Baroness Jane Campbell and Sian Vasey Discuss SPECTRUM CIL’s Disability Manifesto 2017

SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living was delighted to welcome Baroness Jane Campbell, a cross bench peer in the House of Lords and Sian Vasey, a Disabled film maker, to Southampton to discuss all things Independent Living related with our Chief Executive, Ian Loynes. They covered a wide range of topics from employment to welfare reform, not forgetting Brexit of course. You can watch highlights of their conversation below.

All of them agreed that none of the political parties were yet offering a comprehensive disability strategy that would enable Disabled People to enjoy true equality within society.

If you want to read the full manifesto, please visit our Disability Manifesto page.

 

 

 

Summary of ‘Disability Manifesto’ now available

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With the General Election just a week away, many people are still deciding on who they are going to vote for. The election campaign has been dominated by issues such as social care and welfare reform, although sadly the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester has focused everyone’s minds on the issue of safety and security.

Our ‘Disability Manifesto’ which sets out what Disabled People would like political parties to commit to doing in the next Parliament, has been a great success. We are aware that it is a fairly long document so we have summarised the key commitments for each topic area into a short document so people can see at a glance what Disabled People want the political parties to sign up to.

We hope this summary document will be easier for some people to access. We will also be tweeting out the key commitments between now and the big day as well as releasing a video with some very special guests discussing our manifesto so keep an eye on our blog and Facebook page over the next few days.

If you want to read the full manifesto, please visit our Disability Manifesto page

SPECTRUM 2017 Disability Manifesto out now!

There are more than 13.3 million Disabled People and people with long-term health conditions in the UK – a very sizeable part of the electorate in 2017.

We believe it is essential for Disabled People’s voices to be heard in the debates around the 2017 General Election – not only because they represent a large number of votes but, more importantly, because they are deeply affected by so many of the key issues at the heart of political debate.

On the 25th May 2017, SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living will be launching our Disabled People’s DISABILITY MANIFESTO – a pragmatic and realistic range of proposals which shows how the Government, any Government, could address the unfairness, the indignities and the discrimination that Disabled People have faced because of austerity measures.manifestocover2017

 

The launch of the DISABILITY Manifesto will be the start of our campaign to bring the needs, and the solutions that Disabled People are proposing, to the eyes and minds of the electorate, and into the minds of politicians and policy makers.

‘Together we are stronger’ SPECTRUM on the EU

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As the EU referendum campaign begins its final week before the vote on Thursday, many people on both sides of the debate will breathe a sigh of relief that’s it’s nearly over.

The shocking murder of Jo Cox will hopefully lead to a more dignified conclusion to the campaign.
SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living took the decision fairly early on in the campaign to support the Remain In side of the debate. We are pleased to see that the majority of Disabled People’s Organisations who have expressed a view have joined our position that Disabled People’s lives have been improved by Britain being in the European Union and that our rights will be protected better by remaining in the EU.

As one of our closest allies, John Evans has pointed out, many of the laws around accessibility and human rights have originated within the EU. Whilst none of these laws would change overnight if we were to leave, there is a clear and present danger that Disabled People’s rights and entitlements would be undermined if we were to leave the European Union.

We are aware that migration is an issue that many people feel strongly about, however one of the strengths of Britain is the diversity of our different communities. SPECTRUM has always felt that diversity should be celebrated and welcomed. Southampton, the city where SPECTRUM is based, has many citizens from other EU countries. Over 10% of staff at Southampton General Hospital are from other EU countries. Dedicated doctors, nurses as well as other support staff who keep our NHS running. Many EU citizens work in the social care sector too, supporting Disabled People to live independent lives within society. Despite this, locally we have real difficulties recruiting staff to work in social care. How much worse will be the recruitment crisis if Britain leaves the EU.

SPECTRUM has made a short video interviewing our CEO, Ian Loynes.

 

We will also posting a list of links you may want to look at, ahead of the vote on Thursday, to inform your decision.
SPECTRUM thinks you should vote to remain, but we believe Disabled People should think through the options and make their own decision. Think about what matters to you. Do you want to live in a country that respects equality and human rights? Do you welcome diversity within your community and reject prejudice?

