DISABLED rights activists met with senior Labour figures to discuss their concerns as the party begins to shape its 2015 general election manifesto.
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Liam Byrne MP, travelled to the city to take part in a discussion at the Civic Centre organised by Councillor Dave Allan, the general secretary of the Labour Party Disabled Members Group.
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott joined in the discussion, alongside shadow Minister for the Disabled, Anne McGuire MP.
Representatives from a variety of groups were present, including the Hardest Hit campaign and CEO of Sunderland Carers’ Centre, Graham Burt.
Summing up the meeting on Thursday afternoon, Liam Byrne told the room: “That was an amazing discussion and we have covered the full agenda.
“Everyone here is different and unique but we believe everybody has equal rights and those rights are being abused at the moment. That basic equality of rights is being trashed right now.”
Mr Byrne also praised the work of disabled groups in Sunderland, many of whom he met in London last year when they took part in the Future That Works protest march through Westminster.
He said: “There is a really well organised campaign here in Sunderland. We’ve got very strong political leadership, we’ve got very strong campaigners and what’s been brilliant about today is that their voice has been heard right at the heart of Labour’s policy review for the future.”
Julie Elliott added: “I think it was a really, really useful discussion and for (Liam and Anne) to come out and meet people, it gives them a much better understanding of what’s going on for people.” RNIB campaigner Peter Bennetts said: “We want a Government that is in touch with the needs of disabled people and I feel the ministers listened and took on board what was said.
Organiser Coun Dave Allan added: “It was a very succesful event and we had a number of disabled people and representatives of groups who put their views to the ministers and they are looking forward to them being in the next Labour Party manifesto.”