Tom Pollard is a Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer at Mind
I was very excited to hear about the new Game Changers community. Since my involvement in the Common Cause ‘action learning process’ last year (which looked at how we can use ‘values’ and ‘frames’ in campaigning), I’ve been really interested in the idea of campaigns that look at the bigger picture of what needs to happen in order to achieve the lasting change – in this case dramatically improving the lives of disabled people.
Organisations, like Mind and Scope, that represent particular groups of people have important work to do in addressing specific policies and issues where our supporters are experiencing difficulties. However, we also need to recognise that bigger factors, like media coverage and public attitudes, play a key role in influencing both how people we represent feel about themselves, and the decisions that are made about their lives by people in power.
Mind has helped to set up a new campaign in a similar vein, and I’m delighted that Scope are supporting this campaign. Who Benefits? is looking to change the debate about benefits – away from negative stereotypes about people who use benefits and towards real stories of real people with real problems, for whom support from benefits is a vital part of their life.
We know that there are many problems with benefits for ill and disabled people, but we also know that public attitudes, media coverage and political rhetoric are making it harder to get these issues resolved. If we can refocus the debate on the overwhelming majority of people who need support from benefits, then we hope we can reduce the stigma felt by many of these people and have a more constructive discussion about what needs to change.
It’s an ambitious goal, and it’s only going to work if huge numbers of people speak up about why they’ve needed support and what this support means to them. These are the voices that have been absent from the debate so far and they are the voices that need to be heard. Our new website will help you to do this, and if you haven’t needed support from benefits you can still express your support for the campaign.
Together, we can change the debate.