I’ve often watched political programmes such as Question Time and thought, ‘What sort of people apply to be in the audience?’ Well last night I found out at the Battle for Number 10 event on Channel 4 and Sky News.
I applied and was lucky enough to get chosen and got to put a question to David Cameron.
The audience were all gathered together a couple of hours before the programme began and we were all quite nervous and excited. I had many great conversations with people discussing our particular issues and sharing our views.
Why did I want to take part?
Despite there being 11 million disabled people in the UK, we hardly ever see disabled people in the media and our issues are seldom discussed by politicians.
As we head towards a General Election it is vital that all candidates are aware of the issues of concern to their disabled constituents. Jobs, good social care and support, access and improving attitudes are key concerns for all disabled people and we must see improvements in all of these areas if disabled people are to play our role in British life.
It was great watching Paxman do his usual grilling. I was question five on the list and as I was listening to the other questioners I suddenly forgot what I had planned to ask! Inside I was in such a panic as everything just fell out of my head. Thankfully, as Kay Burley called out my name everything just came back to me.
I was very encouraged by Mr Cameron’s response on employment. He didn’t know I worked for Scope but I was delighted when he adopted our goal of halving the disability employment gap by the end of the next parliament. This means a million more disabled people getting into work! That is such a fantastic goal and a truly transformative measure.
The challenge now, for whoever leads the next government, is to make this goal a reality. It’s an ambitious goal. The Prime Minister is right – some of the answer lies in improving attitudes of employers. But we also need more flexible workplaces; more personalised back to work support; and Government programmes to boost jobs and growth must focus supporting more disabled people in work. We’ve set out our policy ideas.
In the coming weeks I would encourage everyone to speak with all their parliamentary candidates and remind them of the key issues affecting disabled people. I got on this programme by simply applying online and I was very lucky in having my question chosen. I would urge more disabled people to apply to be a part of similar programmes where key issues of the day are discussed. Too often disabled people are invisible in the media and our voices go unheard. We can change that but we have to be willing to play our part and get involved at every opportunity.
So who will get my vote? Well that’s a secret I’m keeping until 7 May - but I’ll certainly be voting. We all should.