Time for Change – our commitment on disability

Where disability is concerned, Theresa May isn’t listening and is taking people for granted.

People don’t have to settle for this cold, mean-spirited vision of Britain. A better future is available. The Liberal Democrats will stand up against a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and push up prices, and we will reverse Conservative cuts to benefits for people not fit for work.

The Liberal Democrats has a long history of working to raise awareness and understanding of disability across the country. We want to ensure that people living with disabilities are given the fair and just treatment they deserve.

Our manifesto has made several commitments to support and increase disability support, one of which will be increasing NHS funding. There is no doubt that our NHS is in crisis and we need to put better measures in place to support those most at need. Our pledge for a 1p tax rise on Income Tax would raise an additional £6 billion a year which would be ring-fenced to be spent only on NHS and social care services. Specifically we have allocated £2 billion for social care.

We will also:

  • Bring together NHS and social care into one seamless service – pooling budgets in every area by 2020 and developing integrated care organisations. We would make provisions for personal budgets so that people can design services for their own individual needs, which will help to combat the issues surrounding loneliness and isolation
  • Establish a cross-party health and social care convention, bringing together stakeholders from all political parties, patients groups, the public and professionals from within the health and social care system to carry out a comprehensive review of the longer-term sustainability of the health and social care finances and workforce, and the practicalities of greater integration.
  • Make sure that all disabled people who want to work are supported to gain meaningful employment.

We will seek to expand Access to Work, a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work.

An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support to help disabled people:

  • Start working
  • Stay in work
  • Move into self-employment or start a business.
  • Liberal Democrats will also continue Access for All, a programme aimed at improving disabled access on public transport.

I have personal experience of working with a company, which was owned and run by and largely staffed by people who are Deaf. When Access to Work was in force, people could pool their allowances to pay for interpreters who were shared among the team to help everyone when they needed to make phone calls – critical to all access work and the tv production we did for BSLBT and CBeebies.

Amy Campbell Nottage, one of the presenters of Magic Hands, teaching children signs from British Sign Language in Newbury Library. Magic Hands is one of the programmes I made with the team at Remark Media.

When Access to Work was replaced with PIP, the company crumbled. I saw our directors explaining themselves to PIP people over and over again, ‘Yes I am still deaf’. ‘Yes, my situation has not changed since my last short term contract finished two weeks ago!’. That company is now gone. Fewer of the team are employed. More are on benefits – full disability benefit, as they are no longer supported to work.

The Liberal Democrats has a long history of working to raise awareness and understanding of disability across the country. We want to ensure that people living with disabilities are given the fair and just treatment they deserve.

The current situation is cruel and defies belief.

Cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance

 

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In the studio with the Magic Hands team. Most of the team is deaf.

In the recent reshuffle David Willetts has been succeeded as Minister for Universities and Science by Dr Greg Clark, whose portfolio also includes a Cabinet Office cities and constitution brief, which is a worrying dilution of attention. I will be writing to Greg Clark to ask him to scrap the recent changes to the Disabled Students Allowance. 

Earlier this year, David Willetts set out to “modernise” the DSA. What he seems to have achieved are measures that simply guarantee deaf and disabled students will not be able to perform as well as others.

There is no doubt that people with dyslexia will be affected by these changes to the DSA. Many will fall into the category of having a ‘mild’ disability. Universities are now required to take on the provision of their support and I am concerned that institutions do not have sufficient knowledge and experience to provide what’s required. How, also, are we to decide who has more complex needs and who’s needs are ‘mild’?

I also work with a number of young deaf colleagues. Many of them, as students, received the DSA, as was, and benefitted hugely from the help it gave. The new changes will be very discouraging to those with disabilities who are keen to enter higher education. This is to be regretted by everyone.

In the recent reshuffle David Willetts has been succeeded as Minister for Universities and Science by Dr Greg Clark, whose portfolio also includes a Cabinet Office cities and constitution brief, which is a worrying dilution of attention. I will be writing to Greg Clark to ask him to scrap the recent changes.

More information about the changes can be found on the following websites:

https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-dsas/overview
https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studyhere/educationaladvisorsandschools/stem/blog/blogentries/proposedcutstodisabledstudentsallowances(dsa).aspx

There is an official e-petition against cuts to the disabled students allowance which will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold. If you would like to join the campaign, please sign here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63748