The right to vote was hard won, but even in 2017 some people in the UK find real difficulties exercising that right. The Advocacy Project makes the right to vote a practical reality for the people we work with – whether old people in care homes, people with learning disabilities or inpatients in mental health hospitals.
Partnership with RightsInfo
The Advocacy Project is delighted to partner with RightsInfo to raise awareness of barriers that need to be removed so everyone can exercise their right to vote. Through the partnership we’re bringing together research and policy with some very down to earth practical things that can be done. You can read the election piece we’ve collaborated on with RightsInfo here.
We think RightsInfo is a great organisation doing a great job. We were thrilled that Adam Wagner, Founder and Strategic Director, gave a pro bono lecture on future of human rights as part of our CPD programme.
Only 14% of people in mental health hospitals voted in the 2010 election…
Dr Dele Olajide, Associate Medical Director at the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, says people with mental health conditions are vulnerable and often disenfranchised. Practical things like arranging leave in order to vote or registering for a postal vote can pose real challenges, particularly for inpatients.
Kieran Katwala has lived experience of mental health problems. He is an active part of The Advocacy Project’s Different Voices group which makes sure patients in CNWL mental health hospitals can share their views to improve local services. Having been in hospital during an election, he strongly supports our work raising awareness of the right to vote on the wards. He knows how important it is for advocates and ‘voting champions’ to support on a practical level – whether registering a postal vote or arranging for leave to go to the polling station.
At The Advocacy Project, we understand the barriers people face and what’s needed (see infographic). We work closely with Central and North West London Mental Health Trust to support mental health patients to vote. Our advocates talk to people, give them the information and help them make the necessary practical arrangements. We work with CNWL’s ‘voting champions’ to make this happen.
Mike Waddington, CNWL’s Director of Communications says “Rights are the essence of citizenship and voting is first amongst them. Supporting people to use them – getting registered, reading manifestos, how to vote and getting to the polling station – is a massive organisational activity, in fact only exceeded by its importance.”
Supporting people to vote in London’s care homes
Older people can also need support in exercising their right to vote, especially in those cases where people are deemed to lack mental capacity. We raised awareness and made information about the election available in the care homes where we work. People welcomed the easy read manifestos.
We offered advocacy support to help people understand relevant information and communicate their needs. We encouraged care home managers to appoint a voting rights lead, and sent them a ‘voting rights tracker’ so they could see who has been asked about voting.
Easy read manifestos and travel planning
Robert Ebanks has learning disabilities and works for The Advocacy Project. His role involves making sure the perspectives of people with learning disabilities inform decisions made by his local council. He has been raising awareness of the right to vote amongst people with learning disabilities, helping them understand the easy read manifestos, making sure they know how to get to the polling station, and how to vote for their preferred candidate on the day.
Pandora Varrakalion is a longstanding member of one of The Advocacy Project’s ‘speaking up’ groups. She has learning disabilities. She’s passionate about people participating in decisions that affect their lives, so she helps others with learning disabilities understand the parties’ policies. She is particularly keen to make sure people know how to find their way to polling stations on election day.
Sharing the experience of voting
Each day of election week, RightsInfo is raising awareness of the right to vote by sharing the experiences of one of our service users. Click on the links as they become live each day to see what they say.
What good is the right to vote if practical difficulties and lack of accessible information get in the way? Small things make a huge difference. The Advocacy Project is proud our staff are working with marginalised communities, service users, and partners (including RightsInfo and CNWL) to make the right to vote a reality for people whose circumstances can leave them disenfranchised.