GADCIL Hustings - the GPV Questions answered

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Greenwich Parent Voice attended the public GADCIL hustings on 29th April. We had time to put three questions to the Parliamentary Candidates who attended.

The questions and answers are published below.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to add to or edit the notes we took on their answers in advance of publication.

Labour: Matthew Pennycook
Lib Dem: Tom Holder
Conservative: Matt Hartley
Green: Philip Connolly standing in for the Green Party candidate.

Looking after a child with special needs is hard enough. For a single parent the struggle is even greater. How will your party support the efforts of single parents to reconcile the need to go to work with the extra demands of caring for their child ?

Matthew Pennycook for Labour
We will support families by expanding free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for working parents of three and four-year-olds, while doubling paid paternity leave for fathers. We will scrap the cruel and iniquitous bedroom tax that has hit half a million families, two thirds of whom are disabled, or have a disabled family member and we will end Job Centre sanction targets.

The Employment Act 2002 and the Equality Act 2010, both introduced by the last Labour Government gave carers and parents with disabled children greater rights including the right to apply for flexible working arrangements but we need to build on that record and ensure that parents of disabled children only return to work when they are able and that the right support is in place if they make this choice. Job Centres could do better to ensure that disabled people seeking employment get the right help and support including access to a fully-trained Disability Employment Advisor.

Lastly, we should also recognise the other contributions these parents make to their communities outside of paid employment.

Tom Holder for Liberal Democrats
I fully recognise the importance of paid work for all individuals, not just because of the economic benefits for the individual – and the country – but for the many personal boosts that paid and fulfilling work brings. And while the Lib Dem economic plans have created more jobs than anyone forecast, it is still not easy for some people to find work, and single parents of disabled children are doubly hit.

For this reason, as part of our manifesto we commit to developing a package of specialist support for carers seeking part-time work or a return to full-time employment. We will also improve incentives for Jobcentre staff and Work Programme providers to ensure there is real help for those furthest from the labour market.

And the Lib Dems will also deliver a reformed and improved Work Programme in partnership with local and devolved governments. By moving away from this centrally-imposed ‘one size fits all’ model we can ensure help and training are more tailored to local employment markets and better integrated with local services.

Matt Hartley for Conservatives
We need to address employers’ misconceptions. Employers should not discriminate against parents of disabled children. The role of an MP in these situations would be to take on individual cases.

Philip Connolly standing in for the Green Party candidate
Invest in high quality and affordable childcare.

Many families with disabled children are placed in unsuitable council and housing association housing. What will your party do to change this ?

Tom Holder for Liberal Democrats
Clearly the challenges faced by caring for disabled children are massively compounded when families are placed in unsuitable housing. A major part of this problem of course is due to the massive shortage of affordable housing around the country.

In part the housing problems in the UK – be it housing association, council, private – are caused by a simple lack of new homes being built and the Lib Dems have set out incredibly ambitious plans for housebuilding, 300,000 new homes a year. We will also be encouraging landlords in the private sector to lower their rents by paying them Housing Benefit directly, with tenants’ consent, in return for a fixed reduction.

The Lib Dems are also pledged to reform the Bedroom tax, bought in under the coalition but very much a Conservative-led initiative, so that people will not be pressured to move from homes where a significant level of customisation has already taken place.

