Tag Archives: general election

What does the general election result mean for our work?

Last week voters went to the polls to have their say in the General Election and on Tuesday MPs returned to a Parliament that looks different to the one they left a little more than eight weeks ago.

Following the election, the Conservatives, whilst remaining the largest party, lost their majority in Parliament. They are now looking to come to an agreement with the DUP, whereby the DUP will support them on key votes such as the Budget

Whatever happens, it is crucial that the Government and Parliament do not lose sight of addressing the barriers that prevent disabled people from taking fully part in society.

We know that in 2017, life is still much harder for many disabled people than it needs to be. This is something we believe the Government should urgently address.

We want the Government to listen to disabled people

The Prime Minister has spoken about creating a country where no one is left behind and where the challenges people face in their everyday lives are addressed. And in their manifesto the Conservatives said that they will confront the burning injustice of disability discrimination.

We want the new Government to listen to disabled people and make sure everyday equality for disabled people becomes a reality. Everyday equality is about ensuring that disabled people have the same opportunities in life as everybody else.

What we’re asking the Government

Before the election, we set out our calls to the next Government. As Parliament returns and ahead of the Queens Speech next week we are calling on the Government to:

Improve disabled people’s work opportunities by removing the barriers to work disabled people face. The Conservative manifesto made a commitment to get one million more disabled people in work over the next ten years and to improve disabled people’s employment support. We have been campaigning over the last few years for the disability employment gap to be halved and for support for disabled people both in and out of work to be improved. We want to see a complete overhaul of the Work Capability Assessment as it does not currently identify all the barriers disabled people face to work.

Enable disabled people to live independently by increasing investment in social care and reforming the social care system so it better supports working age disabled people. Social care was a big issue at the election and all parties have talked about the need for change. However, we are concerned that working age disabled people have not been part of the public debate on this issue. Working age disabled people represent a third of social care users and we are clear that they must be listened to and that support must work for them.

Improve disabled people’s financial security. We know that life costs more if you are disabled. Disabled people on average spend £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. The Conservative manifesto says the Government wants to “reduce the extra costs that disability can incur”.

We believe the Government should protect the value of disability benefits and develop a new Personal Independence Payment assessment which accurately identifies extra costs. It is also crucial that action is taken to ensure that the experiences of disabled consumers is improved. Disabled people’s households spend £249 billion a year, but all too often they receive a poor service from businesses.

Over the coming months as the Government sets out its plans, we will be working with MPs of all parties to ensure that these issues remain a priority and continue to campaign for everyday equality for disabled people.

Disability hustings 2017 – Making sure disabled people are heard this election

On Tuesday we attended the national disability hustings in Westminster where 170 attendees had the opportunity to question the three main parties on their disability policy ahead of next week’s General Election. 

We organised this with a number of other disability charities because there are 13 million disabled people in the UK and we think it is important their voices are heard in this election.

A hustings is a meeting where candidates in an election meet potential voters, the disability hustings focused on some of the issues important to disabled voters.

The audience heard opening statements from the Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt, former shadow Women and Equalities Minister, Kate Green and President of the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Sal Brinton. They set out what policies they have included in their manifestos for disabled people and what their priorities would be if their party was elected.

The audience then had the opportunity to ask questions on three main areas agreed for the event; benefits, social care and employment. A number of questions were around the assessment process for both the Work Capability Assessment and Personal Independence Payments where people shared their experiences and thoughts on where change was needed.

Social care has been a big issue at this election and many disabled people aren’t getting the care and support they need. All three panelists recognised the problem and agreed that the social care system needs more funding.

Finally disabled people spoke about their experiences of looking for and being at work. Audience members and panelists discussed how employers can play a bigger role in recruiting and supporting disabled employees. Many people agreed on the importance role the Access to Work scheme plays.

What did we think?

We attended with three Scope storytellers, Michelle, Will and Jessica. We asked them afterwards why they came and what they thought of the hustings.

Will

Will is a games developer from London. He created parody of Channel 4’s Superhumans advert calling for better access, which went viral.

I came today because I really wanted to get a first-hand take on what the leading parties are saying around disability. It was a really interesting day.

