Three disabled people have been selected to attend the autumn party conferences of the UK’s three major political parties for a scheme run by the campaigning charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.
Bethan Gregson of Luton, Jackie Postance of West Sussex and Simon Stevens of Coventry will be supported by the charity to attend the Party Conferences.
Bethan, who will be going to the Conservative conference, developed fibromyalgia as an adult and has had very varying experiences of accessing social care. She is an active disability campaigner and is on the board of Healthwatch Luton. She is hoping to raise her particular concerns about welfare and social care in her meetings with MPs, to discuss how these can be reformed.
Bethan said: “I’d like to engage MPs in discussions about looking at disabled people differently, to invest money, time, commitment and being open to considering the talents, knowledge, skills and strengths disabled people can bring to work and society.”
Jackie will be at the Liberal Democrat conference. Over the years she has been involved in local campaigns to make transport and services accessible to disabled people, and played a part in a successful national campaign to persuade the Government to retain a vital part of Disability Living Allowance for disabled people living in residential care.
She said: “There are two key issues I would like to bring up with politicians in September. Firstly, I want to discuss with them the impact that the new Personal Independence Payment will have on disabled people, because far fewer people will be eligible for this important allowance. I also want to raise the urgent issue of reforming the social care system, which is in crisis. In particular, I want to see politicians taking action to put a stop to 15 minute home visits, which are far too short for carers to get anything done and deny people their dignity.”
Simon Stevens, an experienced disability consultant who has cerebral palsy, will be attending the Labour conference. He will be focusing on social care, offering advice and suggestions to MPs based on his own experience of receiving support from carers.
Simon said: “I would like to feed back my experiences of social care to MPs and stress the importance of focusing on the issues that working age adults face, not just older people. It is vital that governments recognise the support and personal care needs of working age adults.”
Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Their scheme, Access All Areas, was designed to open up the party conferences to a group of people who might otherwise never get the opportunity to go. It will ensure politicians hear directly from disabled people about the issues that matter to them.
Party conferences are annual events where MPs, MEPs, local councillors, policy advisers and ordinary party members gather to debate and vote on policies and hear their leaders speak.
Emma Lindsay, National Campaigns Manager at Leonard Cheshire Disability said: “We hope that our three campaigners will benefit from this unique experience and get to raise the issues that are important to them with representatives from each political party.
“Not many people get to attend party conferences but for many disabled people in particular the costs of attending are totally prohibitive. Not only are disabled people far more likely to live below the poverty line than non-disabled people, but many also face additional costs, for example paying for support workers, that mean that attending conferences is not feasible. Politics affects everyone; we hope that this is a small step towards making it more accessible to everyone too.”
Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries. Visit www.LCDisability.org