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DR UK reflects on David Blunkett’s speech

12 March 2015

"David Blunkett has passed us a powerful baton that we will take forward – as disabled people leading change – and we want to work with allies who share the vision."

Reflections on David Blunkett’s speech for last night’s Jack Ashley memorial lecture

Liz Sayce, CEO of Disability Rights UK said:

‘David Blunkett has passed us a powerful baton that we will take forward – as disabled people leading change – and we want to work with allies who share the vision.

Mr Blunkett has raised vital issues:

  • The need to move from the patronising ‘pat on the shoulder’ - to disabled people being at the heart of politics and mainstream society. This is what Jack Ashley was all about and why it was so great to work with him. Disabled people are not ‘poor unfortunates’ but people who – with a bit of thought from others – can take up power and achieve, not as ‘superheroes’ but by participating right across society. That’s why DR UK is running career development programmes, and independent living programmes,  and a campaign led by young disabled people for better job opportunities – not just any job, but decent careers.
  • Another reminder of just how tough it is for many disabled people, experiencing benefit sanctions, bedroom tax, hate crime and more. We need to combat the powerlessness people feel – by sharing experience and knowledge of rights, so people are not alone. For instance, our Disability Rights Handbook – 40 years old this year – lets people know the benefits and services they are entitled to, how to claim and – where necessary - how to appeal.
  • And critically, the need to transform systems – through co-delivery, planning together, disabled people working with policy makers, employers, service providers. Inclusive communities and workplaces are stronger – they reduce isolation, improve health, improve performance by tapping into everyone’s contributions. That’s why we need the participation rights of disabled people – 1 in 5 of the population – built into policy right across government, from justice to international development, skills to housing; and into local planning, from the outset.

It is time for a refreshed agenda, rooted in the UN convention and the pillars of independent living – and tailored to the next 10 years.  Mr Blunkett has given us the important elements. The next government should develop with disabled people an agenda that goes right across policy areas, to support disabled people’s participation – not just meting out traditional care services and benefits to passive recipients – but seeing support as a route to disabled people having the life we choose.

We want to join forces with others to make this happen. We are delighted to work with and support the All-party Parliamentary Group on Disability, that Jack Ashley set up; and to work with organisations that are serious about employing and serving disabled people well. We will be working with like-minded organisations, including Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Action Northern Ireland on a major new agenda setting research programme on independent living, led by disabled people.

We will take the baton passed by Mr Blunkett - and set a refreshed agenda (with the components that Mr Blunkett has helpfully laid out); and a new narrative that centres on our participation.

We are hugely grateful to the Ashley family, to the All-party Group and its Chair Anne McGuire, to the Speaker John Bercow for hosting the lecture, and to Barclays for all their support’.”