My experience of Labour party conference…

Erin 1

Erin McKay

Hello, I am Erin and I’m from Wiltshire. I have a hearing loss and wear two hearing aids. I am currently doing A Level History, Philosophy and English Literature. I attended the Labour Party Conference and I’d like to tell you a bit about my experience.

On Sunday 24 September I got on the train to Brighton. It took a little under four hours to get there. I was on my way to the Labour Party conference where I had 8 meetings lined up to talk about three campaigns that the NDCS are doing. They are Listen Up to improve children’s audiology services, Right to Sign, putting British Sign Language (BSL) in schools as a GCSE and PIP’d Off, about Personal Independence Payments, and the difficulties that deaf people have in getting them. I talked about the Right to Sign campaign as it was the one I helped create with the last Youth Advisory Board.

On the Monday, Brighton was quite rainy and we arrived at the hotel at around 10am to get ready for our first meeting, it was with Sharon Hodgson, the MP for Sunderland West. She is the Shadow Minister for Public Health. She was really nice and we talked about Listen Up, Right to Sign and PIP.

Erin and Sharon

While we were talking with her, the next MP arrived – Alex Cunningham of Stockton. He was also really nice. He gave us some ideas of what to do with the campaigns and who to talk to about different bits. He agreed to ask his local hospital to sign up to the inspections for Listen Up!

Our next meeting was with Liz Twist who is the new MP for Blaydon. We talked about Listen Up! and Right to Sign. Afterwards we met Stephanie Peacock who is also a new MP, for Barnsley. She agreed to ask her local hospital to be part of the inspection process and we also talked about Right to Sign and having Teachers of the Deaf in Schools. We then had a break for lunch and walked around the exhibitions.

After lunch, we saw Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. I managed to get my picture taken with both of them. Our next meeting was with Dawn Butler, the MP who signed a question in parliament. We talked to her about Right to Sign, and she seemed surprised to see that I couldn’t sign. She had already done most of what we wanted to ask her to do, and she was happy to talk about other things to help our campaigns. Next was Helen Goodman who had done a lot of work already with the National Deaf Children’s Society and she was very happy to help us. We talked about Right to Sign, Listen Up and PIP.

Erin labour

Our last meeting was with Tracy Brabin, who was friends with Jo Cox, who I wrote a bit about loneliness for. We also talked about Listen Up and Right to Sign. I had a really good time and would like to do it again.

The best bit of my day was seeing the taxi drivers showing their support for the Uber ban in London by beeping their horns. It went on for about 20 minutes and was really loud! I also liked meeting all the different MPs. Top tips from me for conference are: to share – talk to the MPs and ask questions if you don’t understand something; they are ordinary people.

What are the parties promising to do on welfare and disabled rights?

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Our final blog on the election manifestos takes a look at what the parties across the UK are promising around welfare and rights for disabled people.

Disability Living Allowance
An earlier blog talked about how Personal Independence Payments (PIP) have been replaced by Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for those over 16 and our fears that a large number of deaf young people will see their benefits cut as PIP is rolled out. One of our big concerns is that any new Government will make similar changes to DLA for those under 16. This could result in many deaf children and their families losing out.

The SNP and the Green party are the only parties to specifically mention DLA / PIP in their manifestos. The SNP in Scotland have said that they will reverse the changes to DLA and the £3bn cutback to disability spending. And the Green party have said they will increase the budget for DLA / PIP.

Plaid Cyrmu in Wales make no specific commitments on DLA or PIP but their manifesto states they oppose further ‘austerity’ more generally.

The Liberal Democrats have made a general commitment to “limit welfare reductions”. Separately, they have also said that they will invest to clear any backlog in waiting times for assessments for DLA and PIP.

The Labour party have said they will cap structural social security spending. And the Conservatives have said they will cut the welfare budget by £12bn. As yet, neither party has given any detailed information on how they will do this so it remains unclear if disability benefits for children are at risk of being cut.

UKIP make no specific pledges on disability benefits for children but their manifesto indicates they wish to reduce government spending overall.

NDCS is calling on the Government to rule out any cuts or narrowing of eligibility criteria to welfare support for disabled children.

Support in work
Many deaf young people rely on Access to Work for support in employment. None of the manifestos indicate whether they will keep or ditch the cap on Access to Work payments announced by the Government just before the election. However, both the Green party and the Liberal Democrats have said they will do more to promote the Access to Work scheme. The Liberal Democrats also say they will streamline back to work assessments for disabled people – working towards a single assessment and benefit. They will also encourage employers to shortlist any qualified disabled candidate and provide advice about adaptations in the workforce.

Labour have said they will introduce a specialist support programme to provide disabled people with tailored help on moving into employment. It’s not yet clear how this will sit alongside the Access to Work scheme.

The Conservatives have said they are aiming to halve the disability unemployment rate.

Plaid Cyrmu state they will provide greater opportunities for disabled people to find jobs across Wales through proposals for a new Welsh job search service. They also pledge to involve disabled people and groups in designing any new Welsh employment and benefits system that supports individuals to find suitable jobs.

The UKIP manifesto states that they want any assessments for disability work benefits to be done by GPs or relevant specialists, rather than companies like ATOS.

Rights for disabled people
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to formally recognise British Sign Language as an official language of the United Kingdom.

Both UKIP and the Green party express support for the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their manifestos, with the Green party saying they will ensure it is enforced in law.

The Labour party has also said they will ensure that disabled people have a voice at the heart of government inviting disabled people to sit on cross-departmental committee that develops disability policy

The above is a very general summary of the pledges and we’ve only highlighted those that we think are most directly relevant to deaf children. We’ve included links to the manifestos above if you’d like more information about what each of the parties are proposing. More information about the manifestos from the Northern Ireland parties can be found on the BBC website.

Don’t forget, if you want to find out more about what the parties are proposing, you can ask your prospective parliamentary candidates. They need your vote and hopefully will be responsive to any questions you might have! Ask your candidates what they know about deaf children and call on them to protect the services that they rely on in the next Parliament.

The Your Next MP website has information on the candidates in your area and our website has more information on the election, including a detailed election factsheet.