Tag Archives: politics

I’m a disabled person and I’ve contributed to the economy for 43 years – the Chancellor’s comments feel personal

Graham is Scope’s Engagement and Participation Manager. As a disabled person himself, with three disabled children, he had a strong reaction to Philip Hammond’s comments about productivity and disabled people. In this blog, “after a full day to calm down and sleep on it”, he responds and shares some other reactions.

It’s not based on any evidence

Firstly, as Scope colleagues and many others have said on social media, this statement hugely undermines the Government’s commitment to getting one million disabled people into work.

This wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark by Mr Hammond during an after-dinner speech – it was made in a formal Parliamentary committee meeting and broadcast to the world. So, apart from the slap in the face to working disabled people, he is contradicting Government policy.

His statement is not based on any evidence that anyone knows of. I’m extremely pleased that Scope has called out both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister on this slight.

I’ve contributed to the UK economy for over 43 years

Secondly, it feels quite personal. I’ve had my impairment since I was  a child and have worked continuously (apart from study breaks) since age 17 when I joined a press agency in London as a trainee journalist.

I’ve since worked as mental health support worker, probation officer, supported housing officer, bookseller, policy wonk and project manager. During this time I haven’t avoided paying my income tax and have contributed to the UK’s economy for over 43 years. So being labelled as a problem for  productivity would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious.

I worry for the next generation of disabled people, including my son

Thirdly, I worry for the next generation of disabled people. My youngest son is leaving university in a year or so, and my daughter has worked and has paid taxes for several years.

Despite my professional and personal campaigning on the inclusion of disabled people for 20 years or more, it is very clear we have a whole lot more to do if senior politicians still see us as drains on the economy and uninvestable. We need to be seen as active, empowered citizens.

And in addition to this novel stance – being seen as non-productive – the framing of disabled people as inherently “vulnerable” is another barrier that needs dismantling. I’m confident that Scope will continue to challenge received and dated ideas that diminish disabled people, and really promote everyday equality in all its senses.

It’s not just me who’s outraged, here’s what other people have told Scope

Laura via email:Laura walking with her guide dog

“I am disgusted that a man in his position could say such a thing. We have enough issues to face daily without comments like that.

Every day I make a contribution to society along with so many others. These were very hurtful comments to read as I was getting up, getting ready and travelling to work!

I am pleased to see disabled people and organisations have pulled together today.”

 

Liam via Twitter:

“I just felt disappointed and confused, to be honest.Liam wearing radio headset, smiling at the camera

Aside from being derogatory, it was also a bizarre statement to make when the disability employment gap remains stagnant.”

 

 

Shona via Twitter:

“It’s just reinforcing what we already know, this government thinks disabled people are a problem.Shona in her wheelchair in front of a fence and a park

What is even scarier is the government knows they can get away with saying things like that because they’ve created a society that sees disabled people as lesser.”

 

If you want to read more reactions to the Chancellor’s damaging and inaccurate comments, check out Scope’s Twitter moment. 

Scope storytellers also shared their views in the media:

Scope has written to the Prime Minister asking her to clarify her position and called on the Chancellor to withdraw his comments. We’ve also explained why his comments are damaging and inaccurate.

What are your thoughts on the Chancellor’s comments. Share what you think on Twitter or Facebook using the #EverydayEquality.

General election 2017: Make sure your voice is heard

Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap general election to take place on Thursday 8 June.  Find out how you can vote in this blog. 

The next Government has an opportunity to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people and help deliver everyday equality by 2022.

It’s important that the voices of disabled people are heard in this election. Voting, as well as taking part in election events in your local area, gives you the chance to tell politicians what’s important to you and what you would like to see them do.

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters.  If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

There are lots of ways you can be supported to cast your vote inside a polling station:

  • If you cannot mark your ballot paper, members of staff called Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.
  • Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices. The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.
  • Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station. Find out more information about what happens at polling stations.

If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority.

I want people to have a say in the future of our country

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Alice is a keen campaigner and star of our Scope for Change training program.

As part of 30 Under 30, she shares her experiences of the program, how it has given her the confidence to run her own campaigns and why it is important that everyone uses their vote in the EU referendum.

I’ve been interested in activism ever since my dad introduced me to grassroots politics as a kid. He took me to my first demo when I was twelve years old and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I love the way direct action works, how it unapologetically demands our voices be heard. Change will never come about whilst we are unwilling to engage in the system, despite how broken it may be. Direct action gives us the opportunity to challenge and offer an alternative.

