Step up or step back? How we will measure the success of the new prime minister.

A woman supporting a man, Harry, who is visually impaired and holding his white cane.
A woman supporting a man, Harry, who is visually impaired and holding his white cane.

As the dust settles on another election campaign and we return to comparative normality, I have been thinking about what I would do if I was Boris Johnson today.  I can’t deny that Brexit will dominate much of the coming weeks but what about our domestic policy, what else would I want to achieve and what would success look like?

Discussions on improving the rights and services for disabled people was notable for its absence during the General Election campaign. This just serves to exacerbate the feeling of exclusion and not being valued by society.  It goes without saying that the priority for me would have to be taking urgent action to redress the inequalities and injustice that disabled people face on a daily basis. It’s a glaring injustice that needs to be addressed.  I’m calling on Boris to put disability at the heart of their government, enabling disabled people to live fulfilled and dignified lives.

If you’re having a sense of deja vu reading this, I certainly am as I write this – it isn’t anything new, it’s what we and many others have been calling for for years now.  But whilst we’ve waited things haven’t just stood still they’ve got worse – the social care sector continues to crumble with the numbers of people not getting support increasing.  Disabled children and their families aren’t getting the support they need, or even basic equipment to meet their medical needs.  Transport remains inaccessible and disabled people aren’t able to travel independently, loneliness and social isolation is increasing.  I could go on.

One of the things I’m proudest of at Sense is the personalised approach we take to the people we support. We take a holistic approach, putting their wishes and feelings at the heart of their care—so that they can live the life they want to. I’d like to see this approach mirrored in Government policy making—whether that is in ensuring that people have high-quality social care through to an accessible benefits system that enables them to manage their own claim independently.

So, what do we need to see?

Urgent reform and sustained investment in social care.

For too long, social care hasn’t been addressed with successive governments kicking the can down the road. During the election campaign, politicians on all sides talked about the need to tackle the social care crisis—although much of this discussion has focused on social care for older people. While this is of course important, we can’t forget that one third of people who use adult social care are working age disabled people.  We need a system that meet the needs of all who use it. I believe that good social care not only meets a person’s basic care needs, but also supports them to live the life they want to lead—providing opportunities to access the local community and take part in arts, sports and other activities.

A more joined-up approach for children and young people.

I’m often told by parents that health, education and care services do not work effectively together, meaning that children and young people with complex needs often don’t receive the support they need or, in many cases, receive any support at all. As a society, we have a moral duty to ensure that each young person is able to reach their full potential but, at the moment, too many families are being let down and are facing challenges accessing support for disabled children and young people. In the short-term, the Government needs to plug the £1.5 billion funding gap in children’s social care as well as appointing a minister for disabled children to develop an integrated approach to supporting disabled children and their families.

A more accessible society

Every day disabled people are faced with barriers to daily life, and our research has found that this plays a big factor in higher levels of loneliness.  These barriers need to be tackled, a more accessible society, in terms of public transport, buildings, social opportunities and the arts will go some way to helping disabled people access and participate fully in society as is their right.

We might live in uncertain political times, but, one certainty I have is that when it comes to disability, the time for Government to act is now. A new government brings a new start and an opportunity for change. 

So, Boris, this is my challenge to you – will you step up and take action for disabled people, or step back and repeat the mistakes of your predecessors by not tackling the key issues of the day? At Sense, and for the people we support, it’s how we will be measuring your success.

Author: Richard Kramer

Richard Kramer is the Chief Executive Officer of Sense.

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