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The learning disability vote is as important as ever

There’s another election on the horizon. So is registering to vote, and encouraging or supporting people to register to vote, high on your priority list just now? I very much hope it is.

Steve Scown, Dimensions CEO, blogs

Today social care remains something that attracts a lot of talk, and a passionate, committed workforce, but which continues to be secondary to the NHS in funding terms. And we just keep on waiting for our politicians to sort themselves out and propose a way forward.

There’s a million people with a learning disability in our country. There’s seven hundred thousand people with autism. There are hundreds of thousands of people working in social care. And there’s probably over 6m people with a direct family connection.

Every one of us has a legal right to vote. Together we could have a strong influential voice that could force our national and local politicians (I’m thinking especially of local councillors as these are local elections) to sit up and listen.

We can all influence change, locally and nationally

Locally, fewer and fewer people with learning disabilities and autism who really need help are being positively assessed. Contracts are being awarded that undervalue our highly skilled teams of life-changing support workers. (The love my colleagues tell me they have for supporting people to live fulfilling lives as equal citizens can never justify below-par pay.) How much further is funding going to be squeezed? How many more vital preventative services are going to be wiped out?

Nationally, why hasn’t the social care green paper seen the light of day? Why are we only now getting a consultation around learning disability training for health professionals? How has Transforming Care been allowed to drift along, leading to no meaningful change with so many people still unnecessarily locked-up?

Lots of people and organisations are working hard to make a difference. In my own organisation, we are training more and more learning disabled campaigners and spokespeople. We’re running training sessions in how to influence local and national politics. We’ve joined the debates arranged by the likes of Social Care Future. We’re campaigning on health and on hate crime – issues that the people we support have told us really matter to them.

Yet much of this hard work will count for nothing if people don’t vote. Whether we like it or not, politicians prioritise voters. If you don’t believe me, think of the last election, where the Conservatives ignored young voters, to their cost at the ballot box. You can be sure that issues relating to young people will be central to the next set of manifestos.

In short, if we don’t affect a politician’s chances of getting elected, we’ll continue to have things done to us, not for us.

We can all make politics more accessible

That’s why my ask – my plea is before the 12th April deadline – just 15 days away (from date written), is for you to register to vote, and if you support a person or people in any capacity – for example if you’re a family member or a support worker or manager, to encourage them to register to vote too.

Between then and the local elections on May 2nd please help them to consider which candidate is going to make the biggest difference for the causes that matter most to them.

Why not encourage and support people to email their local candidates to talk about what matters most to them and find out what they’re planning to do about those issues?

Unfortunately it’s been our experience that some polling station staff don’t understand what they have to do to help people with disabilities exercise their legal right to vote. That’s why we developed a Voting Passport.

So before election day on May 2nd, don’t forget to download and fill in your Voting Passport. It’ll be a great help in reminding polling station staff of the rights of people with learning disabilities and autism. It includes space to describe the reasonable adjustments that a person you’re supporting might need.

Together, let’s raise our voice at the ballot box.