Matthew Pennycook for Labour
At the root of this problem is a lack of genuinely affordable housing locally. Here in Greenwich we have 15,000 people on our housing waiting list. We will only change this if we protect the social homes we have and build more truly affordable social homes.
Over the last five years we’ve seen the lowest levels of house building in peacetime since the 1920s. The story is slightly different locally because London’s property market is booming but in too many cases in our community, development isn’t working for the majority and too many new developments are dominated by luxury housing, not only wholly unaffordable to most local residents but all too often sold ‘off plan’ as investment opportunities for overseas buyers.
As a result of its decision to slash the social housing budget in 2010 this Coalition Government has presided over a sharp drop in the construction of affordable housing. Nearly 40,000 social rented homes a year were built in 2009-10, the year before the coalition came to power, but that number has dropped to less than 4,000 in 2013-14. Instead, 30,000 affordable rent homes were built because the Coalition scrapped the longstanding system of funding new social rented housing in 2011, replacing it with a system in which landlords receive much smaller construction subsidies but are allowed to charge tenants up to 80 per cent of the local market rate, known as “affordable rents”.
In order to receive the funding to build new affordable rented homes, social landlords must also convert a certain number of existing social rented homes into “affordable rent”. More than 60,000 social rented homes have been lost in the past two years as a result of this policy. In some expensive housing markets — such as much of London — “affordable rents” can hit levels that are out of reach for the majority of households. Moreover, the “affordable” housing that is being delivered in our area is often poorly managed and subject to expensive service charges.
Moreover, rents have soared over recent years and many first time buyers have been priced out of the market. Homelessness and rough sleeping have both risen sharply.
I believe this urgently needs to be addressed. We need to:

• Build the homes Britain needs – and affordable homes in particular.
• Improve the quality and affordability of the private rented sector and to ensure that first-time buyers are able to get on the housing ladder.
• Reduce the extremely generous Right to Buy discounts that this Government have introduced. The last Labour Government reduced average discounts in London to around £19,000 but the Coalition raised the discounts to over £100,000 so we’ve seen more social homes sold off. I take no issue with people wanting to own their own home but we need to replace the social homes we lose in the process. At present we cannot – it currently takes three RTB sales to build every new social home. The overall effect is to reduce the amount of social homes we have.

A Labour Government will bring forward a range of measures to see at least 200,000 homes built per year by 2020 and will prioritise capital investment to build more social houses and homes for first time buyers. We will also give councils greater powers to build the homes they need and give private renters a fairer deal with more stable three-year tenancies, a ceiling on excessive rent rises and a ban on rip-off letting fees. 

Philip Connolly standing in for the Green Party candidate
Look at ways to make the allocation of housing fairer.

Matt Hartley for Conservatives
Currently the different departments aren’t working together well. We would improve the system so inter-department working is improved.


How do the candidates plan to improve equality of opportunity to disabled young people leaving school and entering employment?

Matt Hartley for Conservatives
We would expand the Disability Confident campaign.

Matthew Pennycook for Labour
The last Labour Government successfully narrowed the disability employment gap between 1997 and 2010 but progress has flatlined since. The gap is still far too big and more must now be done to close it. Labour will set up a new specialist Work Support programme to help disabled people into jobs. We will protect the role of specialist Disability Employment Advisers, and bring together resources from the Work Programme and Work Choice to deliver a new locally commissioned specialist employment programme for sick and disabled people.

Tom Holder for Liberal Democrats
While I am delighted with the continuing fall in youth unemployment from the shocking highs seen in 2010, there is of course a long way to go and disabled young people face more barriers than non-disabled youngsters in finding work.

To this end the Lib Dems would work to develop an NHS ‘student guarantee’, making it easier for students, particularly disabled students, to get care and support if at university. We would also seek funding to introduce a new Young Person’s Discount Card, for young people aged 16–21, giving a 2/3rds discount on bus travel, disabled young people in particular not being always able to access other means of transport. And we would build on our proud achievement of delivering over 2m apprenticeships, to both disabled and non-disabled young people, by working with the Apprenticeship Advisory Group to increase the number of apprentices from under-represented groups.

In many cases disabled youngsters may feel unable to cope with the immediate demands of an apprenticeship and we would continue to roll out work experience placements, tailored for those with disabilities or mental health problems. Finally the Lib Dems would raise awareness of, and seek to expand, Access to Work, which supports people of all ages with disabilities in work.

Philip Connolly standing in for the Green Party candidate
Green would set up an employment support budget for all to use, as needed.

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