Yesterday the Liberal Democrats published their manifesto for the 2017 general election. Here are our thoughts on some of their key announcements and how they could impact people with epilepsy.
It’s no surprise that the Liberal Democrat manifesto focuses heavily on mental health. This is great news for the many people with epilepsy who are also living with a mental health condition. But for those who aren’t, what are the Liberal Democrats offering for them? Neurology is a neglected area within the NHS and we would like to see it being given the same priority as physical health and mental health. The Liberal Democrats have promised that the extra funding they receive from their 1p tax increase will be ring-fenced for a number of priority areas, including primary care. This is good news for people with epilepsy who rely on their GP and/or their community pharmacy for support with their condition.
We welcome the Liberal Democrat proposal to establish a cross-party health and social care convention. They would bring together stakeholders from all political parties, patient groups, professionals and members of the public. It is important for people with epilepsy to have a say on the services that affect their lives. Working together can only be a positive thing.
The Liberal Democrats say they want to move towards a system that empowers and encourages people to better manage their own health and conditions. Greater seizure control is achieved when people with epilepsy have a better understanding of their condition and how to manage it, as is shown in our Epilepsy and you programme. We would be interested in seeing how the Liberal Democrats aim to achieve this promise for people with long-term conditions, such as epilepsy
We strongly believe that to improve employment potential for people with epilepsy, which is a common concern, employers must do more. The Liberal Democrats have proposed a ‘wellbeing premium’ for employers that take clear action to measurably improve the health of their employees. This would benefit the whole workforce, which in turn would create a better environment and workplace for people with epilepsy. While there is the focus once again on mental health, we think this can be easily transferred to other long-term health conditions, like epilepsy.
They also intend to introduce a ‘good employer’ kitemark.This would cover areas such as paying a living wage and avoiding unpaid internships. However, there is no mention of disability or long-term health conditions, and even though the Disability Confident scheme could be improved, we would be interested to see where it would fit within this new kitemark.
We have been calling for the scrapping of employment tribunal fees, as well as improvements to the Access to Work scheme, so we are glad to see these within the Liberal Democrat manifesto. However, there is no mention within the manifesto of the previous government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap, which is disappointing.
Welfare and benefits
We welcome the recognition that changes need to be made to the benefits system. We have been campaigning for a reversal in the cuts to the ESA work-related activity group, and are happy to see that the Liberal Democrats would do this. There are a number of proposals including, separating employment support from benefits administration, and improving links between Jobcentres, Work Programme providers and the NHS. These seem positive on the surface, but more detail is needed before deciding if they would work for people with epilepsy.
The commitment to scrap the work capability assessment and replace it with a new system run by local authorities is interesting. Again, this would need more investigation on how this would work in practice. What we do know is that changes are desperately needed. To make sure these changes work for people with epilepsy, they must be involved in their development. Unfortunately, there is no mention of Personal Independence Payment in the manifesto, an area that also needs review and reform to make sure it’s working well for people with epilepsy.