Debbie Abrahams was one of the first MPs to endorse our candidate, Alex Sobel.
So naturally we have a soft spot for her!
But we greatly admire her political stance – Debbie is a member of AndyBurnham’s health team – with 100% commitment to our NHS, as her own career shows.

So we were not surprised when she brought forward her Disability Bill last week.

Debbie Abrahams
Debbie Abrahams

Debbie’s Bill proposes to require listed companies, public bodies and voluntary agencies to report annually on the number and percentage of people they employ who have disabilities.

As Debbie said in Parliament
‘In the UK today, more than 11 million people are living with a disability, impairment or limiting long-term illness, and nearly 7 million of them are of working age. That is nearly one in five of the working population. People with disabilities continue to face many barriers in accessing work, whether they have a visible or invisible disability or illness.

Although 4 million people with disabilities are working, another 1.3 million are available to and want to work but are currently unemployed. The vast majority of disabled people used to work, so this is such a waste of their skills, experience and talent. Attitudes, perceptions and judgments can get in the way of identifying someone’s talent or skills, and for people with disabilities that can be magnified, particularly in a job interview or at work.

There are many reasons for the disability employment gap. Discrimination against disabled workers is still prevalent. A recent survey showed that 15% of disabled people felt they had been discriminated against when applying for a job, and one in five felt that they had been discriminated against while in work. Information is not enough to address this—leadership is needed.

Governments set the tone for the culture of society
– explicitly, through their policies and laws,
– and more subtly, through the language they use and what they imply, which collectively tells us who they think are “worthy”—or not.
This Government have made their views abundantly clear, from their swingeing cuts to social security support for disabled people to their overhaul of the work capability assessment process, which managed to be both dehumanising and ineffective.
Their new sanctions policy has targeted the most vulnerable, bringing people to the brink, and people have died under it.

We must also not forget their closure of Remploy factories for disabled people and their replacing them with—well, nothing.
The chaos and inadequacy of the specialist employment support programme, Access to Work, which last year supported only 35,000 disabled people into work and at work, and the jobcentres’ disability employment service, with one adviser providing support to 600 disabled people, again reveal this Government’s priorities.

But what I, and many others, find so deeply offensive is the pejorative language that has been used by this Government, as they refer to people receiving social security as “shirkers” and “scroungers”—and that includes people with disabilities and limiting illnesses. The Government and anyone else who wilfully misrepresent the facts should be ashamed of themselves.’

Debbie describes her bill as
‘a very modest step to help address that prevailing culture. People with disabilities should be able to access the same opportunities that everyone else can, including being able to use their talent and skills to the best of their ability. No one should feel they are unable to reach their full potential or that their hopes and dreams do not matter. By requiring employers with more than 250 employees to report the number and proportion of people with disabilities they employ, my Bill seeks to raise their awareness of the disability employment gap in their own organisation, prompting them to consider this information and what they may do about it.’

As she stressed
‘what is not measured or reported is rarely acted on. This is not about red-tape; it is about what sort of society we want.’

In its dying days this Zombie government is lumbering on – using its last gasps to push through its ideology in measures like the Deregulation Bill, with its potentially dangerous freeing up of taxi and private hire regulation.

It’s been clear for the last five years what sort of society the LibDem/Tory Coaliton wants – one which in her words ‘targets the most vulnerable’.

Debbie’s bill is a flavour of things to come
– of what a Labour Goverment after May 7 would be like.
– A different approach, a different value placed on people.
– A breath of new air

To make sure the UK benefits from that breath of fresh air, vote Labour in May – and for Alex Sobel here in Leeds NW.

And you can give him a helping hand before then by signing up here
Debbie would . ..


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