Despite the hard work of our supporters it is now clear that there will not be a sponsor for #LBBill from this year’s private members’ bill ballot. None of the top seven MPs who were the focus of our efforts seem to have a real commitment to disability rights and all have chosen to adopt other causes.
This is of course a huge disappointment for everyone, but we always knew changing the law to help make a reality of disabled people’s right to live in the community with equal choices would probably take some time. We will be back for the 2016 ballot armed with the knowledge gained from this year (see some initial thoughts below).
We don’t have to wait until next June though. We are expecting two other developments that could give us a chance to get the ideas in #LBBill into law:
1. The Law Commission (the official body responsible for improving and updating the law) has just published its consultation paper on a new scheme to govern ‘deprivations of liberty’, cases where disabled people are subject to continued supervision and control and are not free to leave where they live. In developing their thinking the Law Commission team have shown a real interest in #LBBill and a number of our ideas our featured and discussed within the consultation. We now need you all to respond to the consultation to ask the Law Commission to adopt as many of the #LBBill principles as possible in their draft legislation. As the Law Commission has an excellent strike rate at getting its draft bills adopted this could be an excellent route to get the #LBBill ideas into law.
2. The new Care Minister, Alistair Burt, has confirmed that there will be a response to the ‘No Right Ignored’ Green Paper in the autumn. The Green Paper has been criticised by some (see the response from People First England) but it did put forward a version of some of the ideas from #LBBill. After the summer we will be pressing the government to introduce legislation in line with #LBBill as its response to the Green Paper, that was what we asked for in the campaign response and we know Inclusion London also asked for this, we hope other individual supporters and organisations did too. We hope people will lobby their MPs about this when they return in September.
So what have we learned from the process of trying to get a sponsor for #LBBill after this year’s private member’s bill ballot? Here are some initial thoughts:
1. The supporters of #JusticeforLB and #LBBill continue to be brilliant in their passion and commitment to the cause. 337 MPs were contacted, with many of you managing to get your MPs engaged and willing to discuss the issues in the Bill. Unfortunately none of these MPs won the ballot this year, which is the nature of a lottery like this.
2. With some notable exceptions, MPs are not yet ready, willing and/or able to engage properly with online campaigning. The level of response to tweets to MPs was low. MPs did better with email, but even then a surprising number of emails from constituents went ignored. Lots of others to Conservative MPs got identical template responses, which on the plus side at least means we got their attention sufficiently for someone to produce a template! We may need more offline campaigning next year. If people turn up to MPs’ surgeries in person they are a lot less easy to ignore than an email or tweet.
3. We almost certainly need to start earlier, and we could make use of some of the Parliamentary processes like All Party Parliamentary Groups to help get MPs ‘warmed up’ to the Bill before they get lobbied by their constituents. Of course, next year we will have the benefit of all this year’s work to build on.
4. None of the big disability organisations have really got behind the Bill. The National Autistic Society and Mencap sent a tweet each in support, but as far as we know that was the limit of the big charities’ public support. By contrast there has been brilliant active support from some disabled people’s organisations and individual disability campaigners. Would active support from the big charities have made a real difference this time? We’ll never know, perhaps we’ll find out in 2016.
5. There are fewer disability champions in the House of Commons that you might expect, and certainly fewer than we need. As such we all have a responsibility to make sure our MPs know that disability rights issues must be a priority.
So the struggle will continue into 2016 and beyond. But hey, why should we expect to change the law in short time when it’s taken two years to get precisely zero justice for LB himself?
All comments and suggestions on next steps are welcome below. You can also post any ideas here about the content of Draft 2 of the Bill or email us. We would very much appreciate events being held by local groups to discuss the Bill in the coming months, all the resources you should need are here.