By Janine Booth
Labour Party policy is a set of measures that the Party campaigns for in society and would implement in government to better the lives of working class and oppressed people. A good example of this would be actions to end discrimination against neurologically atypical people. So it is shocking and disappointing that despite a comprehensive and popular submission to the National Policy Forum (NPF) on this issue, the NPF report contains not a word about it.
Millions of people are autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic, dyscalculic or otherwise neurodivergent. We experience systematic discrimination and exclusion. Neurodivergent Labour has consulted widely in drafting a comprehensive manifesto for change, which enjoys the support of many CLPs, trade unions and MPs, as well as gaining credibility and support for Labour among neurodivergent people and their allies. We want the Labour Party to adopt our manifesto in full.
Before summarising its contents, let’s look for a moment at the background to the terminology. The term ‘neurodiversity’ was coined just over two decades ago by Australian activist Judy Singer. Basing it on ‘biodiversity’, Judy used the word to encapsulate the idea that the human species consists of individuals with different neurologies (brain wiring or structure) and that this is naturally-occurring, beneficial and to be preserved rather than eliminated. People who are not neurologically typical are ‘neurodivergent’, and want to be accepted and supported rather than cured.
While the word ‘neurodiversity’ has become very popular, discrimination against and exclusion of neurodivergent people continues in many key areas of our lives. People with ADHD are over-represented in the prison population and autistic people are under-represented in work. Waiting lists for assessments can be years long, and for some neurotypes, there is no public provision of assessment for adults at all. There is widespread ignorance and prejudice about conditions such as Tourette syndrome and dyscalculia. The abuse and alienation directed at people with atypical brains is shameful, and Labour is in a uniquely strong position to challenge it.
Neurodivergent Labour developed its policies on the basis of five key principles, which the whole labour movement can endorse:
• The social model of disability: Disability is caused by society creating barriers to the equal participation of impaired (or neurologically different) people.
• The neurodiversity approach: Humanity is neurologically diverse; people have different brain structure. ADHD, dyslexia, autism, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and other conditions are neurological differences. We want human neurodiversity to be accepted not suppressed.
• Opposing austerity: We need adequate public services, benefits and wages. We oppose cuts.
• Socialism, democracy, solidarity: We base our manifesto on labour movement values. We want to challenge the social roots of discrimination.
• Nothing about us without us: Policies and services must be shaped by neurodivergent people.
You can read our submission to the Policy Forum here.
You can read our manifesto in full here.
It includes clear, specific policies on issues such as diagnosis / identification; independent living, services and welfare; education; work; tackling prejudice and discrimination; abusive ‘treatments’; the justice system; and widening understanding of neurodiversity. Together, these policies are an effective, radical, socialist response to intolerable discrimination.
Labour members and supporters are, to put it mildly, frustrated at the NPF report’s silence on this important issue. Lewes CLP and the TSSA trade union have submitted a reference back to Party Conference, which will allow delegates to vote to tell the NPF to reconsider including these policies. Over 150 Labour members have already signed a statement supporting the reference back. You can read it, and add your name, here.
“By producing a Neurodiversity Manifesto our members placed the Labour Party politically on the leading edge of this issue. We mustn’t let the party slip back and so I urge people to support this critically important reference back motion.” John McDonnell MP
Please do. You will be supporting a grassroots movement to put the needs of millions of people on the policy agenda of the labour movement’s political party.
Neurodivergent Labour has existed only for a couple of years, and aims to affiliate to Labour once it meets the requirement to have existed for three years. Despite its youth, ND Labour has run active and effective campaigns, including against the deportation of a young, black, neurodivergent man, Osime Brown. It has provided a platform for people who are usually ignored, recently publishing an interview with two non-speaking autistic activists. And it has responded fiercely to Tory government policies on social care, disability, Covid-19 and other issues. You can read more and sign up as a member or supporter by visiting our website: www.ndlabour.co.uk
Janine Booth is Chair of Neurodivergent Labour.
Main image: Naturalist, TV presenter and author Chris Packham with the ND Labour manifesto and ND Labour activists
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