SDN has written to each Parliamentary Candidate in the forthcoming General Election. We have asked for responses. The following is the letter we sent. Below that we will publish responses as they come in.
Dear Parliamentary Candidate,
We are a local charity working to improve the lives of those people living with, or caring for someone with, a disability. The imminent General Election on June 8th, will allow you to send a signal to the one in five persons with impairments or long term health conditions living
in our area.
Our members are interested in hearing from you on the following matters of importance their lives. Your response will be published on our website
). We are contacting all relevant Parliamentary Candidates and we will also let our members know whether anyone has not addressed our concerns. Your answers will influence the way our members vote. We would appreciate your response by May 30th 2017.
1. Are you committed to the rights of disabled people to participate fully in society? Do you support our right to independent living, accessible transport, education, employment and public life?
2. Are you committed to a health and care system that enables disabled people to lead full independent lives? Will you work on a social funding solution that offers all disabled people more choice and control in their lives? What are you going to do about the amount we have to
pay in social care charges?
3. Will you make changes in the way the benefits system works for people living with a disability? Will you replace Work Capability Assessments and the sanctions regime for disabled persons claiming benefit? Will you commit to preventing further benefits cuts in the next Parliament?
We look forward to reading your responses.
Response from Philip Dunne, Conservative, Ludlow
Thank you for your email on behalf of Shropshire Disability Network of 24th May ahead of the General Election, seeking further information about the Conservative Party’s policies towards those with disabilities. I appreciate your concern about this important issue.
I can reassure you that the Conservative Party are committed to ensuring that there is protection for those who need it, but also support for those who are able to work. That is why we spend around £50 billion a year helping people with disabilities and health conditions. We have also overseen record employment among disabled people, helping to ease the transition into work.
We have built a strong safety net for disabled people by increasing spending on disability benefits by more than £3 billion in real terms since 2010. We are protecting disabled people’s benefits, providing disabled people with the security and dignity they deserve. The Disability Living Allowance, and the Personal Independence Payment which is replacing it, are excluded from our benefit cap and will continue to rise with the Consumer Price Index.
Conservatives in government have helped thousands more people disabled people into work, meaning they have the stability of a regular salary. 594,000 people with a disability have moved into work in the last three years, bringing the total number of people with a disability in work to over 3.5 million. We are also working with businesses to take on outdated views about disabled people in the workplace. The Disability Confident campaign is showcasing the talents of disabled people to employers around the country and challenging the myths that create barriers that can prevent disabled people from getting a job and being given opportunities.
The Conservative Party manifesto makes clear we will build on the proud Conservative record in supporting those with disabilities, including the landmark Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. We want to see attitudes to disability shift as they have for race, gender and sexuality in recent years: it should be completely unacceptable for people with disabilities to be treated negatively.
We will get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years. We will harness the opportunities of flexible working and the digital economy to generate jobs for those whose disabilities make traditional work difficult, and give employers the advice and support they need to hire and retain disabled people and those with health conditions.
We will go further for businesses employing someone with a disability, offering a holiday on their employers’ National Insurance Contributions for a full year. We will review disabled people’s access and amend regulations if necessary to improve disabled access to licensed premises, parking and housing. Our plans also include working with providers of everyday essential services, like energy and telecoms, to reduce the extra costs that disability can incur.
I hope you will find the information above reassuring.
Response from Emma Bullard, Green Party, Shrewsbury & Atcham
Many thanks for getting in touch
1. I personally am – as is the Green Party - fully committed to upholding the rights of disabled people to participate fully in society, and we have a number of practical plans to achieve that. We’ve produced a Disability manifesto which you can find in several accessible formats here
We put our policies into practice internally by supporting disabled people to participate fully as Green Party members and candidates. We are proud that one sixth of our General Election candidates has a disability.
2. Yes – again please see our manifesto for more detail on our plans for health and social care for disabled people. It’s shocking that there has been a 40% reduction in the number of D/deaf and disabled people receiving social care. We are the 5th largest economy in the world, we need to invest in public services and make sure that everyone in our society has a good quality of life. Many of our proposals are to do with making work, housing and education more accessible and rewarding for disabled people.
