The Conservative Party Answers Your Questions

The Conservative Party Answers Your Questions

Having a disability should not dictate somebody’s path in life. What should count is a person’s talents, ambitions and their determination to succeed. We are bold in our ambition. I believe that we must challenge the attitudes, prejudices and misunderstandings that have become engrained in many of the policies and minds of employers and in wider society.

What will you do to address the chronic shortage of accessible and adaptable affordable housing and make sure that everyone has the right in legislation and in practice to a safe and suitable place to live?

On top of supporting the great work that the design sectors have been doing, we’ve been promoting the fantastic Global Disability Innovation hub. The hub is currently holding a competition for designs for accessible housing that doesn’t take up more space or budget. These sorts of steps are exactly the type of innovation that we need to improve the lives of disabled people. As well as those things we’re already doing, Theresa May announced that, under her strong leadership, the next Conservative Government would strike a new deal with councils and housing associations- giving them funding, support and new powers to build a new generation of homes for social rent. She has my complete backing. We shouldn’t duck the big questions and challenges. And we won’t. One of the biggest issues is the need for good-quality affordable housing. So we will help ambitious councils build more homes by giving them greater borrowing powers and support through the Homes and Communities Agency.

How will you challenge the negative perceptions held by some employers and Jobcentre staff to tackle the high unemployment rates amongst disabled people?

Disabled people are a massive resource for businesses, and employers need to realise that. There is a wealth of talent and potential out there that isn’t being recognised. We’ve made progress in driving forward workforce equality for disabled people. I’m pleased to say that there are 600,000 more disabled people in work than there were three years ago. But there’s more to be done. The consultation we held last year signalled our focus on helping employers recruit and retain disabled people, and addressing the barriers which prevent disabled people from achieving their ambitions. We have introduced disability champions into job centres. We’ve given preferred procurement status to disability confident employers in every single government department, and in November we announced our vision for a fully integrated approach to disability employment. This would be supported by a dedicated Jobcentre Plus work coach who can work closely with someone to build a relationship and offer personalised support that is tailored to their needs. As part of this, we have been looking at what education and independent living support is available to the next generation. But work isn’t just about financial security. It helps someone to be independent in the widest sense: having purpose, self-esteem, and the opportunity to build relationships. I’m a firm believer that being in the right job can be positively life changing.

So, to build on the progress we’ve achieved so far, in our manifesto we’ve set out that we will get one million more people with disabilities into work over the next ten years. To meet this commitment, we will give employers the advice and support they need to hire and retain disabled people and those with health conditions. We believe that where you live, shop, go out, travel or park your car should not be determined by your disability. So we will review disabled people’s access and amend regulations if necessary to improve disabled access to licensed premises, parking and housing. We will work with providers of everyday essential services, like energy and telecoms, to reduce the extra costs that disability can incur.

Will you guarantee that there will always be a safety net that ensures a good standard of living for people who are unable to work or are finding it difficult to find suitable employment?

As a government, we recognise that some disabled people might not be able to work due to their condition. We are completely committed to ensuring that disabled people are supported by a financial safety net, provided by the welfare system. That’s why we’ve increased spending on disability benefits by more than £3 billion in real terms since 2010, bringing the total budget to about £50 billion over all to support disabled people and people with health conditions.

Will you stop the wastage of time, money and energy for all involved that is annual reassessments of people with lifelong/degenerative conditions?

Yes, I was pleased that Damian Green announced then that he would stop reassessments for those people with lifelong or degenerative conditions. At our conference in Birmingham, Damian said that ‘if people can no longer work, then it is pointless reassessing them and it only adds to their anxiety and difficulties’. I couldn’t agree more.

How will you increase people’s choice and control over how their care needs are met?

I am a great believer that people spend their money better than governments do for them. We have introduced a daily living element of the personal independence payments, which enables people to exercise choice over their own care costs. The introduction of the Personal Independence Payment to replace Disability Living Allowance for working age claimants means that a wider group of people are now getting support. We must also ensure there is the choice and quality in service provision, and the Office for Disability Issues has been looking at the barriers some really great service providers, many of which are run by disabled people, are facing in order to scale or win contracts.

Do you oppose forced institutionalisation and what protections will you put in place for disabled people?

The decision about whether to institutionalise somebody against their will is rightly a matter for medical professionals, and decisions should be made on the grounds of individual safety and health. However, post-Winterborne there is clearly more to do to move people out of institutional settings and into more appropriate support. Following an introduction from that report’s author, Sir Stephen Bubb, I have been speaking to some inspirational people who have set up care and support services for those who had been in such institutions. We need to enable such provision to scale to ensure that no one who should not be in an institutional setting is.

What will you do to tackle the rise in disability hate crime?

The Prime Minister has made it very clear: hate crime of any kind is completely unacceptable. It divides communities, destroys lives and makes us weaker. Britain thrives precisely because there are people from all types of backgrounds and abilities here, and that is something that we must strive to protect. Police forces have been asked to reach out to provide reassurance and to ensure that people are aware that if they experience any hate incidents that they are to report it. We treat all hate crime with equal seriousness, but I think we need to ensure that the public understand that is the case, just as we do for race hate.

What will you do to make public transport truly accessible?

The Department of Transport has been making such improvements – whether that’s down to station access or awareness training for taxi and bus drivers. Many of our stations date from the Victorian era- when the needs of disabled people simply weren’t considered. So we’ve got a huge amount of work to improve access to our stations. The Access for All programme provides step free routes at selected stations. This means improved access to employment, education, leisure and increased revenue for the rail industry. Nearly 200 stations have improved accessibility due to this programme, which is a start, but there is more to be done to improve the accessibility of public transport. And why stop there? The service that disabled travellers get on some airlines also needs to be addressed too. That is why I appointed disability champions across eleven sectors of the economy, to champion the rights, needs and wants if disabled consumers. We will also create a passenger ombudsman to champion the interests of rail users who are getting a poor deal. It is not just about access, but equality of experience and first class customer service.

What will you do to make Local Authorities more accountable in cases of maladministration against children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities?

Our vision for children with special educational needs and disabilities is the same as for all children – that they achieve well in their early years and lead happy and fulfilled lives. Any cases of maladministration against children, with special educational needs or disabilities, should not happen. That’s why, in 2015, after exhaustive consultation, we updated the code of practice governing relevant organisations. As part of the work in reviewing the consultation I have been talking to education departments in local councils to find out what they know about all those children in their charge, not just those who have a EHC Plan, and how they can better track how they are doing once they leave the education system.

By Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work

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