It’s now up to YOU! As Berni Vincent, our Volunteer and Training manager, said ‘I think Disabled People should most definitely vote. Our votes have been hard won over time. Together we are stronger.’

Vote to stay in Europe – SPECTRUM urges

Over recent weeks, SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living has been asked whether we would be taking a position on the EU referendum. We felt that it was important for people to know what impact Europe has had on Disabled People’s lives. We commissioned John Evans who was President of the European Network for Independent Living for 14 years to help us with task. His thoughts are below and we urge all voters, whether Disabled or not, to read what he has to say. Following this, and further discussions with the staff team and our Management Committee, we are supporting the ‘Stay in’ campaign.

 

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The Advantages and Benefits for UK Disabled People Remaining in the EU by John Evans OBE

The focus of the debate on the EU referendum until now has been mainly on the economy, trade agreements, employment, legal issues and immigration. There has been hardly any key media coverage on Disabled People and their livelihood within or without the EU, except an article by Richard Howitt MEP in the Guardian.

This briefing paper is to make clear some key issues and benefits for Disabled People by remaining in the EU. I have had over 30 years of experience as a disabled activist being involved in Europe and want to share what some of those main advantages and benefits for Disabled People are.

Why Disabled People are stronger in Europe

The UK disability movement has prospered by being part of the wider international disability movement since the early 1980s when it was formed through DPI (Disabled People’s International). In particular, through being actively engaged with the European disability movement we have seen a wealth of positive changes happen which have improved the quality of Disabled People’s lives in the UK. We have been much stronger by working together with the European Network of Independent Living (ENIL) and the European Disability Forum (EDF) campaigning for independent living, equal rights and an accessible environment, which has enabled Disabled People to have a positive influence on the EU. Below are some examples.

The Rights for Disabled People in Employment and Freedom of Movement

Over the years we have seen many positive changes in combating discrimination and advances in strengthening equality for Disabled People and other disadvantaged groups. Working together with our European disabled colleagues we have contributed towards bringing in an important European wide non-discrimination directive, which protects the rights of disabled people in employment and enables Disabled People to work in other European countries. The EU also supports freedom of movement for Disabled People to live and work in other EU Member States. At a time that Disabled People in the UK are facing unprecedented levels of financial hardship and high rates of unemployment, we cannot afford to lose this hard won support.

Independent Living

The UK has been one of the pioneers in the development of the Independent Living movement across Europe. We have learned much from the many ideas and exchanges we have had with Disabled People in other countries and, together, have successfully influenced EU support for Disabled People having the right to control our own lives. However in the last five years we have seen some big threats to Independent Living in the UK with the closure of the ILF and the austerity measures affecting local authority budgets to support Independent Living. Our future for Independent Living would be stronger by remaining part of the EU and keeping the support of the European disability movement and the EU structures and policy.

Inclusion of Disabled People

The EU is also supporting Independent Living by the policy initiatives towards stopping European funding for renovating and building new institutions which segregate disabled people. Deinstitutionalisation is now a very positive development in encouraging the funding for more community-based services for Disabled People so they can live inclusively with others in local communities. This is an issue of vital importance for Disabled People as we have seen, for example with the terrible abuses inflicted upon People with Learning Disabilities in Winterbourne View and other care institutions.

European Social Funding

There has been much debate about how much the UK pays into the EU but little is said about the significant sums of money that the EU provides to support Disabled People and other disadvantaged groups in the UK. 87,000 British Disabled People were supported by the European Social Fund last year, helping them towards the world of work. For many years Disabled People have also been able to access EU funding to set up projects, organisations and conferences and a range of other support.  In addition, the legal exemption from EU state aid rules to allow public authorities to directly contract, provides an important boost for Disabled People to set up and run their own social enterprises. As funding sources in the UK become ever tighter, this European  funding will be a vital lifeline for  Disabled People that we can ill afford to lose.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

The EHRC has been subject to a barrage of criticism’s threatening its position, but it is protected by the requirements of being an “Independent body” laid down by the EU non-discrimination directives. Since the closure of the Disability Rights Commission the EHRC has been the main organisation supporting the protection of rights for Disabled People in the UK and this protection could well be weakened by leaving the EU.

