My name is Ismail Kaji. I work in the parliamentary team at Mencap. I was very passionate and excited to attend the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham with my colleagues Ciara, Rob, Ailis and Simon.
I was at the conference because I am a spokesperson and ambassador. It is my job to raise the issues faced by people with a learning disability at meetings with important people like MPs and candidates and to spread the word about our Hear my voice campaign.
I went to lots of fringe meetings over the three days. The fringes were on welfare reform, on employment for disabled people and social care. I asked questions at the fringes to MPs and others about how to support people with a learning disability into work. I also spoke up about unequal healthcare and the need for people to get the benefits and social care they need.
I also worked on the Care and Support Alliance stand at the conference for a while with my colleague Rob. We talked to people about the importance of social care and showed them the results of a survey we did about social care in their local area, which I enjoyed.
A highlight for me was when we went to the Care and Support Alliance fringe meeting. The health secretary Jeremy Hunt was speaking. He spoke very passionately and honestly about social care and the money in the system. He said there wasn’t enough and that we needed to use the money more effectively. He also said the culture around care needed to change. I agree with him but think there should be more money so that people with moderate needs like me get the support they need.
On Monday afternoon we went into the main hall to hear speeches about employment and welfare. There were speeches from real people about their experiences which were inspiring. I think they should do more of that. I would be happy to tell my story, so that people with a learning disability are included! We also heard from Eric Pickles, Esther McVey and Iain Duncan Smith. I felt that Iain Duncan Smith spoke in a very passionate way about what the government has done and their plans for the future.
I was, however, shocked that some MPs didn't really understand the differences between mental health, autism and learning disabilities.
This is nothing new, but I think politicians need to make more of an effort to understand. They need to take both seriously so that there are positive changes for people, but also so that the individual is listened to and included, because they are the experts on the issues.
I enjoyed going to the Labour Party Conference and my first Conservative Party Conference this year. I enjoyed going to all the fringe events, which were interesting. I tried hard to speak up about people with a learning disability and the issues that matter to them, but I think MPs and candidates need to make more of an effort to listen and understand. This is why Hear My Voice is so important!