Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

Published Date
Fleur Perry

Trailblazer Fleur Perry blogs about her meeting with the new Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP.

When our new Minister for Disabilities was announced to be Justin Tomlinson MP, the overall reaction from the online disability community was shock and dismay, as his voting record seemed to paint a scary picture. Call me a moth to a flame, but my first reaction was, if I remember correctly, “Please can I interview him?”

And yesterday, I met him. It wasn’t an interview, but a discussion arranged by a friend of mine for a small number of local people with disabilities to meet the person who could be representing us for the next 5 years.

My partially-publicly-subsidised-can’t-believe-it’s-not-a bus got me there with precisely zero minutes to spare, but a little lift button roulette got me to the right floor on the first attempt. Having found a parking space, it was ladies first for the discussion topic.

Wheelchair accessible housing is my broken-record subject, and so I led with that. I’ve had meetings with local housing representatives on this and the response I’m used to receiving can usually be summed up as “Deny everything.” I am pleased to report that Justin Tomlinson seems more open the idea that there might be a problem here that could be solved, and has put me in touch with some different housing professionals. I suddenly realised I’d asked rather a lot of questions, judging by the slightly stunned/amused look on my comrades faces. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

The discussion moved on to Personal Independence Payments (no new information really, but he’s definitely learnt the script) and the clumsiness of social care paperwork. This was recognised as a problem, but as yet there were no plans on how to fix it. I asked about the potential for future changes to the Access to Work scheme, however we were running out of time at this point, so I didn’t have the opportunity to find out as much as I’d hoped. The impression I was left with was that no decisions had been made to make any changes at present, but he did seem to understand the importance of the scheme.

He ran away before I could take the mandatory selfie, and I’m not sure when I’ll meet him again, but there’s certainly more on my list.

Whatever your political leaning, the facts of the matter are these:

1. Justin Tomlinson MP is the Minister for Disabled People, based within the Department for Work and Pensions

2. His intentions seem to be good, and he does seem genuinely interested in new ideas

3. His office doesn’t seem to own a kettle – take your own tea if you’re going to meet him

4. I want a job on Newsnight

Written by Fleur Perry

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