Election 2017: UKIP silence after manifesto confuses PIP assessment with WCA

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UKIP’s disability spokeswoman has refused to explain both how the party has managed to confuse two key disability benefits in its election manifesto, and – for the second election running – which parts of the UN disability convention it supports. 

UKIP’s manifesto includes a section titled “Ending the injustice of personal independence payments”, which describes how personal independence payment (PIP) seems to have become “a covert way of slashing the benefit bill”.

It discusses how many disabled people have fallen into debt while awaiting their appeals after being turned down for PIP, and how more than 50,000 people have lost their Motability vehicles after being found ineligible for the higher rate of PIP mobility support, in the move from disability living allowance.

But at the end of this section, the party says a UKIP government would deal with the PIP problems by reforming the work capability assessment (WCA), the eligibility test for out-of-work disability benefits, which is completely unrelated to PIP.

It has so far refused to explain how it managed to make such a basic error.

The party also faces further questions about its commitment to disability rights, as the manifesto says the party remains committed to its promise to “protect the rights of the disabled”, a pledge made in its 2015 general election manifesto.

But the 2015 pledge said only that UKIP was “fully committed to protecting the rights of disabled people, as set out in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

Article 19 is a key part of the UN disability convention, but only refers to disabled people’s right to independent living.

Two years ago, Disability News Service tried repeatedly to discover whether UKIP was committed to the other 49 articles in the convention, which includes sections on accessibility; the right to life; personal mobility; freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; access to justice; freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse; respect for privacy; and liberty of movement and nationality.

But neither the party’s press office nor its disability spokeswoman, Star Anderton (pictured), were able to explain which articles the party endorsed.

This week, both Anderton and the party’s press office have again refused to clarify whether it backs only article 19 or all of the convention.

It appears likely that it does not endorse at least one of the articles, on inclusive education, because the UKIP manifesto pledges to “reverse the policy of closing special schools”.

Elsewhere in the manifesto, UKIP promises to increase spending on social care by £2 billion a year, and says it would “prioritise early intervention schemes and community-based models of care that promote independence and wellbeing, such as supported living arrangements”, while it says that “institutional and acute care models should be a last-resort”.

There is also reference to the campaigning work of the website Disability United, which revealed earlier this year how many NHS primary care organisations had quietly introduced cost-cutting policies that could see disabled people with complex healthcare needs shunted into residential or nursing homes against their wishes.

UKIP’s manifesto says the party would “make sure those with on-going health care needs choose where they wish to live, unless they are unable to make that choice themselves, or care at home becomes unviable”.

UKIP also says it would increase spending on mental health services by at least £500 million a year.

And it says it would set up a fund worth £80 million a year to provide grants of up to £3,000 for smaller childcare providers to make their premises more accessible and train staff, so they can “open their doors to more children with special needs”.

Among other pledges, the manifesto says a UKIP government would abolish the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – repeating a promise from its 2015 manifesto – which it says has caused a “vicious circle of misery”.

Two years ago, UKIP said it would place CQC’s duties to inspect and regulate the NHS and social care in the hands of new “county health boards made up of health and social care professionals elected locally by their peers”, although it has not been able to provide any further details of those plans this week.

The party also promises to repeal Labour’s Human Rights Act, remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and introduce a new UK bill of rights.

But the party has yet to say which parts of the Human Rights Act it would drop in the move to a bill of rights.

There are 26 mentions of the words “disabled”, “disability” or “disabilities” in the UKIP manifesto.

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