I think a lot of the practicalities of being disabled maybe weren’t looked into but obviously so much of it is about money. It’s difficult to shy away from that. If you don’t have the resources, to start to talk about mindsets and attitudes is difficult because it feels like an ideology as opposed to a pragmatic task.

Jessica

Jessica is a vlogger and blogger who lives in Brighton.

I wanted to come today because it’s not always clear what each party thinks about disability issues. Those aren’t the topics that are generally covered on the nightly news, it’s not something they always debate or talk about very openly so we don’t generally know where all the parties stand on specific things.

I would have liked them to talk more about social issues. We talk a lot about social care but not about how each of the parties are going to be changing the rhetoric they use in order to combat social stigma.

Michelle

Michelle is a young campaigner who took part in Scope’s Scope for Change programme.

I struggle to work. It’s the whole idea that you almost become someone’s burden. I think that benefits should always be assessed on the person themselves and not on the surrounding situation.

I think they need to work a bit harder, so far so good, but they need to do more. Employment would be most important to me because I’m finding hard to look for a job.

There was lots of debate online about the hustings and you can look at the hashtag #disabilityhustings to find out more.

Find out what we’re calling on the next Government to do for disabled people and their families.

General election 2017: Make sure your voice is heard

Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap general election to take place on Thursday 8 June.  Find out how you can vote in this blog. 

The next Government has an opportunity to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people and help deliver everyday equality by 2022.

It’s important that the voices of disabled people are heard in this election. Voting, as well as taking part in election events in your local area, gives you the chance to tell politicians what’s important to you and what you would like to see them do.

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters.  If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

There are lots of ways you can be supported to cast your vote inside a polling station:

  • If you cannot mark your ballot paper, members of staff called Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.
  • Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices. The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.
  • Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station. Find out more information about what happens at polling stations.

If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority.

Three things the new government needs to remember about disability – #100days100stories

Guest post by Josie from Bristol. Josie has a number of impairments which affect her health and mobility; she uses a powered wheelchair. She is sharing her story as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign.

In 2008, I was well and working as a nurse. Then I got ill, and just didn’t get better. I was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a neurological condition which causes pain all over the body.Close-up headshot of Josie, a woman in her late 30s

I then suddenly developed idiopathic anaphylaxis – life-threatening allergic  reactions caused by a range of things, from heat to pollen and perfume. It means I need to have a support worker with me when I go somewhere new in case I have a reaction.

My other health problems mean my mobility is limited, and I’m often ill in bed for several days at a time.

I recently got an electric wheelchair, which has been amazing and has given me some of my freedom back. I have two children who live with their dad, whom I see regularly. But I still do not have the support I need to live a full life.

Two days away from the general election, here are three things the next government needs to do to make sure disabled people are better supported.

1.  Social care should support us to live, not just to survive

At the moment, I get three short visits a day from a care worker to cook my meals, help me shower, and keep the house clean.

My basic needs are met – I’m clean and I’m fed. But I haven’t got any allocated support to actually get me out of the house. It means that some days I barely get to speak to anyone, let alone have a social life.

If I get an infection and have to ask my carer to pick up a prescription, I don’t get to have a shower that day. There just isn’t enough time.

I understand why we’re in the position we’re in economically, but I worry that there will be more cuts to social care, and I really can’t see where they are going to come from.

2.  Remember that benefits are people’s lifeline

There’s nothing in my life that can be cut. Every penny that comes in goes back out, and I have to budget very carefully. There’s no ‘fat to trim’, as politicians like to say.

If, for example, my benefits were taxed, the money would come out of my food budget. I wouldn’t be able to afford online delivery for my shopping – I’d have to send a support worker, and miss a meal or a shower.

Josie, a disabled woman, smiling with her teenage son
Josie with her son Olly (her daughter Chloe is in the photo at the top of the page)

There’s a belief among some people that many disabled people don’t want to work, or choose not to. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. I didn’t choose to get ill, I didn’t choose to become disabled.  I actually found it very difficult to come to terms with the idea of claiming benefits.

Soon I’ll be reassessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and I’ll have to justify myself again – there’s always a huge fear that what I have will be taken away.

3.  Disabled people deserve a role in society

A little more support – for example, a support worker to go with me to new places – would give me so much more opportunity to take part in life, but at the moment that feels like an impossible utopia!

