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General Election 2019: DRUK guide to policy and comment

29 November 2019

This page will continue to be updated with policy areas and comment up to the General Election on 12 December 2019.

This page contains information on policy announcements by major party policies as they are released over the course of the 2019 General Election campaign. We will only focus on topics that are the responsibility of the Westminster parliament. For example, proposals on social security will only apply to England and Wales, and proposals on education will only apply in England. We will cover proposals from the three main national parties – the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats – as well as relevant proposals from the Brexit Party and the Green Party.

Disability Rights UK does not endorse or support any political party. The aim of this page is to summarise, analyse and discuss proposals specifically about disabled people, as well as how disabled people might be affected by proposals not directly about disabled people or disability issues. We will discuss the potential good and bad aspects of each proposal, particularly how they affect disabled people.

This page only covers announcements made during the election campaign, including the party manifestos. Not every party will have proposals covering each topic. If we’ve missed anything you think is important, please get in touch with Sue Bott at sue.bott@disabilityrightsuk.org.



DRUK overview comments by policy area:

Disability Benefits

Pledges about benefit reform are positive but vague. The Conservatives say they will reduce the number of reassessments people will have to go through if their disability is unlikely to change. The Liberal Democrats want to replace Work Capability Assessments with a “real world” assessment run by local authorities, reverse ESA cuts for people in the Work Related Activity Group, and reinstate the Independent Living Fund. Labour wants to bring WCA and PIP assessments in-house, increase the rate of ESA WRAG by £30 per week, and have government policy reflect the social model of disability.

Labour has proposed an inquiry into deaths of people receiving or attempting to receive various benefits, covering the time period from April 2013 (when Universal Credit was first introduced) through to the end of 2019. The proposal is not in their manifesto but has been confirmed by the party in response to Disability News Service. Disability Rights UK welcomes and would support any inquiry into the failing of benefits system and the dehumanising treatment it has inflicted on many disabled people, but above all we want a commitment to tackle the known issues that cause distress and harm to disabled people.

Other Benefits

Labour wants to scrap Universal Credit, the Conservatives pledge to continue the roll-out, and the Liberal Democrats want to reform Universal Credit to make it more supportive of self-employment. Labour and the Liberal Democrats both pledge to remove the two-child limit on child benefit and the bedroom tax.


On employment, Labour wants to introduce a government-backed Reasonable Adjustment Passport, put specialist employment advisors for disabled people into Jobcentres, and introduce mandatory disability pay gap reporting for organisations with over 250 employees. The Liberal Democrats want to separate employment and skills training from benefits. The Conservatives pledge (again) to halve the disability employment gap.


All the major parties have ambitious house-building targets. Lib Dems and Conservatives want to be building 300,000 houses per year by 2024 (Lib Dems) or mid-2020s (Conservatives). Labour wants 100,000 council houses and 50,000 Housing Association homes, plus whatever else is built by the private sector. None of the parties have goals on ensuring a sufficient numbers of new homes will be accessible for disabled people. Conservatives have a pledge to support technological innovation to improve housing access, but no targets, and it does not get a mention from the Liberal Democrats or Labour.


Conservatives pledge to remove hospital parking charges for certain groups, Labour to abolish them entirely. Conservatives pledge to re-introduce the nursing bursaries they removed several years ago, and to increase nursing retention rates to ensure 50,000 more nurses than would be otherwise working in the NHS. Lib Dems promise a 1p income tax increase to go to the NHS. Labour pledges to set up a publicly owned pharmaceutical company to reduce drug prices, as well as universal free prescriptions and dental check-ups.

Social Care

Social care proposals are largely focused on older people, working age recipients are an afterthought. Labour has proposed a National Care Service, but it is focused on personal care, and would only be free for older people, with an “ambition” to expand free personal care to all recipients at some undetermined point in the future. The Liberal Democrats propose combining NHS, social care and public health budgets into a single area of spending. The Conservatives want a cross party consensus on social care, the same as the NHS (assuming there is a cross-party consensus on the NHS). No party recognises the potential of social care to facilitate independent living.


Party positions and Disability Rights UK comment:

1. Benefits and Social Security

This is a partially devolved matter and is only applicable in England and Wales.

