There are 13 million disabled people in the UK, including children and adults, plus all of their friends and family, and the main political parties have been reaching out to them in the run-up to the 2019 General Election on Thursday 12th December.
What have each of them been saying, and what does this mean for you and/or your loved ones? Here’s a helpful summary of what each of them has been promising, by party, (apologies if you are reading this in Northern Ireland, I have no information regarding what the parties there are proposing).
Note: This doesn’t include an analysis of what each party is saying about Brexit, or the impact of each party’s approach to leaving or remaining. A separate blog post about some of the impacts of a ‘no deal’ Brexit can be found here: https://theadditionalneedsblogfather.com/2018/03/29/disability-and-brexit-what-could-happen-with-a-no-deal-brexit/
The Conservatives want to continue the rollout of universal credit, the controversial six-in-one benefit, which includes employment and housing support. The party also wants to increase work allowances, a change they’ve estimated to be worth £630 a year to disabled people. They also say they will reduce the number of reassessments disabled people will have to go through to receive benefits if their condition is unlikely to change.
The Conservative party manifesto doesn’t specifically reference work in relation to disability or mental health. There is a pledge to “prioritise the principle of fairness in the workplace”, but no mention of disabled people specifically.
The Conservatives propose £20.5bn additional funding for the NHS in England by 2023-24, with additional money to cover rising pension costs, build 40 new hospitals over the next 10 years, and give 20 hospitals an extra £1.8bn cash injection.
£5bn for social care over five years and to develop new long-term plan with cross-party support. 6,000 more GP’s in England by 2024-25 and to deliver 50,000 more nurses, bringing back nurse bursaries. End hospital parking charges in England for selected patients and NHS staff – costing £78m a year.
The Conservatives talk about patients having greater control over their treatment.
The Conservatives have pledged to increase school funding by £7.1bn by 2022-23, which the party says includes more SEN places.
The Conservatives say they will initially invest £1bn a year on adult and children’s social care and the prime minister has pledged to stop individuals having to sell their homes, but has not explained how this might be done.
Additional £74 million over three years for community care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.
The Conservatives also want to put money into finding a cure for dementia which it describes as “one of our government’s biggest collective priorities” alongside climate change.
The Conservatives plan to publish a National Strategy for Disabled People by the end of 2020 for the benefits system, housing, education, transport and jobs.
Labour says it will “scrap Universal Credit” and “design an alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect” instead. It will replace the Department for Work and Pensions with Department for Social Security, and wants to stop work capability and PIP Assessments that many people find so upsetting and difficult to go through. It would increase Employment and Support Allowance by £30 per week for those who are disabled or have a health condition that affects how much they can work. It is currently a maximum of £73.10 a week. Increase basic level of support for children with disabilities to level of Child Tax Credit.
When it comes to workplace conditions, Labour says it wants to take the idea of a passport scheme for reasonable adjustments – smaller, achievable changes like rotas or working hours to help disabled workers move between jobs – and help crystallise what it means. They want to introduce new disability leave, which would be paid and recorded separately from sick leave.
Labour says it recognises a similar pattern between disabled and non-disabled employees as is experienced in gender inequality. It wants to introduce a mandatory disability pay-gap report for companies with more than 250 employees. Include disability leave in Equality Act 2010.
Labour promises £26bn additional funding for the NHS in England by 2023-24, with a focus on cutting waiting times and boosting mental health services. End private provision within the NHS, stop the sale of NHS land and assets, and set up a state-run pharmaceutical company.
£10.8bn for free personal social care for over-65s. Free prescriptions, dental check-ups, and hospital car parking. Train a new generation of GPs to provide 27 million more GP appointments each year, by increasing training places from 3,500 to 5,000.
Labour wants to “improve access to psychological therapies” with crisis services being available 24/7.
Labour want to bring in mental health assessments for new mothers.
Labour says it will provide the necessary funding for school-age pupils. Additionally, the party wants to recruit new SEN co-ordinators as part of 150,000 additional early years staff.
Labour pledges to cap care costs and is promising £10.8bn to provide free personal care for older people who need it. Create a National Care Service for social care.
On housing and independence, Labour wants to help autistic people and people with learning disabilities move out of “inappropriate inpatient hospital settings” and into their own homes as part of a wider social care policy on doubling the number of people who receive publicly funded care packages.
Liberal Democrats say they want to “make the welfare system work” by reducing the waiting time for the first payment from five weeks to five days, reversing cuts to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and ending work capability assessments, replacing them with “real-world tests” run by local authorities. Invest an additional £6 billion per year into the social security system.
The Liberal Democrats want to try out some new ideas, including a pilot scheme where employers would be rewarded for investing in the mental wellbeing of their staff with reduced business rates.
The Liberal Democrats will introduce a 1p rise in income tax to invest in health and social care, allowing the NHS budget to be increased by £26bn a year by 2023-24. Ring fence funding for mental health services to ensure mental and physical health are treated with equal importance. Pool NHS, social care and public health budgets into a single area of spending.
£10bn from the capital investment budget for equipment and buildings. End the shortage of GPs by 2025. Create an independent budget monitoring body for health and care, similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility.
