Disability Policy from the three main parties contesting the 2005 UK election shapes up as follows.
The only section of the Conservative manifesto to mention disability is a paragraph on Social Services.
“As we live longer and expect more treatment and care to be available at home and in the community, social services willinevitably face greater demands. We will give people more control over their social care and introduce a partnership scheme so that no one is compelled to sell their home to pay for long-term care.Carers who look after elderly or disabled relatives, including those suffering from long-term conditions, deserve more support. We will boost respite for carers and give them more choice andinformation about the support available.”
Three references to disability appear in the Labour manifesto. These fall under: equality at work, Sport in the community, and A voice for all.
Promoting equality at work
“A strong economy draws on the talents of all.We have extended legislation to protectpeople from discrimination at work to cover not only gender, disability, race and ethnicity but also religion and sexual orientation and– from 2006 – age. Labour has transformed legal rights for disabled people.We will empower disabled people further by joining-up services and expanding personalised budgets.”
Sport in the community
“Government will ensure that children who have had little access to play facilities and those with a disability have much better access to safe, modern playgrounds.”
A voice for all
“We will continue to promote civil rights for disabled people, ensuring full implementation of the new positive duty on the public sector to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people.”
Of the three manifestos the Lib Dems have the most references to disability. Although like the other parties, disability is usually mentioned along side other minority interests as part of a more general statement on equality. A good example of this is a paragraph entitled “Strengthen the fight against discrimination”.
“We will introduce a Single Equality Act to outlaw all unfair discrimination, (including on the grounds of race, gender, religion or belief, sexual
orientation, disability, age or gender identity), thus giving equal protection for all.”
In a section entitled Trust freedom and fareness the Lib Dems have the following to say on disability:
“.. ill-health, disability, poverty, environmental pollution and the fear of crime curtail freedom, just as much as discriminatory laws or arrest without trial. So we want government
to provide the essential requirements that everyone needs to make real choices in their lives.”
Under the Lib Dems spending plans, they promis to introduce:
“free personal care for elderly and disabled people” they say that this would cost £1.7 billion per year paid for from a new rate of tax for those earning over £100,000 per year. What is meant by “personal care” is not clearly defined.
In a letter from Steve Webb Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Webb claims to have received:
“Letters from people with severe disabilities who are at their wits’ end because of the bureaucracy and complexity of the benefits system.
We are all growing older. Anyone can be suddenly disabled.”
Having identified these issues, Webb’s letter continues:
“Before entering Parliament, I was Professor of Social Policy at Bath University, studying the
mistakes governments kept making. Since being elected, I have sought to use my professional skills
to develop alternatives that will work – plans that will guarantee everyone a decent old age, help
when they are disabled …”
Steve WebbLiberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions”
Finally on disability the Lib Dems make the following pledges:
“We will help severely disabled people of working age with their
fuel bills by giving them the same £200 a year Winter Fuel Payment that pensioners receive.”
“Free off-peak local bus travel for all pensioners and disabled people.”
“in addition provide all pensioners, disabled people, families and young people with their rail discount cards free.”
It is worth noting that the promis of “free off-peak local bus travel” was also announced by the Labour Party in their spring budget, although not included in their manifesto.
These are the highlights, and complete copies of the party manifestos can be downloaded from the respective web sites: