Scope’s political conference season continued in Birmingham this week with the Conservative Party Conference. This gave us another chance to keep pushing on Scope’s priorities to improve the lives of disabled people in the areas of extra costs, employment and social care. We’ve already made a lot of progress, and we want to see warm words become promises enshrined in political manifestos before the election.
Once again, Scope was heavily involved in the activity of the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) and on Sunday evening Scope’s Chief Executive, Richard Hawkes, was on a panel with the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, to discuss how social care can decide the outcome of the General Election. The panel was again chaired by Anushka Asthana from Sky News and Richard and Jeremy were joined on the panel by the Associate Director of YouGov, Anthony Wells. A packed room heard a fascinating debate on a range of social care issues.
Beforehand we met with Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Letwin, to outline the importance of social care to disabled people, older people and carers and to urge him to prioritise social care in the Conservative Party manifesto.
The CSA exhibition stand was again up and running – this time visited by a number of important Cabinet Ministers including Iain Duncan Smith MP.
But if social care and integration with the NHS was the biggest story at Labour conference, welfare changes formed most of the commentary at the Conservative conference.
When announcing a freeze in the uprating of working age benefits, the Chancellor made it clear that he would protect ‘disability benefits’. Whilst this did not include the uprating of those receiving ESA on the WRAG group, it was an important statement from George Osborne that the value and uprating of PIP and DLA would be protected. Scope was pleased to welcome this protection, which has been a central ask to all political parties for the next election. We will be pushing all political parties to do the same and protect the value of PIP.
Scope again hosted an event with the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and this time we were joined by the Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper MP, and Mark Hoban MP the former Minister for Employment.
Whilst the event focused on employment, it was very encouraging to hear the Minister talk about lots of the work that Scope has been doing including extra costs, employment, social care and attitudes towards disabled people. Mark Hoban spoke in great detail about the time he visited Scope’s Employment Service, First Impressions, and there was a very useful discussion about how organisations can work together to improve the opportunities for disabled people in work.
As well as these important events, Scope met with a number of MPs to continue to push on the range of commitments that we are urging all political parties to make in the run up to the General Election.
Finally, this Conservative Conference was to be William Hague’s last as a Conservative MP – he claims it is his 40th conference… In his final speech to the conference hall he referred to his role when Minister for Disabled People in bringing in the Disability Discrimination Act as one of his proudest achievements…
We’ll be in Glasgow for the Lib Dem conference next week – a bit further from home, but another busy schedule awaits!