To prepare for the launch of our Every Vote Counts campaign today, I went to visit two people with learning disabilities supported by United Response who have a particular interest in politics and the democratic process.

Being new to the post, this was my first time visiting United Response services. I found it inspiring to meet individuals who described to me how important political engagement is for a section of the British electorate who are often unable to exercise their democratic right.

The role of Easy Read

Ian Coley is supported by United Response in our Teddington branch. He spoke at length about the importance of adequate local policing, but also outlined how worried he is about vulnerable people receiving enough support from government at a time when many cutbacks are being made.

At the other end of the country, I met Jermaine at our Trafford Supported Employment Service. Jermaine has recently taken part in a conference on hate crime in Manchester, and is a consultant for our Easy News editorial team. He told me how much he has learned about politics and current affairs because the easy read format is so accessible to him, and that how, by reading Easy News, he now has an improved understanding of stories on everyday television news.

Both Ian and Jermaine were enthusiastic about the easy read resources United Response has produced about politics as part of our Every Vote Counts campaign. But both of them also stressed the importance of politicians reaching out to people with learning disabilities to give them more of a voice, and so that their opinion and right to vote is not overlooked.

You can find out more in this video of our interviews with Jermaine and Ian: 



Every Vote Counts!

This is why Ian and Jermaine are coming along to our Every Vote Counts campaign launch today.

Politicians will be talking at the event about the importance of people with learning disabilities voting and becoming active citizens. But Ian and Jermaine will also speak, to tell the assembled MPs about how they can better engage with this section of the electorate to achieve this goal.

Through surveys of people we support, United Response has found that there is a lack of easily understandable information about politics and the voting process for people with learning disabilities. This is compounded by a lack of awareness among prospective parliamentary candidates from all parties, about the needs of people with learning disabilities. Ian and Jermaine hope to reiterate this message and inform MPs attending the event about how much more work there is to be done.

The Every Vote Counts campaign aims to provide the right resources and accessible information so that people we support and others are empowered to make a democratic choice on issues that they care about. But it is also a campaign to raise awareness among MPs and the political parties of how they can reach out to people with learning disabilities in a mutually beneficial way.

Politicians and candidates have much to gain from an underrepresented and untapped section of the electorate, which is ready and waiting to be engaged. In what looks to be the closest fought general election of modern British history, with the emergence of new parties and constitutional change, politicians can only profit by courting voters who have so far been neglected.

In this way, both people with learning disabilities and politicians will benefit by engaging with, and spreading the news about the Every Vote Counts campaign.

This is not a party political issue, but a democratic issue that should unite all people and parties in working towards Every Vote Counts’ common goals to improve British democracy and enrich people’s lives.

Check out our live Twitter feed from the Every Vote Counts launch by following @unitedresponse or searching for hashtag #EVC. Also don't miss our blog tomorrow to find out how the event went.

John Cooper, campaigns manager.