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Care home residents deserve a vote this General Election

Blog post 4 May 2017

In the columns of The Guardian, Sara Livadeas, a consultant with Social Care Works, writes: “Care homes are communities within communities, and have a vital role to play for people who would otherwise face isolation and declining health.”

And the writer adds that understanding the role of the care sector in enhancing lives is “too often neglected in favour of bad news stories and funding crisis discussions.”

I agree. The point she goes on to make is that those who live in residential homes still should have a voice – particularly when it comes to the coming General Election. I like it.

Not all care home residents are intellectually compromised and many do hold strong opinions, believe me.

Livadeas suggests: “With a government and media obsessed by Brexit, social care is not going to get much of a look in during this election campaign.

“We can do something about this. People living in care homes are lucky enough to have some time on their hands. Older people have been around the block a few times, know their own minds and generally don’t suffer fools. The most obvious thing to do is to bring them face to face with politicians.”

Can you imagine it?

With social care in peril, those who are supported by it really should have the loudest of voices, but it just doesn’t happen.

Let me quote a little more from Livadeas’ work regarding the way she sees extra leverage can be brought to the Government door: “It shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange [media visits to care homes].

“Politicians want to get elected and are not going to miss a photo opportunity – so invite all your local candidates into care homes and hold hustings. If you can invite the local media at the same time, all the better.

“Local people will see that care home residents still have opinions, are still part of society and their votes count. And it will force candidates to address the issue of social care, even if it’s just to discuss some of the most basic questions: who pays for care and what’s available locally?”

In the General Election of May 2015, the Orders of St John Care Trust their residents were encouraged to vote. At the time the OSJCT invited candidates to visit with a remarkable consequence.

Before the candidates arrived residents “did not seem interested”, but afterwards 70 per cent decided to vote.

The "Your Vote Counts" campaign involved appointing Voting Champions – staff or volunteers – who ensured there were plenty of activities and debates to engage the campaign policies of the day.

And in Wiltshire, Oxford and Lincoln election candidates made visits to have their say and face the residents’ questions.

The OSJCT was not a political campaign, but one that actively honoured the voting rights of our elderly.

Livadeas adds: “We need to get people in care homes voting . . .

“By creating voting champions we also raised the profile of our residents as citizens and reminded people of their rights. Deciding who to vote for is a very personal decision and a fundamental expression of your individuality – it really brings out who you are, what you value and what you want for your future, and that of your family.”

To support a voting campaign in a care home, you first need to make sure residents are registered to vote and then sort postal voting – logistically much easier.

Legally, only those in prison can be deprived of their voting rights.