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Traiiing event

To all the women who are thinking, or even maybe considering, running for City Council in 2019.

Anna Lee and Erica Lewis are running a Labour Womens' Network Training Event in Morecambe (venue to be confirmed) from 12-2 on Sunday 26th November.

I will also be participating in my role as sitting City Councillor/Womens' Officer.

Please RSVP to Anna Lee at Lancaster and Fleetwood Labour.

As women's participation is getting less and less, it is really important that we find the right women to stand for our Council.

A recent Fawcett Society report highlighted that progress towards equal representation in local government has stalled. In the last 20 years, women's representation in local government has only increased by 5 percentage points - from 28% to 33%. Much slower progress than is being made in parliament.

Applications to be a city councillor are currently open, but so far we are receiving 7 applications from men, for every 1 application from a woman. The party has measures to make ensure our candidates are not all men, but we need women to apply to be candidates before we can select them.

Research tells us that women need to be asked more often before they agree to run, and are less likely to believe they have the skills to be a councillor. Therefore, we are inviting all women members to join us for cake and a discussion with councillors and campaigners to display some myths about what it takes to be a candidate and a councillor and to explain how you'll be supported when you run.

We'll hear from:

Erica Lewis - County Councillor and LWN (Labour Women's Network) Trainer
Claire Cozler - City Councillor and Morecambe and Lunesdale Women's officer.
Lucy Atkinson - City Councillor
Anna Lee - Lancaster Labour Campaign Forum Chair
and more.



Labour Women's Network training event

To all the women who are thinking, or even maybe considering, running for City Council in 2019. Anna Lee and Erica Lewis are running a Labour Womens' Network Training Event in Morecambe (venue...

Overcoming Disability

You may ask why disabled Labour party members feel they need a group at all. The party does not discriminate against the disabled. Labour is an all-inclusive party where all members are valued. We are socialists so how could this not be so? Disabled people should be enabled to participate in all walks of life, including party politics.

Some room for Improvement

Sadly the Labour Party sometimes, unintentionally, disenables disabled people by failing to remove barriers to that participation. One aim of the disability group is to identify such barriers and seek ways to overcome them. We are not just talking about the obvious physical barriers, like holding meetings and other events in buildings with no disabled access, but a whole host of other issues that might not be apparent to a non-disabled person.For instance, even if a building has excellent disabled facilities, it is no good if it has little or no parking close by, is not served well by public transport, or is on a street that is poorly lit, or has narrow and uneven pavements. The group also intends to look at the problems faced by people with hidden disabilities and seek ways to remove any barriers which would prevent them from being active members of the Labour Party. Attending meetings, especially if you don’t really know what to expect can be daunting for anyone, it must be very hard indeed if you have a mental health problem, or suffer from anxiety. Anyone with a specific learning disability, like ADHD, could find LP meetings difficult to follow. Members with sight loss could have difficulties, both with accessing the venue and fully participating, due to minutes and agendas being on paper, often with small print. Meetings can also pose a problem for members with hearing loss, especially if a meeting gets noisy. One task for the disabilities group is to find a way to make all party meetings disabled friendly, whether the disability is physical, sensory, mental, learning or any other.

Our Aims

Another of our aims is to keep disability rights at the forefront of Labour Party policy. We are pleased to note that John McDonnell has told the National Disabled People’s Summit that disabled people and their organisations will determine and implement the disabilities policies of the next Labour Government. We aim to ensure that this promise is fulfilled. It is well known that mental health problems are on the increase and the help available is decreasing rapidly. The Labour Party must put pressure on the Government to halt this decline and ensure that people suffering from mental health issues are able to get medical help in their local area. Our group will strive to keep this issue in the forefront of Party policy. We also aim to keep highlighting, by any means at our disposal, the savage cuts in benefits this government has inflicted on some of the most vulnerable members of our society. While the super-rich hide their wealth in off-shore tax havens, sick people are forced to choose between being warm or being fed. Some are even dying of malnutrition or cold. This is the sixth richest nation on the planet. The switch from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) has been a disaster for the greatest majority of disabled people. Every day disability organisations are reporting more cases of benefits being stopped causing hardship, despair and sometime, even suicide. In an article in the Guardian on 10 November 2017, journalist, Adam Jacques reports how his wife attempted to take her own life after being denied the benefit. Jacques tells how his wife, who suffers with a long standing mental health condition, was awarded zero points at her assessment. During that assessment Mrs Jacques had been in acute distress, her body was rigid, her lips were trembling and her eyes were filled with tears. Her assessor stated that she appeared to be functioning normally. The supporting medical evidence was overlooked. To make matters worse, this year new guidelines for the mobility component of PIP were introduced. Claimants whose mobility is restricted because of psychological problems are no longer entitled to this component of PIP. ‘We want to make sure that we get the money to the really disabled people who need it’ said George Freeman, on behalf of the government.