The loss of the Independent Living Fund has been a blow – people like me, who were professionals and could make a contribution with the right support, are being cut out of the workforce.

Working in an office or a hospital isn’t really possible for me, but I still have skills and experience that I would like to use, if I had the means of doing so.

I’ve watched a lot of political debates such as Question Time over the past few years, and I haven’t seen a single person speak who uses social care. There have been a few family members, which is good, but disabled people should have a chance to speak for themselves.

A question of equality

In the end, it is a question of equality. In a fair world, I would have the support I need to live my life, and the opportunity to fulfil my capabilities.

I’d be able to go out and have a social life. I’d have support to do some work, maybe based at home where I would be able to control my surroundings. Instead I don’t feel like I’m living, just existing.

Politicians should look at my situation and ask themselves: “Would I be prepared to live like that?” And if the answer is no, they should be ready to make changes.

Josie runs a website offering support to people with idiopathic anaphylaxis at www.iamast.com

Tomorrow is the final day of our 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign. Find out why we did it, and read the rest of the stories so far.

Campaigning for change is very important to me – #100days100stories

Nathan, 19, is a wheelchair user and has been a campaigner on disability issues for the last 10 years. On 7 May he’ll be casting his vote for the first time. Here, as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign, Nathan reflects on campaigning and politics. 

I am a young leader of the Birmingham Ambassador Club for the charity Whizz-Kidz. One of my responsibilities under this role is to lead on the Space Invaders Campaign.

This is a campaign to raise awareness of the misuse of disabled car parking spaces. I quickly realised we couldn’t simply fight the campaign on the principle that you are not disabled so you shouldn’t park here!

Instead I fought the campaign on the issue of an improved economy. If disabled people are allowed to get a parking space, they can get out to work more easily, and shop in a store freely, which contributes to the local economy. It makes sense!

Voting for the first time

Campaigning for change is very important to me and I am really looking forward to casting my vote on 7 May in the General Election. I believe it is vital that disabled people engage with politics, as too often our issues are not discussed.

I am really excited and it got me thinking about how 10 years ago I started my very first campaign; it has been many years of hard graft, with sometimes sleepless nights, but it has been worth it.

The start of it all

Group of people in a political setting, three standing and two in wheelchairs,Back then I remember my mother telling me that a disabled person had to be carried into 10 Downing Street.

I knew that they had just passed a law that meant all public buildings should be fully accessible and so it seemed a bit strange that the official home of the Prime Minister wasn’t also classed as a public building.

I was so angered that I wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and other ministers. I was contacted by the Parliamentary Officer at Scope, who invited me to visit Downing Street with them.

We went down to London and arrived at the famous black iron gates where I faced my first public relations (PR) task by being interviewed for Central Tonight, my local news programme.

They asked, “What’s next for you?” I couldn’t reply with the truthful answer “I don’t know!” I decided to go instead with the stock response, “I will hopefully do some more campaigning and become an MP one day”.

It’s hard work

From this first foray into campaigning I have had to work hard to ensure that I remain at the top of my game.

It is a common misconception that the only thing campaigners have to do is stand and talk about their issue, but there is a lot more to successful campaigning.

Many campaigning skills are the same skills we all need in any work situation, including critical thinking, presentation skills and understanding of financial and social trends.

Raising awareness

I do not accept the argument that the only way to gain greater public awareness for disabled people and the charities that support us is to make everybody you are appealing to sad all the time.

Whilst I appreciate that it can sometimes be very difficult for disabled people, I believe it is better to highlight the positives than the negatives and show what it could be like rather than play to people’s perceptions.

If like Nathan you are a campaigner between the ages of 18 and 25 and would like to develop your campaigns skills further email: campaigns@scope.org.uk for more details.

You can find out more about the lives of people like Nathan and others in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Being a part of the ‘Battle for number 10’

RosemaryI’ve often watched political programmes such as Question Time and thought, ‘What sort of people apply to be in the audience?’ Well last night I found out at the Battle for Number 10 event on Channel 4 and Sky News.

I applied and was lucky enough to get chosen and got to put a question to David Cameron.

The audience were all gathered together a couple of hours before the programme began and we were all quite nervous and excited. I had many great conversations with people discussing our particular issues and sharing our views.

