In 83 close typed pages of the Conservative manifesto there is not one mention of the million-plus people with learning disabilities or autism. The Labour party manifesto is similarly silent.
Perhaps we should not be surprised then, when a poll of 100 MPs released this week shows that more than 60% do not believe that people with learning disabilities can be supported into paid and productive employment, an attitude which contrasts sharply with the views of experts.
The poll, undertaken for not-for-profit support provider Dimensions,* also shows that:
- Well over half (58%) of the MPs feel that more emphasis should be placed on family support for people with learning disabilities to reduce reliance on paid care
- Despite the scandal of Winterbourne View, and the lack of progress in getting people with learning disabilities out of such places, almost 1 in 3 (31%) of the MPs don’t see learning disability as a national election issue. Even fewer – about half – see it as an election issue in their local communities. This despite that over a million people in the UK have a learning disability – with family, that’s a sizeable portion of the electorate.
MPs disinterest is understandable. Very few people with learning disabilities voted in the last election. Prominent pro-voting campaigns run by Dimensions, Mencap and United Response look set to change that this time, however, a factor in the election which may take by surprise the three quarters of MPs polled who have not heard of these campaigns.
Lisa Hopkins, Director of Practice Development at Dimensions, commented: “The poll exposes a deep lack of interest in learning disability amongst our political masters across both major parties. Many MPs just don’t understand learning disability. When our sector votes it will give them a real jolt.”
Dimensions is a specialist provider of a wide range of services for people with learning disabilities and people who experience autism. Find out more at www.dimensions-uk.org