What match is there between political parties’ election manifestos and NSUN’s 2019 manifesto? A bird’s eye view
The manifestos particularly considered have been those from the Conservative and Unionist Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat Party.
In a nutshell, the manifestos address points one and four of NSUN’s manifesto (the impact of austerity measures and inequality issues), though the amount of coverage varies between the parties. There is slight coverage, too, of point five (informed choice). However, all three manifestos fall well short of meeting point two in NSUN’s manifesto (bringing coercion to an end). They also lack an emphasis on point three (co-production and user-led services) and point six (promoting survivor knowledge and research).
A detailed breakdown of the three political party manifestos over against NSUN’s manifesto
1. Campaign against the injustice and harm caused by cuts to public funding and welfare benefits
The Conservative and Unionist Party manifesto: This contains very limited, relevant material. However, the Party describes itself as ‘proud … of our record in helping to reduce global poverty’ (p. 53). The manifesto also contains a pledge to address social care issues.
The Labour Party manifesto: This includes some extensive, relevant coverage, including a commitment to scrap Universal Credit, draw on UNCRPD thinking in place of rhetoric about ‘scroungers’, build extensive, publicly funded social housing and address the social care crisis.
The Liberal Democrat Party manifesto: This also contains detailed material about austerity issues, though at a somewhat less fundamental level than is found in the Labour party’s manifesto.
2. Challenge the abuse and coercion that continues under mental health legislation and work to ensure that people understand and can enforce their rights under the UNCRPD
None of the three manifestos is compliant with the UNCRPD – none refers to bringing in law which will draw substitute decision-making, detention in psychiatric hospitals and forced treatment to an end, with the necessary resources put in place to make that possible.
The Conservative and Unionist Party manifesto: This is the least specific manifesto. It refers to ‘treating mental health with the same urgency as physical health, and legislating to give people ‘greater control over their treatment’ and ‘the dignity and respect they deserve’ (p.11), but makes no allusion as such to implementing the Mental Health Act Review recommendations.
The Labour Party manifesto: The Labour Party material comes across in an unclear/muddled way. On the one hand, there is reference to implementing ‘in full’ the Mental Health Act Review recommendations (pp. 33-34) and a ‘firm commitment’ to the Human Rights Act (p.65) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). On the other hand, the manifesto talks of giving ‘effect to the UNCRPD and amending the Equality Act to reflect the social model of disability’ (p.74). There seems to be a lack of recognition that the human rights in the UNCRPD go much further than the Mental Health Act Review recommendations and the Human Rights Act, both of which are based on the ECHR.
The Liberal Democrat Party manifesto: This also makes a commitment to implementing ‘all the recommendations of the Wessely Review of the Mental Health Act’ (p.55). A pledge not found in the other two manifestos is to ensure that Assessment and Treatment Units for people with learning difficulties are closed urgently. However, the manifesto draws on the EHRC and the Human Rights Act, which, unlike the UNCRPD, allow for continuing detention in psychiatric hospitals and forced treatment.
3. Actively promote the need to work with us in decisions about strategy, commissioning and how services are provided, as well as the need for services to be user-led
None of the three manifestos puts an emphasis on this. They are, therefore, non-compliant with the UNCRPD in this respect as well.
4. Challenge personal, institutional and structural inequalities, injustices, disadvantages and discrimination for everyone with experience of mental distress/trauma
Conservative and Unionist Party manifesto: This contains little material relevant to the inequality concerns set out in NSUN’s manifesto. However, the Party describes the UK as having ‘’long been a beacon of freedom and human rights’ in helping to end the slave trade and tackling modern slavery (p.53). There is reference to supporting the construction of a UK Holocaust memorial. There are also pledges to address worldwide equality issues, for example to support ‘marginalised communities in the developing world’. In terms of immigration, the Party plans to use the Australian points-based system.
The Labour Party manifesto: This includes a commitment to setting up a new Department for Women and Equalities. The manifesto contains some quite detailed material on equality issues for several, but not all marginalised groups, in particular for women, people from black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities, disabled people and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender plus people. The need to tackle injustices in the current immigration system and to respect international legal obligations to refugees is also recognised.
The Liberal Democrat Party manifesto: This has an emphasis on equality issues as well, but with less detailed coverage of particular groups of marginalised people and again with an emphasis on the EHRC and the Human Rights Act, not on the UNCRPD.
5. Promote people’s right to informed choice so that people are in a position to understand their difficulties in whatever way they choose and to access the support that they find best
Essentially, none of the three manifestos covers informed choice, nor do they address people’s right to understand their difficulties in their own way and to access support which they find genuinely helpful. The Conservative and Unionist manifesto does not give weight to the possibility of varied models and approaches. Whilst the Labour manifesto recognises a social model, not just the more dominant clinical model, it makes no mention of independent living under Article 19 of the UNCRPD. The Liberal Democrat manifesto rests essentially on a medical model.
6. Promote the validity and vital role of survivor knowledge and research.
None of the three manifestos has a focus on this.
Here are the three manifesto reports: