The Independent View: Improving the lives of disabled people is essential for a stronger economy and fairer society

The role that Liberal Democrats play in drafting their party’s manifesto is unique in British politics.  So is the party’s approach to disability.

At the 2010 General Election the Liberal Democrats were the only party to produce a manifesto for disabled people. This pledged better employment support and improved recording of disability hate crime.

And in Government, the two Coalition Ministers responsible for social care reform are from Lib Dem benches – Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb.  Their commitment to improving social care support for disabled people has been clear.

As the 2015 manifesto is drafted, there is an opportunity for Lib Dem’s to revisit and refresh some of these commitments.  For many disabled people the future is far from certain.  Providing some certainty would give real credibility to the party’s promise to create a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Scope’s pamphlet Better Living, Higher Standards, is published today and sets out practical recommendations for how all three political parties can ensure disabled people are able to participate in society and in the economic recovery.  Here’s how.

Disabled people are at a distinct financial disadvantage because of the extra costs they face. Scope’s work indicates that the average disabled person spends £550 per month specifically on costs related to their disability.

Liberal Democrats have a good record of defending the payment disabled people get to help meet these extra costs.  But with the Chancellor announcing that another £25bn of cuts will be needed in the next Parliament, there is concern about how these cuts could impact on disabled people.  By committing to protecting the value of Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Annual Allowance, the Liberal Democrats can send a clear message of support to disabled people.

Then there is a commitment to supporting more disabled people in work.  The party has campaigned for ‘A Million Jobs’, and the party can take the same approach for disabled people.  Getting a million more disabled people in work would halve the employment rate gap between disabled people and the rest of the population.  Using regional growth strategies to boost disability employment rates is one way the party could take a step towards this goal, and would be a real illustration of how to create a stronger economy and fairer society.

Finally – getting social care reform right for disabled people.  Although social care is often seen as a purely older people’s issue, one third of social care users are working age disabled people.  This support enables disabled people to get up, get dressed, leave the house – and live independent lives.  As council budgets come under more pressure, disabled people need real assurances that they will get this support.  The Lib Dems are perfectly placed – drawing on the experience of Government – to show how they would go further than the Conservatives to make this happen.

Disability policy gives the Lib Dems the perfect opportunity to differentiate themselves – showing the party’s grassroots commitment to improving the lives of disabled people – whilst fleshing out their vision of a stronger economy in a fairer society.

* Ben Parker works for Scope as a Parliamentary Assistant.

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This entry was posted in The Independent View.
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3 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 1st Apr '14 - 8:09pm

    In Bath, Somerset, we have been complaining about A boards, and various other things like disabled parking .

  • Deaf as a doorpost 1st Apr '14 - 10:10pm

    The Government has made it very difficult for disabled people to remain in work, in particular for deaf people. The Access to Work scheme is meant to be a means of funding adaptations and support in the workplace so that disabled people have a level playing field.

    However thousands of deaf people are affected by Government guidance late last year that makes it harder for them to obtain the support they need to communicate in the workplace. The new Access to Work guidance means that any deaf person who needs more than 30 hours a week of government-funded communication support has to employ their own full-time communication support worker on a salary.

    But with only 1,000 trained British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters and only 25 speech-to-text reporters this creates a problem when there are 3.7 million deaf people in work. Deaf people need different support at different times – sometimes a notetaker or BSL interpreter. Or perhaps an interpreter who is a specialist in Human Resources for a HR meeting and the next day an interpreter with finance experience for a budget meeting.

    Horror stories are now emerging of deaf people being told to leave as employers refuse to recruit deaf staff because they would need to employ two people rather than just one. Some deaf people are already struggling to cope with their jobs because their budget for support has been slashed. The implication is that deaf people are being forced to have days in the office when they cannot communicate with their colleagues. They are cut off and become socially isolated. Performance suffers because they cannot communicate with their line managers about tasks or they misunderstand.

    The application process now takes several months so if a deaf person secures a job and the employer is good enough to wait it can be six months before any support is agreed to enable the deaf person to start!

    Liberal Democrats should be fighting against these policy changes that this Government are implementing that are forcing deaf people out of work.

  • Helen Dudden 2nd Apr '14 - 8:14am

    Your Lib Dem council withdrew the funding on a disability group that we had in the city. Since then we have formed an independent group that stands for the disabled and the law that gives us the right.

    I have stood up for a disabled person who had to climb three lots of very steep stairs to his flat. One hip replacement, and another to be completed.

    I do know about disability I have been totally blind and before my surgery. I too have had housing that is far from where is should be.

    Look on the “this is bath” webpage. There are even red arrows against my colleagues who stand for the rights of the disabled. One of those a former probation officer is in a wheelchair.

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