The onset of a new general election is an exciting time for many, and not least for the people we support.
But sadly, there are often misconceptions around people with learning disabilities and autism’s right to vote – even sometimes among themselves.
But everyone has the right to vote – and that’s why we launched our Love Your Vote campaign to help the people we support become more politically engaged.
Since then, we’ve had some incredible success stories. Two years ago, 68 old Barry voted for the first time in his entire life. He has severe learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, quadriplegia and is non-verbal. But, with support from his team and polling station staff he was able to cast his vote.
Yesterday, 8 June 2017, an entire group of residents who live at Grace Court, a supported living service in Darlington, have made their way down to their local polling station to, for some of them, cast their vote for the very first time.
Andrew and Debbie have been supported by Dimensions for years and have always been supported to vote. They were thrilled to be role models.
Tony hadn’t voted before. He accompanied the others to see what it was like, without wanting to vote himself. But once he was there, he changed his mind. He said he wanted to get his voice heard.
Elle is 19 and didn’t understand her rights before we started supporting her. Elle was concerned about talking to strangers so was pleased that she didn’t have to talk to anyone and found it easier than expected.
In preparation for the big day, they were pleased to have had visits from local labour and conservative MPs to discuss the upcoming election and create a dialogue around the wants and needs of people with learning disabilities and autism in the local area.
Similarly, their support staff at the service put on a number of workshops around the general election in prepeartion for the MP’s visits.
The day was a great success for the group who were supported by members of staff to vote – and they’re far from the only ones.
We are proud to say that today, all around the country, we have supported people with learning disabilities and autism to have their say in the future of how this country is ran.