To mark the launch of Learning Disability Week 2015 Mencap is holding to account the MPs who signed up to its pre-election Hear My Voice campaign and said they would listen to the voice of learning disability if they were elected.
In the run-up to May’s general election, more than 800 candidates signed up to Mencap’s campaign, of which 151 were elected as MPs – meaning more than a fifth of the new Parliament has pledged to listen more attentively to people with a learning disability.
A Populus poll of 2,062 British adults found that 90% of people thought the next government should actively tackle learning disability discrimination. It also revealed that more than 40% of the general public are in contact on a regular basis with someone who has a learning disability.
The inequalities affecting people with a learning disability include:
• 1,200 people with a learning disability die avoidably every year in the NHS
• Pupils with special educational needs are 8 times more likely to be permanently excluded than their peers who do not have these needs
• Only 7% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment
• 56% of disabled people say they have experienced hostility, aggression or violence from a stranger because of their condition or impairment.
Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap said: “With a new government in place, over a fifth of MPs supporting learning disability issues and over 40% of the public in regular contact with people with a learning disability, we want to use Learning Disability Week to ensure the next Parliament pushes learning disability further up the political agenda than ever before.
“It’s vital the entire learning disability community comes together to continue this momentum and fight to raise awareness and improve the quality of life for people with a learning disability. We need to reach out to the newly-elected politicians and people in positions of power, and tackle the myths and misconceptions about learning disability that fuel prejudice and inequality.”
Ismail Kaji, who has a learning disability, and is Parliamentary Affairs Assistant for Mencap, added: “There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the country. Many are not fully included in society and many feel excluded. It’s important that Parliament hears our voice and what we have to say on the issues that affect us.
“I hope we can use Learning Disability Week to make sure MPs take their promises seriously, and improve the lives of the 1.4 million people in the UK who have a learning disability, their families and carers.”
Mencap will be holding events throughout the week to garner the support of newly-elected MPs. This includes a parliamentary event on Wednesday, where more than 100 MPs are expected to attend along with people with a learning disability and families. MPs will be paired up with someone with a learning disability to hear their concerns for the next five years, and listen to a speech from 27-year-old Vijay, who has a learning disability, and will be telling MPs his worries over the expected £12 billion cuts to welfare.
In addition, Mencap is supporting people with a learning disability to contact and meet their local MP on June 19, and speak directly to them about raising learning disability issues up the political agenda.