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A Magazine for Sheffield

What are election candidates in Sheffield offering to disabled people?

Now Then approached dozens of General Election candidates to ask about disability issues. Only four responded. 

A black sign with the words Polling Station in white. The sign is leaning against a brick wall.

Polling station

Tony Kennick

The last 15 years have been devastating for many disabled people in the UK. The benefit cuts started by the Labour government were drastically amplified by the Tories, initially enabled (a little too enthusiastically) by the Lib Dems. We are four to five times as likely to feel lonely, and have lower life satisfaction and higher anxiety levels than our non-disabled counterparts.

So, for disabled people, the policies and beliefs of the people who want to become our next MP are especially important. But as we see in the campaigns around us, we don’t seem to be a priority for them.

The relentlessly insightful reporting from the Disability News Service shows us that, in the first televised debate, “Disabled people were not mentioned once […] despite the participants speaking more than 21,000 words over more than two hours”. John Pring also highlights how the Tory manifesto doesn’t have “a single new policy aimed at improving the lives of disabled people”, and that Reform UK have published a manifesto “that repeatedly threatens the rights of disabled people, suggests it will pose significant safeguarding risks to benefit claimants, and warns of massive spending cuts to benefits and public services”. Labour does not escape Pring’s attention either, as they have “published an election manifesto that has been shorn of key promises the party made on disability rights”.

Disabled people outside a building with various signs demanding an end to benefit cuts and a reversal of the decision to replace DLA with PIP.

Disabled people protest

Roger Blackwell

Disabled People Against Cuts have provided a summary of the main parties’ key pledges, and Mencap link to Easy Read manifestos from the Green Party, Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats.

But what about our local candidates? What do they plan to do to improve disabled people’s lives in and around Sheffield?

42 candidates are standing in six constituencies in Sheffield. I emailed all the Labour, Conservative, Green, Workers’ Party candidates, and two of the Lib Dem candidates (the party didn’t respond to my request for contact details for the other candidates). I asked each of the people I contacted three questions, with a word limit.

I don’t know whether most of the candidates are not proud of their plans for improving the lives of disabled people, don’t have any plans to help disabled people, didn’t prioritise this group of constituents or just didn’t get my email, but the vast majority did not respond. We can each come to our own conclusions about that.

However, four election candidates did respond, and their responses are below.

How would you fix the crisis in social care for disabled people?

Angela Argenzio (Green Party / Sheffield Central)

With investment. For too long local authorities have been underfunded and the impact on social care has been enormous. I see this every day in my work as a local councillor. Disabled people pay the price of this.

The Green Party is pledging to push investment of £20 billion per year in social care. This will ensure that we can have the services that we need.

Abtisam Mohamed (Labour Party / Sheffield Central)

People should have agency over their own care, but sadly the recruitment crisis in this field and the number of providers withdrawing from the field reduces the choice people have about the care and support they need.

Long term reform is essential for sustainable, high-quality care and not short-term responses.

Labour has pledged to work towards the creation of a ’National Care Service’. We will explore how integration with the NHS can be secured and how to move to a more preventative system.

Close-up of a couple smiling and holding hands. The Black femme in the back wears compression gloves and looks lovingly at the non-binary Black person in the front, who sits in a power wheelchair.
Disabled and Here

Hannah Nicklin (Green Party / Sheffield South East)

My mother worked most of her life in adult social care as an occupational therapist. I've seen up close the damage wrought by successive governments on health and social care. The Green Party will invest in both, producing a country where everyone receives compassion and dignity at any stage in their life when they need support.

Elected Greens will push for:

  • Free personal care
  • Increased pay rates and a career structure for carers to rebuild the care workforce
  • Investment of £20 billion per year

Alexi Dimond (Green Party / Sheffield Heeley)

To address the social care crisis if elected I will push for free personal care to ensure dignity for disabled people, increased pay rates and a career structure for carers to rebuild the care workforce, and investment of £20 billion per year in social care.

Do you think the benefits system is working for disabled people? If so, how? If not, how would you fix it?

Hannah Nicklin (Green Party / Sheffield South East)

We need to ensure that everybody can lead full, meaningful lives; work if they choose, and access the help and support they need.

Elected Greens will:

  • Immediately uplift disability benefits by 5%
  • Oppose PIP moving to ‘voucher’ payments, and reform PIP
  • Provide free transport for 16 to 18-year-old SEND pupils
  • Ensure disabled workers have in-job support, proper pay and conditions
  • Champion the right to inclusive welfare support, and housing under the principles of universal design

Alexi Dimond (Green Party / Sheffield Heeley)

No. Consecutive Conservative governments have undermined progress made by disabled people to live dignified lives as valued members of society. If elected I would fight to:

  • Restore the value of disability benefits with an immediate uplift of 5%
  • End the targeting of carers and disabled people on benefits
  • Oppose plans to replace PIP cash payments with ‘vouchers’
  • End intrusive eligibility tests like PIP

Angela Argenzio (Green Party / Sheffield Central)

No it isn't. Greens would restore the value of disability benefits with an immediate 5% uplift. Also we need to stop the unfair targeting of carers and disabled people on benefits.

We must oppose the plans to replace PIP cash payments with vouchers and we must reform the intrusive eligibility tests like PIP.

Abtisam Mohamed (Labour Party / Sheffield Central)

I have worked with many people trying to navigate the complicated benefit application process. Universal Credit is all online, which can be a difficulty for those with no access to a computer.

For those with a health condition, it's made even more complicated by hurdles of additional form filling, appointments with health care professionals and on occasion attending appeal hearings. The process has to be more humane, made simpler, easier to access and navigate.

A set of stone steps with houses in the background and trees on the right.

Steps down to Oxford Street, Sheffield

Terry Robinson / Geograph

How would you make your constituency less inaccessible to disabled people?

Abtisam Mohamed (Labour Party / Sheffield Central)

I would work with the local authority to see how we are meeting our requirements in becoming a disability friendly city. I know that the Accessible Sheffield project are working in partnership with AccessAble, Disability Sheffield and Nimbus Disability to support the ambitions of Sheffield to become an accessible and fairer city for all who live, work, study and visit Sheffield.

I would see how best I could use my position if elected to help achieve these ambitions.

Alexi Dimond (Green Party / Sheffield Heeley)

As well as funding social care and accessible homes, if elected I would want to reduce traffic, introduce 20 miles per hour to be the default speed limit on roads in all built-up areas, allowing children, the elderly and disabled people to walk and wheel safely.

I would seek to make it mandatory for councils to provide free transport for 16 to 18-year-old pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

Angela Argenzio (Green Party / Sheffield Central)

Physically by improving the state of pavements and eliminate unnecessary clutter and stopping dangerous parking and driving. Promoting spaces that are accessible for neurodiverse people. Advocate to make the city as a whole autism friendly and accessible to all. Improving opportunities for disabled residents to work and study if they choose to do so, through schemes to support employers make the necessary adaptations but also supporting those who want to be self-employed.

Hannah Nicklin (Green Party / Sheffield South East)

Disabled people are not an afterthought in the Green Party’s 2024 manifesto. Fairness, justice, and access are all at the heart of it. Every bit of investment we're proposing will make our local communities more accessible.

As we invest in public transport, active travel infrastructure, the greening and (frankly) quality of public buildings like hospitals and schools, accessibility will be a priority and duty. Green policy will have an immediate and lasting impact on accessibility in Sheffield South East.

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