On 6th February, a group of us from South-East Cornwall Labour gathered at The Echo Centre in Liskeard to listen to the stories of local people living with a range of different disabilities.
We were shocked by what we heard about the treatment of disabled people in our society today; and deeply impressed by the strength and courage of those who are persevering with the challenges of daily living, and of caring for one another, as more and more of the help that used to be available to them is withdrawn.
All of those participants of working age, including some in work, described their fears of Universal Credit and their struggles with the withdrawal of social security benefits they were once entitled to. Many issues were raised – from the need for better public transport and more employment opportunities, to the pressures faced by family carers. Participants described the difficulties they experience obtaining face-to-face contact with social workers and GPs, and the lack of affordable housing built to standards that would enable people to stay in their homes as their needs change.
We heard the history of The Echo Centre itself, a day centre for disabled people, which used to offer a wide range of activities to train and support people from all over South-East Cornwall with employment and independence. This amazing resource, built with funding raised locally, is now used less and less as the huge number of activities it once offered has been massively scaled back. Those of us listening vowed there and then that, when Labour comes to power, restoring the centre to its former use is going to be one of our priority demands.
We are now in the process of producing a report, with case studies, to bring these issues to the attention of those in power. If you would like to contribute, it’s not too late to get involved – please contact our Disability Officer, Annette Lee-Julian, on firstname.lastname@example.org