3. Yes, yes and yes. We would scrap the demeaning and costly work capability assessments and replace them with increasing support available via GPs and other health professionals
I am very happy for my answers to be posted on your website.
Response from Lucy Allen, Conservative, Telford.
Thank you very much for your email.
I think it is really important that all MPs work constructively with and support the fantastic work of community groups such as yours.
Shropshire’s MPs meet regularly with Shropshire wide groups. It would be wonderful if we could get you to come and present some of the issues and concerns you raise and set out what you would like to see the Shropshire MPs do to support the work of the Shropshire Disability Network.
There are no MPs until after the election, but if re-elected I would be more than happy to arrange this so we can all as a group of MPs support you and fantastic work you do.
Response from Rod Keyes, Liberal Democrat, Wrekin
Whilst I am usually more than happy to give a personalised reply to constituent emails, in this instance I am content to refer you to the Lib Dem manifesto with which in this respect I tend to agree. However, there is no doubt some reform to the benefit system is desirable, not necessarily cuts, and reassessments are not always detrimental to claimants as conditions do change in some cases.
Julia Buckley, Labour, South Shropshire
1. Yes, Labour believes in the social model of disability – that it is society which disables people, and it is our job to remove those barriers. The previous Labour government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The next Labour government will sign the UNCRPD into UK law. Labour will give British Sign Language full recognition as a recognised language.
2. Labour will act to tackle discrimination, remove barriers and ensure social security delivers dignity and empowerment, not isolation and stigma. Labour will introduce a new higher rate of income tax for those earning over £80,000 per year, to pay for greater investment into the NHS and social care system for all patients.
3. Labour will prevent further benefit cuts and review the current regime which has resulted in considerable hardship for disabled people.
Graeme Currie, Labour, North Shropshire
Politics is and should be a moral endeavour. I believe passionately that politics should be about the making the world a better place. Social justice and equality are at the heart of my values as a Labour Party member. Labour has the right values – fairness, cooperation, mutual responsibility. The Labour Party vision is of power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many not the few. I am campaigning to be elected to represent the people of North Shropshire because I want a Labour Government so we can develop the right policies for a more just and fair Britain.
Over the last seven years people with disabilities have been failed by the Conservative government. Currently 4.2 million people with disabilities live in poverty in Britain, and the disability employment gap remains stubbornly high.
A Labour Government would promote and defend the rights of people with disabilities. Labour will act to tackle discrimination, remove barriers and ensure social security delivers dignity and empowerment, not isolation and stigma. A Labour Government would create a properly funded national health and care service for all.
Labour would immediately reject the Conservatives ill though out plans for increased charges for domiciliary and community support services. This has become known as the “Dementia Tax” however it would apply to many more people than just older people with dementia. It would have potentially devastating consequences across all ages and impact very negatively on people with disabilities.
Labour will act immediately to end the worst excesses of the Conservative government’s changes. A Labour Government will end the punitive sanctions regime and scrap the Bedroom Tax.
The Labour Party Manifesto commits a Labour Government to the following action;
Labour will repeal the following cuts in social security support to people with disabilities through a new Social Security Bill published in our first year in office.
• Increase Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 per week for those in the work-related activity group, and repeal cuts in the UC limited capacity for work element.
• Increase Carer’s Allowance by £11 to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance.
• Implement the court decision on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) so that there is real parity of esteem between those with physical and mental-health conditions.
• Scrap 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. Labour will end the privatisation of assessments.
• End the pointless stress of reassessments for people with severe long-term conditions.
• Commission a report into expanding the Access to Work programme.
We will change the culture of the social security system, from one that demonises people not in work to one that is supportive and enabling. As well as scrapping the Conservatives’ punitive sanctions regime, we will change how Jobcentre Plus staff are performance-managed. Labour will strengthen access to justice for people with disabilities by enhancing the 2010 Equality Act, enabling discrimination at work to be challenged.
Should I be elected as your Member of Parliament on 8th June it would be my honour to work with all of you at the Shropshire Disability Network to improve the lives of people with disabilities. We would be together in this campaign for improved services and opportunities for all people with impairments or long term health conditions living
in our area..
Should we receive any further responses SDN will add them.