Equal Citizenship: A speech

Maelo put in a speaker’s card to speak at the debate on Equal Citizenship- supporting independence for sick and disabled people.  She was not chosen to speak, and has shared the speech she would have given here. 

The full text of the original motion can be found here, on page 27.

Good afternoon Conference. I joined the Liberal Democrats and gave my first conference speech at the age of 10. I am now 13. Being in government seemed a distant dream then but I firmly believed that if ever we were elected, we would make a huge difference to the lives of the vulnerable.

Now we are in government and do you know what the irony is for me? That the current welfare situation affecting the sick and disabled is one that I would have imagined happening without our influence.

I support lines 28 to 31 but there has to be a recognition that many disabled and ill people can only enjoy full and equal citizenship within the limits of their condition and, quite often, by depending on others.

One word will sum up the nonsense of the welfare to work discourse of the Government: Remploy. This is a group of factories that employs disabled people and 27 out of 54 have been closed. Never mind that Remploy was actually manufacturing things like electronics, textiles and furniture – a Vince Cable dream. There is a table in my classroom made by Remploy and it is the one of the only tables that is stable.

This slash-and-burn Government ignores its crucial role in supporting disability. Fellow Liberal Democrats, by scrapping DLA the recipients stand to lose an allowance that pays for ways to be independent – calling for a taxi, getting a carer or buying special equipment for home use. 90,000 motability cars and scooters will be repossessed. Here’s another irony – DLA will be replaced by a scheme called Personal Independence Payments (PIP). Independence?

Even our great Paralympians needed DLA. Natasha Baker, Britain’s dressage champion who won gold, used DLA to pay for her petrol.  Surely we didn’t go into Government to practise butch politics where ministers accuse disabled employed people of sitting around drinking cups of tea all day.

I am a Liberal Democrat because of our stated values, ‘no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals”. Fellow LibDems, that’s why we have had Remploy protesters outside Conferences. These were protests to influence and appeal to the Lib Dem better nature which needs to come to the forefront now.

The Government needs to listen as set out in line 61. The Spartacus report was written by disabled people. Did the government listen?

Referring to lines 72 to 73. Independence only works if there is a society that recognises the disabled and sick as individuals worthy of respect. I deplore the way the Government has actively encouraged a hostile culture towards welfare claimants. Yes, there are real life benefit scroungers. No, they aren’t the majority.

As a young party member I ask that our leaders stand up to the moral test of social justice. Who do we want to be the real winners of the Paralympic spirit? Atos? ESA? Or Liberal Values? 

Maelo Manning is thirteen years old, and has been blogging at LibDemChild since April 2010 in support of the Liberal Democrats. She has attended conferences and been involved in politics since the age of 10, and has given 5 speeches at Conference on issues that affect youth.You can follow her on twitter at @LibDemChild.

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