Political candidates quizzed on policies by people with learning disabilities at Hustings in Cliftonville .
Candidates from the five main parties standing for election in May were subject to some tough questioning last Friday 6 March in Cliftonville at a hustings organised by local learning disability charity, East Kent Mencap.
With an audience of over 60 people with learning disabilities and carers in attendance, questions such as ‘What are you going to do to make sure more people with a learning disability can get paid jobs?’ and ‘How will you make sure people get the support they need in hospital?’ revealed the issues that are important to them.
All the candidates commented on how delighted they were to see people with learning disabilities really engaging with politics and there was a measure of cross party agreement on the need to improve local transport and increase local representation.
Following the panel session, candidates joined the audience for sandwiches and a chance to chat informally. Several people commented that they would now make sure they were registered to vote.
The hustings was part of a wider project by East Kent Mencap and Kent Valuing People Partnership who are holding events across East Kent to engage people with learning disabilities in the democratic process and support them to understand and sign up to electoral registration. A short film of the project, including the hustings, is also being produced to raise awareness of people with learning disabilities and the key issues that impact on their lives.
The project has been funded with contributions from KCC’s Combined Member Grant Scheme and National Mencap’s campaign ‘Hear My Voice’ which aims to make sure the that people with a learning disability – and the millions of family members, carers and support workers connected to them – can make their voices heard on the issues that matter to them at the 2015 General Election.
National Mencap says, ‘People with a learning disability have the right to vote just like anybody else. But only around one in three people with a learning disability exercise their right to vote. This is compared to around two in three people in society as a whole. There are many barriers that prevent people with a learning disability from voting, including the process itself. Registering to vote can be confusing and off-putting for someone with a learning disability.’