In April 2020, a few weeks after the UK went into an unprecedented lockdown due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, I was appointed Shadow Minister for Disabled People.  

What a two and a half years it has been.  

Like many disabled people, Covid-19 presented a challenging time for me. Prior to Covid, very few people knew about my rheumatoid arthritis, but I felt I had to explain why I was shielding during the pandemic, as I take immunosuppressant medication.  

The pandemic exposed the true contempt this government has towards disabled people. Right the way through the crisis disabled people have been discriminated against. Tragically, 60% of deaths during the early stages of the pandemic were made up of disabled people and people with long term health conditions. Many disabled people felt like after-thoughts, while others felt ignored altogether.  

Labour has been challenging this government’s awful treatment of disabled people, from its failure to ensure accessible communications – including during the daily Covid press briefings – to the lack of effective support given to those who were shielding. This awful treatment of disabled people must never be allowed to happen again.  

A future Labour government would do things differently. We will listen to disabled people, the experts by experience. We believe disabled people need to be central to decision-making and not just after-thoughts. I know the mistakes made during the coronavirus pandemic could have been avoided if disabled people were meaningfully engaged from the start. 

A key to this for me has been speaking with as many disabled people, charities, disabled people’s organisations, unions and other civil society organisations as possible at my regional roadshows. These have been my way of ensuring that disabled people are at the heart of our party’s policy development as we work towards our next manifesto. 

I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to write for Able Magazine; I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to a magazine with such engaged readers. I plan on using future columns in this magazine as an opportunity to raise issues people just aren’t talking about enough.  

Take the National Disability Strategy. It was meant to be transformative, but ultimately lacked ambition and any proper engagement with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations – so much so the High Court found the consultation unlawful.  

A future Labour government would act differently – our energy plan is an example of this. Labour’s plan would prevent the energy price cap rising, meaning people would not pay a penny more this winter. It would be paid for from the record profits made by oil and gas giants.

This Tory government has shown how much work there is left to do – let’s get to work.  

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