European Accessibility Act

The forthcoming European Accessibility Act  will mean there will be a duty to make sure that all services and products will be accessible regardless of disability or age in the EU. This will include air, rail and sea passenger transport services, banking services, telephone services and audio visual media services. If the UK exited from the EU we would not benefit from this new act. We should also not forget that it was a European directive, which supported us getting accessible buses in the UK in the late 1980s onwards.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

Although the UK government signed up to this UN Convention, which aims to protect our rights, it has been widely criticised for failing to properly implementing it. The EU has also signed the Convention and we would be better off having our rights protected with the support of the EU as well, due to the lack of commitment of the UK. It was the united voice of European Disabled People along with others from around the world which influenced the creation of the Convention and these are important rights that we need to protect.

Summing-up

In conclusion, these are just a few of our successes being in the EU. We want to continue to work together with our disabled colleagues throughout Europe with the support of the EU. We want to pull down barriers not erect them. We recognise discrimination does not stop at borders. We want to protect Europe’s very significant achievements for disabled people, and prevent others from being taken away and provide a platform for the further improvements for our future.

In today’s economy of austerity, where rationing and denial of services has become the norm, never discount the fact that the economic prosperity which comes from Britain’s membership of the European Union is vital, if we are to find the public services which many Disabled People believe should be theirs of right.

John Evans OBE

6 April 2016

SCIL joins Campaigners from across Europe on Freedom Drive

Between the 14th and the 17th September, Robert Droy and Michael Grimmett from SCIL joined 440 people from 21 European countries in Strasbourg for the Freedom Drive 2009 to campaign for the rights of Disabled People. 

The Freedom Drive concentrates on Independent Living subjects such as deinstitutionalisation, the right to personal assistance and the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.

 

The Freedom Drivers came up with 8 key demands that they felt the European Parliament should be working on and these demands were handed over to EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and to Richard Howitt MEP following a march through the streets of Strasbourg to the Parliament building.  

 

Jerzy Buzek and Richard Howitt said they were committed to fight for the rights of Disabled People and encouraged Freedom Drivers to keep lobbying their national MEPs to promote Independent Living in their countries.

Michael Grimmett from SCIL commented ‘ I found the 2009 Freedom Drive to be an inspiring experience.  To be around other Disabled People, who are fighting for a common goal was uplifting and gave me further impetus to carry on the campaign for independent living and equal rights. ‘.

Following a meeting with some of the UK MEPs, Robert Droy pledged that SCIL would invite the MEPs in the South East area to a seminar in early 2010 to continue the dialogue further. More details to follow…..   

Freedom Drive Finalises Its Demands

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On 16 Sep 09, 3 delegates from SCIL will join more than 400 Freedom Drivers from more than 20 countries as they march through Strasbourg to the EU Parliament. Regardless of their impairment, they are unified by one goal: Independent Living.

They will hand over the following demands to the President of the EU Parliament. 

1. We call on the European Community to ensure that Independent Living is central in the disability policies of the European Union, as expressed in the EU Disability Strategy, the Disability Action Plan and Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

2. We encourage the European Community to continue to assist the development of community-based services to achieve de-institutionalization across Europe.

3. We call for the implementation of our human right to a personal assistance service, fundamental to guarantee the enjoyment of Independent Living.

4. We call for the opportunity to equally enjoy the right to freedom of movement with the portability of personal assistance services.

5. We call for an earmarking of 5% of EU development funding to go to the development of Independent Living programs in developing countries.

6. We call on the European Community to fully ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to sign and ratify its Optional Protocol and for its articles to be implemented in EU legislation and policy. Incumbent in this is the application of pressure by the Institutions and representatives on member states to transpose the convention into law domestically as soon as possible

7. We call for a disability specific directive to uphold and protect the full rights and entitlements of people with disabilities across Europe.

8. Disabled people and our organisations must be decisively involved at all levels of policy-making including planning, producing and implementation.

Whilst in Strasbourg, the Freedom Drive participants will be meeting with many MEPs who have an interest in this area to look at how we can all work together to ensure these demands are taken seriously.

You can read more about the Freedom Drive on our blog over the coming weeks.