In a series of interviews, Able Magazine is speaking to the major political parties about disability issues and the forthcoming General Election
Star Anderton is a UKIP Councillor and herself a wheelchair user. She was interviewed by Able Magazine editor, Tom Jamison.
Why might disabled people choose to vote for UKIP in the General Election?
Well by voting for UKIP, at least they will have somebody that is disabled and understands a lot of the problems and issues that they’re going through. Even if I’m elected as an MP I’ll still be a disability spokesman and I’ll still fight for everyone that comes to me for help. Obviously I known the system and have to live with it too.
To look at the way disabled people are treated, and the cuts that they’re making is just too much. There are so many people out there that will be losing their jobs and their independence because they have their Motability vehicles removed from them. So it’s taking them out of the workplace and out of the way of Society, because they’re trapped indoors. That is a hideous thing for everybody; we need to be within Society.
What might you do regarding cuts to welfare and increasing disability awareness, disability confidence and so on?
What I would try to do would be get at least one person from every political party, who’s on the front bench, to go around London for a day in a wheelchair being pushed by one of their colleagues just so that they can see just how difficult it is to get around the Capital. I hope that they would rise to that challenge so that they can understand it a little more and see it from our side and realise how vulnerable you are when you have a disability when you are out in big crowds.
We would also get rid of the assessment companies as per our 2015 manifesto pledge, we would remove Atos, Capita and Maxima and we would return it so that your own GP or your specialist would give a report based on all your medical evidence: the things they know that are wrong with you and the things they know you are and aren’t capable of because they see more of you. Then I think the Personal Independence Payments could actually work.
There are lots of people that will immediately say that GP’s are over-burdened as it is. If you’re going to do it properly, you’re not going to get this done in a 10 minute appointment – and that’s if you’re lucky enough to get to see somebody at all.
I understand that but each GP surgery won’t have millions of people, it will be concentrated just on the area that they serve. Then with the forms, what could be done is it could be a simple ‘Can they do this?’, ‘Can they do that?’… What is your assessment? And then that goes to a decision maker. Decision makers would have to be somebody who has some medical training and knowledge. (Currently) they don’t necessarily understand what they are, they are just people who are sat behind a desk and might need to Google some of the symptoms. So we need somebody in the DWP who actually understands what it all is and then we will get a better outcome.
I’m not saying we could do all this in 10 minutes and I’m under no illusion that UKIP is going to beat the Government but what I can do is try is try to push through reforms.
Clearly, your moment in the sun was the EU Referendum result. What would Brexit mean for disabled people and how would you want to influence the negotiations, moving forward to get the best outcome for those people.
We will be following up everything we can with Brexit and after Brexit we will see that disabled people will not feel or be discriminated any more than they were under EU law because we have the United Nations International Human Rights Act. We would be looking to use that as a template which I think is a stronger, more rigid and more caring way of dealing with everything that is under EU law. I go over to Brussels and I’ve travelled abroad and honestly the facilities for disabled people, especially in Brussels itself are completely disgraceful. If the EU is all so wonderful and good then why is the city they’re based in not disabled friendly? They don’t even follow their own rules, so they don’t do what they say, so what is the point of the EU?
Why has no political party really ever taken an interest in gaining the votes of what could be anything up to 18 million votes from disabled people?
I have no idea… I think that a lot of it is to do with the media. I’ve been a spokesperson for six years and I’ve rarely been asked to do anything because they don’t want to know. UKIP actually has policies – and a person, who wants to get this at the front and centre of things. How can we have integration like we all want if some of us are barred from integrating, because we can’t leave our homes? It’s got to be that we push more for disability to be in the top spot but whenever there is a budget or press release or anything else they never think about the disabled people or their carers.
I put in as a policy idea that family carers get £62.70 now. They have got to do 35 hours of caring; that’s a full week’s work. Eventually, when there is enough money, I think it should be that we encourage more people to care for their relatives at home because they will all be happier if we pay them a living wage for 35 hours. That would take so much pressure off the NHS and it’s cheaper than care homes.
What do you make of the Conservative manifesto pledges regarding social care?
I don’t have much say on it, I wish I did because we need that care but they won’t invest in it; just like they won’t invest in mental health. We keep pushing for things but we are having these things flung in our face every time we mention it.
Is your party leader, Paul Nuttall, invested in disabled people? I have never heard him mention disability…
I haven’t either and it’s something I will be pressing him on but I’m not in the Westminster or the Brussels bubble like all my other colleagues because I’m a councillor and I’m sat here in the Midlands away from everyone.
I’ll tell you what else has gone missing: Strictly it wasn’t your bus – but you know what I’m going to say, don’t you?
The £350million… That was actually not our bus, it was the one that the other leave campaign used. It was then the three major players and I know that Douglas Carswell went on that bus – and we all know why now, don’t we? It was actually that campaign that went around saying they can put that money into the NHS. I wish they would.
Here’s the weird reality: we have the money, were the fifth biggest economy in the World. It is not being spent in helpful places for disabled people. Can you influence those decisions strongly enough to make these changes? You have got to be realistic, let’s say there’s a handful UKIP MPs in your best case scenario…
Best case scenario is two or three.
Is that voice going to be shouting out those requests when there are so many other demands?
Well, the more they try to shut me up and say no, the more I push. I’m determined. I have had to be. I brought three children up whilst going through university and becoming a solicitor. I know about determination, I know about pushing myself and I know about making my point and making sure I do as I promise: which is to fight for disabled people all over the country.