Jan Tregelles MencapThe vast majority of voters want to see the next government tackle the discrimination that people with learning disabilities face, according to a poll.

The poll by learning disability charity Mencap found that more than 8 in 10 people labelled ‘unacceptable’ a number of real-life experiences where people with a learning disability and their families were discriminated against. These are everyday experiences that people tell Mencap about, such as being a victim of violent hate crime or being illegally excluded from school. 

In addition, 88% of the 2,062 members of the general public polled said that the government should be held responsible for tackling these situations, with 90% thinking the next government should actively tackle them. This was found to go be consistent no matter which party the respondent plan to vote for.

This poll is part of Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign. The campaign aims to ensure the next government addresses the key issues facing the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK and their families by giving these individuals a platform to make their voices heard. 

It has given rise to a Manifesto which presents the issues that matter the most to people with a learning disability and their families, and on which they want to see the next government act. These include healthcare, hate crime and education. 

Landmark moment for learning disability

Jan Tregelles (pictured), chief executive of Mencap, said this was a “landmark moment” for learning disability. “Our poll shows that people with a learning disability and their families have the overwhelming support of the British public, who believe they should have the same chances in life as anybody else,” she said. “And, far from being a niche issue, 40% of the general public are in contact with someone with a learning disability on a regular basis. 

“Politicians of all ilks should be ashamed that in 21st century Britain, some of the most vulnerable children and adults in our society get poor healthcare, are victims of horrendous hate crimes, and don’t get access to good state education. The British public finds this unacceptable. We hope that Hear my voice… will help increase awareness of what needs to change. There is public demand to bring about this change – candidates must listen.”

Ciara Lawrence, who is a campaigns assistant for Mencap and has a learning disability added: “People with a learning disability – people like me – often feel like we’re not good enough, like we’re second class citizens. Why? Because we are discriminated against every single day and made to feel like we’re different and don’t belong.

“It’s frightening that 1,200 people with a learning disability die needlessly in the NHS every single year. Over half of disabled people have been victims of violence and hate crime. And thousands of people are stuck in places like Winterbourne View, where they are miles and miles away from their families and at risk of abuse. 

“It is really important that the voices of people with a learning disability are listened to, because we are the experts in what matters to us. I have a right to make decisions about my own life, just like everyone else does. I’m going to be talking to my local candidates and making sure they listen to what matters to me. Now that the public is behind us, our candidates have to take notice.” 

The Edge from U2 is an ambassador for Mencap, and Ciara Lawrence is his cousin. “As a relative, I’ve seen first-hand all of the challenges that Ciara has faced,” he said. “As a young teen, I was always concerned that because she was so trusting and outgoing, she was wide-open to the cruelty of other people. When Ciara was at school, she suffered terrible bullying, and it makes me so angry knowing how much pain she went through. 

“She has barrelled through a lot of nasty stuff by sheer strength of personality – I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I know at times she is challenged but, as an advocate for other people like her, she has the balls to walk up to a politician and tell them how it is. I’m involved in Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign, because I think it’s important for people like Ciara to have their say on what matters to them and that politicians sit up and listen.”