I have been involved as a campaigner in almost every General Election since 1974. But this campaign has been different. It has left the country in a state of great unease. The minority Tory government is still in fractious talks with the DUP, an arrangement that I believe is doomed to failure.
One of the differences in the recent election campaign was the use of Social Media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been used far more than even two years ago to spread political messages.
Disabled people throughout the UK have become political activists under the tag of #cripthevoteUK.
Cripthevote started in the US. In May, campaigners from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) launched it in the UK. It has its own blog, and is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Read more about the campaign here.
The activists from #cripthevoteUK have a stark message. One of its team members, Dennis Queen, told me during the campaign; “Disabled people are quite literally voting for our lives. We need ALL voters to know this is an emergency for thousands of disabled people and help us fight back.”
The next General Election may not be too far away. In the meantime, #cripthevoteUK will continue to speak out on issues that affect the 20% of UK citizens with a disability. They hope to have an even greater influence on votes next time. To quote another activist; “The crisis being experienced by many disabled people is a disgrace when they are living in the 5th most wealthy country in the world.”
So what did the different political parties offer disabled people?
Despite repeated requests the Tory manifesto was only available in PDF format, making it inaccessible for many disabled people. It has nothing new to offer disabled people. Theresa May has not given any assurances about not introducing further cuts.
The Green Party Manifesto was available in a variety of formats, including Easy Read, Braille, audio and British Sign Language. However it is light on content. It talks about social care community support without any explanation of what this would involve. The Greens do pledge to abolish the Work Capability Assessments. They also want to use General Practitioners as part of any replacement system.
The Liberal Democrats have not produced a separate disability manifesto, as they did in 2015. Its main manifesto is available in a full selection of accessible formats. They also want to scrap the Work Capability Assessments, but seem to want to replace it with a scheme run by Local Authorities. This may not find favour with disabled people, many of whom have already had their care hours reduced or cut by those same Councils.
The Labour Party main manifesto and its mini Disability manifesto are both available in a variety of accessible formats. These include Braille, Easy Read, audio, and British Sign Language. The Labour Party mini manifesto is unique.
Its policies come from the Disability Equality Roadshows. These were run by the Shadow DWP team, one of whom, Marie Rimmer has hearing loss. They facilitated discussions on current disability issues at venues throughout the UK. You did not need to be a Labour Party member to attend, but did need to have a disability. There was also a further opportunity for disabled people to contribute by way of Policy Forums and by sending in comments and ideas directly.
Labour was the party that promised most for disabled people. They committed themselves to the social model of disability, the only Party to do so. They have used the tag line; Nothing About You, Without You. This signified their pledge of inclusion and the continued involvement of disabled people in policy development.
Labour promised extra funding for the NHS. This would have helped those disabled people whose conditions are worsening due to increased waiting lists. The Work Capability Assessments and PIP assessments will be scrapped. Labour also pledged to protect those with long terms conditions from needless repeated medicals and re-assessments.
Disabled people will now be Parliamentary activists. Two of the New Labour Party MPs, Marsha de Cordova and Jared O’Mara have disabilities and both have worked for disabled people’s charities. Marsha has nystagmus and is registered blind, Jared has Cerebral Palsy with hemiparesis.
By Fran Springfield