This section will focus on any proposals about Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, and any other in-work or out-of-work benefits. It will also cover proposals for wider welfare state reforms.


End the benefits freeze.

Create a “National Strategy for Disabled People”, combining existing commitments to improve the benefits system with some new possible commitments on housing, education, transport and jobs.


The benefits freeze has already ended.

Details on benefit reform are non-existent, the problems with Universal Credit are not mentioned, disability-specific benefits like PIP and ESA are not mentioned, but there is an explicit promise to find and punish benefit cheats (despite 89% of benefit fraud allegations made to the DWP have been found to be non-fraudulent).


Replace Department for Work and Pensions with Department for Social Security.

“Scrap” Universal Credit. Hire 5,000 advisors, offer telephone and face-to-face support, split payments for couples, end two child limit, end five week wait by introducing interim payment of half estimated monthly entitlement. Suspend sanction regime.

Stop Work Capability Assessment and PIP assessments. Bring assessments in house.

Increase WRAG ESA by £30/week.

Increase basic level of support for children with disabilities to level of Child Tax Credit.

Provide extra money to disabled people without a formal carer.

Increase Carers Allowances to JSA rates.


A series of largely positive steps, although light on detail. The commitment to scrap Universal Credit is more a commitment to making a series of reforms, some immediately and some over time, as well as freezing roll out.

It is unclear what or how the WCA and PIP assessments will be changed or replaced.

Liberal Democrats

Invest an additional £6 billion per year into the social security system.

Replace the wait time for the first payment of Universal Credit to five days, from the current five weeks.

Increase work allowances and allow second earner work allowances.

Remove the two child limit on child benefit eligibility.

Replace Work Capability Assessments with a new system run by local authorities “based on real-world tests”.

Reinstate the Independent Living Fund.

Remove sanctions and separate employment training support from benefits.


These are broadly positive steps, although lacking detail. Giving local government responsibility for WCA might force ESA recipients to go through a different test under slightly different rules if they move house.  

Green Party

Propose a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of £89 per adult per week, with additional payments for disabled people, lone parents and some pensioners. It is unclear what the value of additional payments to disabled people are, and how eligibility would be determined.


Disability Rights UK does not have an official stance on UBI, but there are extensive concerns that the very different costs of living for different people, particularly for disabled people, would not be met by UBI payments.



2. Health Care

This is a devolved matter and is only applicable in England. However some policies, such as international trade deals, may have an impact on health care across the UK.


End hospital car parking charges for particular groups of patients and staff.

Hire 6,000 more GPS and 6,000 more primary care specialists (pharmacists, physiotherapists, etc).

Increase the number of nurses by 50,000 through hiring and increased retention, and (re-)introduce a maintenance grant for nursing students.

Introduce a separate NHS visa class.


Average 4.3% increase in NHS expenditure per year.

End sale of NHS assets including land.

More tech investment including MRI and CT scanners.

Free dental check-ups.

Universal free hospital parking.

Liberal Democrats

Restore Work Allowances and introduce a second-earner Work Allowance.

£7 billion annual budget increase in combined health and social care spending, funded through a 1p income tax increase.

Pool NHS, social care and public health budgets into a single area of spending.

Update the list of conditions exempted from prescription charges.

Set a national target to reduce the twenty year life expectancy gap between women with and without learning disabilities, and ensure everyone with learning disabilities has fair access to health services.

Move responsibility for drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department for Health and Social Care.


Recognising and pledging to tackle the huge gap in life expectancy of people with learning disabilities is welcome.

Creating single, place-based budgets for health and social care is potentially more worrying. The aims of health care – treatment and prevention of acute and chronic injuries and illness – are very different from the aims of social care – supporting people with disabilities or health conditions (including from old age) to live their best life. Integrating the two together could lead to social care being even more medicalised than it currently is.

As with the other parties, the Liberal Democrats primarily discuss social care as a service for elderly people and a short-term service post hospital treatment.



3. Social Care

This is a devolved matter and is only applicable in England.

This section focuses on the various aspects of social care, including eligibility, funding and how disabled people can have choice and control over their care. Issues such as mistreatment within the social care system will be covered in the section on human rights.


