Why We All Need To Be More Politically Engaged

By Philippa Shirtcliffe, Head of Care Quality, QCS (www.qcs.co.uk)

My teenage daughters know how to press my buttons. Take last week, for example when I asked my eldest daughter who she was thinking of voting for in the forthcoming local elections. She paused, gave me a quizzical look, and said simply, “Why would I want to do that?” As someone who has been politically engaged since childhood, it was tempting to remind her of the sacrifices that Emmeline Pankhurst, and Emily Wilding Davison, made to ensure that women had the right to vote. But as any mum with teenagers knows, it’s often better to play the long game. So a few days later, I had a relaxed chat with my daughter over coffee and I’m pleased to say that she will be voting on Thursday.

That said, I don’t blame my daughter for not feeling politically engaged. What has the government done to help her or other young people her age? During the pandemic, from an economic standpoint, it is young people and not the elderly who have suffered most. Many working in the hospitality industry lost their jobs early on in the crisis and haven’t been able to work since. Then there’s student debt. How can it be right that my daughter’s generation will incur tens of thousands of pounds of debt before they even begin their careers. Wealthy pensioners on the hand often own their own houses, while also qualifying for the triple lock pension and a winter fuel allowance that many of them don’t even need. No wonder teenagers, who will carry the burden of Covid-19 debt for years to come, feel politically disengaged and disenfranchised.


But that is all the more reason for young people to vote. Politicians are a fickle bunch at the best of times and their loyalty is often to the demographic that votes them in. If 60 percent of those voters are young people, it is more likely that future policies will be shaped around them rather than age cohorts.

As a parent, I was pleased to be able to explain the importance and the huge responsibility invested in all of us to vote. I was also delighted to talk through the different protocols involved in registering a vote. But, as I was explaining the etiquette and the customs, which can be quite complex, (especially if you’re voting for the first time), a thought suddenly struck me. I began to wonder how politically engaged 18 year olds with learn- ing disabilities, who have an alienable right to vote, do so. Who explains the complexities and nuances of voting to them? Who assists them with registering? How do they learn about the different ways of voting?

The answer, unfortunately, is that many of people with learning disabilities aren’t able to turn to mentor for advice, and this impacts their ability to vote. Take statistics from the Electoral Commission, for instance. In 2019, it found that “one in six people with a learning disability were not correctly registered to vote”.

But, even if this first hurdle is overcome, there are many others to negotiate. With so many different elections taking place on May, 6th, It is far from straightforward. For example, in the UK next week there are six different elections taking place. Scotland and Wales will stage parliamentary elections. England will hold local council and mayoral elections, while there will also be Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales.

Thankfully, Mencap and the Electoral Commission have created an easy-to-read guide to voting in the local elections. The 34-page guide, which is divided into seven chapters, explains the mechanics of voting, registering and covers the different ways a person can vote. It also contains a list if useful terms and, most importantly, the key dates that every first-time or seasoned voter should be aware of.

Ismail Kaji, a Parliamentary Support Officer at the Mencap, says: “Everyone with a learning disability has a right to vote – it shouldn’t matter what support they need. But many people don’t get the help they should, and that’s why reasonable adjustments – like easy-read information – are so important. Easy read guides use accessible language and support people with a learning disability to vote, and to make their voice heard.”

We, at QCS, the leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care sector, wholeheartedly agree with Ismail’s comments. We also think that Mencap’s document is a wonderful resource and hope that it will better inform and encourage more people with learning disabilities to vote this Thursday.

Happy voting…

If you wish to find out more about QCS , why not contact QCS’s compliance advisors on 0333-405-3333 or email sales@qcs.co.uk?

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