Will other political parties follow the Chancellor’s lead?

Yesterday I was at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham when George Osborne set out plans to eliminate the deficit if the Conservatives win next year’s election.

The debate, as summed up by one commentator, ‘was George Osborne’s speech yesterday: bold – or just reckless?’

It’s clear opinions are divided.

The Chancellor announced £25 billion of further cuts over the next 5 years, much of which will come from a further squeeze on welfare budgets.

There are cheers, even calls to go further. Charities – and indeed some members – are concerned about the impact on vulnerable people.

It’s easy to focus on the headlines, and frame his speech as playing to the right.

But as ever there’s more to the speech.

Two small, yet crucial mentions of disability perhaps reveal a desire to bring more than just the usual suspects with him.

The Chancellor promised to protect disability benefits.

Could this recognition be an attempt to start building bridges with disabled people?

Life costs more if you are disabled. Buying a wheelchair, higher energy bills, higher insurance premiums. Scope research shows all this adds up to an extra £550 per month. Some costs can’t be avoided, but too often disabled people continue to pay over the odds for everyday items and services. Too many of these markets don’t work for disabled people, there is insufficient competition and disabled people pay over the odds.

The disability benefits Osborne pledged to protect are the financial life-line that disabled people rely on to help meet these costs.

The wider benefits freeze will unquestionably affect disabled people.

A million disabled people who are not fit to work will see their income support frozen, as will the quarter of all jobseekers who are disabled. Scope has always been clear that disabled people will be hit hard by the cumulative impact of cuts to out of work benefits, housing benefit and other support.

Nevertheless, a decision to maintain the value of extra costs payments is extremely welcome. And if the Chancellor can find room in his speech to ‘protect disability benefits’, it’s now time for all of the political parties to do the same.

Caring for my two sons as a disabled mum – #100days100stories

Emma has two children and works for a publishing company. She also has cerebral palsy, and she shared her experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and bringing up her children with us in September 2014. We’re republishing it here as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

I work full-time for a publishing company in London and am mum to two perfect little boys – Oscar, aged five, and Henry, one.

Emma and her sons smiling

I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of six months. It affects only my left side but I can walk quite easily unaided (better if I wear my splint).

It affects my gait, balance and the fine motor skills in my hand. I tell people it means I can only carry one cuppa at a time!

Having children

It didn’t even occur to me that I would have any difficulty having children. I had been brought up to believe – quite rightly – that I could achieve anything, so it was just the logical next step after I married my wonderful husband, Matthew.

My first pregnancy was fine until six months, when I developed symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). Suddenly walking was incredibly painful. Whether my condition played a part in developing SPD I’ll never know, but it didn’t make it any easier to cope with.

Emma's husband and son in the parkMy CP means I have a curved spine and because of this an epidural was ruled out. On top of this, Oscar was in the breech position so I had to have a caesarean section, but I recovered quickly and with no side effects.

During my second pregnancy, my CP affected me quite badly. I noticed that my balance was affected from quite early on, and I tripped a lot. I had four falls in my last eight weeks, and it was terrifying. But again, I had another healthy boy by c-section.

Looking after my boys

Caring for two active little boys is hard work for any mum. I don’t think about my CP every day – I just get on with things – but it does make life a little tougher.

Breast and bottle feeding was always my biggest challenge. When we were at home I could always find some way to get comfortable, but out and about I would need help.Emma with her sons

With Henry I breastfed exclusively until four months, but he then got too heavy and I found I began to favour one side over the other due to my physical limitations.

As they got bigger, I found it hard to carry them for long periods of time. I found this very hard emotionally, but I gradually realised that we could be close in other ways. I also think it helped them to be a little more independent.

“Mum’s cranky leg”

As my eldest, Oscar, got older, he started to notice and understand Mummy’s condition. He refers to it as my ‘cranky’ hand or leg!

He knows there are some things I find hard or will take longer to do, but he just accepts it as the norm, which is wonderful. There are few disabled children in his school and the teachers often comment on how considerate he is.

The age gap between my children, although not intentional, is a godsend – my elder son is such a help. I make sure I don’t ask too much of him, but he is more than happy to fetch and carry for me, and gets a real satisfaction from helping.

I’ve had cerebral palsy since birth so of course I have no other frame of reference, but I’m pretty sure any parent feels a little out of their depth sometimes. All I can say is that I feel very blessed to be mum to two healthy and happy children.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.

The Lesley Finley Awards

Scope supports the DIAL Network, an independent network of local disability information and advice services, run by and for disabled people.

Every year the DIAL Network helps over a quarter of a million disabled people. Melanie Close, Chief Executive of Disability Equality North West (DENW) talks about an awards ceremony they recently held to recognise the contribution that Disabled People make in the community.

lesley finlay
Lesley Finlay taking part in a march

It was with great shock and sadness that we found our Chair, and friend Lesley Finley had passed away last year.

Lesley, who used to be a nurse, was registered blind at the age of 25 caused by the diabetes which she was diagnosed with at the age of 10.

She had two kidney transplants as well as two pancreas transplants and was also a bilateral amputee – not many people realized that Lesley wore two prosthetic legs.

But despite her health issues, Lesley was a good friend and hardworking colleague of Disability Equality NW for over 10 years. Starting as a volunteer, she went on to become a Trustee, Company Secretary, Vice Chair and then Chair of the organisation. Lesley had a passion for supporting and enabling Disability Equality to support local disabled people and where necessary would actively challenge service providers to ensure equality of access for all. Lesley was a quiet person who worked extremely hard, she would do what needed to be done, without making a fuss or telling everyone she’d done it; Lesley never sought gratitude or acknowledgement – she just wanted to make the world a better place for disabled people.

We wanted to celebrate Lesley’s life and the contribution she made to our organisation and decided to hold the first Lesley Finley Awards ceremony. The award highlights and recognises the amazing work done by disabled people in Lancashire, to improve the lives of other disabled people. The awards were also a tribute to Lesley – to the hard work and commitment she showed in helping others

We plan to make the award on an annual basis to a disabled person who has made outstanding achievements and contributions in the areas of disability rights, welfare and support of disabled people and the promotion of independence and the principles of the Social Model of Disability.

The award was sponsored by Community Gateway, Prestons largest social housing provider.

Seven people were shortlisted for the award, all who had made an outstanding and varied contribution to the community.

The winner of the award was David Hinchliffe for his role as a volunteer at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, helping to make exhibitions and projects accessible for people with visual impairments and hard work in assisting a group to be independent and continue to meet after project funding came to an end.

We’re looking forward to next year’s awards and seeing all of the great work that is happening in our community.