Why did I want to take part?

Despite there being 11 million disabled people in the UK, we hardly ever see disabled people in the media and our issues are seldom discussed by politicians.

As we head towards a General Election it is vital that all candidates are aware of the issues of concern to their disabled constituents. Jobs, good social care and support, access and improving attitudes are key concerns for all disabled people and we must see improvements in all of these areas if disabled people are to play our role in British life.

It was great watching Paxman do his usual grilling. I was question five on the list and as I was listening to the other questioners I suddenly forgot what I had planned to ask! Inside I was in such a panic as everything just fell out of my head. Thankfully, as Kay Burley called out my name everything just came back to me.

I was very encouraged by Mr Cameron’s response on employment. He didn’t know I worked for Scope but I was delighted when he adopted our goal of halving the disability employment gap by the end of the next parliament. This means a million more disabled people getting into work! That is such a fantastic goal and a truly transformative measure.

Rosemary listening to David Cameron

The challenge now, for whoever leads the next government, is to make this goal a reality. It’s an ambitious goal. The Prime Minister is right – some of the answer lies in improving attitudes of employers. But we also need more flexible workplaces; more personalised back to work support; and Government programmes to boost jobs and growth must focus supporting more disabled people in work. We’ve set out our policy ideas.

In the coming weeks I would encourage everyone to speak with all their parliamentary candidates and remind them of the key issues affecting disabled people. I got on this programme by simply applying online and I was very lucky in having my question chosen. I would urge more disabled people to apply to be a part of similar programmes where key issues of the day are discussed. Too often disabled people are invisible in the media and our voices go unheard.  We can change that but we have to be willing to play our part and get involved at every opportunity.

So who will get my vote? Well that’s a secret I’m keeping until 7 May  but I’ll certainly be voting. We all should.

Giving disabled children the childcare they deserve

As we move towards the General Election in 2015, childcare is high on the agenda of all three political parties.

That makes a lot of sense. Good quality childcare is a win-win for any government. It allows parents to work and has long-term social and educational benefits for all children, especially those who are disadvantaged.

Families with disabled children are financially disadvantaged by the extra costs of disability:

  • It costs three times more to raise a disabled child
  • Mothers of disabled children have one of the lowest employment rates of any group in society
  • Four in ten disabled children live in poverty.

Despite this, disabled children are too often missing from the childcare debate. This means their needs are not reflected in government solutions – such as support with childcare costs.

We are pleased that the government has started to listen to organisations like Scope (and our partners at the Disability Charities Consortium) about inconsistencies in guidance and legislation that unintentionally exclude disabled children.

This week in response to our concerns, the government clarified that the new Tax-free Childcare scheme will cover specialist childcare registered with the Care Quality Commission, as well as childcare registered with Ofsted. This is welcome news which means parents who buy childcare from short-breaks and domiciliary care providers – often because this is the only or best option available locally – will now also receive a 20% discount on their childcare costs.

(letter transcribed below)

letter

The clarification comes in the same week that an important parliamentary inquiry led by Pat Glass and Robert Buckland MP shed further light on how difficult it is for parents of disabled children to find suitable childcare.

The simple fact is that the childcare system is failing disabled children and their families:

  • Childcare costs up to eight times more for disabled children
  • There isn’t enough childcare for disabled children with complex needs and there’s a gap in the childcare market for older disabled children
  • Disabled children are turned away by mainstream providers who lack the confidence, training and resources to include them
  • Disabled children can’t access their full legal entitlement of 15 hours of free early years education

As the inquiry recommends, two good places for the current government to start addressing these failings would be to:

  • Undertake a cross-departmental review of funding to identify where support must be improved to meet the extra costs of childcare for disabled children and remove barriers to access
  • Pilot more flexible financial support for parents by increasing the upper limit of capped childcare costs under Universal Credit and the Tax-Free Childcare scheme

We hope the government will accept these recommendations as a way of building on the introduction of the Tax-free Childcare scheme under the Childcare Payments Bill.

Before 2015 all political parties must commit to tackling the lack of affordable, inclusive, high quality childcare for disabled children. Only then will parents get the support they need to work and disabled children the start in life they need and deserve.