Kevin Shinkwin was created a Life Peer, taking the title Lord Shinkwin, in October 2015. Since becoming a Peer, he has focused on disability equality issues, combating antisemitism and the importance for UK democracy of respecting the people’s vote in the referendum of 2016.
He has used his position to champion disability equality issues both in the House of Lords and the media. In his first year he introduced a Private Member’s Bill on disability equality after being horrified to learn that 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted, some as late as 36 weeks. His Bill proposed that the law should be changed to prevent disability being used as grounds for abortion.
Kevin has been consistently clear that he does not take a position on abortion itself, only on disability equality, and is concerned that the current law logically informs a continuing culture of prejudice after birth. He says “All human beings are born equal. However, according to our current law, before birth some are more equal than others. That’s wrong. The law needs to change if we’re ever to have real equality.” His current Bill, which came too low in the Private Member’s Bill ballot to be debated, would also ensure parents of babies with a diagnosis of disability are better supported with more balanced information – provided on diagnosis – from Disabled People’s Organisations and parental disability support groups.
Having applied and been interviewed specifically for the role of Disability Commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in April 2017 he accepted the invitation to join the Board in good faith that he was being appointed to the role. On discovering that position would be abolished, he resigned from the Board in December 2017. He told Peers that he would not collude in this “shameful downgrading of disability”.
In lasting gratitude to his childhood surgeon, who fled Nazi-occupied Prague as a boy in 1939, Kevin supports a secure Israel at peace with its neighbours and believes fighting the racism of antisemitism is crucial.
Before entering the Lords, he worked for almost 20 years in the voluntary sector, serving in various public affairs roles, including at RNID, Macmillan, Cancer Research UK, and The Royal British Legion, where he led successful campaigns on the Armed Forces Covenant and securing reforms to the coroners service for bereaved Armed Forces families. Immediately prior to being sent to the Lords, he was Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, a position he resigned following his appointment to avoid a conflict of interest.