The Prime Minister took the country by surprise by announcing a snap general election on 8 June. Brexit of course will dominate much of the election agenda. But hopefully candidates will also focus on the disability issues that matter to the 13 million people living with disabilities in the UK.
Life in Britain for people with disabilities
The Equality and Human rights Commission published a report last month, looking at what life’s like for people in Britain with disabilities. The report found that people with disabilities live in a society that ‘has left them behind’. It said that disabled people miss out on many of the opportunities available to non-disabled people. The report highlighted that people with disabilities don’t have equal rights when it comes to:
- Health services
- Equal pay
- Living standards
For whoever wins this general election, there’s a clear opportunity to really tackle the barriers people with disabilities face every day.
Priorities of disabled people
Disability charity Scope, believes this general election will be of huge importance to people with disabilities in the U.K. In a recent survey, the charity found that 89% of disabled people are intending to vote at the next election. Also, 70% of people with disabilities want guarantees of protection of their disability benefits. While 54% think that the extra costs faced by people with disabilities needs to come higher up the political agenda. To sway disabled voters, candidates need to offer a vision for the country with disabled people at the centre.
Boost employment of disabled people
Disability groups hope that the next government will continue a commitment to cut the disability employment gap by half. Unemployment amongst people with disabilities is almost 40%. This reflects the many obstacles people with disabilities face when trying to find work that match their skills and ambitions. The current government had promised to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, but has since dropped these plans. No doubt voters interested in disability issues will hope that after the June election, this becomes a priority once more.
Increase Employment Support Allowance
The government’s cuts to Employment Support Allowance came into effect a few weeks ago. This will reduce the weekly payments made to people unable to work. The intention behind the cuts is to encourage more people to return to employment. But in fact, research by the Disability Rights Consortium found that these cuts will actually result in the opposite. Around 45% of people said the loss of income would likely delay their return to work.
Review the Personal Independence Payment
The Personal Independence Payment replaced the Disability Living Allowance. The government said that it would give people more money, however, not cover people with mental health conditions. But the end of last year saw a huge rise in appeals against decisions made by the DWP. Furthermore, almost two-thirds of the appeals were upheld. Many hope that following the election, the new government will review the process of applying.
Registered to vote?
To get their voices heard, people with disabilities must vote in the general election. If you, or someone you know is not registered to vote, then you have until the middle of May to do so. People can register online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote or contact their local council for more information.