Minister for Disabled People

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2015 National Disabled Members' Conference
2 July 2015
Carried as Amended

Shortly after the General Election this year the prime minister announced that the new minister for disabled people would be Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon. Tomlinson has a strong anti-benefits and anti-human rights background. Tomlinson is a former national chairman of Conservative Future, the youth wing of the Conservative party and has been an MP since 2010. He is a party loyalist, with a strong record of voting against the interests of sick and disabled claimants.

According to “They work For You”, Tomlinson:

• Voted strongly for the bedroom tax

• Voted very strongly against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices

• Voted very strongly against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability

• Voted against 365-day exceptions on contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance for those undergoing cancer treatment

• Voted against setting the lower rate of Universal Credit in relation to disabled children at a minimum two-thirds of the higher rate

• Voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support

• Voted very strongly for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits

• Voted very strongly against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

• Voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act.

Tomlinson’s responsibilities as minister for disabled people include:

• cross-government disability issues and strategy

• Employment and Support Allowance, Work Capability Assessment and Incapacity Benefit Reassessment Programme

• disability benefits (Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance)

• carers appeals reform

• fraud and error (including debt management)

Tomlinson has some interest in health issues, but does not seem to have shown any great interest in disability issues during his time as an MP.

From all this it is blatantly obvious that our so called Minister for Disabled People is not acting in the interests of disabled people at all but instead has been put in his position to aid the Tory Government in implementing its £12billion in welfare cuts and to increase the oppression and marginalisation of disabled people in the UK, once again targeting a group of people many of whom are unable to speak up for themselves.

This Conference therefore calls upon the National Disabled Members’ Committee to work within Unison’s structures and also alongside organisations of disabled people, like Disabled People Against Cuts, to mount a campaign to highlight the way this government is using the position of Minister for Disabled People to push through it’s cruel and savage welfare reforms and to call for the resignation of Justin Tomlinson. Such a campaign should include publicity in the media and encouragement of Unison members through branches to raise this issue with their MPs. It should emphasise that disabled people aren’t benefit scroungers and are increasingly struggling to cope with rising living costs and increased charges for adult social care services.

We should also make people aware of the fact that most disabled people do want to work and that, if we were supported to find and keep work, we wouldn’t be dependent on benefits and charity. We should draw attention to how the Government has been closing organisations like Remploy and instead of helping those people find alternative work with mainstream employers is now proposing to restrict Access To Work which will make it even more difficult for disabled people to find work and then punish them for not working by looking at further cuts in Employment & Support Allowance.