Disability And The Minimum Wage
What Was Actually Said
The following exchanges – extracted and distorted across the national media – took place at the HIP Hastings Hustings at East Sussex College last Thursday evening when the four electoral candidates in the constituency of Hastings & Rye responded to a question from the floor.
Questioner: Sally, you shared an article on your Facebook page saying that disabled people could work for less than the minimum wage. Would you care to defend that?
Sally-Ann Hart: Did you read the article?
S-AH: You read the article and it was about people with learning difficulties, about them being given the opportunity to work, because it’s to do with the happiness they have about working, and the obsession
[some audience noise]
….it’s about learning difficulties…it’s about having….
[audience interjection: “How dare you? That’s patronising]…
Some people with learning difficulties, they don’t understand about money – it is about having a therapeutic exemption, and the article was in support of employing people with learning disabilities – that’s what it was. [Repeated audience interjection: “How dare you?]
You should read the article.
Paul C: It may be unpopular – I don’t mind saying things that are unpopular – but I do feel I have a responsibility to reflect what is said to me. The first person I asked for his ten-point citizen’s manifesto is here as my wing-man, Tony May. He put on his ten-point manifesto: do away with the minimum wage, living wage. He believes that there should be more opportunities for people to take whatever work they want to take.
[Audience interjection: “Everyone deserves the dignity of a living wage”].
S-AH: Everyone deserves the dignity of a job.
[Shouts from the audience in reaction].
Paul C: Everyone deserves the dignity of a basic income and to then do whatever work they feel contributes to the community. There is so much work crying out to be done. My friend Tony May, he cleans up – he gets prizes for being the clean-up man – and, if you try to put that under a system whereby he needs to be paid the minimum wage, there would then be a welter of health and safety regulations put on top of him, it would be impossible for him to clean the litter from the streets, and that’s what he loves to do. There are people who do want to work…
Moderator: Paul, your minute’s up….Nick, if you want to comment…
Nick Perry: I don’t want to comment particularly on that, no.
Moderator: And Peter, do you want to say anything on that question or not?
Peter Chowney: Yes, I do. I think it’s disgraceful, the idea that people with physical disabilities or neurodiversity should be paid less than others – I mean it’s just shocking. [Audience applause and clapping]. I was out in an organisation called Little Gate Farm this morning where they specifically work with people with neurodiversity and learning difficulties, and we have helped them on the council. We’ve employed apprentices from that organisation, and so have lots of other employers in town. They haven’t tried to do that on the cheap, and they would be perfectly happy, as would the council….and indeed the council does pay them the £10 an hour wage. And we would always do that, and I think most employers would be happy to do that, because these people from that organisation are doing a job that they deserve to be paid the right wage for [Audience clapping], and I don’t think employers want to do anything else.
Mencap defines learning disability as “a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life. People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people.”
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, neurodiversity “describes the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits regarded as part of normal variation in the human population (used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders).”
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