Disabled people grill political parties ahead of General Election at Edinburgh Q&A organised by leading disability charities
Representatives from the main political parties were grilled by disabled people and families at a ‘hustings’ style Q&A event organised by 10 leading disability charities.
More than 100 disabled people and their families, carers and professionals attended the national hustings event which took place on Thursday 05 December at Augustine United Church, Edinburgh.
It was organised by leading disability charities National Autistic Society Scotland, Scottish Autism, MS Society Scotland, Enable, Scottish Women’s Autism Network, Leonard Cheshire Scotland, Sense Scotland, RNIB Scotland, Scottish Commission for Learning Disability and the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland.
Sheila Gilmore from the Scottish Labour Party, Tommy Shepard from Scottish National Party, Caron Lindsay from the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Iain McGill from the Scottish Conservative Party and Elaine Gunn from the Scottish Green Party answered questions from subjects including education, attitudes towards disabled people, transport, Brexit, disability benefits as well as health and social care.
The charities organised the event to give a platform to disabled people to put their concerns directly to politicians ahead of next week’s General Election. Given that one in five people in Scotland is disabled there has been little discussion about the challenges facing them and our event tried to address this imbalance.
David Weir, an autistic attendee said:
“The event was really important because it gave autistic people like me an opportunity to have our voices heard by the parties.
“I always vote and encourage other autistic people to vote. I feel that many politicians don’t listen – so the more disabled people speaking up the more they will understand the challenges we face and hopefully do something about it.”
Nick Ward, Director of National Autistic Society Scotland, and hustings Chair said:
“Much of this election campaign in Scotland has focused on Brexit or independence with the concerns of disabled people and families side-lined.
1 in 5 people in Scotland are disabled, including 58,000 autistic people – that’s a huge part of the population whose voices must be heard and respected by those seeking election.
I hope the party representatives were able to understand first-hand the wide range of issues and challenges that disabled people families face and commit to take action.”
Morna Simpkins, Director of MS Society Scotland, said:
“More than 11,000 of us in Scotland have MS and many with disabilities will feel that politicians do not do enough to ensure that our country is a welcoming, accessible and supportive place for everyone no matter where they live.
“Today’s event has seen representatives from across the political spectrum engaging with our community and the issues that matter for them and that is a vital first step in making the changes that we need to see.”
Charlene Tait, Deputy CEO of Scottish Autism said:
“This event will give us a clearer understanding of where the parties stand on the key issues affecting autistic people in Scotland, including addressing exclusion rates within schools, which are significantly higher for autistic children, and providing more support to transition autistic adults into work.
“As a charity committed to improving the quality of life for autistic people and their families across Scotland, we are keen to see a real commitment and greater action from politicians in supporting this community.”
Cameron Smith, Events and Information Assistant at SCLD said:
“It is important that people with learning disabilities use their right to vote as active citizens in the upcoming election and have their say. People with learning disabilities face many challenges and barriers to becoming fully involved in our communities such as succeeding at school or finding employment.
“We need the action from elected politicians to make a positive difference, and listening to our voices should remind them of the need for change.”
Photo shows: Autistic attendee David Weir, asking representatives from the main political parties a question during the event.