Election 2015: What are the parties pledging?

With the general election just weeks away, most of the larger political parties have now published their manifestos. But what are they promising on some of the key issues for people affected by MS?

We look at how the ConservativeGreenLabourLiberal Democrat and UK Independence Party manifestos stack up on health, social care and welfare.

Who will invest in the NHS?

All of the parties devoted significant page space to their vision for the NHS. However, there were differing commitments over funding. The NHS Five Year Forward View, supported by six regulatory and statutory health and care bodies, has provided a clear indication of the level of investment the NHS needs. They recommend a further £8 billion a year in additional funding, alongside significant efficiency savings.

Both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties pledged to invest the full £8 billion in line with the report. The Green Party and UKIP also made significant investment commitments. However, not all parties were clear as to where this money would come from. Labour used their manifesto to set out their own vision for a much more closely integrated health and care system, pledging a £2.5 billion investment to achieve this.  

Access to treatments and specialists remains a huge issue for people with MS. Only a properly funded system will ensure that people with MS get the treatment, care and support they need when they need it. With differing views over how much and where to get the money from, it's likely that questions over funding will continue well into the next Government, regardless of the party (or parties) in power.

Is social care 'the ghost at the feast'?

The King’s Fund reported yesterday that ‘social care funding has become the ghost at the feast of this election campaign’. The Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have noted that there will be a £4.3 billion black hole in the social care system by 2020. This funding gap is causing a huge amount of pressure on social care services.

However, there was no mention of the need for investment in social care in the manifestos of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, although other parties committed to various degrees of additional funding. All parties pledged to work to join up services and better integrate health and social care.

One thing is clear, if left untouched, social care will be one of the next Government’s biggest challenges. It must tackle this issue head on and work to create a social care system where people affected by MS can access the right care and support.

Welfare spending overhaul

There was a mixed bag of commitments over welfare. The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour focused on cutting costs by supporting a cap on welfare spending. The Conservatives went further, pledging to cut a further £12 billion from the welfare budget, but did not identify which aspects of the welfare system would be targeted.

Both Labour and UKIP pledged to reform the Work Capability Assessment. The Liberal Democrats pledged to review DLA and PIP and invest to clear the backlogs. The Green Party said they would invest £1 billion a year into PIP. They plan to remove all existing benefit schemes except housing and disability benefits, and replace them with a new non-means tested ‘basic income’.

What next?

These manifestos are the parties' statements of intent, and there are more to come. However with a coalition government looking ever more likely, they may be more of a starting point for hard-line negotiations than a mandate for the next government. 

If you haven’t already, please support the MS: Voice for Change campaign and help get MS on the political agenda in the run up to the election. You can write directly to your local candidates and tell them what matters to you.

Read the manifestos

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