There’s no getting away from it, the general election 2015 is coming, and all the political parties are working hard to win your vote on the 7th May. But what we at Disability Horizons want to know is what are the parties going to do for disabled people if they win and why should we vote for them? Writer Raya AlJadir put these questions to her local MP candidate for each of the political parties – here, find out why the Green Party think you should vote Green.
(NOTE: This is not an endorsement for the Green Party or anybody else; and we at Disability Horizons are in the process of finding out policies from all major parties to help you make your own mind up.)
What is your party’s disability policy? Is there a specific section outlining it in your manifesto?
The Green Party want to give disabled people the support they need in order to live as full a life as possible without fear of their benefits being withdrawn and without stigmatisation. Our manifesto’s disability section is on page 28. There are also many other sections of our manifesto that will affect those with disabilities.
For those that are less able to read the full Green Party manifesto we also have Braille, audio, Easy Read and British Sign Language manifestos.
Recent research shows disabled people feel marginalised from political decisions, in your view why should they vote?
There are sadly many groups in our society that feel marginalised and that their voice isn’t listened to. Parliament is currently not very representative of society and it can feel like you don’t know where politicians stand. However, the recent TV debates have demonstrated that there is now real choice in this election and that any party could have a say in the way the country is governed.
Even if you live in a ‘safe seat’, like so many people do, then voting for what you believe in still sends a message. The impact that smaller parties have been having on the traditional parties and what’s reported in the media demonstrates that.
If elected to be my MP how would you improve the life chances of young disabled people?
I remember when I was a teenager feeling like young people in general were ignored by politicians. The type of things that I would be fighting for would be to get apprenticeships for everyone that wants one between the ages of 16 and 25 – they can be a great way of getting into work, especially for the first time.
I would fight keep housing benefit available for under 25s that need it and scrap the bedroom tax, which has so often punished those with disabilities that require a spare room for equipment or a carer that stays with them on an irregular basis.
I would also like to see the voting age reduced to 16 as I believe that will get politicians to focus more on young person issues. I would support 20 mph zones, cycle schemes and public transport to make our streets safer.
Over the past few years, disabled people have been faced with many cuts: changes to the Disability Living Allowance, social care and the Disabled Student Allowance, to name a few. What is your view about these changes? And is you party looking to alter any of them?
The Green Party has consistently opposed cuts, reductions and freezes in benefits. We would end the pernicious system whereby an external contractor assesses whether people are fit for work and return to the system of relying on the judgement of GPs or other health professionals. Increase the budget for Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payments by around £1 billion a year. Retain the Independent Living Fund, which enables over 18,000 severely disabled people to stay in their home instead of being in residential care, costing around £300 million a year.
During the last 5 years, the Access to Work budget has been slashed. Do you agree with this change? How will you support disabled people who are getting into employment or are currently in employment?
Access to Work is an incredibly important scheme. Helping employers make adjustments for disabled people makes sense considering the difficulties that many disabled people that want to work face when applying for a job.
Our manifesto pledges to raise the profile of the Access to Work scheme among smaller firms and under-served disabled people, with far great transparency over how the scheme is administered. I would also try to remove the cap on the amount of funding a person can receive under Access to Work that will be coming into place in October 2015.
Would your party commission independent research on the number of people using food banks and in particular the number of disabled people who are in food poverty?
The amount of people going to food banks in the sixth richest country in the world is rightly a cause of outrage – it’s a sign of government failing in its basic duties. The Green Party would fight for people to have support when they need it and not stigmatise those that are on benefits. Our manifesto commits to a benefit system that looks after those that need it when they need it, that they can use as a springboard for the things they want to do with their lives with dignity. If I were in government it would be a priority to see food banks disappear due to lack of demand.
There are currently only four disabled MPs in the UK, what would your advice be to young disabled people who are interested in getting more involved in politics but don’t know where to start?
Recently you may have seen that two of our members applied to stand for Parliament in Basingstoke as joint candidates. One of them has a disability that prevents her from working full time and the other is the main carer for two small children.
We support job share MPs as a policy as it is important that carers and those with disabilities are able to serve in Parliament. Other professions have found benefits in giving people flexible hours or allowing people to work part time due to their personal circumstances. We believe that the country would benefit from Parliament also making similar provisions for people that need them.
Regarding what advice I would give, obviously join a political party. The Young Greens, for instance, has no minimum age for joining and costs only £5 a year for students. Political parties attract people with a range of different interests and can be a really interesting and inspiring thing to be a part of.
However, I would also suggest joining a separate campaigning group at the same time, like a charity or a pressure group that campaigns around a particular topic you are really passionate about. Listen to other people, mostly people want to know that you understand them. Work really hard, which is easier when you’re doing things you’re passionate about. Don’t be intimidated by others, just because someone looks and sounds like a politician doesn’t mean people will want to vote for them.
People want to see someone that isn’t like the others, people want someone genuine and who understands them.
By Raya AlJadir interviewing David Akan, the Green Party candidate for Hammersmith.
Before you make your decision on which party to vote for, visit the Green Party’s website to understand how its manifesto could affect disabled people across the UK.
Your vote is important – visit About my Vote to find out more about how to access voting in your area.