The most up front about the growing number of working-age social care recipients. Like other parties, the Conservatives pledge to find a cross-party settlement on social care, but no idea what that is. Otherwise entirely devoid of substance or planning for long term social care.

Additional £74 million over three years for community care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.


It is difficult to comment on these proposals as they are so lacking in detail. What is most remarkable is the most concrete commitment on social care is a pledge to make “finding a cure” for dementia “one of our Government’s biggest collective priorities”. While doing so would be an achievement, it may not be the best use of health research funding, and does nothing for anyone who has dementia now, or who will develop dementia between now and whenever this hypothetical cure is developed over the coming decades.

Discussion in other sections suggests that the Conservatives see social care for elderly or disabled relatives to be primarily the responsibility of family members, with social care services only stepping in where needed, rather than being available by default.


Create a National Care Service for social care.

The system will provide free personal care to older people, with the ambition to extend free personal care to all working age adults who need it. There will be a lifetime cap of £100,000 on contributions to care costs.

Labour plans to increase the number of care packages provided to working age adults and older people each year.


Social care is discussed primarily as it pertains to older people, and with free personal care starting with older adults and a mere “ambition” to extend free personal care to working age adults, people with disabilities really feel like an afterthought. Older people needing social care are much more likely to have assets or other income that they can use to contribute to their care. Universal free personal social care funded by taxation is a good idea, but if it will be gradually rolled out, it should be done progressively, on the basis of income and need, not regressively on age.

A centralised National Care Service could easily lead to a reduction in the ability of social care recipients to exercise choice and control over who cares for them, and what that care involves.

Liberal Democrats

Introduce a cap on personal social care contributions. It is not clear what this cap will actually be.

Increase the allowed earnings for recipients of carers allowance to £150 per week, and provide a series of free benefits to carers, such as free bus travel for young carers.

Require qualifications for care home managers, and provide training and support to upskill care workers, so that 70% have a NVQ Level 2 (or equivalent) qualification.

Set up a cross-party convention on social care.

Introduce a Health and Care Tax, to be offset by reductions in other taxes.


As with the other parties, the Liberal Democrats primarily discuss social care as a service for elderly people and a short-term service post hospital treatment.



4. Education and Skills (aged 0-16)

This is a devolved matter and is only applicable in England.

This page discusses education up to the age of 16, or GSCE level. It will cover any proposals relating to disabled children’s support in school, such as Education Health and Care Plans, as well as issues of funding, inclusion, administration and curriculum that may affect disabled children.


Increase the number of “school places for children with complex Special Educational Needs”.


The pledge for complex SEND school places sounds a lot like more special schools funding, not support for integration into mainstream education settings.


Recruit additional SENDCOs for early years education.

Increased funding for SEND pupils.

Liberal Democrats

Allocate additional funding to local authorities to halve the amount that schools contribute to the cost of Education Health and Care Plans.

Assign responsibility for SEND functions to local authorities.



5. Education and Skills (post-16)

This is a devolved matter and is only applicable in England.

This section discusses post-16 education, including A-levels, Further Education, Higher Education, apprenticeships, adult education and skills development. It will include any reforms likely to impact disabled people, as well as specific proposals around the support available to disabled adults in education.


Create a £3 billion “National Skills Fund”.


Labour have proposed six years of free post-16 education. According to the Guardian:

Under Labour’s proposals, any adult without A-level or equivalent qualifications would be able to study for them for free at college, with maintenance grants available for those on low incomes.

The six-year free entitlement will also cover undergraduate degrees, higher national certificates, foundation degrees and diplomas of higher education in areas including engineering technicians, nursing associates and professional accounting technicians.

Allow the Apprenticeship Levy to be spent on a wider range of training than currently.

Targeted bursaries, including for disabled people, to take up climate apprenticeships.


Of the various proposals on supporting education and skills training, Labour’s is the most generous. In 2018/2019 the amount of money being spent on adult education was less than 2/5ths of what was spend in 2002/2003, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Labour is seeking to return the amount of money spent on adult education to be much closer to what it was in the early 2000s. This could be very good for disabled people, but it would have to ensure the adult education system is properly resourced, and that disabled people taking advantage of educational opportunities are fully supported.  

