Disabled people must be front and centre of policy changes

Mags Lewis, disability spokesperson for the Green Party, on the consequences for disabled people as pressures in the UK mount and why it is essential that disabled people are front and centre of any policy decisions or changes.

UK Houses of Parliament
UK Houses of Parliament
Mags Lewis

Outrage after outrage seems to follow every move by our current government. 

As they continue to smash the NHS into thousands of disparate pieces, and fail to protect the environment or workers’ rights, they also leave us all to the mercies of a badly regulated and dysfunctional energy market.

Whilst pressures on all of us continue to mount, the consequences for disabled people are even more acute. 

For example, many disabled people rely on energy, both to keep warm (more disabled people are housebound and need to keep warm due to their conditions) and crucially, to power their essential electronic equipment.

Keeping warm and keeping equipment going are pretty basic needs, but recently there have been heartbreaking cases where this has been impossible. For example, a family in Wales can’t afford to keep their house heated overnight, so have lost overnight nursing support for their profoundly disabled child as staff can’t safely work in areas below 16 degrees. 

Another example of the consequences to the disabled community is the astonishing decision by our energy Minister Grant Shapps to leave planning energy blackout emergency planning to individual disabled people. 

Bearing in mind many disabled people need vital equipment like dialysis machines and oxygen machines to actually stay alive, leaving this to personal choice or whatever the phrase of the day is cruel, ill-thought out and will lead to deaths. 

The stress this puts on us all,  especially disabled people and their carers, is limitless.

These measures hit the vulnerable and excluded the most. But we need to look closer to home, too. People in the disabled community are used to being ignored, sidelined and forgotten by our government, but even within the green movement, we have seen examples where disabled people and their needs have been too often sidelined.  For example, car-free zone ambitions. We need mitigation measures and access to city centres for disabled people who may rely on their cars. These needs have been misunderstood or downplayed by the environmental movement at times. 

This is why it is absolutely essential that disabled people are front and centre of any policy decisions or changes, and that starts with our party. We can all be more mindful of the needs of disabled people. Many do, but ALL local parties need to welcome and make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, such as posting minutes if needed or phoning VI people with updates once a month. 

We need to make sure our conference venues make small meaningful and visible signs of inclusion, such as putting out water bowls for guide dogs, and ensuring ramps and lifts are available as a default, without being asked.

Disabled people are tired, but have so much to offer and contribute if given a chance. True inclusion is the responsibility of us all.