Inaccessible politics discouraged 2 in every 3 people with a learning disability from voting in local elections last May*
Last week, 17 students with a learning disability from the College of North West London, in Wembley, took part in a lively Rock Enrol! workshop, where they discussed what they care about and learned how to make their voices heard in the General Election.
The workshop was part of Mencap’s Me and My Vote project, which aims to help people with a learning disability register to vote and use their vote on what matters to them. As part of the project, Mencap has adapted the government’s Rock Enrol! initiative – an interactive resource which aims to encourage all young people to register to vote – for young people with a learning disability.
The Rock Enrol! workshop was run by Vijay Patel, a Mencap Ambassador for the Me and My Vote project who has a learning disability, and Laura Truswell, Me and My Vote project manager.
27-year-old Mencap Ambassador Vijay Patel (pictured), said:
“I have found delivering the Rock Enrol! sessions as a great way to be able to get people with a learning disability interested to vote so that they are able to have their voices heard.”
The session was filled with lively debate. The group did a mock election and some students were stopped from voting in an effort to show how important being able to vote is. When they were asked how it felt to be excluded, they were frustrated that they couldn’t vote for the candidate who stood for what mattered to them the most.
The group then discussed how they would spend the country’s money if they were in government. They talked about important areas like education, the police, healthcare, sport and welfare. The group were then challenged to balance the country’s books during an economic crisis and they experienced first-hand the hard choices governments have to make.
After the session, the students said that they understood more about voting. Some students said:
“After the session I had a letter at home about the Election. Because of the session I knew what it was about”.
“It was entertaining, I learnt how to vote. In my next lesson with my tutor he helped me to register so I can now vote”.
“It helped me to learn about voting. I enjoyed doing the voting activity”.
Research for Mencap’s general election campaign, Hear my voice, shows that a culture of inaccessible politics discouraged 2 in every 3 people with a learning disability from voting in local elections last May*.
Laura Truswell, project manager for Mencap’s Me and My Vote, explains why it is important for young people with a learning disability to use their vote:
“Too many people with a learning disability don’t vote. Why? Because the voter registration process is too complicated, the language politicians use to talk about what they stand for is confusing, and some people are even wrongly turned away from the polling station on Election Day.
“It was great to see so many young people with a learning disability passionately discussing what they care about and how they would run the country. They spoke about everything from education to transport. With a culture of inaccessible politics to tackle, it is so important to help young people with a learning disability to understand why their vote is important and how they can use it to make a difference. This was one of the first voting workshops in the country for young people with a learning disability and we have now reached more that 40 young people with plans to reach many more.”
Nick Madejczyk, Advanced Practitioner at College of North West London, said:
“It was a lively, interactive way to explain the importance of registering to vote. Vijay, the Mencap ambassador and Laura, engaged the learners with humour and reasons for the importance of voting. This was a great way to allow learners to experience the process of voting and to encourage them to engage actively in an important right as citizens of the UK.”
For more information about how to get involved with Mencap’s Rock Enrol! workshops, visit: www.mencap.org.uk/rockenrol
About Me and My Vote
Mencap, along with five other organisations, was awarded funding by the Cabinet Office to encourage voter registration amongst those who feel most distant from the political process. Through the Me and My Vote project, Mencap will aim to ensure people with a learning disability have their important voice heard in government.
There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. www.mencap.org.uk For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org