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GENERAL ELECTION: How will each party support disabled people?

a sign reading disabled access above a polling station sign on a brick wall

Who to vote for in this year’s general election? 

That’s the question many of us are asking ourselves before making our way to polling stations on Thursday to determine which party deserves a vote.

BBC’s Access All podcast asked the leading parties how they would support disabled people if they win as well as their views on social care and mental health.

This is how they responded:

Conservatives

The Tories want to focus on “sick-note culture” saying disabled people are now three times more likely to be assessed as not fit for work compared to a decade ago, they also intend to “reform disability benefits”.

If they remain in power their manifesto promises the government will create 60,000 new school places and an additional 15 new specialist schools for children with special educational needs [SEND].

They will also introduce an additional 140,000 clinical placements for people suffering with their mental health, saying  “mental health should have parity of esteem with physical health”.

We will see £12bn slashed from the UK’s welfare bill, which currently stands at £69bn, as for disability benefits these are expected to increase from £39bn to £58bn in 2028/29 - around £1.4bn of that will cover the costs of Personal Independence Payment [PIP].

As it stands there is a 12-week consultation on changes to PIP which proposes medical diagnosis over assessments and offering vouchers instead of cash payment.

Mims Davies, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, said: “I think it’s very reasonable post-Covid, when you see a two-thirds increase, in spending to look at what's happened. We have a responsibility to make sure that taxpayers’ money is well spent.”


Labour

Labour’s tactic is to make it easier to access mental health support by placing a specialist in every school as well as introducing an extra 8,500 NHS mental health staff.

They also want to see special educational needs [SEN] professionals in mainstream schools and encourage disabled people into employment by reforming the Work Capability Assessment as well as introducing mandatory disability pay gap reporting.

Deputy leader, Angela Rayner says: “Small changes in the workplace can really mean that you have great assets in the people that work for you who can bring around those profits.

“By making sure that employers have to report their disability pay gap, that should be reduced, as we have seen in the gender pay gap.”

The pay gap between disabled and non-disabled workers currently stands at 13.8%.

Labour’s manifesto includes bold statements such as  “there will be consequences for those who do not fulfil their obligations”.

Ms Rayner said the party is focused on  “helping people to reach their full potential”.


Liberal Democrats

The Lib Democrats want disabled people to have the right to work from home and put a stop to “unnecessary reassessments” under a reformed PIP process.

They want to see a mental health professional in every school and an end to “out-of-area” mental health placements allowing patients to receive treatment closer to home.

The party will also introduce one-hour targets for police to hand over someone suffering with an extreme mental health condition to a relevant service.

Disabled people will receive free personal care under a Lib Dem government.

Carers will be protected under a minimum wage which will be £2 an hour above the national minimum wage.

Leader Sir Ed Davey promises to reverse tax cuts which have been handed to banks since 2016 and establish a Royal College of Care Workers.


Scottish National Party

In their manifesto the SNP say they want to: “Scrap proposed punitive welfare reforms for sick and disabled.”

This is a nod to the Conservative’s plan to make it harder to be eligible for a Work Capability Assessment. The Tories want to reduce the number of people being assessed by 424,000 before 2028/29.

A number of benefits including child and adult disability payments are devolved to Scotland.

Marion Fellows, SNP’s disabilities spokesperson, said: “We look at benefits as something people are entitled to.

“We also fund free prescriptions, we’ve introduced a child payment for impoverished families where 100,000 children have been lifted out of poverty.

“The only way to get anything done in the UK parliament, if you are not in power, is to work with other parties and to push the agenda forward.”


Green Party

The Greens plan to place mental health care on a  “truly equal footing with physical health” offering therapies within 28 days and introducing counsellors in every school and sixth form college.

They also want to provide free personal care with an annual £20bn investment as well as creating a “career structure for carers” 

The party’s general election candidate Mags Lewis said the Greens vision is to “restore the value of disabled benefits” with a 5% rise “immediately”. 

They also want to provide an additional 150,000 social houses every year, with “a good proportion” being accessible.


Plaid Cymru

The party wants to introduce the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People into UK law to protect disabled people living independently and make amendments to the Mental Health Act.

They will also aim to reduce waiting times for individuals with conditions such as ADHD and autism waiting for neurodiversity assessments.

Liz Saville Roberts, the Westminster leader of the party, said: “We’re always being told that Wales is funded to a greater level per head than England, this is true, but we’re not funded [per head] as highly as, say, London is.”


Reform UK

Reform UK believes  “the benefit system is broken” and would aim to change the system within 100 days.

They would make all PIP and Work Capability Assessments face-to-face which would include an independent medical independent medical assessment “to prove eligibility for payments”, although people with severe disabilities and serious long-term illnesses would not have to be reassessed.

The party refused to participate in Access All’s interviews, although their leader Nigel Farage said on BBC’s Question Time leaders special there are 9.2 million people not in employment but are of a working age.

He said: “They’re not all layabouts, there are many people, I bet we all know people on benefits who’d love to get back to work."

[ The 1708 British general election was the first general election to be held after the Acts of Union had united the Parliaments of England and Scotland. ]

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