MS campaigners help break party conference record
Party conferences might seem all speeches and champagne receptions, but for us and the MS community it was an opportunity to deliver our own, simple message: MS must become a government priority if we are to improve the treatment, care and support available to people affected by MS.
Here are four ways in which our activities at party conferences helped us to achieve this goal.
1. ESA motion
A motion was passed during the Lib Dem conference, committing the party to oppose government plans to place a 12 month time limit on those receiving contributory ESA in the Work-Related Activity Group – a proposal that could deprive thousands of people with MS of vital support as soon as April of next year. Shana Pezaro, recently named MS campaigner of the year, spoke passionately during the debate and was instrumental in persuading voters to pass the motion.
2. Fringe Events
We joined with other organisations in three speaker events at each conference, engaging politicians, media, and decision-makers on:
- how changes to the welfare benefits system can be made fairer for disabled people
- how the NHS can best commission specialist services for people with neurological conditions
- why the social care system desperately needs funding and reform.
The MS Society’s Head of Policy and Campaigns, Laura Weir, also tussled with Health Select Committee Chair, Stephen Dorrell MP, whilst giving a speech at the Conservative conference on the problems faced by many in accessing MS treatments.
3. Meetings with MPs and Ministers: some highlights
We spoke to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, about the current low profile of neurology in NHS reforms. Maria Miller, the Disabilities Minister, committed to engaging with us on how we can learn from previous issues with Work Capability Assessments when it comes to other assessments such as those for PIP.
We spoke with Shadow Work & Pensions Minister Stephen Timms about why it’s so important that Labour opposes time-limiting ESA. And we held meetings with a number peers who committed to raising our concerns with the government’s welfare reform agenda in the House of Lords.
4. Our conference stand
Almost 700 MS campaigners took action to e-mail their MP to ask them to visit our stand at this year’s conference, allowing us to meet with a record-breaking 88 MPs - nearly 1 in every 7 MPs, and over 3 times as many as last year.
Our work, and your work, is only just beginning. To make sure that forthcoming reforms to the NHS, the welfare system, and to social care truly deliver for people affected by MS, we need to maintain pressure on these key contacts.
We know that MPs are most likely to take action if their own constituents ask them to.
Find out whether your MP came to visit our party conference stand, and send them a message asking them to attend the next meeting of our Parliamentary Group (APPG) to help us get them to help us raise MS issues in parliament.
You can also see who we met, and what we talked to them about, by checking out our conference photos.