Alice, a young disabled woman, smiles at the camera with her dad

Getting the tools I needed

I had never organised my own campaign until I joined Scope For Change. I applied to the program last year and I was over the moon when I found out I had been accepted. We are a group of twenty-two young disabled people all interested in activism.

In March we attended a ‘bootcamp’ where we had extensive training on how to run a successful campaign. We were taught a wide range of tactics from how to utilise social media to getting the support of politicians. This training not only gave me the tools I needed, but also the confidence!

Running my own campaign

Currently I am running a campaign to encourage people in my neighbourhood to vote in the EU referendum. Engaging people in politics is something that I am passionate about. Too many people bury their heads in the sand and become ever increasingly apathetic. I can understand why this happens, I too have little faith in our current political system.

However, I believe referendums give the electorate a rare chance to participate in a form of direct democracy and we should be excited about this opportunity!

Our community is one which doesn’t have much of a voice in society. We live in social housing and the vast majority of us can’t find work because we are disabled. We are often judged and not listened to.

The aim of my campaign has not been to tell people how to vote but to empower them to go out and exercise their democratic right. I wanted people to know that not only does their opinion matter, but that it is significant and can make a difference.

A pile of leaflets relating to the EU referendum. They say "Should we stay or should we go?"

A unique opportunity to have a say in the future of our country

Over the last few weeks I have made hundreds of leaflets and posters explaining how to register to vote and why it is so important to do this. I have printed these in a large font and on coloured paper to make them as accessible as possible. Two of my lovely neighbours have been wonderful and helped me deliver these. I have assisted people to sign up who would have otherwise struggled to do this independently. Door knocking has also played a big part as some people are unable to read English, this has sparked conversations and it’s been interesting to hear how people are voting and why.

Throughout my campaign I have emphasised that we will not be voting to elect someone to represent us, but are being asked a direct question. Should we remain in the EU or should we leave? This is a unique opportunity to have a say in the future of our country and we should embrace this.

On 23 June, I have arranged a meeting place for local people to gather at various times throughout the day. We will be walking to the polling station and voting together. I believe this will encourage people, especially those who are unsure where the polling station is or are unfamiliar with the process. I know some of my disabled neighbours will really struggle to do this independently and my hope is that voting collectively will provide the support they need.

I have always been an activist, but Scope have given me the confidence I needed to run my own campaigns and I can’t thank them enough for this gift. I plan to run many more in the future which I hope will be as successful as this one promises to be!

Alice is sharing her story as part of 30 Under 30. We are sharing one story a day throughout June from disabled people who are doing something extraordinary. Visit our website to read the stories so far.

Are you voting in the EU referendum? We want disabled people to have a clear understanding of their voting rights and options. Read our blog about voting and elections for more information.

“You have to fight being pigeon-holed”

Guest post by Tom Garrod, an events manager, public speaker and councillor in Norfolk who has ataxic cerebral palsy. Here he shares his experience of being a councillor and what being a disabled person in politics can mean.

I was elected as a councillor when I was 19 and I have been a councillor for six years. People are still surprised when they meet me as their councillor, they’re surprised I’m the bloke from the leaflet! I think this is equal parts my age and my disability.

You have to fight being pigeon-holed because of your age, your disability and your label. I’ve been asked “Tom, you’re very young for a councillor, do you think the council should be run by teenagers and young people?” And I said no, of course not. You couldn’t have a Tom Garrod, a councillor for Norfolk smiles at the cameragroup of 60 or 70 year olds running the council. They would be missing a different perspective. You need a mix.

Sometimes I have the same issue with my disability. A role relating to disabilities came up in the council and someone said “Tom that’s a perfect role for you! You know what disabled people are like.” And I said , what do you mean? I have cerebral palsy. I don’t have autism or Down’s Syndrome. I’m not blind and I don’t have hearing loss. I have no idea about lots of disabilities. But there was the assumption that I’m part of that label and we’re all the same.

Don’t make assumptions

I think being disabled can give you that perspective. My experiences have taught me not to make assumptions. I don’t know what it’s like to be a blind person but I know that I don’t know. I know I need to go and find out about these experiences. When you commission services, you’re not treating a disability. You’re treating the effects.

I remember being really nervous when I gave my first speech to the council as a councillor. It was budget day so the full council was sitting. I was nervous not only about the politics of what I wanted to say but also how I was going to say it. Would I be listened to?

The leader of the council helped me with my speech and afterwards I asked him what he thought of how I delivered the speech? He said what was interesting was that five councillors spoke before me and there was the usual chatter as they talked with people whispering, making comments. But when I stood up to speak you could tell everyone was nervous about not understanding me, so everyone stopped and really listened to every word. I thought I was the only one nervous!