The Liberal Democrats list several ideas regarding how to put mental health on an equal footing to physical health and pledge to spend an additional £2.4bn after inflation on mental health by 2023-24 by improving access to therapies and mental health practitioners. They also want 24-hour services including mental health liaison teams in all hospitals.
As part of their general look at mental and physical wellbeing, the party also suggests carers should be given community benefits such as free passes to leisure centres. Reduced waiting times for support are also key.
The Liberal Democrats want to bring in mental health assessments for new mothers.
The Liberal Democrats want to “end the crisis” of SEN funding by allocating “additional cash to local authorities”, reducing the amount schools pay towards the cost of a child’s needs.
The Liberal Democrats say they will cap the cost of care that individuals pay and would introduce a 1p increase to income tax, with some of the £7bn raised a year pegged to social care. Set up a cross-party convention on social care.
The Liberal Democrats want to reinstate the Independent Living Fund, which financially supported disabled people who choose to live in the community rather than residential care.
Increase the allowed earnings for recipients of carers allowance to £150 per week, and provide a series of free benefits to carers, such as free bus travel for young carers.
Require qualifications for care home managers, and provide training and support to upskill care workers, so that 70% have a NVQ Level 2 (or equivalent) qualification.
Green Party wants to introduce its own universal basic income of £89/week, a salary for everyone, and wants to ensure nobody who takes time off work to care for loved ones “unjustly struggles to access the state pension”. It also wants to increase the carers’ allowance with additional payments for disabled people, lone parents and some pensioners. It is unclear what the value of additional payments to disabled people are, and how eligibility would be determined.
The Green Party hope to introduce job-sharing at all levels of government in the hope it will make politics more accessible.
The Green Party pledges to increase funding for the NHS by at least £6bn a year until 2030, with a further £1bn a year to reinstate nursing bursaries. £4.5bn a year to provide free social care for over-65s who need support in their own homes.
Expand NHS provision to include dentistry, prescriptions and mental health treatment. Ensure a publicly funded NHS without private sector involvement. Make mental health a much higher priority with increased funding.
With non-emergency support in mind, the Green Party wants to ensure everyone who needs therapies can get them within 28 days instead of the months it can take in some areas.
The Green Party has the most comprehensive plans. It wants all SEN children to experience a “fully inclusive education” with access to their local school, which would mean accessible buildings, an inclusive curriculum and specially trained teachers. On top of that it wants to retain specialist schools if that’s a preferred option for the family.
The Green Party wants to introduce a legal right to independent living for disabled people and help councils draw up disability housing plans.
Brexit Party says it wants to reform universal credit after a 12-month review and bring in changes after two years, although it doesn’t say anything beyond that.
The Brexit party statement doesn’t specifically reference work in relation to disability or mental health.
The Brexit Party pledges to keep the NHS publicly owned, with no private provision, and free at the point of use, abolish hospital targets and offer 24-hour GP surgeries.
Open nursing and midwifery professions to people without a degree and introduce a new nursing qualification in social care.
The Brexit party statement doesn’t specifically reference mental health.
The Brexit party statement makes no reference to SEN.
Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP)
The SNP wants to halt Universal Credit and immediately end the benefits freeze in Scotland.
The SNP party manifesto doesn’t specifically reference work in relation to disability or mental health.
The SNP will call for an increase in health spending in England which would result in an increase to the amount of money available for the Scottish NHS. Keep Scotland’s NHS in public hands. Introduce an NHS Protection Bill to block UK governments from using the NHS in trade talks. Lobby the UK government to introduce a supervised drug consumption facility in Scotland.
The SNP party manifesto doesn’t specifically reference mental health.
The SNP manifesto makes no reference to SEN.
Plaid Cymru has said it will push for full control of universal credit in Wales and is pressing for welfare powers to be devolved so it can take on issues including disability living allowance.
Plaid Cymru wants to establish sheltered employment schemes; a previously used, less inclusive idea, but in this instance it’s specifically for disabled people who need more support before returning to full employment.
Plaid Cymru will train and recruit an additional 1,000 doctors, 5,000 nurses and 100 new dentists for the Welsh NHS in the next decade. Free social care for the elderly through a new national health and social care service.
Plaid Cymru are keen for crisis services to be available 24/7.
Plaid Cymru promises to re-open its specialist mother-and-baby units for mothers with severe mental illness, which were closed in 2013.
Plaid Cymru wants schools to have appropriate access for physically disabled pupils and better support for those with learning difficulties.
Plaid Cymru wants to offer free social care for elderly people and those who are more vulnerable through a new National Health and Social Care Service for Wales.
Plaid Cymru also wants to ensure local authorities and social landlords provide more “disabled-friendly and lifetime housing”.
Plaid Cymru wants to focus on the rights of autistic people and those awaiting a diagnosis so all can access support. It also plans to make neuro-divergence a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act to safeguard individuals against discrimination. Protected characteristics currently include e.g. age, disability, race and sexuality.
Sources: BBC News website, Disability Rights UK, Sky News website, party manifesto’s.
Whatever you do, please do vote. It might seem like your vote won’t make a difference, or you may feel that none of the parties completely represents you, but every vote does count and our decisions matter. We’ll never find the perfect party that represents us completely, but by voting for the one that seems nearest to how you think, you can be a part of influencing change rather than being on the sidelines.
3rd December 2019
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