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MU Motion on Benefits Reform Passed Unanimously at TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference 2024

The MU’s motion to reform the benefits system to better serve disabled musicians passed unanimously at last week’s TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference.

Published: 30 May 2024 | 2:06 PM Updated: 30 May 2024 | 2:37 PM
Two MU members attending the Disabled Workers Conference 2024, standing in front of a digital screen wearing lanyards.
Reforming our benefits system to better serve disabled musicians, particularly those who are freelancers, is of critical importance. Image credit: The MU.

MU members Nigel Braithwaite and Fiona Branson attended the TUC Disabled Workers Conference 2024 last week to address the unique challenges faced by disabled musicians.

They moved the MU’s motion to reform the benefit system and supported a motion from the National Union of Journalists on access to political events.

Reforming an inherently ableist benefits system

The MU motion, drafted by the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee, detailed how the current benefits system disincentivizes work for disabled musicians and prevents career progression by limiting the amount of work they can do before their benefits are reduced or stopped.

The motion called on the TUC to lobby government to:

  • Increase disability benefits to reflect the cost of living and extra disability related costs
  • Review the role of benefits in relation to self-employment in consultation with disabled people
  • Revise the ESA permitted work limit and scrap the minimum income floor for self-employed people on UC
  • Streamline the benefits application process
  • Block any attempts to unfairly monitor disabled people for the purposes of assessing fitness for benefits
  • Reform the social security system so that it is based on the social model of disability, and not the medical model which is inherently ableist.

Join the MU Disabled Members’ Network to meet and discuss issues impacting the communities of disabled and/or neurodivergent musicians, shape MU policy and change the music industry for the better.

Many disabled musicians face an impossible choice

Moving the motion, MU Member Nigel Braithwaite said:

“Reforming our benefits system to better serve disabled musicians, particularly those of us who are freelancers, is of critical importance. The current framework is deeply flawed, failing to reflect the true cost of living and actively disincentivising work for disabled musicians.

This is not just a financial issue; it is an issue of dignity and respect.

“Minimum income floors and permitted work limits impose severe restrictions on career progression. Imagine the frustration of knowing that the more you work, the closer you come to losing the benefits that are vital for your survival.

“This is the daily reality for many disabled musicians. They face the impossible choice between pursuing their passion and risking financial stability.

“As a result, many are forced to work for nothing, unable to demand fair pay for their talent and hard work, simply for the chance to perform. This is not just a financial issue; it is an issue of dignity and respect.”

The MU continues to fight for a system that recognises the value and potential of every musician

Past reforms have failed to address the unique challenges faced by disabled individuals, particularly the additional costs associated with disability.

“This oversight has created a “poverty trap” that keeps disabled musicians from reaching their full potential”, says Nigel Braithwaite.

“The system, as it stands, enshrines ableist attitudes and assumptions, perpetuating a cycle of dependency and exclusion.

The system, as it stands, enshrines ableist attitudes and assumptions, perpetuating a cycle of dependency and exclusion.

“Our benefits system must be reformed to provide adequate support, allowing disabled workers to gain the experience they need to progress in their careers and lift themselves out of poverty. We need a system that empowers, not one that entraps.

“These changes are not just about adjusting numbers or tweaking policies—they are about recognizing the inherent value and potential of every disabled musician. It’s about ensuring they have the opportunity to thrive, to contribute, and to be fairly compensated for their work.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Representing and advocating on behalf of disabled musicians

At the MU we advocate on behalf of disabled and/or neurodivergent musicians to ensure their rights are upheld and strengthened – where they encounter discrimination, we’ll challenge it.  

Join our Disabled Member Network

The Disabled Members Network is a space for MU members who identify as disabled and/or neurodivergent to meet and discuss issues that impact their communities, shape MU policy, and change the music industry and the MU for the better.

Join the Disabled Member Network

Representing and advocating on behalf of disabled musicians

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