Labour listens to disability campaigners

The Labour Party is moving from opposing austerity and welfare reform towards identifying new policies for benefits and disability.

News | 07.02.19

Important conversations are developing between the Labour Party and leading researchers and thinkers within the disability community.

Raising awareness of energy-limiting chronic illness

Margaret Greenwood, who is also Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, met with Catherine Hale and Stef Benstead who lead the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project (CIIP) - to discuss Energy-Limiting Chronic Illness (ELCI) and energy impairment – the preferred terms among people with long-term health conditions causing significant fatigue, energy limitation, pain and cognitive fatigue which cannot be mitigated by medical treatment. 

Read more about this discussion at:

Replacing the hated Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

Catherine Hale also presented ideas on replacing the dreaded WCA with a fair and respectful assessment system to a meeting of disability leaders. The meeting was also attended by Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell, shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood, and Marsha de Cordova, the party’s shadow minister for disabled people. 

You can read more about the meeting at:

Catherine Hale's ideas on replacing the WCA can be found on her blog:

The Chronic Illness Inclusion Project is hosted by the Centre for Welfare Reform and is part of Citizen Network. The project has been founded by the National Lottery funded DRILL programme (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning). 

The possibility of basic income

There are also signs that the Labour Party is going to be exploring the possibility that Universal Basic Income (UBI) could be used as new foundation for income security. Basic Income is the idea that every person will receive a secure and regular income, as a matter of right. This would replace the conditionality, means-testing and family dependency built into Universal Credit and the previous benefit system. The Centre for Welfare Reform support this idea strongly and has published several papers on the topic including: Let's Scrap the DWP.

Jim Elder Woodward, a leading figure in the disability movement from Scotland and Simon Duffy, the Director of the Centre have also published a discussion paper on how basic income might be adapted to include the extra needs of disabled people, which they call UBI+. You can read their discussion paper here: An Emancipatory Welfare State: How basic income might underpin the development of human potential.

Although some disabled people support the idea of basic income some are worried that it may have negative consequences. A paper strongly critical of the idea of UBI by Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) has just been published: UBI Solution or Illusion.

Dr Simon Duffy commented:

“It is great to see the Labour Party begin to seriously engage with new thinking on the tax and benefit system. The UK is a divided society, where more people live in desperate poverty while small numbers of people take growing levels of income and wealth for themselves. We need to start talking confidently about the need for a fair redistribution of our shared resources. Basic income should be the foundation stone of a revolution in our thinking about community life. Everyone, whatever their disadvantages, impairments or life histories has something great to offer; everyone can live a life of meaning, value and contribution; everyone can be a full and active citizen. We just need to create a fair system that enables freedom, creativity and cooperation.”