Voters demand action from government to end learning disability discrimination

mencap_logoPoliticians must wake up to learning disability as an election issue, as Mencap launches General Election campaign

  • 9 in 10 Brits think the next UK government should take steps to tackle learning disability discrimination
  • 8 in 10 Brits deem real-life experiences where people with a learning disability are commonly discriminated against as ‘unacceptable’
  • Consensus of voters across all political parties think the next government should tackle learning disability discrimination
  • The Edge (U2) adds his voice to thousands already supporting campaign

A new poll of public opinion by Mencap has highlighted a huge strength of feeling from the general public on the need for urgent action to tackle learning disability discrimination and exclusion. This feeling spans all of the electorate ahead of the 2015 General Election, no matter which party they intend to vote for or which part of the country they are from.

Over 8 in 10 people labeled ‘unacceptable’ a number of real-life experiences where people with a learning disability and their families were discriminated against. These are everyday experiences that people tell Mencap about on a daily basis, such as being a victim of violent hate crime or being illegally excluded from school.

And in a warning shot to politicians, 88% said that the UK government should be held responsible for tackling these dreadful situations, with 90% thinking the next government should actively tackle them.

The Populus poll of 2,062 British adults marks the launch of Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign. The campaign has given rise to a Manifesto which presents the issues that matter the most to people with a learning disability and their families, and on which they want to see the next government act. These include healthcare, hate crime and education.

Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive of Mencap, said:

“This is a landmark moment for learning disability. Our poll shows that people with a learning disability and their families have the overwhelming support of the British public, who believe they should have the same chances in life as anybody else. And far from being a niche issue, 40% of the general public are in contact with someone with a learning disability on a regular basis.

“Politicians of all ilks should be ashamed that in 21st century Britain, some of the most vulnerable children and adults in our society get poor healthcare, are victims of horrendous hate crimes, and don’t get access to good state education. The British public finds this unacceptable. We hope that Hear my voice – our campaign to empower people with a learning disability to talk to candidates who are standing for election about the issues that are most important to them – will help increase awareness of what needs to change. There is public demand to bring about this change – candidates must listen.”

The launch of the Manifesto is a milestone in the charity’s Hear my voice campaign. The campaign aims to ensure the next government addresses the key issues facing the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK and their families by giving these individuals a platform to make their voices heard.

Ciara Lawrence has a learning disability and is a campaigns assistant for Mencap. Ciara says:

“People with a learning disability – people like me – often feel like we’re not good enough, like we’re second class citizens. Why? Because we are discriminated against every single day and made to feel like we’re different and don’t belong.

“It’s frightening that 1,200 people with a learning disability die needlessly in the NHS every single year. Over half of disabled people have been victims of violence and hate crime. And thousands of people are stuck in places like Winterbourne View, where they are miles and miles away from their families and at risk of abuse.

“It is really important that the voices of people with a learning disability are listened to, because we are the experts in what matters to us. I have a right to make decisions about my own life, just like everyone else does. I’m going to be talking to my local candidates and making sure they listen to what matters to me. Now that the public is behind us, our candidates have to take notice.”

The Edge from U2 is an ambassador for Mencap. Learning disability is close to his heart as Ciara Lawrence (above) is his cousin. He is supporting the charity’s Hear my voice campaign:

“As a relative, I’ve seen first-hand all of the challenges that Ciara has faced. As a young teen, I was always concerned that because she was so trusting and outgoing, she was wide-open to the cruelty of other people. When Ciara was at school, she suffered terrible bullying, and it makes me so angry knowing how much pain she went through.

“She has barreled through a lot of nasty stuff by sheer strength of personality – I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I know at times she is challenged but, as an advocate for other people like her, she has the balls to walk up to a politician and tell them how it is. I’m involved in Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign, because I think it’s important for people like Ciara to have their say on what matters to them and that politicians sit up and listen.”

Mencap will be launching the Manifesto to MPs and candidates at the House of Commons this Wednesday (10 September) between 4-6pm. Speakers at the event will include Mencap’s president, Lord Brian Rix, three Mencap Young Ambassadors and case studies whose experiences are included in the Manifesto.

For more information about Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign and Manifesto, visit: www.hear-my-voice.org.uk (note: goes live on Monday 8 September 2014).

About Mencap

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

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