This is my blog on the Party Conference that I went to a few weeks ago.
Each year, Mencap goes to all three of the UK’s main political party conferences. This year I went to the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham. This was my very first time ever going to a party conference.
I was very excited about this opportunity, as I was really looking forward to meeting MPs and government ministers. I was also hoping to meet senior Councillors as well as people from other charities.
Since the new Government started last year, they have said that they will make a lot of changes to social care and welfare. The changes that they have said they will make will have a big effect on people with learning disability.
At the conference I wanted to raise the issues and concerns that many people with learning disability have about the Government’s plans for welfare reform.
I had a very interesting and busy schedule for the conference.
I started by taking part in a bowling event run by the Learning Disability Coalition. At the event I met other organisations, MPs, Peers and local councillors.
I then went to a Disability Benefits Consortium event on welfare reform. We discussed in groups about issues around benefits. In my group I asked a few questions about:
- How the Government was going to increase the opportunities for people with learning disability to get into work.
- How they are going to break down the barriers that people with learning disability face when finding work.
- How the cuts to benefits will affect people with learning disability.
I also went to a meeting about what will be happening to social care for adults. The meeting was arranged by 20 care organisations, including Mencap. A journalist from the Guardian newspaper chaired the meeting.
Andrew Dilnot has been behind a report into how we will all pay for social care. He spoke about his ideas. Norman Lamb MP also spoke but there were lots of people who raised concerns. Many people said they were worried about how the changes would affect disabled people. They made the point that disabled people should not lose out because of the government’s changes.
After this meeting, there was a reception and Paul Burstow MP came along. He is the health minister and I spoke to him about how the government should be more accessible when they ask what people think. Government should do things in a way that people with learning disability can understand. Then we can tell them what we think.
I went to another meeting about the criminal justice system. It was really interesting hearing about how the justice system can be fairer and save money. Lots of people with a learning disability want the justice system to take disability hate crime more seriously. Mencap is campaigning to end disability hate crime. The panel at this meeting discussed lots of issues including how giving criminals shorter sentences can cost more in the long run.
I would recommend going to a Party Conference. It is a very interesting event and it gives you a great opportunity to meet people. You can meet people from other organisations and Members of Parliament. You can find out what they do in their work to improve government policy. It is also important for them to find out what Mencap does as well. As a spokesperson for Mencap and a person with a learning disability, it’s important for me to be heard, be included and be part of society.
I will be learning more about government and politics. I am going to do a work shadowing day at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Watch out for my blog about this soon.