Attacks on access to justice is an attack on people with disabilities

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2015 National Disabled Members' Conference
3 July 2015

Conference will note that we are now over 5 months into this Conservative Government and the wellbeing of our disabled members and their families is under constant threat from draconian legislation on welfare, social care cuts by local authority, changes to the benefits system and proposed changes to human rights legislation and a referendum to leave the European Union (EU).

The chancellor is holding, at the time of writing this motion, an emergency budget in July. Already we are told that billions have to be cut again from the benefit system. At what further cost to disabled lives?

At last year’s conference we sent out a clear message on what would happen if we had a Conservative Government and now we are living with the reality of it all.

The Independent Living Fund has now finished and the money devolved to local authorities with no guarantees that the recipients will receive the money they have been getting (needs clarification). Many local authorities used the fund to get out of making payments for service users with high care needs. For many these social and employment needs will not now be met. We are being told that volunteers will now meet some of our care needs. What effect will this have on our members working in care. People are being encouraged to share their homes with disabled children and adults (Shared Lives in some Local Authorities) for small fees paid to “foster” individuals. Care on the cheap, job loses for our members.

Human rights legislation and the EU treaties are the primary protection for disabled rights. Where often the court system in the UK fails us when rights are denied, using Human Rights legislation and the European Courts enables us in many cases to win. These victories do not only improve things for the litigant but for every disabled citizen in Europe. We have the right to dignity but some disabled citizens who cannot access toilets independently day or night are being told they cannot have carers for this and can wear incontinence pants and just go and wait to be changed. Is this dignified? By protecting care we are protecting our members jobs.

The proposal is now to radically change the act. What next will they target, the Equality Act?

Therefore conference calls upon the National Disabled Members Committee to:

1.Work with the wider union and the Labour Link to make public the effect of benefit reform and how it is destroying disabled lives.

2.Campaign for the Human Rights Act to remain in force as it now stands.

3.Feed into UNISON Campaigning to highlight how the austerity measures are affecting disabled lives.

4.Provide information to our branches on cuts in social care budgets to service users will affect jobs.