I was privileged to be asked to speak at the Parliamentary reception for the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, about my own experiences of loneliness as a disabled person.
I am deafblind; I’m severely sight impaired and have a severe to profound hearing impairment. Accessing social situations and noisy busy environments can be very difficult for me. Feeling frustrated, annoyed, angry, scared or upset because I cannot access something, or go somewhere – due to the implications of my impairments – can be made worse by feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
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.
A hustings is a meeting where potential candidates for an election talk to voters. On Tuesday 30 May I will be at a Disability Hustings Event where disabled people pose questions to these candidates, raise issues, and tell them what they think should be prioritised if they are in post after the general election.
My name is Emma Blackmore. I am a 29 year old who was born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome. My lifelong ambition is to help others and that’s where Sense comes in. Not only have I been a member of Sense since I was 14 years old but I work at the Sense Woodside Family Centre in my home town, Bristol. I am also part of Sense’s Campaigners’ Network.
Following Theresa May’s surprise announcement that we would be having a snap general election, all the political parties have jostled for air time, trying to capture the public’s imagination with their key messages.
So far, Brexit has remained top of the agenda.
However, there are vital domestic issues facing the country as well, top of my list would be the crisis-stricken social care sector.
The general election on 8 June 2017 is an opportunity for the next government to listen and respond to the concerns of disabled people.
We know that in 2017, disabled people continue to face barriers to access to a range of services, and especially for people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments, or complex needs, it can be a struggle to find the right tailored support.
That’s why we would like to see the next government put disabled people at the heart of their agenda, and ensure that they are supported to live full, independent lives and realise their aspirations just like everybody else.
When we spoke to people who are deafblind about their experiences of employment, it was clear that many had been through negative experiences with employers, including a lack of understanding about how to meet the needs of people with sensory impairments in the workplace.
This lack of support and understanding has meant that, for those people with sensory impairments that wish to work, they have come up against additional barriers like inaccessible recruitment processes and failures to adjust the working environment to suit communication needs.
Last year, in what we could only describe as a bleak day for disabled people, the Government announced plans to reduce the financial support by around £30 a week for new recipients of the Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG). This change took place from 1 April 2017.
Social care finances have been permitted to get to such a dire state that the quality and capacity of the sector has been undermined. There is no easy solution, but Sense has developed five key principles which should inform the Government’s decisions.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly made us wait, but at long last it seems like the government has recognised the true scale of the issues facing social care today.
Over the years, spending reductions have taken their toll, nudging the state of adult social care finances towards tipping point. The latest figures estimated the care sector was due to begin the next financial year with a deficit of at least £1 billion, an unsustainable situation which experts warned could lead to its collapse.
So it was with a great sense of relief that we welcomed the government’s commitment to spend an additional £2 billion on social care over the next three years, with The Chancellor guaranteeing £1 billion for immediate use in order to stabilise the sector for the next year. This sum of money should effectively see the sector through the next twelve months and divert the demise of the sector which many believed was imminent.