Press Release

National disability charity United Response has recruited a political correspondent to ensure that the 1.5 million adults in the UK with a learning disability use their democratic right to vote at the May General Election.

A key part of the political correspondent's role will be to raise awareness of this legally entitled group of voters, with whom politicians are currently failing to engage. The coming election will see parliamentary seats won and lost on tight margins. Candidates and political parties need to make their manifestos and election literature easier to understand for people with learning disabilities to ensure they cast their votes at the ballot box.

The successful candidate to the role of political correspondent, 37-year-old David Allkins, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and communication difficulties, has a wealth of knowledge on politics, and is planning to use this - along with his own experiences of disability - to inform the series of online video reports that he will be producing over the next five months.  

In this short introductory video, David talks about what he hopes to achieve in his new role:

David, who is from Newquay, Cornwall, will complete his first assignment as United Response’s political correspondent at a key meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Learning Disability, which takes place at the House of Commons on Tuesday 3 February. David will be reporting from the event, as well as addressing all those present, including the Minister of State for Disabled People, the Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, on the barriers that people with learning disabilities face when it comes to voting.

Although very politically aware himself, David knows that this is not the case for most disabled people. Speaking about what he hopes to achieve through the role, David said:

“Politicians and mainstream media assume that lots of people know about politics, but lots of people with learning disabilities find it difficult to understand. I want to make politics more accessible by producing concise videos and blogs.”

When, during the interview process for the role, he was asked what he would do if he were Prime Minister, David said:

“I would replace Prime Minister’s Questions with a set of questions sent in from the public that the PM answers each week, so that - rather than a bunch of people shouting at each other and name-calling - there’d be a more sensible process.”

United Response has created the political correspondent post as part of its Every Vote Counts campaign, which aims to make information about politics and voting easier to understand for the 1.5 million adults in the UK who have a learning disability.

The campaign has received support from across the political spectrum; you can watch the Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, Kate Green MP and the Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP backing the Every Vote Counts campaign.

Research carried out by United Response showed that only 1 in 8 of the people that it supports with learning disabilities voted in 2005. Many cited a lack of easy to understand information about politics and voting, along with a lack of awareness among politicians about the rights and needs of disabled people as their main reasons for not voting.

Through the creation of easy to understand resources on politics and voting, as well as campaigning by United Response and other learning disability organisations, this increased to 1 in 3 at the last General Election, but is still far below the 65.1% turnout of the general population.

United Response’s director of communications, Diane Lightfoot, said:

“People with learning disabilities have the same right to vote as everyone else, yet far too few are using their vote. We want to change that and look forward to working with our new political correspondent over the coming months to make politics relevant and meaningful to people’s lives, and to challenge perceptions of disability.”

Over the next few months, David Allkins will be working with United Response’s campaigns team to produce a series of exclusive video interviews and special reports that will help make politics easier to understand for people with learning disabilities. As a member of UR Consultants, a group of people with learning disabilities and autism who produce United Response’s award-winning accessible news magazine, Easy News, David has much experience of making complicated information easier to understand.

He plans to use his knowledge to travel the country interviewing politicians, commentators and people with learning disabilities, and highlighting what can be done to increase the turnout of disabled people in May. His video reports will be available on United Response’s website and YouTube channel. You can also follow David's progress and quickly locate the latest campaign news by searching for #URpolcor and #EVC on Twitter.

For more information, to arrange an interview, or for further biographical details on David, please contact Xanthe Breen or Gemma Taylor at the United Response Press Office on 020 8246 5200/ 07772 859263, or email [email protected] or [email protected].