Week 11: What to do if your MP wins a golden ticket in the Private Members’ Bill ballot #107days

This blog post, on the eve of the Private Members’ Bill ballot #PMBBallot makes some suggestions of what to do if your MP wins the golden ticket in tomorrow’s ballot (and some of them might be useful even if they don’t).

Thanks to the unstinting efforts of #JusticeforLB’ers across the country, at the time of writing over half of all MPs (333 out of 650) have been contacted about #LBBill. This is a huge achievement in just over a week, and reflects the entirely crowdsourced nature of the Bill so far.

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Our campaigning is far from over though and we need to redouble our efforts at 9am tomorrow, when the ballot for this year’s Private Members’ Bills takes place. The House of Commons twitter account has been highlighting the role of PMBs and using the #PMBBallot all week, so we’re hopeful that they may live tweet it and if you’re online you can watch it on Parliament TV here!

Shortly after 9am we will know the names of the MPs who will have the chance to present a Bill of their choice to Parliament. As explained in a previous blog on the LBBill site we need one of the top six or seven MPs to take #LBBill for it to have a real chance of becoming law.

Therefore we’re asking all of you to check Facebook or Twitter as soon as you can after the ballot tomorrow morning to see if your MP has drawn one of the ‘golden tickets’, that is to see if they came high up in the Private Members Bill ballot.

If they have, then these are some suggestions of things you might do to get your MP’s attention and persuade them to sponsor the #LBBill:

1) Tweet your MP. While this only takes a few seconds our experience so far is that not all MPs engage with their Twitter accounts (indeed some still aren’t on Twitter). So please do this, but don’t just do this! 140 characters is limiting but please try to get across why #LBBill matters.

2) Email your MP. We won’t win any prizes for originality with this suggestion but emails will go straight to the MP’s staff and experience is showing supporters are getting better engagement from emails than tweets. Explain to your MP why #LBBill matters to you.

3) Phone your MP. You can ring the House of Commons switchboard on 020 7219 3000 and ask to be put through to the office of your MP. Be sure to say you are their constituent, you are calling because you know they have been drawn high up in the Private Members Bill ballot and that you would like them to sponsor #LBBill. Explain why the Bill matters from your perspective. If you can’t reach your MP ask for their researcher.

4) Send your MP a letter. Despite being a little bit obsessed with the power of social media to engage with politics, we also love getting post and think your MP may too. Why not dig out your finest writing paper, or dig in to your stash of LBBus postcards and write to your MP. Be sure to do it quick so it reaches your MP before they decide on who to support. If you have children or artists you’re keen to engage, why not send your MP an LB Bus picture too and explain the significance.

5) Go to your MP’s next surgery. All MPs hold surgeries where their constituents can go and discuss local issues with them face to face. Check your MPs website, look in the local press and find out when their next surgery is to be held. Maybe try to get a group of people together to go and see them. If you are going as a group you might want to contact your MP’s constituency office (as opposed to their office in Parliament) and let them know in advance.

6) Go to see your MP in Parliament. If you contact your MP by email or by phone (see 2 and 3 above) you could ask for an appointment to go and see them in Parliament – and perhaps take friends / a local group with you. If you meet in Westminster you may also be able to get a tour round Parliament!

7) Invite your MP to come and meet you. You might like to invite your MP to come and meet you and your family at home, or to come and speak to a local group your involved in. MPs generally want to engage in their local community and it will help convince them of the need for action if they get an insight into people’s real lives.

8) Hold a #JusticeforLB pop-up picnic or party and invite your MP along. The idea for pop-up parties was first shared back in April (see Action 3 in this post) and we’re keen to ensure everyone, regardless of any disability they may have, gets the chance to attend. This is a great chance for a number of people to get together, have fun and meet your MP in an informal setting.

Even if your MP is not a lucky golden ticket holder, their support for the Bill could be key. The more MPs that are aware of the challenges facing disabled people, the origins of the Bill and how it could improve disabled peoples live, the better. The one key element of any action at this stage, is speed.

MPs will be starting to commit to particular causes in the hours and days after the ballot. So please do contact your MP as soon as possible, even if just by a quick tweet, email, letter or call. You can always follow up with something more creative.

Some resources that might help you are:
– The quick guide to the Bill
– The full text of the Bill
Explanatory notes, which deal with the technical issues
– A film which explains where the Bill came from and what it would do
– A blog from Sara explaining why the Bill would have made a difference to LB
– A blog from Steve explaining why the Bill is needed in the light of the Care Act 2014

You can include links to some or all of these when you contact your MP, but they will definitely need to have the full text of the Bill to hand. You can download it by clicking here: LBBill Draft 2

If your MP has any questions, they can send us an email to LBBillFeedback@gmail.com or tweet us @JusticeforLB and we will arrange for someone from the LBBill Team to call them.

Don’t forget if your MP isn’t chosen at the top of the ballot (a highly likely event) that you can still email or tweet them asking them to contact their colleagues who have been successful in the ballot and support the Bill. Peer pressure is very important!

