The Tories betray wilful ignorance in refusing to acknowledge that some adults need support all their lives – asking them to pay care costs is wrong
Much has been said about the Conservative manifesto pledges on social care and Theresa May’s subsequent U-turn, but one issue that has so far escaped scrutiny is the Tories’ strange assumption that social care is all about older people. This is despite the fact that around a third of those who need social care services are of working age [pdf].
Social care affects all adults who need support because of a disability or long-term health condition. This might include a learning disability, a physical disability or severe and enduring mental ill-health. The failure of the Conservative manifesto to acknowledge any of this gives the impression of a party that is wilfully ignorant of the nature of adult social care and its beneficiaries.
Related: The ‘dementia tax’ mess shows how little May thinks of disabled people | Frances Ryan
Related: Forget money – we need to rethink what social care should look like
Lying on the floor for hours awaiting help, unable to afford both incontinence pants and food … This is the reality of disability cuts for Stephen, Alex and Elli
When Theresa May was challenged by a disabled voter over cuts to her disability benefits and social care last month, it shone a light on the way Conservative policies post-2010 have disproportionately targeted disabled people. Recent years have seen the introduction of many cuts and changes – from the rollout of “fit to work” tests to the abolition of disability living allowance – as well as a lack of action on existing inequalities, such as inaccessible housing. It all amounts to an unprecedented assault on disabled people’s rights and living standards in Britain.
In a series of interviews over several months, the Guardian has followed three disabled readers – Stephen, Alex, and Elli – as they experience the reality of life since austerity.
To afford a wheelchair, Alex had to sell the TV, phone, plates, mugs, second-hand laptop and clothes
Related: In confronting Theresa May, Kathy has spoken up for all Britain’s disabled people | Frances Ryan
In the run-up to the general election, six Guardian reporters are writing from constituencies across the country to find out what matters to you and in your area. In the second of a series of dispatches from Erdington, Birmingham, Nazia Parveen and photographer Christopher Thomond meet church leaders helping those in need – and struggling with the question of who is responsible
In 2010, when David Cameron launched his “big society” project in Liverpool, he talked a lot about empowering communities. The idea, he said, was “a deep, serious reform agenda to take power away from politicians and give it to people”. But then austerity took the big society’s place as the government’s defining idea, and the phrase disappeared from the party’s literature. It was dismissed as an “enormous failure”.
Seven years on from that launch, on a sunny afternoon 100 miles south of Liverpool, Cameron’s big idea is reluctantly being reheated in a Labour heartland. Today’s “empowered community”, as Cameron would have it, are the leaders and volunteers of the many churches and mosques in Erdington, a Birmingham suburb. They might wish they didn’t have to, but they are helping to meet the needs of some of the most impoverished people in society.
Depression and anxiety haunt the people who use our food bank. We need a safety net to support people in poverty, not penalise them
Two-thirds of British adults have experienced mental health problems at some point in their lives, according to the Mental Health Foundation. For people forced to use a food bank like ours, the figures are even higher.
It’s no wonder. The NHS says depression can be caused by “an upsetting or stressful life event, such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries”. People who use food banks face many of these – often at the same time.
Related: How to set up a food bank in your local community
Policies that create appalling situations that damage people’s health make me more angry than I can say
Related: Benefits Britain: can you separate fact from fiction? – quiz
Any alterations to the supported housing rules that force disabled people to either live with family or in an institution would be a huge step backwards
I have Down’s syndrome and I live in supported housing. Today a parliamentary select committee has put out a report on the government’s planned changes for supported housing that could force people such as me with a learning disability out of our homes.
Last year the government said it wanted to make changes to funding for supported housing that would limit payments to the local housing allowance rate and let local councils have control over the extra money needed to give people supported housing. This would mean people such as me could lose our right to have our housing paid for and that there could be a lot less supported housing available.
Related: Abandon damaging government changes to supported housing | Clive Betts
I make my own choices and I get to live the life I want, something everyone has the right to do
The prison and courts bill has its second reading in parliament tomorow. For the first time, the purpose of prisons will be enshrined in law. We support the Royal College of Psychiatrists in urging the government to ensure prisons meet the mental and physical health needs of prisoners. Almost a quarter of the prison population suffers from personality disorders, bipolar disorder or depression. Prisoners will eventually return to the community. When they are released, any untreated mental illness is released with them. Prisons must be clearly responsible for tackling the mental disorders, which if left untreated, could cause prisoners to reoffend. The prison and courts bill is an opportunity to prevent prison suicide, reduce reoffending and foster rehabilitation. We urge the government not to waste it.
Norman Lamb MP Lib Dem health lead, Richard Burgon MP Shadow secretary of state for Justice, Dan Poulter MP Former health minister (Conservative), Kate Green MP Vice-chair, all-party parliamentary group on penal affairs (Labour), Johnny Mercer MP Vice-chair, APPG on mental health (Conservative)
• There are several reasons which couldhelp the governmentto explain why England and Wales have the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe (Report, 15 March). There is shocking deprivation in many cities and ever-rising homelessness. The single adult unemployment benefit is £73.10 a week; it has reduced in value since 1979 and has not been increased since April 2015. That £73.10 a week is incapable of providing a healthy diet and other necessities for a woman during the development of a child in her womb. Poor maternal nutrition and low birth weight have, since 1972, been called he strongest predictor of poor learning ability, school performance, behavioral disorders and crime by the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
The invisible nature of mental health problems underlies the discrimination many people face – and makes it easier to cut their benefits
People with mental health issues are being expected to “prove it” as never before. Whether, as individuals, being assessed for disability benefits or, collectively, campaigning for services and adequate welfare provision, the pressure to demonstrate genuine need, to prove that one is “really disabled”, to quote the Tory MP George Freeman, is greater than ever.
The invisible nature of mental health problems, the fact that they do not show up on an x-ray, that no blood test can diagnose depression, underlies much of the discrimination people with mental health issues face. Humans are strongly predisposed to believe in what they can see. For many people, it is hard to accept that severe anxiety, for example, might incapacitate someone from leaving their house as genuinely as if they were suffering from a physical paralysis. The fact that the problem cannot be seen makes it easier to dismiss. They could, if they really wanted to; they’re just not trying hard enough; everyone gets stressed sometimes, and so on. Of course, the help a person with anxiety needs to enable them to leave the house will be different from that of a person with a physical disability, but that doesn’t make the need any less real.