As the country gears up to take part in the most important democratic exercise in a generation – the EU Referendum – the media, workplaces and living rooms across the UK are debating the key question; should the UK remain a member, or leave the European Union?
At Heathcotes, we are hugely passionate about providing a better quality life for people with learning disabilities, and ensuring that the people we support are able to play a full and active part in society. Promoting dignity, citizenship and social inclusion is a crucial part of that mission, so we strongly believe that people with a Learning Disability should be supported to have their say in this referendum.
For this reason, we made it our mission to encourage everyone we support to register to vote, and have a say in shaping the future of our country. A person with a learning disability has exactly the same rights to vote as anyone else, yet many individuals with a learning disability are not exercising that right and as a result, are significantly underrepresented at the ballot box.
Our team have been working hard over the last few weeks, producing easy read information and explaining the question and the process. We put together a document that outlined what the EU Referendum is, why we joined the EU, and some examples of the benefits to both leaving and staying. We hope that this will enable our residents to make a more informed choice at the polls. Of course it was important that we were clear that there is no right or wrong answer, and we worked hard to ensure that the support staff who were passing this information on, did not express their own views.
As a result of this, we are proud to say that 187 of the 231 people we support are currently registered to vote, and our support staff will do everything possible to ensure that those people are able to exercise their democratic rights by casting their vote in the referendum on Thursday.
We are grateful for the excellent information provided by both the Electoral Commission (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/) and Mencap (https://www.mencap.org.uk/ ) , who have excellent resources available to support people with a learning disability to understand and take part in the referendum.
If you have experience of promoting citizenship and social inclusion for people with Learning Disabilities, we’d love to hear from you.