Hastings and Rye Conservative candidate booed for comments about some people with learning difficulties

The Conservative candidate for Hastings and Rye was booed at a hustings event for comments she made about some people with learning difficulties.

At the hustings event, on Thursday evening (December 5), Sally-Ann Hart was asked about an article she had previously shared onto her Facebook.

Sally-Ann Hart MP

Sally-Ann Hart MP

The article was published by the Spectator in 2017 and was written by Rosa Monckton, who has a daughter with Downs Syndrome.

When asked by a member of the audience if she would like to defend sharing the article, Sally-Ann Hart said: “It was about people with learning difficulties – about them being given the opportunity to work because it’s to do with the happiness they have about working.

“Some people with learning difficulties don’t understand about money. It is about having a therapeutic exemption and the article was in support of employing people with learning disabilities. That’s what it was about.”

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The comments were met with boos and jeers from the large crowd while some were heard shouting ‘shame’.

A video of the response has been widely circulated on social media.

On Friday (December 6), 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.”

In response, 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.

“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.”