Lord Morris of Manchester, widely recognised as the politician who did more for disabled people than any other British politician, has died aged 84. Lord Morris was a long standing patron of Crossroads Care and keen supporter of the development of Carers Trust.
Anne Roberts, Chief Executive of Carers Trust says: "Lord Morris was a valued friend and supporter of our work with carers and the people they care for. As minister for the Disabled he enabled the first pilot of a Crossroads Care service and, as we were finalising the recent merger with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, he once again gave us his wholehearted support".
Born in Manchester in 1928, Alfred Morris witnessed the pain of disability at first hand: his father, George, had been gassed in the trenches and died when he was six, while his mother was crippled with arthritis.
As a Labour MP, his work led to the first disability legislation in the 1970s; the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which sought to give people with disabilities more equal opportunities in society and set out a number of provisions to improve access and support.
Under the new legislation, councils were now required to; register all disabled people; send them regular bulletins on available assistance; provide sheltered housing, home adaptations and recreational facilities; introduced the orange badge scheme; extend concessions on public transport; improve wheelchair access to public buildings and provide special lavatory facilities; and keep the young disabled out of geriatric wards.
Following this Morris earned seats on the committees of many disability groups and when Labour regained power in 1974, he became the UK's first Minister for Disabled People.
Lord Morris was a staunch campaigner and advocate for the most vulnerable in society; after the Falklands conflict he accused ministers of “covering up” the number of servicemen disabled on active service. He took up the cause of war widows on minimum pensions, and of cancer patients exposed to radiation at nuclear tests in the 1950s.
Morris was made a life peer in 1997 and went on to led a series of revolts over the treatment of disabled people, teaming up with Lord Ashley to oppose elements of the 1999 Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill declaring that it “piled handicap on handicap for many thousands of disabled people”.
Lord Morris died on 12 August 2012 after a short illness. He is survived by his wife, Irene, two sons and two daughters.
As a major champion of disability rights, and a keen supporter of carers, Lord Morris will be much missed, but the legacy he leaves will continue, championed by the many charities he supported.