The Conservative party has promised to force local authorities to plan for the provision of accessible housing for disabled and older people, if it retains power in next month’s general election.
The party also announced that employers who recruit disabled people – and employees from other groups, such as care-leavers – would be given a year’s “holiday” on their national insurance contributions for that member of staff.
On social security, the manifesto says the party has “no plans for further radical welfare reform in this parliament”, but it stops short of promising there will be no more reforms at all or ruling out any further cuts to disability benefits.
Instead, it warns that a Conservative government would continue to ensure a “sustainable” welfare system, with help “targeted at those who need it most”.
The manifesto also shows that the Conservatives have dumped their target of halving the disability employment gap in five years – which it made little progress in achieving over the two years of the last parliament – in favour of a new target of finding jobs for one million more disabled people over the next 10 years.
It promises to “harness the opportunities of flexible working and the digital economy to generate jobs for those whose disabilities make traditional work difficult”, and to provide “advice and support” for employers in hiring and retaining disabled employees.
It also says the party will “push ahead” with its plans for tackling hate crime, including disability hate crime, even though the four-year action plan the Conservative government published last summer was condemned for its “totally disrespectful” failure to address problems around disability-related hostility.
There are also promises that a Conservative government would “review” regulations – and amend them “if necessary” – on access to licensed premises such as pubs and restaurants, blue parking badges and housing.
This includes a commitment to review building regulations on the accessibility of new homes.
These pledges suggest the party may have been listening to some of the concerns raised by a major report by a House of Lords committee last year on the impact of the Equality Act on disabled people, and last month’s report on disability and the built environment by the Commons women and equalities committee.
The manifesto says it will support the provision of “specialist housing where it is needed, like multigenerational homes and housing for older people, including by helping housing associations increase their specialist housing stock”.
This would ensure government-supported housing programmes include suitable provision of housing for older and disabled people, and that councils plan for such provision in their own local planning policies and local housing programmes.
There are 18 mentions of “disabled”, “disability” and “disabilities” in the 88-page Conservative manifesto, although all but five are contained in a three-paragraph section on disability policies.
The party had previously announced plans to replace the “anachronistic” Mental Health Act and address the increasing numbers of people in mental distress who are detained under the act.
The party has promised that the new mental health treatment bill will include “revised thresholds for detention”, and new codes of practice to “reduce the disproportionate use of mental health detention for minority groups, especially black men”.
Prime minister Theresa May (pictured) has also promised further powers to protect people from discrimination in the workplace through “sweeping changes” to the Equality Act – offering more protection to those with fluctuating mental health conditions – and to fund an extra 10,000 mental health staff working in the NHS by 2020, although the manifesto now promises “up to” 10,000 more mental health professionals.
Labour has pointed out that the number of mental health nurses and doctors working in the NHS in England has fallen by more than 6,600 since 2010.
The party’s mental health announcements were greeted with accusations of “hypocrisy”, after user-led groups pointed out that Conservative social security policies, including the coercion and bullying of benefit claimants, had created and worsened mental distress.