Alan Johnson on disability discrimination

Alan Arthur Johnson is a British Labour Party politician who served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010.

My own view, taking into account the points you make, is that we’ve made huge advances in our society to ensure that the skills and talents of disabled people are not squandered and that each individual is afforded the rights in law to pursue their ambitions without their disability inhibiting them in any way. Disability discrimination legislation was particularly important, as was the introduction of Disability Living Allowance and other practical legislative measures.

I don’t think we’ve become a more mercenary country but I do think that much of the progress made has been undermined in recent years. The Bedroom Tax is possibly the most pernicious piece of legislation I’ve ever dealt with. The effects on disabled people have been particularly profound. The introduction of Personal Independence Payments has, in my view, been a backward step, although I know of no disability charity or organisation that doesn’t believe that disabled people should have the opportunity to use their ability rather than be defined by their disability, so ensuring that disabled people can access the workplace is not the problem: the various ALL WORK tests which have become increasingly severe.

In reference to the Big Society, it was still-born, an ides used during 2010 General Election campaign that was never pursued meaningfully at all. I think we are in danger of becoming a less caring society, and I would hate us to go back to what I regard as the barbarity of the early’50s when all terminology around disability was pejorative.