Penny Batchelor: Why is it only the Green Party who are after the Deaf and disabled vote?

Posted on April 29, 2015

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The manifestoes are out, the politicians’ gloves are off and there’s just over a week to go until polling day.

Yet until recently, finding a concrete, worked through disability welfare policy in the parties’ manifestoes has been like looking for the Marie Celeste.

As a physically disabled and deaf woman I’m very interested in political parties’ policies on disability. Just as turkeys won’t vote for Christmas, I don’t want to vote for a party that hammers people claiming disability benefits with yet more cuts.

But wading through all the patronising talk of hard-working families in their manifestoes – does that mean that child-free people don’t work hard? – there are few references to disability.

The Tories have said they’ll make £12 billion of savings (aka cuts) in the welfare budget, whilst protecting pensions and their triple lock guarantee. So on whose heads are those cuts going to fall? They don’t seem to want to tell us, although leaked emails suggest that taxing disability benefits, restricting carers’ allowance and removing the contributory element of Employment and Support Allowance are all ideas on the table.

In their manifesto the Conservatives pledge jobs for all, but there’s no mention of the Access to Work scheme, which was cut back by the coalition government, that exists to help disabled people who need equipment or a support worker to their job.

The Tories say they want a fairer welfare system, but will cut the maximum amount a household can receive a year to £23,000 a year, with PIP and DLA being excluded from that figure. Is potentially removing Employment and Support Allowance from vulnerable disabled people who qualify for it because they have paid National Insurance contributions for years fair? I think not.

Labour too, although pledging to cut the budget deficit each year, haven’t nailed their colours to the wall and talked hard cash. They say they will cut the bedroom tax and champion better work and better pay but there’s no mention of measures to help disabled people stay in work, such as reinstating the axed Independent Living Fund, created to enable disabled people with high support needs to live and work independently. (Click here to see the Labour party’s disability plan in written text, and here for it in BSL, thanks to @RichardTurner on Twitter)

The Tory manifesto is published on their website in a not-very-accessible PDF format without the functionality to click through directly to the issue the reader is looking for (thanks to Twitter’s @BSLCrabb, we’ve discovered that Labour have a full BSL translation of their manifesto, which you can find here or watch below).

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, whilst it achieves the thumbs up for being much easier to navigate online, lacks policies about disability (Note: thanks to @MsLoloj on Twitter, we have now discovered that the Lib Dems have a separate disability manifesto, which you can find here). They say they want to cut £50bn less than the Tories and borrow £70bn less than Labour, but how will this affect disability welfare?

UKIP says in their manifesto that they oppose the bedroom tax but support the benefit cap. Once again there are no mentions of disability policies. The SNP has promised to block plans to cut Disability Living Allowance and Plaid Cymru’s manifesto states they want better help for disabled looking to find work, but, living in England, I can’t vote for either.

Finally to the Greens. The Green Party’s manifesto is published in alternative formats for visually impaired, deaf people and BSL users. Hurray! I scrolled through the PDF version.

There’s a section on disability. They pledge to increase the DLA and PIP budget by around £1 billion a year, provide an extra half a billion pounds for the adults aged 18 – 65 social care budget and raise the profile of the Access to Work scheme.

Of course disabled people cover every social spectrum and we’re interested in policies about the economy, health, education and the environment and so on, not just welfare.

Yet how come only the Greens bother to attract our vote? Do the other parties think we’re not worth the bother or are they too scared to upset voters who mistakenly equate disability welfare with scroungers and fakers?

Cameron, Miliband, Sturgeon, Woods and Farage need to up their game if they want to attract the disability vote and let’s not forget that there are millions of those votes waiting to be cast.

Penny Batchelor is a former BBC content producer and web editor who now works as a freelance journalist. Outside of work she likes to read, knit and watch thriller DVDs with the subtitles on.

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