An Ottery St Mary resident with Down Syndrome is calling on politicians to engage more with disabled people, after a national survey found that nearly half felt ‘forgotten’ by political parties.

Ahead of the General Election on July 4, the national disability charity Sense polled 1,000 people with complex disabilities in the UK. Of these, 47 per cent said disabled people and the issues they face were not important to political parties. The same number thought politicians don’t do enough to engage disabled people to secure their vote. 

Emma Bishop, 43, lives with her boyfriend Ben at the Otterhayes Trust residential home for adults with learning disabilities, which is run by Sense. She agrees with the findings of the survey.

Emma said: “People with learning disabilities have not been talked to or listened to at all. They should be meeting with us and finding out about us, and how we feel about it all. Why are they not listening to us? Why are we not involved?”

According to Sense, disabled people make up 24 per cent of the UK population, and a disproportionate number live on a low income or in poverty. Disabled people experience long waiting periods for decisions on their eligibility for benefits, and are more likely to use resources such as food banks.

The Sense survey found that 26 per cent of respondents were not optimistic that life would improve for disabled people under a new UK government. A third (33 per cent) believed their vote wouldn’t make a difference to disabled people’s lives.

A ‘Plan for Change’ published by Sense outlines seven key recommendations on how the new government can improve the lives of disabled people:

Make sure disabled people can afford the essentials.  

Fund social care so no disabled adult goes without support.  

End the postcode lottery of social care for disabled children.  

Give every disabled child equal access to education.  

Make the benefits system work for disabled people.  

Tackle barriers to work.  

Always have a senior Minister for Disabled People.  

The chief executive of Sense, Richard Kramer, said:  “It’s a disgrace that disabled people, and the societal inequalities they face, have received so little attention by politicians during the election campaign.  

“It’s unsurprising, then, that so few disabled people believe that life will improve under a new UK government.  

“But it must improve. The pandemic and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated many of the problems that disabled people and their families already faced.   

“Disabled people are struggling to pay for essentials like food and energy. The social care sector, which so many depend on, is in crisis, and the welfare system is in urgent need of reform.  

“The government must show disabled people that they do matter to them.”