It’s still wintry outside but spring is already in the air – spring, that is, for the political parties here in Wales who are holding their annual spring conferences over the next few weeks.
Party conferences aren’t usually something the public feel is relevant to their everyday lives or something they want to get involved in. But, last weekend I went to the first of the Welsh political parties’ spring conferences and it got me thinking – and learning – about how I might be able to bring the personal into the political.
So I went armed with some stories, issues and solutions Sense Cymru supporters have shared with me about their experiences of social care, health and special education. These are stories I’ve heard when supporters have participated in events or have been involved in setting the direction of our campaigns. I wanted to make it as personal as possible so I also took with me some photos of young people from Sense Cymru’s Being Me! project speaking to Assembly Members about the issues that are important to them.
But I also learned how to bring the personal even closer to the political during this conference, as well as how effective this can be when it’s done well.
On the second day, when people were fatigued and jaded, Action for Children, Barnardo’s Cymru, NSPCC Cymru and the Welsh Refugee Council injected energy and freshness into the proceedings with their round table event, where 20 children and young people – some as young as 8! – shared their experiences and even pitched various policy proposals to all who were willing to hear.
Politicians and policy makers flocked to the event. They really did want to hear what these children and young people had to say. And, from what I witnessed, they genuinely engaged with the ideas and issues they were presented with.
This event was a real testimony to the importance of involving people in the decisions that affect them. It was also a great display of why bringing people together with decision makers is more powerful than a Policy Officer, such as myself, conveying people’s stories second-hand.
Which is why it’s such a crucial part of my role to go out and engage with the people Sense works with in Wales and to bring deafblind people, their family and supporters up close and personal with decision makers.
So, today, I’m on the road visiting a social group for deafblind people in Cardiff. Firstly, I want to make the most of this opportunity to listen to what the individuals in this group can tell me. But, I’ll also be sharing with them why their involvement in Sense Cymru’s policy and campaigns work can support changes that could affect deafblind people across Wales and how their personal story can have significant political impact.
But you needn’t wait for me to approach you to get involved in Sense Cymru’s campaigns work. Why not make sure your personal story is heard on the political stage by signing up for updates on our e-campaigning actions or contact me directly on Catrin.Edwards@sense.org.uk? With reforms to social care and special educational needs on the horizon in Wales, we want to make sure your voice is heard loud and clear!