Tory says disabled people should be paid less as 'they don't understand money'
A Tory candidate has been filmed telling a hustings event that people with learning disabilities 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 by a horrified audience as she defended sharing an article that suggested paying disabled people less.
She was asked by a member of the audience to defend sharing the article on her Facebook page.
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.’
As the audience shouted ‘shameful’ and ‘they deserve a salary’, she responded: ‘Some people with learning disabilities, they don’t understand about money.’
During her response she repeated: ‘It’s about the happiness to work.’
She added: ‘It’s about having a therapeutic exemption and the article was in support of employing people with learning disabilities, that is what it was.’
A member of the audience was heard shouting: ‘I’m autistic, and I want to get paid for the work I do’ while another man shouted ‘how patronising, how dare you’.
It is understood the article being referred to was published by The Spectator in 2017 and written by Rosa Monckton, whose daughter has Downs Syndrome.
She founded a charity, Team Domenica, and in her article spoke about a ‘therapeutic exemption’ to the minimum wage, to help people with learning disabilities find and maintain work.
Jo Gracie, executive director of Team Domenica, said: ‘Rosa’s views remain separate from the charity’s and I would like to clarify that Team Domenica has not called for, or campaigned for a therapeutic exemption.
‘All of our candidates in paid work are paid the minimum wage or above.’
She said Ms Monckton is in an ‘all-day meeting today’ and unfortunately unavailable to speak but made clear ‘she has not said that people with a learning disability should be paid less because they don’t understand money’.
Metro.co.uk has also learnt that Sally-Ann Hart has been a governor at Ark Hastings Primary Academies – which support children with learning disabilities and special educational needs – for six years.
A spokesperson for the schools said: ‘All of our governors are volunteers and come from different backgrounds with different views that don’t necessarily reflect those of the school.
‘They are united in their goal of working together with our schools to ensure that all of our pupils have access to the best possible education and opportunities in life.’
People with learning disabilities, as well as charity groups, have condemned Ms Hart’s comments as ‘totally disrespectful’.
James Taylor, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs at disability equality charity, Scope, said: ‘These opinions are outdated, inexcusable, and should be consigned to history.
‘Disabled people should be paid equally for the work that they do.
‘There are a million disabled people who want to work, but are denied the opportunity. We need urgent action from the next Government to make sure disabled people can get into work, stay in work and thrive in work.’
Ciara Lawrence, Campaigns Support Officer at the learning disability charity Mencap and who has a learning disability, 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.
‘We should be sending out the message to people with a learning disability that they can work and be paid equally for it.’
And Emma Kearns, Head of Enterprise and Employment at the National Autistic Society said: ‘Disabled people are as entitled to full pay as anyone else.
‘There are 700,000 autistic people in the UK and many of them are able and ready to work. Despite this, only 16% of them are in full time employment.
‘Finding work and work environments can be challenging for autistic people.
‘Conventional interviews, with unpredictable questions from a group of strangers, and the unspoken social rules in the workplace can be hugely stressful.
‘This means that businesses need to be ready to make reasonable adjustments for autistic people, but 60% of employers would worry about getting support for an autistic person wrong.
‘With more understanding, support and the right information, autistic and other disabled people can thrive and reach their full potential.’
In a statement, Ms 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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