Influencing at party conferences
Throughout October you might have noticed an influx of MPs, Peers, Press and Policy and Public Affairs professionals in the Northwest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for the Busted reunion concert but for the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences!
Sense was at conferences again this year, influencing for change for people with complex disabilities and those who are deafblind.
Why did we go?
The party conferences are events that are held by all the political parties. They are opportunities for all the MPs, councillors and party members to come together to discuss different policies that the parties might introduce. The conferences provide an opportunity to raise the profile of Sense and people with complex disabilities with local and national decision makers.
Sense went to highlight the issues faced by people with complex disabilities. With a general election due in 2024 our focus is on making sure that as many people as possible know about Sense and the policy calls that would improve the lives of the people we support.
What did we do?
Sense had a stand in the exhibition hall at both Conservative and Labour conferences. Featured on the stand were some of the key statistics from our latest research into the experiences and views of people with complex disabilities.
When people visited our stand we spoke to them about the importance of being accessible and inclusive so that no one with complex disabilities is left out of life. We also shared our research on how many people there are with complex disabilities in the UK and gave people information about their local area.
Everyone who visited the stand had the chance to take away our accessibility checklist which included information on how to make social media more accessible. We demonstrated this using our alt text photo frame and added people’s photos to the stand.
As well as having the stand we also made sure that Sense was represented at fringe events and key meetings. Members of our attended events, asking questions about the key issues that people with complex disabilities face and building connections with key stakeholders.
This year we were also invited to participate in some of the events. Our Head of Policy was on the panel alongside the Minister for Disabled People for an event on employment which was hosted by our friends at Scope. This was an opportunity to share our recent research on the employment experiences of people with complex disabilities. We also spoke at events on transport and the cost of living crisis.
Was conference season a success for Sense?
Our stand was very popular and across the two conferences we spoke to over 550 people. This included:
- 39 MPs and Peers, the most high profile of these were: the minister for disabled people, the shadow minister for social care, the shadow minister for disabled people and the shadow minister for education
- Numerous councillors who came to talk to us to ask what they can do to support us at a local level
- A lot of people who have been selected to run as MPs (prospective parliamentary candidates) who talked to us about how they can run an accessible campaign and what they can do if they’re elected at the next general election
- Other charities about the work we can do in coalition, such as continuing our campaign to tackle loneliness
- Lots of organisations who were interested in learning more about how to be as accessible as possible.
Quite a few of the MPs came to our stand because they’d received an email from a constituent following our recent ’email your MP’ campaign action. Thank you to all who took part in this.
For a full round up of the MPs who visited our stand take a look at our Twitter/X channel.
What happens next?
Whilst conference season is over, the hard work doesn’t stop there! We have been following up with all the people who visited our stand and will be arranging visits for MPs to their local Sense shops and services.
Our attendance at conferences is part of our wider influencing plans. We want more people to know about Sense and the work that we do to support people with complex disabilities. We will continue to work with MPs, councillors, peers and other organisations to achieve our ambition of a world where no one is left out of life.