Finally, there will be thirteen MPs who are picked at 8-20 in the ballot who will get the chance to sponsor a Bill but without any realistic prospect of it having enough Parliamentary time to become law! If we cannot persuade any of the top seven MPs to sponsor the Bill we would be delighted for it to be picked up by any of these MPs as a chance to keep the pressure up. So if your MP is picked in a lower slot please still contact them.

Thanks for your support so far, and for all the work that will follow Thursday’s ballot. Some of you potentially hold the keys to the next stage of making the #LBBill law and are about to have a very important role to play in the campaign! As ever, we could not do this without you, so thank you.

Week 10: Why the #LBBill is important to me #107days

Today’s blog post is a guest blog from John Lish. When the first draft of the #LBBill was shared, John was one of the many people who provided feedback, and his feedback is directly reflected in, and vastly improves, the current draft of the Bill. As part of Week 10, an action week to encourage you all to write to your MP and tell them about the Bill, John offered to share a blog post about why the Bill was important to him. Here it is:

Although I had heard of Connor Sparrowhawk and his death through news reports, I hadn’t been aware of last year’s #107days campaign. It was a conversation with Claire Jones (a contributor to the Justice Quilt) during a break in our work with the Barker Commission that brought the Justice for LB campaign and the LBBill to my attention. I joined the Facebook page set up by Mark Neary to discuss the LBBill shortly afterwards.

Now, like Connor, I am on the autistic spectrum but that in itself doesn’t entail motivation or importance to this campaign. It allows some perspective and insight but the essential drivers to support this campaign are a visceral sense of injustice and a desire to see change occur that allows everyone to have the support that enables control over their lives which most take for granted.

Yet there is a personal element to my support and it revolves around the idea of time. I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum in my late 30s a few years ago. Thinking back, I can see where my autistic traits interplayed through my life such as my intolerance of adult authority figures if I thought them idiotic and would express that opinion. These days, I suspect that 7 year old would be diagnosed with ‘oppositional defiant disorder’ and my parents offered drug management of said condition. In the 1970s, I was just considered to be a badly behaved awkward git. While today’s world is different, I’m not entirely sure that it has progressed in an entirely beneficial manner.

That seems to be particularly true when dealing with teenagers who happen to be autistic and/or have learning difficulties. My teenage years were difficult for me and my family and there were periods where none of us coped with my depression and behaviour. The difference made to my family and I was the community support from the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. It was appropriate and gave me the space to work through the complexities within my head.

Reflecting now on what occurred some 25 years ago, the definition of adolescent seems broader than today. The past wasn’t obsessed with the notion of “transition” that exist today and having rigid barriers between child and adult services. There was less money around as well which may seem a bad thing but given the growth in ATUs which have coincided with the pump-priming that occurred in the NHS from the turn of the century, more money appears to have facilitated more interventions with worse outcomes.

There also seems to be more labelling of conditions which is a concern when issues such as mental health problems are seen as a result of having autism for example. That may be true for some but equally we shouldn’t lose sight of someone with autism who just happens to have a mental health problem. Their autism will affect the state of their mental health but we shouldn’t assume it drives their mental health issues as the individual gets consumed within the condition. This is why clause 8 of the #LBBill is so important.

This is why I feel fortunate. Back during that dark period, I didn’t have a label of a condition. I was just a young man who was depressed, alienated and inarticulate. Importantly I was given the time and space to find myself. A process that has continued to this day. The point about autism is that its a development disorder but it doesn’t mean the absence of development, merely its a different process. Sometimes that is close to normal development or it can be very different in expression or timescales. It is always very human.

That perhaps is the hardest part of this #107days campaign. That Connor didn’t get the time and space he deserved and that absence of time is marked by this finite period. That feels very cruel.

So the #LBBill is important to me because all the dudes deserve the support, time and space to live their lives however and whatever that looks like. The support I’ve had, the time and space to explore and experience the world shouldn’t be a gift to be bestowed but simply a human right of expression. There is some distance to go but if the #LBBill became an Act then it would be an important step towards achieving that.

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Week 10: Why the #LBBill is more than the Care Act #107days

Today’s guest blog post is from Steve Broach, a key protagonist in the #LBBill. Here he reflects on why we need the Bill.

It is such a thrill to see the map of the UK turning green as Justice for LB supporters contact their MPs to ask them to support #LBBill, the proposed new law to reinforce disabled people’s right to live in the community with choices equal to others.

Getting the Bill to this stage has involved the collective wisdom of a huge number of passionate and committed people. We have had input on the content of the Bill from disabled people’s organisations, individual disabled people, families, carers, friends and allies. The text of the second draft of the Bill is much improved from its first draft, with a stronger rights focus including implementation of the right to independent living in Article 19 of the UN Disability Convention.

There are some ideas in the bill that can be traced back to one individual, like Mark Neary’s original idea that all placements made by the state should be subject to approval, which is reflected in Clause 5. Others have emerged from the free-flowing discussion, debate and dialogue that has characterised the process so far.

We had hoped to have more time to debate Draft 2, it’s my fault we don’t, because I’d thought the ballot for private members’ bills was in July, whereas in fact it is on 4 June. This is the kind of mistake that would get a professional campaigner fired, but as we are all volunteers and no-one’s in charge I’ll probably get away with it. Apologies nonetheless.

