I have a learning disability. It means that I might need some extra support. For example, I need help understanding tasks at work and complicated information.
It doesn’t mean I’m any less important than someone without a learning disability. But we have a long way to go before we are recognised and treated as equal and valued members of society. If I were Prime Minister, I would make it my mission to bring this change.
I'm one of only 7 per cent of people with a learning disability who have a job. I have a wife and three children, but it concerns me to think what would happen to me and my family if I did not have a job.
Sixty-one per cent of disabled people live in poverty, while children of parents with a learning disability are more likely to be removed and placed in child protection services than any other group of children. I'm anxious that if I did not have a job what would happen to me and my family.
It is far too easy for someone with a learning disability to fall into a crisis and this is the fear that I have to live with. If I ever lost my job I worry whether I would qualify for enough benefits for my family to be okay, and whether I would get the right support to find a new job and do well in it.
People like myself and the 5m others who either have a learning disability, or a loved one with a learning disability, are often on the front line of politicians' decisions but are not involved in them. This is why I would make sure that people with a learning disability, their families and carers, were at the top of my political agenda and involved in every decision I make.
Election Analysis: The Key Voters
Election Analysis: The Key Voters
1/6 Settled Silvers
These are the comfortably-off over-60s, still in work or drawing a decent pension – or both – who are enjoying their entitlements such as the Winter Fuel Allowance, free bus passes and free TV licence. They are worried about immigration and Europe. Both the Conservatives – who are pledging to keep benefits for wealthier pensioners – and Ukip want their votes
2/6 Squeezed Semis
Slightly older than the Harassed Hipsters, they are the second key group for Labour’s family-focused election strategy. They are married couples on low to middle incomes who own unpretentious semi-detached homes in suburban areas. In 2001, these were the Pebbledash People sought by the Conservatives. Now the pebbledash is gone and a modest conservatory has been built at the back
3/6 Aldi Woman
In 1997 and 2001 she was Worcester Woman – a middle-class Middle Englander shopping at Marks & Spencer and Waitrose. Today, the age of austerity means she still goes to Waitrose for her basic food shop but cannily switches to Aldi for her luxury bargains such as Parma ham and prosecco. Identified by Caroline Flint, she is a key target of both Labour and the Conservatives
4/6 Glass Ceiling Woman
In her thirties or forties, she has an established career under her belt, perhaps in the “marzipan layer” – one position below the still male-dominated senior executive level. She is now, according to Nick Clegg, forced into making the “heart-breaking choice” between staying at home to bring up her children and going to work and forking out for high-cost, round-the-clock childcare
5/6 Harassed Hipsters
One of the two key groups identified by Labour as crucial to hand Ed Miliband the keys to Downing Street. Well-paid professional couples, often with children, they live in diverse urban and metropolitan areas rather than the suburbs. More comfortably off than most swing voters, they are time poor – struggling to balance raising a young family with busy work schedules
These are mainly first-time voters, though some are in their twenties – students and digital-age generation renters helping to fuel the “Green Surge”. Idealists, but with no tribal loyalty to any party, they are anti-austerity, middle class, living in urban areas. Despite studying at university or recently graduated, they are struggling to find decent jobs and want cheaper housing and a higher minimum wage
If I was Prime Minister I would make sure everyone with a learning disability gets good quality healthcare. When I go to hospital, I sometimes find it hard to understand what I’m being told about my own health. But it could be worse. About 1,200 people with a learning disability die for reasons that could be avoided in the NHS every year. Therefore I would make sure that all GPs, doctors and nurses had training on the adjustments they need to make to give good healthcare to people with a learning disability.
I would also make it a priority to get more people with a learning disability into work and becoming an active member of there community. I know how important it is to feel like I do as a valued and trusted member of a team but many people with a learning disability get to experience this feeling.
As Prime Minister, I would make sure the education system helps young people with a learning disability get work experience and take part in work trials. That’s how I got my job at Mencap and I’ve been here for 18 years. I would also ensure that people with a learning disability are at the very heart of their local community.
I would also do everything in my power to make sure people with a learning disability were treated as equals in all areas of their lives. This simply isn’t the case right now; there’s still far too much discrimination happening every day.
It's nice to imagine the work I could do as Prime Minister. But what is more important to me is to make sure the next government listens to people with a learning disability through working on Mencap’s Hear My Voice campaign, which has seen over 300 parliamentary candidates pledge their support to learning disability issues, including David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg.
— Hear my voice campaign is all about supporting people with a learning disability to speak up on the issues that matter to them ahead of the general election. www.hear-my-voice.org.ukReuse content