We are only 8 months or so away from the General Election of the 7th May 2015 and nobody knows who will win that election. However, over the last four years our Government has taught us that people with learning disabilities cannot expect things to get better on their own:
- Benefits are being cut and sanctions are hurting and shaming people
- Public services have been cut – 25% fewer people now get social care
- Cuts target people with severe disabilities 6 times more than most people
- The bedroom tax and the end of the ILF is making independent living harder
- Basic human and legal rights are ignored as Legal Aid is slashed
- Thousands live in the likes of Winterbourne View instead of their own homes
The cuts and attacks have happened – not because of over-spending on disabled people – but because of bad management by Government and by the financial system. Instead of solving our real problems Government has falsely blamed disabled people for problems they did not create.
I must admit that all of this surprised me. I have no connection to any political party and, as someone who has worked in the public and voluntary sector for 25 years, mostly with people with learning disabilities, I did not expect this level of social injustice. It seems I had too much faith in the decency of the political classes and I expected a much stronger reaction from the Church, charities, the media and the general public. I just never thought things could get this bad.
We seem to be sleep-walking into injustice – how can we wake up? What can WE do?
The novelist Dorothy L Sayers wrote: “A government must be either servant or master. If you do not chivvy it, it may chivvy you.”
In modern English I guess that might translate as:
If you don’t stand up for yourself – then expect to be bossed around.
So, with colleagues, friends and other allies, we have decided to launch Learning Disability Alliance England – LDA for short.
LDA will be hosted by the Campaign for a Fair Society in England.
Our initial development group includes, people from:
- People First England
- Bringing Us Together
- Housing & Support Alliance
- The Centre for Welfare Reform
Hopefully others will join us as we grow.
We’re still at a very early stage and there’s still lots of details to work out; but I thought it might be useful to offer some initial thinking about what we are doing and why.
First of all we want to make sure that the voice of people with learning disabilities is as loud and as powerful as possible. That’s why we are going to encourage every individual and organisation we can to join the Learning Disability Alliance.
Second we want as many people and organisations to work together as possible. The opinions of people with learning disabilities are the most important. But others can help. Families are often the key to helping people have the best life possible – they provide love, passion and support – we must listen to families too. And the voices of professionals and workers also count – they mustn’t become too loud or too important – but they still have much to say that can help.
That’s why LDA England is going to give every organisation a vote – BUT we will make sure that people with learning disabilities CANNOT be out-voted.
Third we are going to work with others. I had really hoped that perhaps some bigger alliance might emerge – women, families, disabled people, asylum seekers, the poor – they are all under attack and in an ideal world they would all work together. But this isn’t happening – so we must begin where we can and then reach out to these other groups.
There are one million people with learning disabilities in the UK. Most have family and friends, many have support from paid workers or professionals – together that’s probably about 5 million voters – 10% of the electorate.
Let’s make those votes count. Let’s chivvy back.
So this is our initial plan:
- Invite as many organisations as possible to join LDA
- Describe what’s wrong and what needs to change – develop LDA’s manifesto
- Listen to discussion and debate about these ideas
- Vote on our policies – making sure people with learning disabilities can’t be out voted
- Publish our own ideas, telling other voters and the politicians
- Test each party’s manifesto before the election and decide which best support people with learning disabilities
- Encourage as many as people to get out and vote
It’s going to be hard work – but we can do it. We’ve got 8 months to make sure people with learning disabilities get their voice heard and can challenge growing injustice.
Why not join us?
At the moment:
You can like our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/LDAEngland
You can follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LDAEngland
You can now sign up online: www.learningdisabilityalliance.org