ubu has answered the call from the people we serve to help them gain a better understanding of the voting and political processes. Inspired by voter registration campaigns in the run up to the general election, and grabbing the initiative, the Peel Mill team worked together to quickly develop an easy-read information guide and host a fun Voting Party.
Led by Andrew Robson and Jack Towler, invitees were given a voting card which granted them entry to the party and buffet.
Staff stood as candidates in a mock election, taking turns explaining the different things they would pledge to do for the country if elected, and selling themselves to the voters. An informal question and answer session about voting followed, enabling the people we serve learn why we vote and how the choices we make affect our lives. Most said they do not vote and don’t understand or have any interest in voting -- and they are not alone. Complex registration forms and jargon-heavy debates disenfranchise vulnerable adults from the process. According to the UK Electoral Commission, only 16% of the 1 million eligible voters with learning disabilities actually voted in the 2005 election.
People with learning disabilities are affected by political decisions made at a national and local level in the same way as everyone else, yet are in effect are excluded from a system which is meant to represent their interests.
The Leeds team's efforts are the first in a ubu-wide campaign now to reverse this statistic, and get all the people we serve engaged in their government. Chief among ubu's philosophy is that every person has a rightful place in society and therefore should be given the same opportunities to contribute and flourish.
At the event, people were asked what they would like to change about their community if they held the position of power that the person who is elected will hold. Examples given included:
More CCTV in the town and streets to protect the people of Morley.
More shops to develop the town.
More traffic lights and crossing to help people cross the road.
A local Theme Park
People were then asked to leave the room and come back in one at a time to vote confidentially. Everyone voted and the results were in, with the UKIP candidate claiming victory.
The easy-read guide produced for the event will be used as a template by other regions hosting upcoming voter-enagagement events.
Watch out for more on this topic in the weeks to come. Or follow us on Twitter at #ubusupport