grass-roots community participation projects which would otherwise give a larger platform to those with disabilities to have a voice in their community.
Despite the UK signing the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) over 10 years ago it’s sad that there has been little implementation. Current legislation does not go far enough in enforcing accessibility and holding service providers to account. We need to move away from a system of disempowerment, to one where all sectors are cooperating proactively so everyone can thrive.
I am proud that the Green Party takes a rights based approach to disability, this is crucial because as much as we advocate for removing systemic barries, many people with disabilities will still need a range of disability-related supports in order to enjoy their rights on an equal basis with others. Hence a need for policies that empower an individual at all levels.
Particular areas that concern Young Greens include the state of SEND Education, teaching doesn’t currently reflect student’s needs and learning style. Segregated learning further holds students back.
Public transport which many disabled people rely on still makes travel so difficult. Bus passes are restrictive and space for mobility aids is limited. Within our train network provision of passenger assistance is poor whilst traveling is more expensive than ever.
Social care in the UK is still a business model which means the support required by those most at need will never be at a quality level, as providers are too focused on value for money then the real social, emotional and mental health needs. That’s only when a mental health diagnosis has been secured which is becoming increasingly challenging.
Elliott Lee, Young Green Disability Liberation Officer said:
“Disability history month is a chance to reflect on 150 years that have seen radical social and systemic change for those disabled in society. What history classes have failed to teach us is the strides disability liberation has made for the welfare state, it must not be forgotten as there’s still so much more to come, especially for young people who often find themselves voiceless within society. Disability Liberation is for everyone and that is a key as we build policies for a sustainable future”
Thomas Atkin Withers and Eli London, Co-Chairs of the Young Green Disability Committee said:
“Disability history month gives us a pause to reflect on how far we have come, but also to organise for the fight ahead. As we have seen in the Autumn 2023 Budget, this government is hell bent on rolling back protections for disabled people, forcing them into work or destitution, and putting their health at stake. We also see how little support there is for Young Disabled people, from SEND Support in education to support in workplaces, and support from the welfare and healthcare systems. When we demand Disabled Liberation, we demand the rights of disabled people to have agency and control over their lives, the right level of support at the right time and a flexible approach to that support, as every disabled person is different. Disability Liberation needs to be at the heart of all that we do, in every policy we write, and in every campaign. That is the only way we can build a brighter future for us all.”