Those with disabilities need to make their vote count at this General Election

On Thursday, 4 July, the UK goes to the polls to determine who our next government will be. As a proud British Turkish Cypriot and lifelong Conservative voter, ordinarily, my concerns would be on the economy, crime, and North Cyprus. However, this election my priorities have changed due to a chronic illness that I was diagnosed with five years ago.

My parents, who emigrated here from Cyprus over 65 years ago, instilled in me a strong work ethic, so I could be financially self-sufficient. I have worked since my early 20s and have enjoyed a successful career as a creative, but my life changed drastically in 2018.

I became suddenly and seriously very ill. Doctors didn’t initially know what was wrong with me, but after a year of tests they found I was suffering from Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. These two debilitating illnesses adversely impact my daily life in ways I could never have imagined.

There are days I am incapable of getting out of bed due to extreme fatigue and severe muscle pain. I also suffer from brain fog and a long list of other ailments that come with these chronic conditions.

As well as the physical problems, there are the practical ones. Overnight, I went from being financially independent to completely relying on the state and my parents to survive.

So, my primary concern for this General Election is what the different parties have to say about the support they will offer for those living with disabilities and, specifically, how they regard the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which replaced the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

For me and others with disability, PIP is a very important benefit that helps us to cope with our day to day living and mobility costs. I found it shocking that this financial lifeline is at risk by some parties who want to make it even tougher and more restrictive for claimants.

The Liberal Democrats’s compassionate policies to support carers and those with disabilities is head and shoulders above other parties

The Conservative Party, for example, are proposing to abolish the PIP benefit and replace it with a voucher system that can limit where and how we use the money.

It would mean, for example, that I could no longer buy essential vitamins, which are not covered by the NHS or the new voucher scheme. Nor could I use my benefit to go to North Cyprus, where the climate helps to improve my condition and why I can obtain affordable private healthcare.

Sir Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

As we all know, the NHS is crumbling and many patients face a long wait for vital treatment and even then, we sadly receive minimal support for chronic conditions. By going to North Cyprus, I can overcome these long queues and buy treatment to help curb my pain, which ends up costing the state far less and frees up space for other NHS patients.

Removing the freedom for people like me to choose how to use these funds is just a further insult to disabled people and adds to our disadvantages.

I would gladly work then have to depend on state benefits, but the simple matter is I can’t.

Yes, there are people that play the system, who ruin it for the ones that truly need it. They need to be weeded out! But this option — to punish the truly vulnerable, who are in need of financial support — isn’t the way forward.

As lifelong Conservative party voters, for the first time my family and I will be voting for another party at this election.

One of the parties that has really stood positively on this issue is the Liberal Democrats. They have a leader, Ed Davey, who really understands disability as his own child is wheelchair bound. He has also pledged to support the thousands of carers that are unpaid looking after loved ones. Their compassionate policies to support carers and those with disabilities is head and shoulders above other parties, with several, including Labour, being very vague on their PIP proposals.

Below is an extract from a recent BBC article on disability, which summarises the parties’ positions and policies on this matter.

It’s vital people with disabilities study these careful and make sure their vote counts at this election.

What the parties say:

The Liberal Democrats say they will give disabled people and organisations representing them a stronger voice in the design of benefits policies and processes. They will bring work capability assessments in-house, reform PIP assessments to make the process more transparent and stop unnecessary reassessments, and end the use of informal assessments.

The Greens say they will restore the value of disability benefits, with an immediate uplift of 5%. They will reform intrusive eligibility tests like PIP and the unfair targeting of carers and disabled people on benefits. And in the long term, introduce a universal basic income to give everybody the security to start a business, study, train and live their life in dignity.

Labour want to work with local areas to create plans to support more disabled people and those with health conditions into work. They will devolve funding so local areas can shape a joined-up work, health, and skills offer for local people. While they pledge to tackle a backlog of Access to Work claims, they do not say anything about benefits such as PIP.

Reform UK says PIP and work capability assessments should be face-to-face. They will require independent medical assessments to prove eligibility for payments. Those registered with severe disabilities or serious long-term illnesses would be exempt from regular checks.

The Conservatives say they will reform benefits to stop a projected rise in PIP payouts. But the manifesto does not give details of changes beyond pledging a “more objective” assessment of an individual’s needs. They say they will make the assessment process simpler and fairer for those with the most severe conditions.


Guest writer for T-VINE. Name and address supplied.


Main image, top, stock image of a woman in pain in bed. Photo © Murat Deniz / iStock