Liberal Democrats

  • Liberal Democrats propose a “Skills Wallet”, a £10,000 grant over the course of 30 years to pay for education and training costs. From the BBC:
    • Put £4,000 into people’s Skills Wallet at the age of 25
    • Add another £3,000 at 40
    • And another £3,000 will be put in at 55


This proposal mimics professional development policies at some organizations where staff are given a budget to spend on their own training. However, it could drive up the cost of education in some cases, and it is not clear how disabled people who may need additional support or reasonable adjustments that cost money will be provided for by this scheme. Additionally, the wallet will only apply to courses regulated by the Office for Students, which are currently only undergraduate and postgraduate Higher Education courses in England. It is not clear what support will be available for adults wanting to do Further Education courses or an apprenticeship.



6. Employment

Some policies here may only be applicable in England, and others will be applicable in more than one nation, or across the whole of the UK.

This section covers proposals that might impact disabled people’s employment, including tax regulations, discrimination and employment support such as Access to Work.


Creation of single employment rights enforcement body.

A pledge to “prioritise the principle of fairness in the workplace”, but no mention of disabled people specifically.


No mention of disabled people at all in the section on employment.


Create a Ministry for Employment Rights, including a legal right to consultation on the implementation of new technology in workplaces, and giving all workers the right to flexible working.

Require employers to implement plans to “eradicate” the gender pay gap, as well as inequalities “underpinned by race and/or disability”. Fines for negligent employers.

Statutory right for equalities representation.

Require companies with over 250 employees to report disability pay gap data.

Include disability leave in Equality Act 2010.

Recommend the EHRC prepare a specific code of practices for reasonable adjustments.

Bring in a Reasonable Adjustments Passport.

Review of Access to Work.


7. Housing

Some policies here may only be applicable in England, and others will be applicable in more than one nation, or across the whole of the UK.

This section includes proposals covering housing, including accessible and suitable housing accommodation and the costs of accessible housing.


Commitment to create a Social Housing White Paper.

Target of 300,000 homes per year by mid-2020s.

Encourage innovation in design and technology to make housing more accessible for disabled people.


Nothing on targets or numbers of accessible houses, although there is a commitment to support “innovative design and technology to make housing more affordable, accessible, and suitable for disabled people and an ageing population”.


Build a combined 150,000 council and social rented homes per year, 100,000 through councils, 50,000 through associations.


Nothing on accessible housing requirements in this pledge. Nothing on adapting existing homes.

Liberal Democrats

Build 100,000 social rented homes per year, and ensure that 300,000 homes are built per year.


Nothing on accessible housing requirements in this pledge. Nothing on adapting existing homes.



8. Transport

Some policies here may only be applicable in England, and others will be applicable in more than one nation, or across the whole of the UK.

This section includes proposals covering topics like buses, trains, taxis, active travel, the Motability scheme, air travel and any other proposals about how people get from Point A to Point B.


Give city regions funding for bus, tram and train networks


End driver-only train operation.

Expand bus operations.

Increase in investment in walking and cycling infrastructure.


There is nothing in the Labour section on transportation specifically about the needs of disabled people aside from a vague commitment to improve accessibility for disabled people.

Liberal Democrats

Make more stations wheelchair accessible, improve legislative framework for blue badges, set benchmark for accessible cities, ban discrimination by taxis and private hire vehicles.

Continue the Access for All programme.

Invest in more infrastructure for cycling and walking.


While positive, these initiatives are very light on detail, including what the Liberal Democrats would actually do differently. For example, discrimination on the basis of disability by taxis and private hire vehicles is already banned. Any plan to tackle discrimination requires a mix of enforcement and education, and there is nothing on how that would work here.

The aims of the Access for All programme are good, but it is unclear what the Liberal Democrats will do differently. Access for All has no public strategy for station upgrades, such as prioritising stations with high passenger volumes, stations in areas with few accessible stations, or stations where the cost and disruption caused by upgrades would be lowest. It seems to most effective way to get your local inaccessible station included in Access to All is to have your MP kick up a fuss in parliament, or manage to get a story on television news.