Liam Byrne actually makes a good speech on disability


3:27 pm - July 13th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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I think it’s important to give credit where its due.

This week Liam Byrne gave a speech on welfare and disability that was genuinely a step forward and worth applauding.

It probably won’t satisfy everyone but it’s huge step forward from the divise and disgusting rhetoric that Labour MPs used to espouse on disability.

It also contained some interesting ideas.

The key part of the speech by Byrne said that sick and disabled people should be given control of their own personal “wellbeing” budget – which would combine care, disability and employment payments into a single cash lump sum.

He also said Labour wanted to free them from the debilitating rounds of testing that currently plague recipients.

Frankly George Osborne was lucky to get away with boos at the Paralympics. Most of my disabled friends would propose something a little tougher.

He said Britain is never going to compete and win with a low pay, low skills, low tech strategy.

It’s time to bring services and benefits together to support disabled people in a new way.

I think it’s time for us to explore lessons from Australia where their model of ‘universal disability insurance’ has seen the integration of back to work support, social care, and disability benefits in a single personal budget, which is being pioneered with cross-party support.

We would not impose solutions on disabled people, we will coproduce our solutions together with disabled people.

He said there were five principles that should guide Labour’s thinking on employment for disabled people.

Principle 1: A personal plan for support, including employment
Rather than separate services treating different bits of a person, we should provide a single service to meet all of a person’s care needs.
This means health and social care, mental health and employment services working together.

Principle 2: Local partnerships
Second, to achieve this aim, we should create local partnerships between the DWP, specifically the DWP’s Pensions, Disability & Carers’ Service, Social Care, the NHS, Local Enterprise Partnerships, emerging City Deals (Scope) and disability organisations.

Principle 3: “Tell us once” approach to assessments
Everyone agrees that assessments are necessary to make sure people get the help and support they need, but the last thing anyone wants to do is fill out time consuming forms, or take a series of tests unless they are absolutely necessary.

We will look at introducing assessments which dovetail together to gauge eligibility and need in the quickest and most efficient way possible. This could include assessments for employment, health and social support needs as well as benefit entitlement.

Principle 4: Empowering approach to assessments
So Labour will also look at reforming tests so that they identify the help disabled people actually need to achieve economic well-being and independent living, rather than a simple assessment of conditions.

Principle 5: Root and branch review of employment support programmes for disabled people offered though a personal budget
To simplify the employment support system, improve targeting and give disabled people choice over the type of support they receive, we will look at rolling disability employment programmes into one individual budget-based programme.

This could be contracted locally with the budget pooled with other services. This could build on Andy Burnham’s Whole Person Care approach and the Right to Control pilots, and would give individuals greater choice over the support that they most need.

The full speech is here, and worth reading.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


It’s good to see this. After Milband’s announcements last week are we beginning to see Labour start their election campaign?

One swallow does not make a summer nor one good speech stop Liam Byrne from being a shit.

3. Jaswinder Puran Singh

How many innocent and helpless lives have been lost and are being lost, on a daily basis, by inexpert and disastrously implemented “welfare reform”. The pogrom began under Labour with James Purnell and has accelerated under Iain Duncan Smith with the deathly David Freud polluting both party’s policies in respect to social security. Everybody has blood on their hands. No bravery, honesty or honour has been exhibited by any politician.

A terminally ill person who is twenty seven weeks away from death is now expected to actively seek work. This is the country we now live in. This is what we have become and where we are.

5. Paul peter Smith

As someone who works with those people who were shamefully abandoned by the nasty party, that is former REMPLOY employees. I will be watching carefully to see if Labour do anything to remedy this crime against all of us. Past experience doesnt give me much hope.

6. Martin Jamerson

Trouble is the Tories have taught other politicians it’s A OK to pump out a load of policies and promises then once the general election campaign is out the way do the complete opposite to what they promised.

Politicians have a license to tell outright lies and they ALL know it. They also know there is nothing that the electorate can do once they are in power. It’s a never ending merry-go-round of deceit and lies and they (politicians) are ALL laughing.

7. David Walsh

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but a swallow in flight is a good sight, none the less. One caveat however. We already have ‘personal care packages’ in being, and as they are presently structured cash considerations come high on the check list, meaning such things as care packages being handed to the kind of home care companies that use things like ‘zero hours’ contracts for a badly paid and constantly churning army of female home care staff. We can’t just extend this.

