UKIP’s manifesto has significant policies on out-of-work disability benefits and social care, but offers little to suggest that disability rights would be a priority if the party won power.
The manifesto says UKIP would abolish the much-criticised and “unfair” work capability assessment, relying instead on GPs and consultants to assess disabled people’s eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits.
This would mean an end to the “limbo” faced by disabled people placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of employment and support allowance (ESA) after their assessment, says UKIP.
The UKIP manifesto pledges to support disabled people who are unable to work through a “fair and fit-for-purpose welfare system”.
The manifesto adds: “[UKIP would] remove ‘tick-box’ and quota arrangements from sickness and disability assessments, thereby streamlining and speeding up the assessment processes and continually respecting claimants throughout the process.”
It would also abolish the coalition’s “bedroom tax”, known by the government as the spare room subsidy removal, which has hit many disabled people who claim housing benefit.
UKIP says in its manifesto that it is “fully committed” to the rights described in article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which outlines the “equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others”.
The manifesto says: “We wholly endorse the right of the disabled to access in-home, residential and community support services and we support their inclusion in our communities.”
On social care funding, it promises an extra £1.2 billion a year by the end of the next parliament, which would “ease the path through a change” to the integration of health and social care “under the control of the NHS”.
It also pledges to introduce a legally-binding “dignity code” to improve standards of professional care, and says it would “protect services such as day care, home care and Meals on Wheels”, and abolish 15-minute home care visits.
It also says that, if shale and oil gas “fracking” proved possible and profitable, a UKIP government would spend any tax revenue on “looking after older people”.
UKIP (led by Nigel Farage, pictured) also wants to abolish the Care Quality Commission – which inspects and regulates the health and social care sectors – and place its inspection functions in the hands of new “county health boards made up of health and social care professionals elected locally by their peers”.
The other significant disability-related policy is a pledge similar to the controversial promise on inclusive education offered by the Conservatives at the 2010 election.
The UKIP manifesto says: “The policy of closing special schools will be reversed. Every child is unique and the needs of each child should come first.
“Those who learn better in a tailored, non-mainstream environment should have the opportunity to do so.”
One disabled parliamentary candidate, Star Etheridge, UKIP’s disability spokeswoman, who is standing in Wolverhampton North East, said the party’s plans on disability benefits would mean “no more limbo in the WRAG group; a person is going to be ill or not ill based on the opinion of their GP or hospital specialists”.
She said: “That’s quite a good point when you think of those on contribution-based ESA because they will not lose out and their contributions mean they won’t lose benefits, as so many do now.
“There will be savings from the removal of the contracts from the private assessing companies.
“There will be less spent on mandatory reconsiderations and then tribunals so these savings will be part of the overall headline £12 billion that needs to be saved [across government].”