As Part of my role as Parliamentary Affairs Support Officer, I attend major party conferences on behalf of Mencap to make sure the interests of people with a learning disability are represented.
This year I went to Brighton for the Labour Party Conference. On Sunday I started by sitting in the main hall and listening to a few speakers including Andrew Gwyne MP. Then I went to a Question and Answer event with the new Mayor for Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and heard him talk about his new role, what he did in Westminster and the challenges he faced during the tragedy in Manchester. After this, I attended the Health and Care Forum reception to listen to the Shadow Secretary of State for Health talk about the importance of health and how the NHS can be improved.
On Monday morning I went to a Health and Care Forum debate where I asked the Shadow Minister for Health, Justin Madders MP, how we can make sure NHS services work together to give more consistent care. I also asked if he would commit to making sure all doctors and nurses get learning disability training. It was interesting to see that, when he asked the healthcare staff in the audience if they felt they had enough training, they all said no. I think it will be good for Mencap to work with healthcare staff during our health campaign to make sure that staff are supported to understand learning disability better.
That afternoon, I went to the #housingfringe, where I asked the panel if they agreed that people with disabilities should have the chance to live independently, and with other people in the community. It was good to see that the panel agreed with me, and Rt Hon John Healey MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, went on to say that housing needs are not met for a wide range of people, including people living in supported housing.
I also met with Jim Cunningham MP to talk about employment and what changes need to be made to make employment more accessible for people with a learning disability. We talked about Access to Work and Apprenticeships. We also talked about the importance of dealing with the Sleep-Ins crisis. I felt it was a good conversation and he listened to and understood the challenges faced by people with a learning disability.
In the evening, we went to a Leonard Cheshire dinner discussion, where I talked about my experiences of finding work. I talked about my experience of college, the challenges I faced in looking for a job and the bad attitudes that some employers have towards people with a learning disability. I also talked about Access to Work and how cuts to benefits are impacting people with a learning disability who are trying to find work or are in a job. I had the chance to talk to Kate Green MP, too, about PIP and the work Mencap is doing to support people with learning disabilities through the application process. It was great to see some familiar faces at the dinner, and I also got to meet lots of new people, too.
This morning was another early start. I went to the Apprenticeship Forum’s Debate, where we heard the Shadow Minister for Further Education, Gordon Marsden MP, talk about how we can make apprenticeships better in the future.
This afternoon I will be going to a fringe event about how we can make society a fairer place for disabled people. I’m looking forward to seeing Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, talk about this issue and I’ll be asking her a question on this too.