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Disabled Community Feels "Invisible" During Election Campaign

Disabled Community Feels "Invisible" During Election Campaign

About 16 million people with disabilities, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the population in the United Kingdom, have said that they feel “invisible” during the present election campaign. This is in spite of their large numbers.

The BBC podcast Access All and Radio 4’s More or Less analysed the policies of the main political parties on disability, social care, and mental health.

Proposals By Conservative Party

In a bid to reform disability benefits and address a “sick-note culture,” the Conservatives argue that there are now more people being deemed unfit for work than there were ten years ago. These include producing extra 60,000 school places and creating 15 specialist schools for children with special educational needs (SENDs) as well as increase clinical placements for severe mental illness by 140,000.

Nevertheless, the party wants to reduce £12bn from the £69bn welfare bill even though by 2028/29, disability benefits will rise from £39bn to £58 billion largely due to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) costs. The manifesto proposes a “more objective” assessment process and restrictions on claims for mental health issues. A current consultation on PIP changes suggests using medical diagnoses over assessments and replacing cash payments with vouchers.

Mims Davies, Minister for Disabled People's Health and Work, cited an increase of two-thirds since the COVID-19 pandemic, but more or less noted that this was closer to 40%.

Proposals By Labour Party

To improve mental healthcare services, labour will put specialists in every school and employ additional NHS staff, numbering eight thousand five hundred. It will focus on designing inclusive education systems that integrate special educational needs into mainstream schooling and introduce mandatory reporting on Disability Pay Gaps.

Deputy Leader Angela Rayner emphasised workplace inclusivity and accountability for employers. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), disabled employees earn 13.8% less than non-disabled employees.

Although mandatory gender pay gap reporting has narrowed the gap since its introduction in 2017, the ONS figures suggest that the decrease started before this legislation came into force, raising questions about its effectiveness.

The disabled community is closely watching how their needs will be addressed as we continue with the election campaign. Both the Conservative and Labour parties have floated ideas, but the community is seeking more detailed and actionable policies to ensure they are not invisible in politics.