Disabled people were almost completely ignored by both main political parties at their annual conferences this month, analysis by Disability News Service has revealed*.
In Manchester, only three of 21 Conservative ministers mentioned disabled people or disability in their main conference speeches.
There were just nine mentions of the words “disabled” or “disability” out of 44,000 words, and all but two of those were by work and pensions secretary Mel Stride as he described his controversial reforms to disability benefits and employment support (pictured).
In Liverpool, only three of 24 conference speeches by Labour shadow ministers mentioned disability or disabled people – with 10 mentions in a total of 36,000 words – although there were commitments by one shadow minister to the social model of disability, co-production and independent living.
Significant policy areas that were completely ignored by both Conservative ministers and Labour shadow ministers included the accessible housing crisis, the planned closure of nearly 1,000 rail ticket offices, inclusive education, and the treatment of people with learning difficulties and autistic people in inpatient mental health settings.
In Manchester, disability policy was almost completely ignored by a series of Conservative secretaries of state.
Most striking of the omissions were probably in social care, housing and transport, all areas where disabled people have repeatedly called for government action or have raised concerns over government policy.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay briefly mentioned last year’s social care funding increase in his speech, but he offered no hint of any government plans to address the acknowledged crisis in adult social care, the longstanding calls for funding reform, or disabled people’s demand for a right to independent living.
Kemi Badenoch, business and trade secretary but also minister for women and equalities, failed to mention disabled people or disability in her main conference speech.
And Mark Harper, the transport secretary, ignored plans to close nearly 1,000 rail ticket offices across England in his speech.
Most of the mentions of disability and disabled people in Liverpool were by Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds.
She spoke about the party’s commitment to the social model of disability, the principle of co-production and independent living.
She also promised that Labour would “honour our commitments to the UN Convention for the Rights of Disabled People”, but the party later confirmed that the party is currently reneging on its previous pledge to incorporate the convention into UK law.
Dodds also mentioned Labour’s plans to introduce mandatory disability pay gap reporting for larger employers, reforming the Access to Work programme, and acting “to make it simpler to secure reasonable adjustments”.
She also spoke of how a Labour government would act to increase the number of disabled MPs, and reform hate crime law, as part of policies that would also impact other equality groups.
But the only other shadow minister to mention disability or disabled people was Liz Kendall, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, who spoke only in the vaguest terms of Labour’s plans for social security reforms.
Among the areas omitted from the speeches of shadow ministers was social care, with shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting promising only to “grip the immediate crisis in social care, starting with the workforce”, and ignoring the issue of care charges.
Labour leader Keir Starmer failed to mention disabled people, or social care, in his main conference speech, just as he did in last year’s conference speech at the same Liverpool venue.
Last year he mentioned “working people” 25 times; this year he used the term 21 times.
*The analysis is taken from versions of the speeches sent out by Conservative and Labour press offices in written form, which may differ slightly from how they were delivered
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