Election ‘24: Real Change Unlikely for the Disabled

June 19, 2024

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UP co-founder and CEO, Emma Livingstone, on what the political parties’ manifestos tell us about their offers to the disabled community

With the disabled community vastly under-represented amongst our law makers it’s probably not surprising that policies to deliver real change for this group of 16 million people rarely appear. In the last Parliament barely one percent of our politicians registered a disability, yet 23% of our adult population has one. And if this General Election’s Party Manifestos are anything to go by, change isn’t coming fast, with most of them light on the detail for improvements benefiting the disabled.

The Conservatives are on a mission to reform benefit payments ‘so that they are better targeted and reflect people’s genuine needs’, which sounds a lot like reducing them. With their Manifesto making a distinction between those with mental health conditions and those with physical disabilities, the former look like receiving less going forward. Whilst the Conservatives have the ambition of making ‘this country the most accessible place in the world’ – how long have we been waiting for this? – the primary focus is on their Disability Action Plan, which when first presented failed to even mention those with physical disabilities.

Labour, who as others remarked have had 14 years to develop ideas for making things better, are similarly focused on helping the disabled into work, saying that the Work Capability Assessment needs reform. Most significant is their mention of the need to ‘build consensus for the longer term reform needed to create a sustainable National Care Service’ – so unfortunately nothing soon. Of course their headline promise to increase resources for the NHS is to be welcomed, but overall, it’s rather disappointing from a Party we would have expected to show bigger thinking for our community.

The Liberal Democrats are more specific on the changes they would want to bring to the disabled, including increasing access in the workplace and giving our community a stronger voice in the design of benefits policies and processes. Again, their headline commitments to increased funding for health and social care, as well as support for carers, would bring welcome impacts. However, like the Conservatives and Labour, there’s nothing here that shows a deep understanding of the real changes needed to improve the lives of 23% of the adult population.

The Reform Party seems to be breaking new ground in many ways at this Election, but even though their Manifesto is called a Contract With the People, the disabled ones aren’t given much space. Just a couple of mentions in their commentary on what they would want to do with the Welfare System.

Over in Wales, Plaid Cymru want to adopt the UN Convention of the Rights of Disabled People into law to assure accessibility for all and they say the voices of disabled people will be at the core of this. Again, an admirable ambition, but light on the detail of what and when.

It’s only when we turn to the Green Party’s Manifesto that we see disabled people get their own significant section, rather than a few phrases dotted across a document. The statement ‘disabled people have as much of a right to control their day-to-day lives and their long-term futures as non-disabled people’ sets the tone of this Party’s approach. There’s even an understanding of the need to make politics more accessible to disabled people. But the chances of the Greens gaining sufficient representation in the next Parliament mean that this inclusive thinking is not going to see the light of day soon.

Yes, the big-ticket policies on health and social care set out by the larger parties would obviously bring some benefits to disabled people. But if the politicians want to make real improvements to the status of the disabled in our society, they have to understand the detail of our needs. So, in the case of our community of 130,000 adults living with Cerebral Palsy, a good start would be to recognise it as the lifelong condition that it is and so ensure we are visible to the NHS for the services we so desperately need.