Ann-Marie Armstrong is supported by Community Integrated Care, a national social care charity. She is also employed by the charity as a Peer Reviewer – someone who assesses the quality of life enjoyed by the people it supports. Ann-Marie and her Peer Reviewer colleagues have been leading a project within Community Integrated Care to encourage people supported by the charity to vote in the upcoming General Election. Here, she shares why she believes getting involved in the political process matters.
Why should people who receive support have the opportunity to vote? As someone who both receives support and is employed by Community Integrated Care, an organisation that promotes the empowerment of people who access support, the answer to this question is simple: because they have a right to.
My role as a Peer Reviewer requires me to assess the quality of life of people who may or may not have a verbal voice. I look at whether people are respected as the individual they are, making their own choices and living with true independence – and to me, this relates to voting too. Everyone receiving care and support – regardless of their disability, mental health concern or age – should be able to make their own choices about who they want to see elected on 7 May, if they so wish.
As equal UK citizens, we all have the right to have our voices heard, no matter what our personal needs may be. Not supporting people who can take part in the election to understand about it and make an informed choice about their participation is, to me, the same as taking away their right to vote.
Although not every person supported may understand the meaning of politics, which is the case for many people in the UK of all abilities, it’s important that they are made aware of both the positive and negative impact of the election of any party. Changes in government may well affect them individually or have an effect on people who receive care and support. If people are not informed about possible changes to the delivery of their care and consequentially their lives, how can they have a say?
I, like so many others, take it for granted that my political views are listened to if and when I choose to vote, but I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Too many people who access care and support are unnecessarily excluded from making this important choice.
I hope that on 7 May, many people who access care and support are enabled to have their say. Supporting people to vote will reinforce their sense of who they are, promote their own empowerment and help them know that they are valued, contributing citizens.
Community Integrated Care’s Peer Reviewers have developed a free guide for people who work in social care, offering their top tops on how best to enable people to vote. Download your copy at www.c-i-c.co.uk/promotingourvoting