Recognizing ALL disabilities

This is clearly saying that mental ill health is less disabling than physical ill health. Is a person who is suffering from such extreme anxiety that using public transport or even walking outside is impossible, in less need than a person with an arthritic condition, which makes walking painful? Surely both are in equal need. However this Government continues to stigmatise people with less obvious health conditions, Labelling them ‘scroungers’ and demonising them in the eyes of the general, tabloid newspaper-reading public. It is little wonder that hate crime against the disabled has risen dramatically. Another issue of great concern to disabled people, of working age, is the iniquitous Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Even government figures admit that around ninety people a month are dying, after being declared fit for work at a WCA. This does not include the suicides that WCAs are directly responsible for. Countless numbers of people are living in fear of the ‘brown envelope’ containing their summons to attend an assessment. What sort of damage is all this doing to the health of people who are already sick? It would appear that this government is operating an undercover policy of eugenics, killing of the sick and disabled by stealth. It is well known that stress can cause ill health. This heartless, unfeeling government is causing severe stress to those who are already sick. It is little wonder that a significant number die. According to an Electoral Commission Report, some disabled people were unable to vote in this year’s general election. Some simply could not get inside the polling station, due to poor access or insufficient space for wheelchairs. Others reported that voting literature was difficult to read or understand. Some were unaware that they could ask for help from polling centre staff, or have someone with them. It is appalling that in 2017 people are being disenfranchised just because they have a disability. We must ensure that this is not repeated.

Disability is a problem for everyone

If you are reading this and thinking that disability is a problem for other people, take heed of the poem by Martin Niemoller. First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me. Anyone can become disabled, no matter how fit they are. It can be sudden, the result of an accident or acute illness. It can be gradual as a health condition worsens. Disability rights should be the concern of everyone living in a caring society. The disability group of the M&LCLP will do all we can to improve the experience of disabled people in the Labour Party. The next election may not be so far away and we want to be able to use our experience and talents to help elect a Labour MP. We have much to offer. The constituency is now in the process of choosing a Labour Party candidate for the election. An all women shortlist will be drawn up soon. The group plan to invite members of that short list to hustings, where we can question them on disability issues. To sum up the main aims of the disability group they are; To ensure that disabled people are not disenabled by the Labour Party, but are able to take part in all activities. To keep disability rights to the forefront of Labour Party policy. To highlight the cuts to disability benefits the government are imposing. We may be a small group, in a small place, doing small things, but remember, Many small people who, in many small places, do many small things.


What are the Aims of the Disability group?

Overcoming Disability

My name is Jean Withers and I am the Disability Officer for Morecambe and Lunesdale CLP.  A task I have taken on only recently and therefore, am still finding my feet.

I first joined the Labour Party in 1966, yes I did say 1966, I was just sixteen years old. My father, who had died four years earlier, had been an active member and I used to enjoy going to all the children’s activities provided at our local Labour Hall in Walkden near Manchester.  The Christmas Parties were wonderful,  I remember.

My paternal grandmother was also a very enthusiastic supporter; in fact, I think my first task for the party was to help her stuff envelopes, during the 1959 General Election, at her home in Birkenhead.  She would tell me all about the ‘bad old days’ the grudging handouts paid to the poor, the soup kitchens, and the casual labour system, very prevalent in the docks on both sides of the River Mersey.  We were so thankful that such times were past, gone for good. How wrong we were.

