Well, our day one at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Bournemouth has gone well, even though we didn’t really plan to get going until tomorrow.
* Managing to – very briefly – speak with Nick Clegg, the leader of the party, as he walking through the exhibition hall.
* Attending a fringe meeting on inclusion of children with special educational needs, hosted by the Royal National Institute for Deaf people, Treehouse charity for autistic children and the National Union of Teachers. A leading MP, Annette Brooke, came and spoke of her anger that disabled children were being let down by a failure to provide specialist support. My boss, Director of Policy and Campaigns at NDCS, asked the panel whether they thought teachers should be given a statement of entitlements if they work with deaf children – like an entitlement to work in a classroom with good acoustics, specialist support staff with the right qualifications, and with adequate training on working with deaf children. The point seemed to go down well and the NUT seemed keen to follow it up.
* Doing a tour of the exhibition stands and making links with other charities and organisations – including the Royal National Institute for Blind people, CentreForum think tank and the Liberal Democrat Education Association.
* Attending another fringe meeting, run by Every Disabled Child Matters campaign organisation, which managed to attract 3 Liberal Democrat MPs. Reforming Disability Living Allowance benefit was mentioned as a priority by several of these MPs. Families with disabled children shouldn’t be living in poverty as a result of having to care for a disabled child, or buy accessible childcare or buy special equipment. A pertinent point to us given the evidence out there indicating that families with deaf children are also disproportionately in poverty.
The main highlight of the day though had to be seeing celebrity MP, Lembit Opik, in action campaigning for segways to be allowed on the road – by publicly riding it up and down the hill outside the conference centre. If his effort was to prove how safe it is, he probably didn’t count on my Director of Policy and Campaigns getting in the way and nearly being run over by a MP on a segway.
Much busier day tomorrow as Laura comes to town to help us campaign for better education for deaf children.