What does the election result mean for people with Spinal Cord Injury? What did the Conservative Party promise? The dust is settling following Thursday's General Election vote. The Conservative Party have formed a new government after winning a majority of MPs in the House of Commons. So what can we expect over the next few years? The Conservative Party manifesto gives the public a general expectation of what is to come. The policies in their manifesto suggests that difficult times are ahead for disabled people in the UK, especially as a result of their stance on welfare benefits. We've picked out the key areas that affect people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). Employment and Welfare • Half the disability employment gap. • £12 billion in welfare cuts. • Will transform policy, practise and public attitudes. The aspirational and identified target to get more disabled people into work from the Conservatives is welcome. However the £12 billion in welfare cuts is deeply worrying. This is on top of the changes that are already happening, such as the transition to Personal Independence Payments, the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund and the introduction of the under occupancy penalty, otherwise known as the Bedroom Tax. All of these have caused real hardship to disabled people around the country. Aspire is already expanding our Welfare Benefits Advice service so that we are in a position to help people who will need support through the changes. We will be at the forefront of championing the needs of disabled people through the expected welfare changes. Housing • 275,000 more affordable homes. • 200,000 new starter homes with a 20% discount exclusively for first time buyers under 40. • Extend Right to Buy to Housing Association properties. We welcome the move to build more homes but we are disappointed that there is no commitment to build homes that are suitable for all. The Deregulation Act 2015 defined accessible standards but has not made them a requirement. Because the standards are optional, there is a danger that the country will not build enough homes that are suitable for disabled people. We will campaign for 10% of homes built to be wheelchair accessible and the rest to be built to a standard that can be easily adaptable. At the moment, Right to Buy is available for people living in Council-owned homes. The funds generated from Right to Buy are supposed to be used to build new homes. However, this is not happening under the current policy. Extending Right to Buy to Housing Association homes is a worry as there will be less housing stock available in the social and affordable sectors. Research shows that disabled people are more likely to live in this type of housing and Aspire’s research shows that there is an acute shortage of housing options for disabled people today as well as a mismatch in how accessible homes are allocated by councils and housing associations. This policy will almost certainly make an already bad situation even worse. On Health and Social Care • Making sure hospitals are properly staffed. • Integration of health and social care through the Better Care Fund. • Increase spending in real terms by £8 billlion at least. • A seven day service. • Extending availability of deferred payments so that people do not have to sell their home to pay for care in their lifetime. We share the Conservative Party’s concerns about NHS staffing; staffing at hospitals is a key issue that we will be campaigning on. There have been concerns about staffing levels at specialist Spinal Cord Injury Centres and specialist staff being made to work in other, understaffed areas of hospitals. We will pressure the new government to fulfil this promise and make sure that the pledge also extends to specialised services which includes Spinal Cord Injury. Key promises of a seven day service and integration are already underway and offer more of a continuation of existing policy but are pledges that are welcome. On Disability Rights • Scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill. • Review law on hate crime. The focus and commitment to tackle disability hate crime is welcome. The Human Rights Act and the European Convention offers additional protections on disability rights. Although the Conservatives do promise a British Bill to replace the Human Rights Act, we need to ensure that disability rights are protected through any replacement. Politicians are often criticised for promising the world at election time and not delivering what they said they would when they are in a position of power. In relation to cutting the welfare bill by £12 billion, this is one occasion where we hope that a Party will not fulfil what they have pledged as this will inevitably cause hardship for disabled people. Over the next few years Aspire will be campaigning and lobbying on these issues which are important to people with SCI and disabled people.