Sir Michael Fallon, local MP for Sevenoaks, has taken up the offer to walk in the shoes of people with learning disabilities as part of a campaign encouraging political leaders to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face.
The Conservative MP met with four adults supported by national disabilities charity, Hft, at its service in Sevenoaks on Friday (18 October) to listen to their concerns and find out more about the issues that matter to them.
The MP responded to the charity’s Walk In Our Shoes campaign, which calls on politicians to visit their local Hft service. The initiative, launched last year, is led by the charity’s speak out group, Voices to Be Heard, who feel that their hopes and concerns are not given the same attention by political leaders as those of people without disabilities. The campaign aims to facilitate opportunities for people to share their experiences with politicians and help shape future policy decisions that affect their lives.
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On the day, the MP was given a tour of the premises and took part in a question and answer session, where people supported by Hft had the chance to talk about the issues impacting their day-to-day lives. Among the issues raised were increasing the number of police officers, Brexit and increased training for learning disability nurses.
Dimitri, who lives at an Hft service in the area, said:
“I think today went very well and the MP answered our questions perfectly. It is important for MPs to show they care about people with learning disabilities and that they listen to our concerns. It was a pleasure to meet him.”
Sir Michael Fallon said:
“It was a pleasure to meet residents and staff from St John’s Cottage last Friday. Their #WalkInOurShoes campaign is a fantastic initiative to raise much needed awareness regarding the concerns of adults with learning disabilities.”
People supported by Hft also asked the MP to raise a question in parliament about ensuring people with learning disabilities are able to vote in upcoming elections.
Billy Davis is Hft’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager. He helped to create the campaign which in June 2018 saw two members of the speak out group hand delivering a pair of custom-made shoes to Downing Street for then Prime Minister Theresa May, along with a letter providing information about the campaign.
“We’re pleased to welcome the latest MP to his local Hft service. We hope that other politicians will follow his example and take the opportunity to walk in the shoes of people with learning disabilities.
“Walk In Our Shoes offers the people supported by Hft a meaningful platform to raise awareness of the issues that matter to them. Ever since the launch of the campaign, the people we support have been eager to speak with politicians from across the parties about the issues that affect them.
“In Sevenoaks, people we support are keen to vote in the next general election, but worry that voting may be inaccessible to them. We look forward to seeing how Sir Michael Fallon takes this issue forward in parliament.”
The visit follows the charity’s recent poll, which asked MPs what percentage of total social care spend in England they believed was allocated to learning disabilities.
Overall, only 7% of MPs correctly stated that learning disabilities was around one-third of total adult social care expenditure. The majority of MPs (55%) believed it to be less than 15% of total social care spend.
For more information on Walk In Our Shoes, visit: https://www.hft.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/walk-in-our-shoes/
Notes to editors
Hft is a national charity that creatively supports more than 2,200 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Services range from residential care to supporting people to live independently in their own homes – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.
Established in 1962, Hft is funded in two ways: through local authorities, who fund vital support services, but also through donors, supporters and volunteers who enable us to find new ways to help more people to thrive rather than just get by.
For more information about Hft please visit www.hft.org.uk
Location: Hft Kent North