The Big Society and Disabled Workers

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2011 National Disabled Members' Conference
22 June 2011

The Government’s Big Society idea is not convincing as a progressive vehicle for advancing social justice and equality for disabled workers.

For a start its context goes hand in hand with deep and reckless cuts in public spending that are already producing disproportionate reductions in the living standards of disabled people. Government attacks on the rights and living standards of disabled people make a farce of their mantra that “we are all in this together”!!!

Public sector trade unions like UNISON understand the value of voluntary action and the freedom that gives to the promotion of democracy and the protection of disabled workers’ rights. The cutting back of public contract and public investments destroys services and jobs weakening capacity to develop services for disabled people.

Government cuts in state benefits such as the Disability Living Allowance especially its mobility component actively prevents disabled people from participating in society. Combined with the cuts to bus travel subsidies, reductions in services are leaving disabled workers isolated and creating barriers to their access to employment.

The Access to Work Programme is now threatened by contracting budgets imposed by restricted provision in training support.

There must be meaningful Equality Impact Assessments involving disabled workers and responsible authorities must ensure proper scrutiny of the adverse impact of the cuts on disabled workers.

The Government drive around the Big Society is a cover for reducing real social progress. The development of public services with properly resourced voluntary and community organisations is the only way of revitalising the lives and work of disabled people.

A “Good Society” involves REAL distributive social justice and the provision of positive state services with decent jobs for all.

Therefore, Conference calls upon the National Disabled Members’ Committee to campaign:

a) To expose the real cover up nature of the “Big Society”

b) To continually press for meaningful Equality Impact Assessments which show up and shame the Government’s attacks on services for disabled people.

c) To publicise the adverse impact of cuts that hit disabled people

d) To produce suitable publicity material, using all the technology available, including UNISON’s website to actively promote disabled people’s demands for full equality.

Conference calls on the National Disabled members’ Committee to lobby to protect and extend the Access to Work Programme.