Because of my disability, I make a conscious effort to only speak if I have something to add. With my disability, I have a subconscious instinct of thinking, do I need to say what I want to say? How can I say this as effectively as possible? Of course, I do enjoy the sound of my own voice but only when it makes difference. Otherwise, what’s the point?

It’s time to get involved

Now is a brilliant time to be involved in politics. When I was elected, during the first round of budget cuts, people said, “Tom, you could have chosen a better time to get elected. Maybe when there was more money about!” But I see it as now being an important time, with real decisions being made at a local level. If you’re a young person or a disabled person and you want to be involved in politics, just ask. Don’t take no for an answer.

With approaching local council and London Mayoral elections, as well as the EU referendum, we want disabled people to have a clear understanding of their voting rights and options. Read our blog about voting and elections for more information.

Header image: Norfolk County Hall, Martineau Lane (Graham Hardy) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Voting and Elections: know your rights and options

With the EU referendum approaching, we want disabled people to have a clear understanding of their voting rights and options.

We know that in the past disabled voters have struggled to cast their ballot. We want to make sure all voters, disabled and non-disabled, have the right to vote independently and in secret. If you are registered to vote, you cannot be refused a ballot paper or the chance to vote on the grounds of mental or physical impairment.

How to vote

In-person

You can vote in person at your local polling station. Before an upcoming vote, you will be sent a polling card if you are registered to vote. This card will tell you the location of your local polling station. Don’t worry, you don’t need to bring your polling card with you on polling day.

Your polling station should be  open from 7am to 10pm.

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters. If you need assistance on polling day, you can ask a member of staff, called a Presiding Officer.

If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

Proxy

Can’t get to your local polling station? You can register to vote by proxy. Voting by proxy means that you appoint someone you trust to vote on your behalf.

Voting by proxy can be useful if you are worried that you won’t be able to get to a polling station on polling day. For example, you may have an on-going illness. You can complete and post a Proxy vote form, which is available online.

You and the person you nominate to vote on your behalf must be registered to vote.

Postal

Voting by post means that you will be sent a ballot form to mark your vote via post.

Voting by post can be useful if you are worried that you won’t be able to get to a polling station and would rather keep your vote secret.

You will need to complete and post a Postal vote form, which is available online.

Additional support

Presiding Officers

If you are voting in person at a polling station, there are a number of ways the staff, called Presiding Officers, can support you to vote.

Don’t worry if you can not mark your ballot paper, Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station.

Tactile Voting Devices

Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices.

The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.

A Presiding Officer or someone you have attended the polling station with can read out the list of candidates. You can then use the large numbered flaps to find the part of the ballot paper you wish to mark with your vote.

Large Print and Magnifying Assistance

Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should also provide magnifying assistance. These magnifying sheets can be placed over standard and large print versions of ballot paper to make them easier to read.

Presiding Officers should be able to provide these aids on request.

What if my polling station isn’t accessible?

If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority. You can find out the contact details of your local authority online.

You can also contact your local Electoral Commission office to find out more information.

The Access to Elected Office Fund – changing the world one political appointment at time

Today Minister for Women and Equalities Helen Grant announced that the fund will continue for another year, and be extended.

Helen nailed the central issue and reason it was created in the first place when she said: “Disabled candidates can often be faced with additional costs that make standing for election more difficult than their non-disabled counterparts.”

The fund also “creates the space for disabled people to play a key role in these decision-making processes, but can also lead to increased visibility in public life, and ultimately change attitudes towards disability” according to Scope chair Alice Maynard.

In the run up to the 2010 election the Conservative party manifesto committed to “introduce a £1 million fund to help disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials with the extra costs they face in running for office”.

The fund idea was then reflected in the coalition agreement after the election.

Since the fund was launched in July 2012 there have been over sixty applications to the fund, which will now also cover Parish and Town Council elections.

The Local Government Association Be a councilor campaign is also being expanded and will now help aspiring disabled candidates by providing coaching, mentoring and training, to help build their confidence, knowledge and skills.

Everyone involved deserves a huge amount of credit, for recognising the potential disabled people have, and the benefits they can bring to our communities and political life. Crucially that is being backed up with money, time and commitment, particularly at a time the public purse is under pressure.

Disabled people are still massively under-represented in public life, but here’s hoping that more people take the plunge and use to its full potential.

In you’re interested you can apply on the Access to Elected Office Fund website.