Green Party Activists At Cuts Protest. Photo credit: via photopin (license)

The Green Party of England and Wales have today launched its disability manifesto at an event in London, promising empowerment for deaf and disabled people and accusing the Conservatives of removing disabled people’s basic rights and limiting their opportunities.

The Green Party’s disability manifesto highlights the daily struggles faced by many disabled people: from their battle to hold on to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs), the loss of £30 per week for people in the Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group, and the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund.

The first Deafblind person ever to stand for Parliament in the UK, Ben Fletcher, joined Green Party Co-Leader Jonathan Bartley at the launch in Putney, south west London, saying: “Disabled people are desperately under-represented in public life in Britain.

“At a time of deep disillusionment with politics in the UK, it is really important for the MPs elected in 2017 to reflect the diversity of the people they are meant to represent.

“There are over 11 million disabled people in Britain. That’s one in six. And yet many of us are still prevented from participating fully in education, in employment, and in politics because of inflexible, outdated attitudes, needless barriers to access and a general lack of understanding about what disabled people can really achieve if they receive the support they need.”

Jonathan Bartley, who co-leads the Green Party as a job share so he can support his disabled son Samuel, attacked the Conservative’s record on supporting people with disabilities.

“This General Election is about the kind of country we want to live in” he said. “Is it the kind of country the Tories tell us we must accept, in which austerity cuts are inflicted on those least able to withstand their impact, including disabled people who already face huge barriers to basic equality?

He added: “The Green Party refuses to accept that the UK, as the fifth largest economy, cannot do better. The Government should focus on removing the real barriers to disabled people finding work, and tackle the widespread prejudice against disabled people rather than fostering it.”

The disability manifesto includes a plan for a community-led ‘Care & Support Service’, which the Party says will train, support and resource communities to better help each other and the most vulnerable in society, while also saving money by supporting wellbeing and helping communities to identify and meet needs, alongside councils, the NHS and Government.

The Green Party also pledged to “enable many more disabled people to enjoy good and fulfilling lives, and scrap the ineffective work capability assessments replacing them by increasing support available via GPs and other health professionals”.

Key points from the manifesto include:

  • Reviewing essential disability benefits to enable many more disabled people to enjoy good and fulfilling lives, and scrap the ineffective work capability assessments replacing them by increasing support available via GPs and other health professionals
  • Better social care and health services, to improve care and support services for d/Deaf, disabled and older people covering all adults with assessed need
  • Empower communities to create ‘community-led’ networks of support to sustain a range of preventative services helping to improve quality of life, reducing the need for costly care or hospital services
  • Significantly improve the housing choice for d/Deaf, disabled and older people by requiring all councils to plan for their housing needs, creating Disability Housing Plans, and work to significantly increase the numbers of homes built to mobility standards over the next 5 years.
  • Create a Housing Adaptions Fund to help people return home quickly from hospital and to ensure older and disabled people’s homes are appropriate for their needs.
  • Improve education opportunities for disabled young people by ensuring all schools fully support disabled children to have a high-quality education
  • Support disabled people to have increased work opportunities through community-based Supported Employment & Enterprise services, and require all UK businesses/services to ensure at least 5% of their work goes to disabled people
  • Recognise that some sick or disabled people can’t work and ensure benefits and support systems enable all to have a good quality of life
  • Fully recognise the rights of d/Deaf, disabled and older people and ensure all UN commitments and equality legislation requirements are fully implemented
  • Adjust national infrastructure investment plans to ensure all communities, businesses, work places, leisure facilities and transport systems are accessible to all UK citizens
  • End the placement of people with complex learning disability or mental health in remote care/ NHS treatment units similar to the notorious ‘Winterborne View’, and transfer this funding to provide better locally-based housing and care alongside family and community support, and significantly increase advocacy support for all d/Deaf, disabled adults to access these services

Ben Fletcher, 36, lives in Southfields with his partner Lauren. He works as a Lead Developer for at the Financial Times and describes his first language as British Sign Language (BSL). The Green Party is campaigning for full recognition of BSL as an official language of the UK.

Ben has decided to stand for Parliament, despite the closure of the Access to Elected Office Fund by the Tory government after the last General Election. The fund provided financial support to disabled candidates standing for political office, and has not been replaced or reopened despite a recommendation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in September 2015.

Mr Fletcher said: I have been able to stand for Parliament thanks to the support of the Green Party, who have shown themselves to be an inclusive, diverse and modern political party.

“I am proud to represent a party that stands up for what really matters. If elected to Parliament by the people of Putney on 8 June, I look forward to doing the same”.