8. M. J. Harrison

Liam Byrne is the main reason why Labour abstained from voting against the Jobseeker’s Bill, which changed the law retrospectively robbing thousands of people who had been robbed of benefits by actions by the SWP ruled illegal by a judge in a British court from being compensated. It would only have been a token protest, because the coalition already had a majority, but for Labour to have helped the Tories expedite such an absolutely shit piece of legislation is disgraceful. Byrne is an arsehole. Don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise.

Well, sounds like a sort of job seekers agreement for the sick and disabled. So they will have to present themselves before one or more of Sowotkas jobsworths plus a suitably trained (health care professional).

Now here is the news. The majority of the sick and disabled are unemployable by todays standards.

The right just want to cut benefits and the left pretend to help. Enough of this rubbish.

The sick and disabled (and I know plenty) just want an income where they can live in some sort of dignity. That is all.

@ Pandora

“The majority of the sick and disabled are unemployable by todays standards.”

This just isn’t true. About 46% of working-age disabled people are employed already. Another 5% or 10% are undoubtedly employable but currently unemployed (just based on general rates of unemployment). Then there will be those who are employable but not currently looking for work, e.g. because they’re studying or caring for children.

Just listen to what you’re saying. The idea that sick and disabled people are generally unemployable belongs to another era and certainly has nothing to do with “today’s standards”.

There’s no doubt that the pendulum has swung too far in the past five years or so – a few decades ago we were too quick to write off sick and disabled people as unemployable, whereas now we’re too slow to recognise cases in which people really are too sick or disabled to work. But the answer is not to let the pendulum swing all the way back. What we need is a system that genuinely recognizes and responds to the needs both of those disabled people who are capable of working, and those who are not.

@ GO

I do not dispute your stats. These refer to those in work not those who are seeking employment. I maintain that in the employment market the disabled now have a massive disadvantage. And the mentally ill more so. All ask is you should recognise this AS nearly A FACT in statistical terms.

12. Shatterface

Well, sounds like a sort of job seekers agreement for the sick and disabled. So they will have to present themselves before one or more of Sowotkas jobsworths plus a suitably trained (health care professional).

I wasn’t aware Mark Sowotka supported either the Tory changes to the benefit system or Labour’s changes before that.

I suspect you are making shit up.

13. Shatterface

I do not dispute your stats. These refer to those in work not those who are seeking employment. I maintain that in the employment market the disabled now have a massive disadvantage. And the mentally ill more so. All ask is you should recognise this AS nearly A FACT in statistical terms.

Where are these statistical FACTS that those of us with disabilities are unemployable?

The Right think people with disabilities are worthless, the Left think we are useless.

Shatterface :-

There is no such thing as statistical fact. Arguments are in terms of probabilities which are y as a function of x. Similarly calculus is a method of approximation and is very accurate. If you do not believe me talk to an astronaut. The term argument in this sense means the mathematical relationship.

So when I say AS nearly A FACT I am arguing in terms of the mathematics. This also applies to the practicality of employment in the reality of the sick and disabled. So that is fact for them in absolute terms. As far as we know within confidence limits we live once.

Read the Byrne speech. Plenty of stats to get your brain round.

As to Mr Sowotka. He can hardly be critical of the jobsworths who pay his salary and administer and sanction claimants for JSA/ESA/PIP/DLA.

I’m not making this up. No shit from me. For your information the ignorant are on the Conservative benches. The stupid are on the Labour benches.

@ Pandora

“I maintain that in the employment market the disabled now have a massive disadvantage. And the mentally ill more so. All ask is you should recognise this AS nearly A FACT in statistical terms.”

OK, I accept that disabled people are often at a disadvantage in the employment market. The question is how we should respond to that. Generally speaking the Left have responded by trying to reshape the employment market such that that disadvantage is minimised – e.g. by legislating to prevent discrimination against disabled people, trying to make workplaces more accessible, offering financial support with the costs of travelling to work, making sure disabled people can access education and training, etc. You seem to be suggesting that we should instead just accept that disabled people are unemployable, put them on benefits that aren’t related to job seeking and leave them to it. All I’m asking *you* to accept is that you’re talking there about swinging from one extreme to another.

@GO 15

I understand what you are saying. The problem for ESA claimants is income maintainance. When PIP is ‘rolled out’ to replace DLA the problem will be income maintainance.

Towards the end of this financial year landlords will have to decide if they are going to enforce the bedroom tax. Then for some the problem will be roof maintainance.


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