Northamptonshire candidates promise to extend bus pass hours for people with learning disabilities

Candidates answer questions from trainees with learning disabilities
Candidates answer questions from trainees with learning disabilities
  • Candidates “could not understand” why free bus passes for people with learning difficulties are only valid from 9.30am
  • They answered questions on how they would support people with mental health issues and what they understand “accessibility” to mean
  • The training programme could be used for involving people with learning disabilities in politics in the future

Northamptonshire parliamentary candidates promised to change the 9.30am start time on free bus passes during a hustings event for people with learning disabilities.

During the event by the Northamptonshire County Council-employed Learning Disability Partnership Board, all five candidates said they “could not understand” why the passes were not valid before this time in the morning.

The candidates unanimously agreed that they would change this, and none of them could understand why that restriction was in place

Debbie Allen, partnership and involvement manager at the Disability Partnership Board

The event involved audience members putting six carefully chosen questions to each candidate to answer within a time limit as part of a new training programme to engage people with learning disabilities in politics.

Debbie Allen, the board’s partnership and involvement manager, said: “The people who use these passes go out to work and college or have to collect benefits early in the morning, just like anyone else, so the time limit causes a problem there.

“The candidates unanimously agreed that they would change this, and none of them could understand why that restriction was in place.”

Candidates who turned up on the day included David Mackintosh (Con), Tony Clarke (Green), Abigail Campbell (Lab), Angela Patterson (Lib Dem) and Marion Turner (Green).

Other questions they answered from the programme trainees included how they would help disabled people get access to employment, health care and housing, as well as what the word “accessibility” meant to them individually.

Mrs Allen said: “There was a varied degree of understanding among the candidates about the importance of these issues, but they each contacted us afterwards to say how much they enjoyed the event.

“About 30 people turned up and they all had a fantastic day. It was very interesting to see how passionate they were and how much inspiration it gave them to talk to their own MPs and local organisations to get involved in making changes.”

The course was set up with the help of a parliamentary outreach programme after the Board received questions and concerns from disabled people about voting and their role in the election process.

Mrs Allen said: “This has effectively been a pilot programme and it has been so successful that we would like to expand it so that we can involve more people in Northamptonshire with learning disabilities in politics.”