People with learning disabilities have hit back at comments made by a Tory candidate that they should be paid less than minimum wage as ‘they don’t understand money’.
Sally-Ann Hart, the Conservative candidate for Hastings and Rye, was met with jeers and boos as she suggested paying disabled people less at a hustings event.
Ms Hart, who is also a councillor for Rother District Council, said: ‘They should be given the opportunity to work because it’s to do with the happiness they have about working.’
She added: ‘Some people with learning disabilities, they don’t understand about money.’
Denise Bowles, 37, from Derbyshire, has a mild learning disability and told Metro.co.uk that Ms Hart’s comments were ‘totally disrespectful’.
She said: ‘I feel that she was disrespectful towards people with learning disabilities, some of them do work and they earn money for the work that they do and just because they “don’t understand money” doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be paid.
‘To me, I don’t think Sally really understands what it’s like for people with learning disabilities.
‘I don’t think she knows anyone with one, because she would know that’s not a nice thing to say.’
Denise works with Inclusion North, based in Leeds, helping other people with learning disabilities and poor mental health to move out of hospital or treatment centres and live in the community independently.
She said: ‘I work, and I love my job, and I understand money.
‘I do Care and Treatment Reviews – we are the ones that try to help them get out of the bad situations they are in. We are their last resort.
‘I enjoy it because I feel that it is important and helpful.
‘I feel part of a team and I try my best to be a voice for people with learning disabilities.
‘I also totally understand money. I even have the Barclays app on my phone and I know from there what I’m spending and saving.’
Denise added: ‘All people in employment should be paid the same and those who have a learning disability should not be paid less.’
Ciara Lawrence, Campaigns Support Officer at the learning disability charity Mencap, also has a learning disability and said she should be able to have a meaningful job and be paid the same as anybody else.
She said: ‘People with a learning disability, like me, can work and can make really fantastic employees with the right support.
‘We have a right to be treated and paid equally – it’s the law.
‘I’m proof that with the right support people with a learning disability can make some of the best and most committed employees.
‘Work for me is more than just a job, it has helped me increase my independence – I am married and am now saving to buy my first home.’
She added: ‘We should be sending out the message to people with a learning disability that they can work and be paid equally for it.
‘I want to work with all political candidates to help educate them about what a learning disability is and what people with a learning disability can achieve with the right support.’
In a statement, Sally-Ann Hart said: ‘For the avoidance of doubt, I was trying to emphasise that more needs to be done to help those with learning disabilities into the workplace and having properly paid work.
‘My comments have been taken out of context, but I do apologise if any offence or alarm has been caused.
‘The number of disabled people in work has hit a record high under this government, and I am committed to doing more to supporting those with learning disabilities into good, secure jobs.’
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