The leader of the Liberal Democrats was quizzed by people with learning disabilities in a new charity campaign to engage people with disabilities in politics.

Sir Vince Cable visited Rowan House in Teddington – a centre run by the disability charity United Response – and spoke to eight people supported by the charity and who have a range of complex learning disabilities on June 15.

The former Business Secretary was asked questions on everything from knife crime and funding for local arts to how Brexit will affect people with disabilities.

One person who spoke to Vince was Siobhan who said: “I think he was good and it was good to see him.

 “I think more politicians should actually listen to people with disabilities. They shouldn’t ignore them.”

 Also at the question and answer session was Ian who said: “I used to work before I had my injury.

 “I wanted to ask Vince about disability benefits because it’s been difficult since I stopped working after getting arthritis in my knee.”

 Vince Cable said: “We need to engage every member of the community including disabled people of different kinds.

 “The evidence suggests that people with learning disabilities suffer disadvantage in areas like healthcare and it’s very important that we talk to them and understand their social concerns.

 “Particularly in the light of the financial burdens that are being put on charities which support them by the new sleep-in charges.”

 His visit to United Response’s Teddington base is the second of a programme of scheduled visits for the coming year. The Lib Dem leader also invited people supported by United Response to Parliament last May to see the House of Commons, some for the first time in their lives.

 The effort to engage people with disabilities in the political process is part of a campaign to increase participation, help them make informed choices and show that their vote counts.

 Since 2005 United Response has been successfully breaking down barriers to increase the number of voters among people with learning disabilities.

Since setting up the Every Vote Counts project, the charity has found that most people they support want to vote and take part in the electoral process but often don’t vote because information about voting and politics is inaccessible. The charity also found a lack of understanding among politicians and those involved in running elections about the needs of people with learning disabilities.

Findings also revealed a lack of accessible information about voting presents a barrier to the 1.5 million adults in the UK who have learning disabilities from using their right to vote, as many people with learning disabilities find election material difficult to understand.

Adam Sutherland, United Response Enterprise Manager, said: “We’re immensely grateful to Sir Vince Cable for taking the time to speak to some of the people we support.

 “These are too often people who don’t have a voice. But they have a right to vote and a right to be represented just like anyone else.

 “Our experience as an organisation tells us that political parties have still got a long way to go to encourage more people with disabilities to participate in the democratic process, stand for election and become politically active.

 “For too long, people who live with disabilities have flown the radar of decision makers. It’s high time to say enough is enough and to start listening to society’s hidden voices.”

For more information, visit United Response’s dedicated Every Vote Counts website which provides accessible information on voting and the democratic process to people with learning disabilities and their supporters.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information, please get in touch with the United Response press & communications officer Imthiaz Rehman on [email protected] or 07768 925579.

About United Response

United Response is a top 100 national charity that provides person-centred support to around 3,000 adults and young people with learning disabilities, mental health needs or physical disabilities – including some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Our vision is a society of equal rights and access where disabled people have the opportunity to live the lives they want to lead.

We provide bespoke support, from 24-hour care to a few hours a week, at around 400 locations across England and Wales. We employ approximately 4,000 staff and are regularly recognised with awards for our innovative, high quality range of services.

To find out more about United Response, please visit: www.unitedresponse.org.uk