The General Election is just around the corner you could be forgiven to think that there are other issues other than Brexit to consider when making your vote at the polling station.
There are 13 million disabled people in the UK, plus their friends and family, the political parties have a huge community of voters to try to win over. We have summarised what each of the parties are saying in the manifesto so that you can make an informed choice about this issue.
We are only covering disability and mental health issues in this post there are many other issues to consider when choosing who to vote for.
So what is being offered to disabled voters?
The Conservatives want to continue the rollout of universal credit – the controversial six-in-one benefit, which includes employment and housing support. The party also wants to increase work allowances, a change they’ve estimated to be worth £630 a year to disabled people. They also say they will reduce the number of reassessments disabled people will have to go through to receive benefits if their condition is unlikely to change.
Labour says it will “scrap UC” and “design an alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect” instead. It wants to “stop” those work capability and PIP Assessments that some people report to be upsetting to go through. It would increase Employment and Support Allowance by £30 per week for those who are disabled or have a health condition that affects how much they can work. It’s currently a maximum of £73.10 a week.
By comparison, the Lib Dems say they want to “make the welfare system work” by reducing the waiting time for the first payment from five weeks to five days, reversing cuts to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and ending work capability assessments, replacing them with “real-world tests” run by local authorities.
The Green Party wants to introduce its own universal basic income, a salary for everyone, and wants to ensure nobody who takes time off work to care for loved ones “unjustly struggles to access the state pension”. It also wants to increase the carers’ allowance. Meanwhile, the Brexit Party says it wants to reform universal credit after a 12-month review and bring in changes after two years, although it doesn’t say anything beyond that.
The SNP also wants to halt UC and immediately end the benefits freeze in Scotland, while Plaid Cymru has said it will push for full control of universal credit in Wales and is “pressing” for welfare powers to be devolved so it can take on issues including disability living allowance.
Universal credit applies to the whole of the UK.
When it comes to workplace conditions, Labour says it wants to take the idea of a passport scheme for reasonable adjustments – smaller, achievable changes like rotas or working hours to help disabled workers move between jobs – and help crystallise what it means. They want to introduce new disability leave, which would be paid and recorded separately from sick leave.
We’ve seen the gender pay gap regularly in the headlines – and Labour says it recognises a similar pattern between disabled and non-disabled employees. It wants to introduce a mandatory disability pay-gap report for companies with more than 250 employees.
The Lib Dems want to try out some new ideas, including a pilot scheme where employers would be rewarded for investing in the mental wellbeing of their staff with reduced business rates. Plaid Cymru wants to establish “sheltered employment schemes” – an old-fashioned, less inclusive idea, but in this instance it’s specifically for disabled people who need more support before returning to full employment.
The Greens hope to introduce job-sharing at all levels of government in the hope it will make politics more accessible.
The other party manifestos – Conservative, SNP and Brexit Party – don’t specifically reference work in relation to disability or mental health.
This would apply across the UK.
There is one pledge that unites five of the seven main parties: to put mental health care on an equal footing with that of physical health, a policy that mental health groups have wanted for many years.
The Lib Dems list several ideas on how to make this happen and pledge to spend an additional £2.4bn after inflation on mental health by 2023-24 by improving access to therapies and mental health practitioners. They also want 24-hour services including mental health liaison teams in all hospitals.
As part of their general look at mental and physical wellbeing, the party also suggests carers should be given community benefits such as free passes to leisure centres.
Reduced waiting times for support are also key.
Labour wants to “improve access to psychological therapies” with crises services being available 24/7 – something echoed in the Plaid Cymru manifesto. And with non-emergency support in mind, the Green Party wants to “ensure” everyone who needs therapies can get them within 28 days instead of the months it can take in some areas. Conservatives talk about patients having greater control over their treatment.
Family is high on the agenda too, with Labour and the Lib Dems wanting to bring in mental health assessments for new mothers and Plaid Cymru promising to re-open its specialist mother-and-baby units for mothers with severe mental illness, which were closed in 2013.
Neither the Brexit Party nor the SNP reference mental health in their election pitches.
What will happen on voting day, only you can decide, we will be watching this one closely and hoping for the best outcome for people with disabilities.
By Damon Rose & Beth Rose BBC Ouch
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