Earlier this year, a group of Labour Party members launched an Autism and Neurodiversity Manifesto, after a steering group had spent three years consulting with various organisations.
All of the members of the group are neurodivergent, as one of the key principles is to involve advice from the very people the policies would affect.
The other key principles of the group are to follow the principles of the Labour Party, to use the social model of disability, to use the neurodiversity approach that recognises that humanity is neurologically diverse and that those differences should be accepted rather than suppressed, and to oppose austerity and cuts to public services, as this a political decision and not an economic one.
The manifesto proposes, amongst others, the following policies:
• For diagnostic services to be available to all
• For work capability assessments to be scrapped and replaced with work accessibility assessments
• For the NHS to be restored and to reverse privatisation to ensure equal and adequate health and social care
• For care to be provided close to home and for it to be publicly controlled and accountable
• For well funded and publicly run schools with smaller class sizes and varied teaching and assessment methods
• For neurodiversity training for all people working in public services and teachers and teaching assistants
• For neurodiversity to be covered in the national curriculum
• For workplaces to adopt neurodiversity policies and provide training for staff
• For all treatments and therapies to be regulated
• For Legal Aid to be restored
• And for neurological status to be an additional protected characteristic in the Equality Act.
Since the launch, various local branches of the Labour Party and well known trade unions, such as Unite, have voted to pledge their support to the manifesto; and since the general election announcement, 45 Labour MPs and PPCs have already signed a letter to publicly show their support.
At a fringe event of the Annual Labour Party Conference in September, John McDonnell spoke to party members about the need to “make sure that we get reinstated into the Labour Party manifesto recognition of neurodiversity, and the challenges and opportunities of that.”
And, at a November Isle of Wight Neurodiversity event, Chris Packham, the naturalist and TV presenter, who has recently spoken out about his autism, was quoted as saying “I am very pleased to support this draft of proposals and its potential inclusion in the national Labour Party manifesto.
“If implemented it would represent a real hope for improvement in neurodiverse people’s lives. It is a symbol of progress for, and in, a community which needs and deserves this more than ever”.
• Louise Wildon is a member of Poole Labour Party and of Neurodivergent Labour.