Equality for all. Ideas for womenâ€™s, LGBT, disabled and BAME liberation.
With a foreword from Kate Green MP.
I was absolutely delighted to read this report from NW Young Labour, and to join in the discussions that took place to produce it. It is inspiring to see how passionately our young activists feel about inequality and injustice, whether it affects women, BAME communities, LGBT people, or the disabled. The report is packed with practical suggestions which I hope policy makers and professionals will pay attention to. Though Labour isn't in power nationally, our local councillors, school governors and others should already be thinking about how they can put some of these ideas into practice. These ideas will also help Labour to develop our programme for return to government. I hope they will be fed into our national policy making process, into our manifesto, and in due course into a programme for Labour ministers in government to take forward. My warmest thanks and congratulations to all involved in producing the report.â€? Kate Green Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston Shadow Spokesperson for Equality
Equality for All
LGBT. Much of the current debate around LGBT equality has been dominated by equal marriage. Provided it passes through the House of Lords, this is to be celebrated as a significant step forward for the equal treatment of lesbian and gay couples. The policy, however, is not perfect. In particular, there will still be inequality in the pension rights afforded to married LBGT couples. If marriage is to be equal, the pension rights it affords should be equal too. Our wider discussion was more pressing. Darren Knight of the Lesbian & Gay Foundation told us of the higher rates of unemployment, homelessness and suicide faced by the LGBT community. This proves how urgent this debate is. There is work to be done internationally and domestically and we will begin with our ideas around the latter.
Members at our policy forum in Liverpool As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people do suffer from problems such as those listed above more severely, there are many services that exist to tackle them. The problem, however, is that many of these services are voluntary and in need of support. For these services to work there must be far wider knowledge of them, more accessibility and more support for those in need of funding. It would also be easier to demonstrate the need for these services if there was sufficient data on the issues. For example, in the latest census there was no question on sexuality â€“ this should be changed. With better research, better policies can be crafted around it.
Equality for All
We should also aim at changing attitudes in our schools. A member at one of our events told us of her experience reporting homophobia in her high school. After reporting the incidents, the leadership of the school did nothing to act on it. We should not be afraid to say that homophobia is a hate crime and teacher training should take this in to account. We should also improve Citizenship and PHSE education in aim of tackling attitudes and to promote discussion of sexual health services. Despite being in Opposition, there are steps we can take to work on this immediately. Kevin Peel suggested a Labour School Governors Network to bring together all School Governors in the Party to share best practice and promote the work of tackling LGBT discrimination and bullying in our schools. Whilst these ideas combined could amount to a significant improvement domestically, LGBT equality is an issue that needs fighting internationally. Using our partnerships in the European Union, we can fight discrimination across our own continent. Shockingly, 38 of the 54 countries that criminalise homosexuality are in the Commonwealth. We should use every influence we have in the Commonwealth to demand LGBT equality. In our 13 years in office, we progressed leaps and bounds in LGBT equality but until we have full equality, there is still much work to be done.
Disability. With ATOS, cuts to the Disability Living Allowance and now the bedroom tax, the Coalition continues to wage a savage attack on disabled people. NWYL members proposed actions that can be taken in central government, local government and in our own communities and here are a few of them. One responsibility of being in Opposition should be to tackle the rhetoric of â€˜work-shy scroungersâ€™. Most people suffering from disabilities would work if they could and the meagre income from Disability Living Allowance should not be further squeezed for political expediency. The appalling capability assessments from ATOS should be scrapped immediately as should the bedroom tax.
Equality for All
With regards to employment, we (along with central government) should encourage more employers to take up the double tick scheme. This is a great way to help more disabled people in to work whilst also helping employers let disabled employees reach their full potential. There is currently little awareness of this but it can make a big difference to employers and employees whilst costing very little to administer. The government should lead by example on impact assessments. It is right that equality should be built in to every decision on policy. We’ve made a good start on this in Opposition, highlighting the Coalition’s disastrous impact on women but this should be done for disabilities, LGBT and BAME as well. Furthermore, we should support local authorities in carrying them out. A councillor contributing to one of our forums described the difficulty his local authority had in correctly carrying out the impact assessments and this should be rectified. Local authorities also do vital work in adult services. With the swingeing cuts in the grants from central government this work is desperately under threat. We should protect local government spending on adult services to ensure disabled people don’t suffer even more. The idea of a Labour School Governors Network could also begin the work of tackling the stigma in schools around disability, particularly with unseen disabilities such as mental health problems.
Women. 74% of the Coalition’s cuts have impacted only women. It’s against this backdrop in which we need to devise policies that tackle gender inequality.
Equality for All
Our discussions covered tackling sexism but focussed mostly on welfare and representation. There is a wealth of Coalition policies that have detrimentally impacted on women but one that is about to is Universal Credit. Lumping all household benefits in to one, it will only be paid to one person. In a violent household, the consequences of this are difficult to think about. Instead, individuals should individually receive the benefits they’re due to receive. Costs of childcare are soaring and this impacts single mothers in particular. Recent research by IPPR shows that a 10 year freeze in child benefit could pay, entirely, for free universal childcare. Though in a sense this takes with one hand, it gives considerably more with the other. We should also make maternity and paternity pay equal and more flexible so it no longer incentivises just the male parent to go back to work. In a government in which only 16% of Ministers are women, it’s not surprising how detrimental their policies are to women. We’re very grateful to Professor Claire Annesley who spoke at two of our events. She is a leading academic on gender politics and policy and she made a forceful case for increased female representation in government. With a stark lack of women in the vital departments like the Treasury, Work & Pensions or ‘the quad’, the case for gender equality cannot be made. To that end, our members suggested (and we agreed) that Labour should have the courage to commit to at least 50% of the Cabinet and Government Ministers being women. We should also take similar steps in Council executives.
Equality for All
BAME. We were pleased to have two leaders in the student movement, Usman Ali and Kanja Sesay, discuss their work in NUS and more widely with students. They described the problems young BAME people face with increased drop out rates. This has vastly increased since the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance. EMA should be restored, not just because it was a good policy for all who benefitted from it, but because it disproportionately impacted on BAME students. Over 50% of black males are unemployed. Staying on in college or university would not solve this problem outright. Whilst employers are seeking skilled and trained workers, Labour should work on guaranteeing better vocational education and wider access to apprenticeships. These could transform the life chances of not just BAME people but all young people. We also discussed immigration. Members across the North West unanimously agreed on the benefits immigration brings to the UK and that rather than cap immigration, we ought to focus on integration. Many young people teach English abroad and one idea to encourage integration could be to encourage a similar scheme of teaching English in this country to immigrants that canâ€™t speak English. If this ended in a qualification it could be of huge benefit to many people. There is also the same problem of representation â€“ only 27 MPs are BAME but across society there is a distinct lack of BAME representation. All these structures ought to be challenged and, as the Labour Party, we should engage with BAME communities encouraging them to enter politics.
Equality for All
We started our equalities forum in December and since then we’ve held events across the North West. We’ve had talks from MPs, councillors, academics and campaigners and we’ve received numerous contributions online. We’re hugely grateful to Luciana Berger MP, Professor Claire Annesley, Kanja Sesay, Usman Ali, Councillor Kevin Peel, Simon Darvill and Darren Knight and in particular Kate Green MP who’ve all provided great contributions to our debates. The following is a combined effort of North West Young Labour members – their ideas of policies that can help bring about a more equal society.
We hope you’ve found it thought-provoking and to all the NWYL members who contributed ideas – these ideas will genuinely be entered in to the policy review so we hope you’ve found it worthwhile.