Following a recent event organised by Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales about how small but vital charities can campaign for change, Influencing Officer for the Foundation Lydia Rye writes how small charity leaders can make sure their voices are heard during this election. Read her blog below:
So the countdown to Christmas/Hanukkah/your annual leave is on and with it, it’s only 16 days until the general election. Yes, another one. Political discourse doesn’t exactly scream ‘the season of peace and goodwill’ or bring a sense of festive cheer but I’m here to tell you to join in. Because it matters to your small and local charity.
This one more than most. You might feel like that’s not true, that it’s all about Brexit and that in the midst of all the Christmas prep there just isn’t time to get involved. Yet it is during an election when politicians start listening to those of us working in the third sector. When people vote, Government must listen – the last few years are clear evidence of that with politicians of all parties still reeling from the shock of the 2016 EU referendum.
Elections provide one of the rare opportunities to level the playing field – one person, one vote. Regardless of background, education, mental ill-health or even whether or not you have a permanent address, every registered British or qualifying Commonwealth citizen gets a vote in a general election. It’s one of the few times that the balance of power can really shift – my vote is equal to that of a rough sleeper or a chief constable. Think about it. At no other time do we all have an equal say. It’s wild that we dismiss voting so often as an inconvenience.
Small but vital charities working with some of the most marginalised in our communities can empower the people they support by helping them exercise agency and their right to vote. We should always be thinking about how we support people to build power, not only over their own lives but as active members of their communities.
There are three simple ways as charity leaders that you can help to do that this holiday season:
- Register people to vote: You can’t vote if you haven’t registered. This takes 5 minutes online or on paper that can be easily printed for people your charity supports. There are all kinds of myths about who can and can’t vote – put simply if you’re a British or a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, you can vote. You can check if your nationality enables you to vote by clicking here. You don’t need a permanent address, survivors of domestic abuse can register anonymously and voting isn’t impacted by the Mental Health Act which means that no one is disqualified on the grounds of mental capacity. Likewise people with a criminal record can vote or if they’re on remand (though not if they’re currently serving a prison sentence). One charity we help fund and support, Migrants Organise, have also pulled together some great material in different languages for supporting migrants to vote in this election.
- Get the vote out: Will you be seeing clients on the day? Can you help people get to the polling station as part of their regular casework? If not, if people you are working with have more chaotic lives or are less mobile then what about supporting people to apply for a postal vote? This can be sent off in advance of polling day and guarantees that people are able to exercise their right to vote no matter what might crop up unexpectedly on the day.
- Get to know your potential MP: You could be working with your MP for the next 30 years so it’s worth getting to know them. We’ll be writing another blog about this as part of our election series but put simply – get in touch, invite them to come and visit you and those who use your services, and let them know what matters to you and how they can help.
To find out more on how your charity can make an impact on voting, have a look at Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales’ new guide: ‘What to expect when you’re expecting a general election’.
This resource takes you through step-by-step how to engage in the run-up to the election. You can find out more about registering to vote and all the extra options available for those with additional needs at www.gov.uk/registertovote. The deadline to register to vote is 11.59pm on 26 November and applications for postal votes close at 5pm on 26 November if you live in England, Scotland or Wales.
No matter who you vote for, it matters when you vote. It matters that people who are normally shut out of the decisions that impact them are heard. So vote. And share with us what you’re doing to promote voting in your organisation using #SmallVitalAndVoting.