Disability

General election 2019: What's pledged for disability and mental health?

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Media captionNikki Fox on the hurdles and options for disabled voters

With 13 million disabled people in the country, plus their friends and family, the political parties have a huge community to court.

Universal credit is still making headlines, while the main parties are divided on what to do with the social care system. So what is being offered to disabled voters?

Benefits

The Conservatives want to continue the rollout of universal credit - the controversial six-in-one benefit, which includes employment and housing support. The party also wants to increase work allowances, a change they've estimated to be worth £630 a year to disabled people. They also say they will reduce the number of reassessments disabled people will have to go through to receive benefits if their condition is unlikely to change.

Labour says it will "scrap UC" and "design an alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect" instead. It wants to "stop" those work capability and PIP Assessments that some people report to be upsetting to go through. It would increase Employment and Support Allowance by £30 per week for those who are disabled or have a health condition that affects how much they can work. It's currently a maximum of £73.10 a week.

By comparison, the Lib Dems say they want to "make the welfare system work" by reducing the waiting time for the first payment from five weeks to five days, reversing cuts to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and ending work capability assessments, replacing them with "real-world tests" run by local authorities.

The Green Party wants to introduce its own universal basic income, a salary for everyone, and wants to ensure nobody who takes time off work to care for loved ones "unjustly struggles to access the state pension". It also wants to increase the carers' allowance. Meanwhile, the Brexit Party says it wants to reform universal credit after a 12-month review and bring in changes after two years, although it doesn't say anything beyond that.

The SNP also wants to halt UC and immediately end the benefits freeze in Scotland, while Plaid Cymru has said it will push for full control of universal credit in Wales and is "pressing" for welfare powers to be devolved so it can take on issues including disability living allowance.

Universal credit applies to the whole of the UK.

Work

When it comes to workplace conditions, Labour says it wants to take the idea of a passport scheme for reasonable adjustments - smaller, achievable changes like rotas or working hours to help disabled workers move between jobs - and help crystallise what it means. They want to introduce new disability leave, which would be paid and recorded separately from sick leave.

We've seen the gender pay gap regularly in the headlines - and Labour says it recognises a similar pattern between disabled and non-disabled employees. It wants to introduce a mandatory disability pay-gap report for companies with more than 250 employees.

The Lib Dems want to try out some new ideas, including a pilot scheme where employers would be rewarded for investing in the mental wellbeing of their staff with reduced business rates. Plaid Cymru wants to establish "sheltered employment schemes" - an old-fashioned, less inclusive idea, but in this instance it's specifically for disabled people who need more support before returning to full employment.

The Greens hope to introduce job-sharing at all levels of government in the hope it will make politics more accessible.

The other party manifestos - Conservative, SNP and Brexit Party - don't specifically reference work in relation to disability or mental health.

This would apply across the UK.

Average weekly cost of a care home by age group and disability

£s, cost to local authorities in England

Source: NHS Digital, 2018-19

Mental health

There is one pledge that unites five of the seven main parties: to put mental health care on an equal footing with that of physical health, a policy that mental health groups have wanted for many years.

The Lib Dems list several ideas on how to make this happen and pledge to spend an additional £2.4bn after inflation on mental health by 2023-24 by improving access to therapies and mental health practitioners. They also want 24-hour services including mental health liaison teams in all hospitals.

As part of their general look at mental and physical wellbeing, the party also suggests carers should be given community benefits such as free passes to leisure centres.

Reduced waiting times for support are also key.

Labour wants to "improve access to psychological therapies" with crises services being available 24/7 - something echoed in the Plaid Cymru manifesto. And with non-emergency support in mind, the Green Party wants to "ensure" everyone who needs therapies can get them within 28 days instead of the months it can take in some areas. Conservatives talk about patients having greater control over their treatment.

Family is high on the agenda too, with Labour and the Lib Dems wanting to bring in mental health assessments for new mothers and Plaid Cymru promising to re-open its specialist mother-and-baby units for mothers with severe mental illness, which were closed in 2013.

Neither the Brexit Party nor the SNP reference mental health in their election pitches.

Healthcare is devolved. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all run their own health services, but they will benefit from any extra funding.

BBC graphic
BBC graphic

Education

We often hear stories about children applying for specialist school places that aren't available locally, or not getting appropriate educational support in mainstream schools. Parents may have hoped the manifestos would contain significant detail on Special Educational Needs (SEN/SEND). However, detail is scant.

The Green Party has the most comprehensive plans. It wants all SEN children to experience a "fully inclusive education" with access to their local school, which would mean accessible buildings, an inclusive curriculum and specially trained teachers. On top of that it wants to retain specialist schools if that's a preferred option for the family.

The Conservatives have pledged to increase school funding by £7.1bn by 2022-23, which the party says includes more SEN places, while Labour says it will provide the "necessary funding" for school-age pupils. Additionally the party wants to recruit new SEN co-ordinators as part of 150,000 additional early years staff.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems want to "end the crisis" of SEN funding by allocating "additional cash to local authorities", reducing the amount schools pay towards the cost of a child's needs, while Plaid Cymru wants schools to have "appropriate access" for physically disabled pupils and better support for those with learning difficulties.

The SNP and Brexit Party make no reference to SEN.

Education is a devolved issue.

Number of times social care is referenced in Parliament

Source: Hansard

Social care

Care is a hot topic. In England and Northern Ireland, anyone with savings of £23,500 or more (the figure is £24,000 in Wales) must foot the bill for any care in their home.

The threshold is the same for a care home, but also includes the value of their home. This means people may find they are in the unpalatable situation of having to sell their house to free up the money.

The Conservatives say they will initially invest £1bn a year on both adult (and children's social care) to tackle this and the prime minister has pledged to stop individuals having to sell their homes, but has not explained how this might be done.

Plaid Cymru wants to offer free social care for elderly people and those who are more vulnerable through a new National Health and Social Care Service for Wales.

The Lib Dems say they'd cap the cost of care that individuals pay and would introduce a 1p increase to income tax, with some of the £7bn raised a year pegged to social care - Labour also pledges to cap the same care costs. Labour is promising free personal care for older people who need it.

On housing and independence, Labour wants to help autistic people and people with learning disabilities move out of "inappropriate inpatient hospital settings" and into their own homes as part of a wider social care policy on doubling the number of people who receive publicly funded care packages.

Similarly, the Green Party wants to introduce a legal right to independent living for disabled people and help councils draw up disability housing plans, while Plaid Cymru wants to ensure local authorities and social landlords provide more "disabled-friendly and lifetime housing".

The Lib Dems want to reinstate the Independent Living Fund, which financially supported disabled people who choose to live in the community rather than residential care.

The Conservatives also want to put money into finding a cure for dementia which it describes as "one of our government's biggest collective priorities" alongside climate change.

Health and social care is a devolved issue.

Anything else?

There are a couple of other interesting ideas that pop up in the manifestos.

Most notably, Plaid Cymru wants to focus on the rights of autistic people and those awaiting a diagnosis so all can access support. It also plans to make neuro-divergence a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act to safeguard individuals against discrimination. Protected characteristics currently include age, disability, race and sexuality.

The Conservatives plan to publish a National Strategy for Disabled People by the end of 2020 for: the benefits system, housing, education, transport and jobs.

What else are the parties promising?

A selection of BBC correspondents analyse the main parties' key policy proposals:

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What are the parties promising you?

Here's a concise guide to where the parties stand on key issues like Brexit, education and the NHS.

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