So this is how I first came to be a member of the Labour Party. It all seemed to make sense. The remarkable work of the 1945 Government in setting up a Nation Health Service and a Welfare State seemed something to be proud of; something I never thought could be in any danger.

I remained a member, sometimes active, sometimes not, for the next three decades or so, till the Blair years. Then like so many others I left, disillusioned by the direction the party was taking. Why was a Labour government, with a large majority not repairing the damage done by the pernicious Tory’s?  It seemed that there was little to choose between them.

I came back after the election of 2015, appalled at what the Tory and Lib Dem co-elation had done to the country. We might not have soup kitchens but we do have food banks, what is the difference? And zero hours contracts, are they not just another form of the casual labour system my grandmother had told me about? Something we thought had gone forever.   Even our wonderful NHS, without which, I would not be here, is in danger. The Tories would like to privatise it.    I cannot stand back and do nothing; I have children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren to think of. So I have re-joined.  I attend meetings, both at branch and constituency. This year I did what I could to help in both the Local and General Elections. Because I my disability, I have arthritis and can’t walk very far, I could not go door knocking, like I used to do. However I sat at the polling station taking numbers for most of the day at the local election and ran a committee room at the general. Both tasks were very interesting and I really enjoyed being back in the swing of things, after so many wilderness years. Only going to vote. I never stopped voting Labour, by the way.

One group that has been especially harshly treated since 2010 is the disabled.  The policy of austerity, which is a policy not an economic necessity, has had a disproportionate impact on disabled people, especially those of working age. In August 2015 the government, reluctantly released data that showed that around 90 people a month are dying after being declared fit for work by the iniquitous Work Capability Assessment. I personally know individuals who live in fear of the ‘brown envelope’ requesting their attendance at one of these assessments. I know, as I former volunteer with Samaritans, that many suicides are directly linked to W.C.A.  The closure of The Independent Living Fund deprived 20.000 people of the help they need. These are sick people and we are one of the richest nations on the planet.

Disabled people continue to face barriers in their daily lives.  However, I believe that it is society at large that places those barriers. I see it as my job to make the local party as barrier free as possible. I am not just referring to physical and sensory disability. Often those with ‘hidden problems’ are forgotten. I am thinking of the difficulties caused by poor mental health, such as depression,  anxiety and other problems.  Long term health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or epilepsy for example. And problems caused by  specific learning difficulties, I have dyslexia and dyspraxia, without a computer I would not have been able to write this, even with one it has taken me twice as long as someone without such conditions. Other SLD would include autism and ADHD among many others.  We must remember, not all disabilities can be seen. 

Those of us who face the daily challenges of disability, I also have arthritis, whatever the cause are equal citizens deserving equality. We are not a problem that needs fixing, it is society that needs fixing and public opinion that needs changing. Hate crime, against the disable has increased and, I am sad to say, become commonplace for many disabled people. It needs to be recognised and treated for what it is, hate crime.  It would help if the media, especially the tabloid press would stop demonising disabled claimants and labelling them as scroungers.   

Jeremy Corbyn has been proud to support the actions of Disabled People Against Cuts. This excellent organisation has managed to force the government to backtrack on making further cuts to Personal Independence Payments.    Further cuts on cuts, voted for by MPs who can claim more in expenses per year than some people have to live on.

The Labour Party is committed to building a society where everyone can achieve their full potential and disabled people can participate equally as citizens.  I am proud to be a member of The Labour Party, and I want to do what I can to ensure that disabled members, like myself, are able to use their individual, unique, talents, skills and experience to bring about what we all want so much. A Labour Government, with a working majority for Britain and a Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you have found it interesting.

Photo Credit

Maryland Gov

Overcoming Disability

My name is Jean Withers and I am the Disability Officer for Morecambe and Lunesdale CLP.  A task I have taken on only recently and therefore, am still finding my...

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