David Cameron: How we can make life better for disabled people

This is a speech made by David Cameron in 2009.

“If you or someone you love suffers from a disability, life is going to be hard a lot of the time. But I do believe there are moments of despair, helplessness and frustration that could be directly alleviated by the work of government…

The first lesson I learned was the importance of early intervention and help. Having a kind face round the kitchen table to listen and talk you through things is crucial…

So once you’ve found the help and had some advice, what comes next? The answer is that you enter a world of bureaucratic pain, where you’re asked the same questions about your child over and over again, where your desk is obscured by stacks of forms to fill in, where you spend half your life waiting on hold in the phone queue.  It’s the world of the Disability Living Allowance with its Care Component and Mobility Component, the Carer’s Allowance, Low Income Benefits, Child Tax Credit, Child Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax benefit, grants from the Family Fund…

And it’s not just expensive for the state – it’s exhausting for the parents. Instead of having to bash down every door, the door marked disability permit, the door marked special education, the door marked benefit entitlement, why can’t we have one door that opens on to all the things parents need?

In Austria they’ve got a great assessment process for severely disabled children. A crack team of paediatric doctor, physiotherapist, child psychiatrist and nurse come into the home, make an assessment and give the family all the support they need.  For the sake of these families’ sanity we are looking at the evidence and considering doing something similar in the UK, pulling professionals like doctors, paediatric nurses, physiotherapists and benefits specialists together in one team to act as a one-stop-shop for assessment and advice.

In some ways it’s understandable that the authorities ask so many questions. It’s revealing a truth they themselves don’t often acknowledge – that you know your child better than they do…

It’s a fundamental Conservative belief that one size doesn’t fit all…

Government needs to not only trust and respect the voluntary sector properly it must actively work to unleash its power by giving more grants without a hundred strings attached by bringing the voluntary sector into public service provision and by smashing down all the burdens of tax and regulation that make the simple business of doing good very difficult…

The very painful thing about disability – whether your own or your loved one’s – is the feeling that the situation is out of your control. When the system that surrounds you is very top-down, very bureaucratic, very inhuman that can only increase your feelings of helplessness…

Just consider what it would mean if the army of parents and carers in this country gave up, packed up, said they couldn’t cope any more. The financial cost of looking after those children in state institutions would be immense. The emotional cost doesn’t bear thinking about. We need to recognise that by staying strong, carrying on and holding their families together, these parents are doing a great, unsung service to our society…

I hope I’ve reassured you that though we are facing difficult economic times as a country, though tough decisions will be made about what the state can and cannot do, it would run entirely against the grain of the Conservative Party I lead to neglect the people who need our help the most.

I do believe that you judge a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable – and it’s my hope and belief that if we win the next election then together with great campaigning and research organisations like yours, and the voluntary sector and an army of families and carers, and the millions who practice compassion in this country in their daily lives, that together we can create a society we are all truly proud of.” [1]

[1] David Cameron, PM, How we can make life better for disabled people, 16th July 2009 http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2009/07/David_Cameron_How_we_can_make_life_better_for_disabled_people.aspx

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