Disabled voters could swing Scottish election

Polling booth

​Powerful coalition of leading charities says new welfare powers should be used to reshape disability benefits in Scotland 

18th April 2016 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

New welfare powers should be used to reshape disability benefits, a leading consortium of charities has said.

At an upcoming event in Glasgow, Disability Agenda Scotland (DAS) will point out that politicians need to take people with disabilities seriously, as they make up one in five voters.

The consortium, including Enable Scotland, SAMH, RNIB Scotland, Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, Sense Scotland and Capability Scotland, has also launched a national campaign to counter the prejudice and stigma many disabled people still face.

For people with a disability, the outcome of this election could have profound and far-reaching implication - Billy Watson

As well as redesigning disability benefits under the new powers awarded to Holyrood by the Smith Commission and launching an awareness campaign, DAS is calling for more specialist employment support to help disabled people move into work.

The husting event, set to be held on Monday 13 April, will see a panel of representatives from all Scotland’s leading political parties chaired by Billy Watson, chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and chair of the DAS executive group.

Watson said: “This debate will give prominence to a constituency whose voice is more often heard at the margins. For people with a disability, the outcome of this election could have profound and far-reaching implications, touching on the services that they depend on much more than most people living in Scotland. Services such as health, social services, welfare and transport, for instance.

“We believe the next four-year Parliamentary term will be crucial. Significant change in welfare reform, and greater integration of health and social care, mean that there has never been a more important time for disabled people to have their voices heard.

“The numbers affected are not insignificant. Approximately one million people in Scotland are estimated to have a disability or long term health condition that significantly impacts on their capacity to live independently. So it is vital that the hopes and anxieties they have are given equal weight.”

Watson said this was the third hustings event that DAS has organised, having previously organised ones during the independence referendum and the last general election.

“We will continue to run these events until disabled people in Scotland tell us that they are starting to see real improvements in barriers to equality being removed,” he said.