It’s been a busy few weeks for the Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns team as they attended the Labour, Conservative, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and Scottish National Party (SNP) political party conferences.
Party conferences are an amazing opportunity for Guide Dogs to engage with politicians and political party members about our campaigns. This year the team spoke to delegates about our Open Doors, Scoot Aware and All Things Equal campaigns and how they can make a difference for people with sight loss.
Across the four conferences the team spoke to 117 MPs as well as many councillors and elected representatives of the devolved administrations. Visitors to the stand included the Prime Minister, the Secretaries of State for Transport and Health and the Minister for Equalities, Shadow Ministers for Children and Transport, and the Chair of the Education Select Committee.
Every year to bring our campaign messages to life in an engaging way we invite politicians to take part in a game – this year was no different. Delegates competed in our Plinko Game of Chance to see who had the best knowledge of our campaigns.
In addition to our stand, Guide Dogs also supported young service users to speak at fringe events, which we ran jointly with the National Deaf Children Society (NDCS). Guide dog owner Caitlin, 18, spoke about her experiences of school at the Labour Conference, while 16-year-old Neve talked about her time in mainstream education at the Conservative Conference. We were delighted to be able to collaborate with the NDCS and are grateful to both Caitlin and Neve for sharing their experiences.
While at the conferences the team were interviewed by the media. In Liverpool at the Labour Party Conference, campaign volunteer, Colin, and his guide dog, Diamond, were featured live on Sky News. Presenter Kay Burley played our game and spoke to Helen Honstvet, about our Open Doors campaign. Clive Wood spoke to radio station LBC about the impact of e-scooters.
In Birmingham at the Conservative Party Conference, Blanche Shackleton was interviewed by Times Radio about our Open Doors campaign, with journalist Matt Chorley, who rehomed a retired guide dog after attending a previous Conservative Party Conference. In his package, Matt also spoke to Guide Dogs’ Penny Hefferan and Pete Bungay about being guide dog owners. Jess Faulkner spoke to Heart Radio while Times Radio also spoke to Helen Honstvet.
We are also so grateful to all our volunteers Lynette, Colin, Clare, Steve, June, Elaine, Jon, Robert and Andrea who attended the various conferences with their guide dogs to share their first-hand experiences with politicians.
But that’s not all, next month, the team are heading down to Dublin for the Sinn Féin Ardfheis, where they look forward to continuing our conversations with politicians there about our campaigns and the issues that matter for people with sight loss.
The team will now be focusing on following up with the connections that we made during the political party conferences, asking them to help us to further our campaigns.
Young vision impaired students shared their experiences of mainstream education and talked about the importance of specialist support for vision impaired children and young people at the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences.
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