Young campaigners have called on all political parties to make specific commitments in their manifestos around disabled children’s right to independent living.
The challenge was issued in a Disabled Children’s Manifesto for Change, drawn up by some of the UK’s 770,000 disabled children and young people, with support from the campaign group Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM), and endorsements from a string of disability and children’s charities.
The message was being taken to the conferences of all three major parties.
Disabled children say in the manifesto that they are shown a “lack of respect” by those who support them, and experience bullying and negative attitudes.
They call for more accessible transport; for all schools to have a disability equality scheme that disabled children and young people helped to write; and for decent accessible housing.
One disabled child, Jared, says: “I don’t think it should be like this. You have to work really hard to be included.”
Another, Michael, says: “Ever since I was a child, I always got bullied at school, and now we need to do something about it.”
The manifesto says they should be supported to take part in decisions about their own lives and the services they use, and given meaningful choices.
The manifesto also calls on every party and candidate to publicly commit to: support disabled children and young people to participate in their communities and live ordinary lives; help them secure the education, jobs and training they want; and ensure understanding and respect.
Four government ministers were quizzed by disabled young people at a Labour party conference fringe event held to promote the new manifesto.
Ed Balls, the children, schools and families secretary, promised to arrange for them to present their document to Ed Miliband MP, who is leading work on the party’s own election manifesto.
Replying to a question about including disabled young people in sport, junior schools minister Diana Johnson MP said the government wanted schools with good facilities and good practice to share them with neighbouring schools, including special schools.
Two Liberal Democrat shadow ministers were also put on the spot at a fringe event at their party conference.
Shadow children, schools and families secretary David Laws pledged more funding for teacher training, and extra cash for schools to support children with special educational needs.
And shadow work and pensions secretary Steve Webb said his MPs would ask questions in parliament highlighting the need for simpler benefits forms.
29 September 2009