19 May 2017
People with disabilities often can’t or don’t vote. It is therefore up to the rest of us – friends or relatives, or simply those who care, to think about them when we vote.
There used to be lobby groups in Bucks for people with disabilities who would speak out publicly and politically about the problems of people with disabilities and would fight to get the problems sorted. But they seem to have disappeared.
There are still lots of charities in Bucks for people with disabilities but they are now in the business (and I use those words advisedly) of providing information and support. They have contracts to do the work previously done by the public service and are therefore dependent on funding from Bucks County Council and other public authorities. So they don’t lobby any more.
In fact, there seems to be only one Bucks charity for people with disabilities independent of public sector core funding - Bucks Disability Service. It says “it will not hesitate to act and speak out in defence of disabled people in Buckinghamshire”.
However, all it says on its website is that the Conservative cuts “are having an impact, often adverse, on disabled people in Bucks. We believe that many of them will lose financially, and that if they are unable to make up the lost income, there may well be knock-on effects on their ability to live independently, and for other services they use, such as the NHS and social care.”
So you have to look elsewhere to find out what has happened to people with disabilities under this Government:
- It has closed Remploy which provided employment to people with disabilities,
- It scrapped the Independent Living Fund,
- It cut payments for the disabled Access To Work scheme,
- It cut the Employment and Support Allowance by £30/week,
- It presided over a 5-fold increase in sanctions against people on disability benefits,
- It has brought in a fitness-to-work system which is a scandal and caused untold misery to people with disabilities,
- It imposed the bedroom tax and
- It is moving disabled people to Personal Independence Allowance while making the eligibility tougher. Over half a million people will lose out on this change alone.
I think the treatment the Conservative Government has handed out over the past 7 years to people with disabilities is immoral. No civilized society should allow its most vulnerable people to be treated in this way, with many left destitute and isolated.
As far as I could see, all the Bucks Conservative MPs have voted for the legislation which underpins this immoral treatment to people with disabilities.
There is nothing to stop Bucks charities speaking out during the election. Despite the 2014 Lobbying Act which regulates their political activities, they retain the fundamental right to speak out on issues that further their charitable purposes. So where are the Bucks charities for people with disabilities?
If you vote for the Conservatives, what more will happen to people with disabilities? According to its manifesto, “it will deliver a government unafraid to confront the burning injustices of …the stigma of disability discrimination.”… We will build on the proud Conservative record of supporting those with disabilities…. We will get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years….”
In other words, more of the same.
If you vote Labour, people with disabilities will get, according to its manifesto, the restoration of financial and other support. A Labour Government will repeal the cuts in social security support to people with disabilities through a new Social Security Bill in the first year in office, including:
- Increasing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 per week
- Increasing Carer’s Allowance by £11 to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance
- Implementing the court decision on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) so that there is real parity of esteem between those with physical and mental-health conditions
- Scrapping the Work Capability and Personal Independence Payment assessments and replace them with a personalised, holistic assessment process that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers. It will end the privatisation of assessments
- Ending the pointless stress of repeated reassessments for people with severe long-term conditions.
- Commissioning a report into expanding the Access to Work programme.
It will change the culture of the social security system from one that demonises people not in work to one that is supportive and enabling.
If you care about the way society supports people with disabilities, why would you vote anything but Labour?