Labour appears to have used its plans for a National Care Service as the focus for its bid for the votes of disabled people.
The election manifesto contains a lengthy section on the care and support reforms announced by health secretary Andy Burnham last month.
The manifesto pledges to remove “unfair postcode lotteries”, see more people receive care at home, and to provide “independence and control for everyone with a care need” through continued expansion of individual budgets.
The manifesto also pledges to help more disabled people into work through its “tough-but-fair” work capability assessment (WCA), which has been heavily criticised by campaigners.
It will also put the remaining 1.5 million people on incapacity benefit through the WCA by 2014.
The manifesto adds: “We will seek to ensure that disabled people are able to lead dignified and independent lives, free of discrimination and with the support to which they are entitled.”
The manifesto also says that the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the new Equality Act “will ensure that people are not held back at work because of their gender, age, disability, race and religious or sexual orientation”, while enforcement of the act will promote fairness “across our society”.
The manifesto pledges to protect Labour’s child trust funds, introduced in 2005, and the additional £100 a year given to disabled children.
It also repeats measures announced by schools secretary Ed Balls to improve the special educational needs (SEN) system, and promises to hold schools to account for how well they meet the high expectations for children with SEN.
The measures include expanding the number of specialist dyslexia teachers, improving teacher training for children with autism and improving the statementing process.
The manifesto says Labour is “determined to narrow the gap” between disabled children – as well as those with SEN, in care or on low incomes – and their peers, and will “continue to invest in specialist services”.
And it pledges more than 8,000 new therapists to ensure access to psychological therapy for all those with mental health conditions who need it, and promises to “seek to change our society’s attitudes to mental illness”.
The manifesto also says that everyone with a long-term condition will have the right to their own care plan and an individual budget.
A Labour spokesman said the party would “set out detailed proposals” on individual budgets for those with long-term conditions later this year, but the commitment would “give people with long-term conditions more say and control over how their NHS and care money is spent and on what”.
The manifesto also repeats Labour’s pledge to reduce the number of people with mental health conditions in prison, while it says a Labour government would continue to work with the charity Combat Stress to improve mental health services for veterans.
Manifesto length: 76 pages
Mentions of the words “disabled”, “disability” and “disabilities”: 12
13 April 2010