Labour has promised to end what it calls the “hostile environment” for disabled people in the social security system as part of a raft of plans to tackle discrimination.
The party’s disability manifesto, published on Tuesday morning, proposes a range of measures across welfare, public services, transport, housing and jobs to enable disabled people to live independently, be treated with dignity and respect, and participate fully in society.
The manifesto promises to sweep away a hostile environment of prejudice against disabled people it says was promoted by government to justify nine years of austerity cuts, and replace it with system that ends poverty and offers people security and dignity.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “The treatment of disabled people by Conservative and Lib Dem governments, from devastating cuts to social security support, to cruel and unnecessary assessments, and a complete failure to address the disability employment gap, should be a source of shame.
“Labour will put right this injustice. We’ll ensure that disabled people get the support they need to lead independent lives and participate fully in society. We are on your side.
“This election is a chance for real change, for a more inclusive, fair and equal society that works for the many, not the few.”
The party promises to scrap universal credit “in the medium-run” and replace it with a new benefits system co-designed by disabled people. Labour says this cannot happen overnight, so it will introduce reforms to soften the process, such as ending the five-week wait for a first payment and removing punitive benefit sanctions.
The Department for Work and Pensions – which the party says has “become a symbol of fear for disabled people” – will be overhauled as part of plans to transform the culture of social security. “Labour will make us as proud of our social security system as we are of the NHS,” the disability manifesto says.
The much-criticised assessments for personal independence payments and employment and support allowance, both currently delivered by private contractors, will be scrapped and replaced with a more responsive system that engages with claimants’ medical evidence.
The manifesto adds: “Labour will work with disabled people’s organisations to develop a replacement to the current assessments based on a personalised, holistic assessment framework that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers.”
It promises to challenge the discrimination faced by disabled people in the workplace, and halve the disability employment gap, which currently means just 51% of disabled people of working age are in work, compared with 81% of non-disabled employees.
Employers would be legally required to close pay gaps – currently disabled people are paid 12% less than non-disabled counterparts – and supported to retain disabled employees.
A government-backed “reasonable adjustments passport” scheme would be introduced to help disabled people move more easily between jobs.
Labour’s approach to change will be driven by disabled people, the manifesto says. “Under Labour, change will not be something that happens to disabled people – it will be something that is led and shaped by them.”