h1

Henry G Manson on Friday

March 15th, 2013

Hello all: I hate the new Disqus as much as you do. I will be actively looking for a new alternative. Please bear with us until we find one. Thanks, Robert

Has Theresa May forgotten her pledges to the disabled?

Theresa May has been burnishing her right wing credentials in recent weeks. Predictably the right wing press has lapped up promises to withdraw from the Human Rights Act, ‘sack Euro judges’ and allow schools to make profits. But are her promises worth the paper they’re written on? That’s what disabled campaigners such as Sue Marsh http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-smoking-gun-that-shows-tories-lied.html are starting to ask.

Before the last general election the Conservative Party produced a document called A Contract for Equalities. It is an official document, still available on the party website and has a forward from Theresa May which committed to a wide range of measures including ‘consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage’ – something unhappy Conservative activists appear not to have noticed at the time. In it is a section devoted to ‘Action for the Disabled’. It makes a number of pledges that have not been met. The commitments seem clear:

“Central to our plans is a clear distinction between people who can’t work and those who can. Of course, there are some people who due the nature of their disability or illness will not be able to work. These people who cannot work because of a disability or illness should never be forced to work.”

Instead 40% of people who appeal against the ATOS the government’s assessor for incapacity support are successful. MPs are inundated with horror stories from disabled people at their wits end over the assessments, a quarter of which aren’t event accessible by wheelchair. While Theresa May and the Conservatives pledged not to force people who can work to do so, people just days out of intensive care are being told to seek work or lose their benefits.

The document continues, “We are very much focused on helping all who are capable of work, not just those who are nearest to the job market.” Instead evidence suggests the government’s providers are doing precisely that.

We learn that “a Conservative government will tackle the stigma and prejudice that still persists towards disabled people, particularly those with mental ill-health.”

Perhaps most disturbing revelation from the evidence is that the Department for Work and Pensions appears to have drip-fed distorted statistics to the Mail and Express to whip up hostility to people in receipt of disability support.

A key task for any political leader is to hold onto their promises. Clegg has suffered political damage from his failure to uphold flagship pre-election pledges. Cameron has been at pains to keep his support for pensioner bus passes. However the Conservatives appear to have fallen well short on their pre-election commitments to disabled people of all ages. Letting down disabled people doesn’t reflect well on the Tories and Theresa May could do worse than re-read the document the next time she wants to make a ‘wide-ranging’ intervention. The Home Secretary would be wise to uphold past promises she put her name to before making new pledges to court the right wing press that she may believe will aid her advancement. If that means taking on Iain Duncan Smith and the private sector providers now then let’s see it.

Ten years ago Theresa May warned that her party was seen as the ‘nasty party’. Well it doesn’t look too nice right now.

Henry G Manson