So the key action now is to get as many MPs as possible informed about and supportive of the Bill, so that when we know the outcome of the ballot we have the best chance of getting a high-ranking MP to sponsor the Bill (see the #LBBill process post for a more detailed explanation of this).

One of the question supporters are likely to be asked by MPs and their staff is what difference would #LBBill make, and in particular, wasn’t this all dealt with last year in the Care Act 2014? The short answer to these questions is, a huge difference, and no. A more compelling answer to the difference question has been given by Sara Ryan in an amazing post as part of this Week 10 of #107days.

So I’ll take the lawyer’s question, which is why the Care Act isn’t enough.

I’ll be the first to agree that the Care Act is a step forward. The well-being duty in Section 1 has the potential to transform the approach to how social care is provided to disabled people. However, the Care Act is an act about social care, it says nothing about the NHS services that many disabled people need. It also falls far short of implementing a right to independent living.

In particular the Care Act doesn’t do any of these things which #LBBill would do:

  1. Require the state to ensure that all disabled people can live in their community, with choices equal to others and the support necessary to ensure their full inclusion and participation in the community (Clause 1)
  2. Expressly reject any idea of capping expenditure on care at home at the level of the cost of residential care (Clause 2). This is likely already to be unlawful but it is known that this practice goes on and it should be outlawed.
  3. Require the state to secure in every area a sufficient supply of community support, and to make sure disabled people are employed to plan and commission these services (Clause 3)
  4. Ensure that the most appropriate living arrangement is made for every disabled person who needs state help, which will generally be the arrangement they choose (Clause 4)
  5. Require appropriate approval of all living arrangements made by the state (Clause 5)
  6. Require reporting on all living arrangements made by the state, to create the disinfecting effect of sunlight which is so badly lacking at present (Clause 6)
  7. Make the Mental Capacity Act 2005 more respectful of the rights of disabled people and their carers, as a prelude to proper systemic reform of the MCA (Clause 7)
  8. Take people with learning disabilities and autism out of the scope of the civil sections of the Mental Health Act 1983 (Clause 8)
  9. Ensure the provision of appropriate community mental health services to people with autism and learning disabilities (Clause 9)
  10. Abolish the use of secret ‘panels’ and require disabled people and those around them to be properly involved in all decisions made about them (Clause 10)

So, none of #LBBill duplicates anything that is in the Care Act, or other existing legislation. It’s all new and it’s all what the community of #JusticeforLB supporters has said is needed if the law is to properly reflect and respect disabled people’s human rights.

With the government expected to announce today its intention to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, let’s get our politicians thinking about the rights disabled people and their families have said they want and need to be enshrined in law. Please keep pushing so that every MP knows about #LBBill and knows how much it matters in advance of the ballot.

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With thanks to Caron Stuart-Cole of Graphics on the GO for this brilliant image.

Week 10: Tell your MP about #LBBill #107days

The #LBBill is an idea to change the law for disabled people so that they have more control over what happens in their lives. We need your help to achieve that.

So Week 10 of #107days is an action week and we’ve dedicated it to promoting the #LBBill to all the MPs (new and old) now in Westminster. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the #LBBill you can visit the Bill website here and read the full draft Bill here. As with everything #JusticeforLB it has been developed organically and collaboratively, gathering feedback from far and wide including hundreds of disabled people, family members and allies. You can watch a short film (6 mins) about the #LBBill, where it came from and why it’s important here:

We need to contact as many MPs as possible to make them aware of the #LBBill and ask for their support in the Private Member’s Ballot. You can write to your MP via the WriteToThem website (it’ll even tell you who your MP is if you’re not sure); you could also tweet your MP and ask them to pledge their support to the Bill. If you’re unsure of what to say, you could include any of the following:

Please tell your MP that you support the #JusticeforLB campign and that you’re asking them to support a Private Members Bill drafted by the campaign. Please also explain that supporters of the campaign have come together to draft a Bill which would promote and protect disabled people’s right to live in the community with choices equal to others and the support they need. It has become known as ‘LB Bill’ in memory of Connor Sparrowhawk (who was known as LB or Laughing Boy).

Your MP might like to know that the Bill is on its second draft and has had feedback from hundreds of disabled people, family members and allies. The Bill has mass support, as you can see on the campaign website https://lbbill.wordpress.com/supporters. It builds on existing legislation, including the Care Act 2014.

Sign off encouraging your MP to support this Bill and why not ask them to encourage their colleagues to do so. Also encourage them, if they are eligible for and successful in the Private Members Bill ballot, to sponsor the Bill. It would help us if you asked them to reply to let you know whether they support the Bill. It takes two minutes to pledge their support and they can do so here: http://eepurl.com/73mXX

Please add a comment to this post with your MP’s name (and their party and your constituency if you know it) once you’ve contacted them directly, this will help us keep track on how many MPs know about the Bill. If your MP replies and has any specific questions or wishes to discuss the #LBBill then they can email us at LBBillFeedback@gmail.com We look forward to the pledges of support flooding in.

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