The next government must show disabled people that they matter

Just days before the country heads to the polls, you’d think political parties would be fighting for every vote.

Yet, many of the 16.1 million disabled people living in the UK feel like politicians have totally forgotten about them and the issues that matter to them the most. But disabled people should be a top priority for political parties.

Disabled people make up nearly a quarter of the UK population, and face far higher financial costs than non-disabled households, an average of £975 each month. Disabled people have been among the hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis and are more likely to use resources like food banks, with recent Sense research finding more than a third of disabled people asked had totally run out of food and were unable to afford more.

What’s more, many of the public services that disabled households rely on are underfunded and can be extremely challenging to navigate. Social care, special education and disabilities support in schools for disabled children, and the welfare benefits system are all in crisis and in need of long overdue funding boosts.

With so many struggling to pay for essentials like food and energy and forced to navigate crumbling systems like social care and SEND, this election could have been an opportunity for politicians to wake up to the challenges disabled households face and to commit to the funding and reform so urgently needed.

But they haven’t. Disabled people, and the issues hitting them hard, have been scarcely mentioned by political parties. Support to help disabled people through the cost-of-living crisis is notably absent from a number of manifestos, as are details on how to solve the funding crisis in social care, welfare and SEND to ensure disabled families receive adequate support. Against this backdrop, it’s unsurprising that new research from the disability charity Sense released this week found nearly half (47 per cent) of disabled people in the UK feel they just aren’t important to political parties.

The same number feel that political parties don’t do enough to engage with them. Take political parties’ manifestos, which should be accessible to everyone, in accessible formats such as easy read, braille and BSL. Yet only now, so late into the campaign, are we seeing some parties publishing accessible versions, and very little effort made to promote them. It feels like an afterthought.

We have also seen party broadcasts and debates without BSL interpretation, and now with election day fast approaching, we know some disabled people fear the challenges that some polling stations will bring, such as lack of ramp access access to formats they can read such as braille.

This election campaign hasn’t got off to a good start for disabled people. They are not feeling hopeful, with as many as one in four (26 per cent) disabled people telling Sense that they were not optimistic that life would improve for them under a new UK government. But politicians can and should make this right, by showing disabled people that they do matter.

Whoever wins next week’s election and forms the next government must prioritise disabled people. Sense’s ‘A Plan for Change’ outlines how the next government can improve the lives of disabled people by focusing on seven key recommendations. These include funding social care so no disabled adult goes without support, tackling barriers to work and retaining a senior Minister for Disabled People, to ensure disabled people have a champion at the heart of government.

After years of being neglected and sidelined, the next UK government must show disabled people that they do matter, and take the steps so desperately needed to improve their lives. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website. Subscribe to our daily newsletter for all the latest election news and analysis.