Campaigning for Sense helped me give my brother a voice

A boy smiling
Saima’s brother, who is supported by Sense

My name is Saima and I have been campaigning for Sense for a number of years. I got involved in campaigning after personally experiencing the difficulties of getting the right support and service for my brother.

My brother is supported by Sense in Luton, and has been for several years. The team there are fantastic. Since my brother has attended, he has transformed into a confident, happy and independent young man, and it is all down to the hard work of the team. I have been a supporter of Sense since then.

Before Sense opened its centre in Luton, there were none that could meet my brother’s needs – he is visually impaired and has severe learning difficulties. Either there were centres that looked after individuals with mobility impairment or centres that looked after individuals with mental health impairments.

At one point, we were considering whether to move towns, to where there were centres or services that met my brother’s needs. Going through this, I met parents and carers of multi-sensory impaired children and adults. I heard similar problems they faced – the lack of disability support and accessible services, particularly in health, education and general welfare.

I was worried about my brother’s future and wanted to provide a voice for him and for other individuals on issues that would have an adverse impact on them – they are citizens like us and are entitled to have a normal life. I wanted to have a more involved role and make a positive change in society – I thought the best way is to campaign for Sense. Looking back, it was my brother who inspired me and drove me to get involved in campaigning.

I have taken part in various campaigns led by Sense. The most memorable one for me was opposing the UK Government’s proposal to cut social welfare costs in 2012 – this affected my brother, where his attendance to Sense was reduced from five days to four days a week. The campaign involved taking part in meetings where I met family members and individuals concerned about the cuts and the affect it would have on them. It was an experience talking to these different individuals – some had different stories to tell, and others were similar to mine, which provided comfort as my brother was not suffering alone.

Following the meetings, I raised awareness of these cuts by writing a blog (no longer available). By sharing my personal experience, I was able to explain these cuts, the welfare costs and the impact. I was amazed by the positive responses I received. The piece resonated with people who were affected by this, and it educated people who were not aware of it. I realised how powerful your voice can be when you campaign, especially alongside others who are not often heard.

We need more people to campaign on behalf of Sense. In today’s current circumstances and Government austerity, thousands of people with complex needs or multi-sensory impairment will be affected – their rights will be eliminated and they will face inequality. The only way to protect their rights is to campaign – it is an opportunity to have power to change things through challenging, spreading awareness, discussing and taking action.

Campaigning is not all about taking huge action; it is also about undertaking small positive acts such as writing to your local MP or discussing current issues. Small acts will achieve results. Without campaigning we cannot achieve positive results.

Saima is a member of the Campaigners’ Network, which you can join to make your voice heard, and support Sense with campaigns.

Read more about campaigning from another member of the Campaigners’ Network.

What I’ll be asking from the next government at the Disability Hustings Event

Author: Saima Zia

Saima is a member of Sense's Campaigners' Network

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