This year’s political conference season is an important one. With just eight months to go, the outcome of the next general election is far from certain, and this annual political set piece provides a chance to energise supporters and cut through to the electorate.
Scope continues to push for every political party to make improving the living standards of disabled people a central part of their election manifesto. Arriving in Manchester for Labour Party conference on Sunday, we had a packed agenda to get through.
A big part of Scope’s activity revolved around improving the social care support that enables disabled people to live independently. We are members of the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) – a coalition campaigning for increased investment in the social care system. The CSA had an interactive exhibition stand in the main hall, which allowed politicians to understand the numbers of disabled people who use social care support in their constituency and that the public support an investment in the social care system. Talking to MPs, Councillors and Shadow Ministers -the stand was very popular – amongst dozens of others we had Liz Kendall MP, the Shadow Care Minister visit us.
The CSA also hosted a panel debate with Liz Kendall MP who was joined by Peter Kellner, the President of YouGov, Caroline Abrahams of Age UK and Anushka Asthanta, Political Correspondent at Sky News to debate how social care can decide the outcome of the General Election. It was a packed room and a high quality debate.
Social care was a big theme of the Labour Party conference, reflected by the number of meetings and discussions we had. Scope had a further three roundtable discussions on the topic alongside high profile national organisations and MPs. The final day saw the Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham MP, deliver a passionate speech about his determination to improve the care system. It was notable that the Labour Health Spokesperson placed such a strong focus on social care – not just the NHS – and it looks as though the Party will seek to make social care a general election issue. Whilst this is encouraging, we must make sure that any changes to the system include the adequate funding to enable disabled people to live independent lives.
Scope also worked in partnership with other important organisations. Speaking alongside Labour’s Disability spokesperson, Kate Green MP and Employment spokesperson, Stephen Timms MP, our Chief Executive Richard Hawkes launched Scope’s work with the think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), whose Director, Christian Guy, was also on the panel. Despite the early start the session was packed, and focused on how to improve the number of disabled people in employment. As part of the session both Kate and Stephen spoke about how they wanted to devolve aspects of ‘back to work support’ from central Government to cities and regions. This is something that Scope has been working on, and we were delighted to hear about this commitment.
Kate Green MP also attended a launch event for a series of essays on ‘The Future of Disability’, published by the think tank DEMOS. The event focused specifically on the essay contributed by Scope on the extra costs of disability. This was a high level private meeting, and everyone left clear about the importance of tackling these extra costs and the work that Scope is doing.
In between we had meetings with a number of important MPs, including with the Shadow DWP Secretary of State, Rachel Reeves MP. We outlined the importance of protecting DLA and PIP in the next Labour manifesto as well as improving the employment opportunities of disabled people, and will continue to push for this.
Finally, Richard Hawkes appeared on a panel to discuss Scope’s experience in social investment with Labour’s spokesperson on the voluntary sector, Lisa Nandy MP. Richard’s contribution got picked up in Civil Society… see why…
A busy and very productive few days in Manchester. Now attention turns to next weekend and the Conservative Party Conference…