Opinion

Neither Labour nor Tories are going far enough for disabled people – we deserve better

At the end of the day, no matter who we are, we all want to live safely in our local community and be connected to our friends and family

Image: Unsplash

“It is nothing new for our issues to be sidelined.” Speaking on the state of the party manifestos regarding social care, activist and author Ellen Clifford succinctly summarised how most disabled people across the country felt as party manifestos were unveiled.

“Given the terrible state of social care support in England, with chronic under-funding and a sector on the brink of collapse, the party manifestos are notably weak in this area,” Ellen explained. The social care crisis should be a national emergency, with its dangerous consequences putting at least 10 million disabled people of all ages and backgrounds at risk.

The statistics are stark and speak for themselves. In September 2022, the Care and Support Alliance estimated that 2.6 million people aged 50 and above were living with some unmet need for care in England, with the numbers only growing yearly. Kings Fund research has found that most younger adults’ requests for support do not translate into access to local authority-funded care. Around 35% of requests for support by younger adults result in no service provided (compared with around 25% for older people).

With such a stark problem, cutting across age groups, you’d have thought politicians would rush to propose radical solutions. However, when they have been given a chance to propose answers in their manifestos, the major parties instead are risking “exacerbating” the situation by not planning to make a crucial change: ending social care charging. Ellen argues: “Disabled people’s […] quality of life has steadily deteriorated in line with social care cuts and social care charging rises over the past 14 years.”

“Many of the wider public believe social care in England is free, like the NHS. Historically, this has held back reform,” Ellen told me, as neither Labour nor the Conservative manifesto have written manifestos that would rebalance this dire situation by finally making social care free at the point of use. And Claire Glasman, disability rights campaigner and a founder member and co-ordinator of multi-racial grassroots organisation WinVisible (Women with Visible & Invisible Disabilities), agrees: “Labour and Tory alike pledge billions more for military spending and nuclear submarines, but don’t prioritise funding for independent living and support for mothers and children to keep families together in the community.”

At the end of the day, no matter who we are, we all want to live safely in our local community and be connected to our friends and family support networks, but our current system is massively failing in this regard – with the country’s largest union, Unison, warning that local authorities might not be able to offer disabled people the “legal minimum of care” as soon as next year. Clearly, significant investment and an end to care charging are needed for us to progress toward this system that allows us to flourish and live independently.

Big Issue is demanding an end to poverty this general election. Will you sign our open letter to party leaders?

As it stands, Labour’s overall plans remain nebulous, calling for all-party solutions and a National Care Service with little substance behind it. Meanwhile, the Conservative’s plans suggest they will do nothing for the poorest disabled older people and continue to leave disabled people of working age facing ever-increasing care charges.

Only the Greens and Lib Dems, two parties unlikely to form majorities according to current polling at least, are offering solutions that could put the country onto such a trajectory. “One thing that is welcome is how free personal care has been adopted as one of the LibDems’ key pledges,” Ellen explained, not that this would be a “magic bullet for fixing social care as Scotland has shown”.

There is a glimmer of hope that the Green Party seem to be the only party that understands the sheer scale of what is needed to fix the system. They are pledging £20bn of investment into social care, surpassing Disability Rights UK’s demands and other DPOs’ demands in our Disabled People’s Manifesto to establish a social care system that “sustains independence and wellbeing”.

But there are more policy answers available to politicians if they choose to finally listen to our community. In fact, disabled people from across the country have come together to create a practical roadmap for the social care system. It’s called the National Independent Living Service (NILS), and it would be a bold reimagining of how care and support for disabled people of all ages in England should be organised and delivered.

What makes NILS so different is that our model would be led by disabled people, becoming person-centred and empowering and enabling us to thrive rather than just survive.  

Unlike our current system, it would be underpinned by the principles of choice and control, nothing about us without us, and the right to independent living. We believe that NILS could recognise and address other forms of discrimination experienced by disabled people, including racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

We hope politicians nationwide will be brave enough to step away from the current consensus that’s clear in party manifestos and adopt our plan wholesale. Nothing about us without us!

Mikey Erhardt is a campaigns and policy officer at Disability Rights UK.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? Get in touch and tell us moreBig Issue exists to give homeless and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy of the magazine or get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Keir Starmer promised to tackle child poverty – but we need action, not empty words
Sanah Ahsan

Keir Starmer promised to tackle child poverty – but we need action, not empty words

Labour has a chance to stop domestic abuse at its roots – here's how
A woman's hands holding a cup of tea
Caitlin McCullough

Labour has a chance to stop domestic abuse at its roots – here's how

'It was a long, dark night of the soul': What the first 24 hours in prison is really like
prison leavers
Gary Crooks

'It was a long, dark night of the soul': What the first 24 hours in prison is really like

Why can no government ever plan for the future?
John Bird

Why can no government ever plan for the future?

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know