Giving Voice

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Waking up Westminster

I woke up early on Tuesday morning with excited butterflies fluttering around my stomach, as the day of Mass Mobilisation had finally arrived! After breakfast, we headed out for a little wander around London. Our hotel was located in Central London so it did not take long before we were at Westminster.

Refreshments and Rally

I went into Church House Conference Centre about 11.30am and was feeling very excited and motivated! When I arrived I was surprised and delighted to see so many other people were already there. There was a lovely atmosphere in the Hoare Memorial Hall, where RCSLT provided light refreshments to fuel our energy for meeting our MPs.

It was lovely to see everyone mingling and I enjoyed meeting other speech and language therapists. I saw Jennie Marshall (the inspirational Speech and Language Therapist who cycled 180 miles to get to Westminster) communicating with her light writer (as she did for her whole journey – check out her fantastic blog London or Bust). Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to say hello to her, but I enjoyed her talk during the rally in which she used her light writer to tell us that the cycling was child’s play compared to using the communication aid. I found the whole rally inspirational and the atmosphere was electric. It was brilliantly organised and extremely empowering. It made me proud to be a speech and language therapist (albeit an unemployed one!) and filled me with admiration for SLTs all over the country.

Everyone seemed really excited to be part of such a big event and it was clear that everyone was dedicated to their profession.

Kamini Gadhok, CEO of RCSLT, talks at the Rally


After the rally we walked from Church house, across Westminster Bridge to get some group photos with the Houses of Parliament in the background. Walking across the bridge, flag in hand, the excited butterflies in my stomach were beginning to fly in formation ready for meeting with Ian Lavery, MP. Having always had an interest in politics, I couldn’t wait to go into the Houses of Parliament for my meeting!

Sam, Sarah (final year students at Newcastle) and Me

Me with Alison Proudfoot (group photos)

Westminster Bridge

Palace of Westminster – Meeting Ian Lavery, MP

Once through security, I announced my arrival at the reception desk and was told to wait in Central Lobby until Ian Lavery, MP arrived. Whilst I was waiting, I enjoyed looking around the magnificent area which is Central Lobby. The Speaker’s Procession took place while I was waiting. We found this quite fitting, that John Bercow, Speak of the House (and man behind the Bercow Review - A Review of Services for Children and Young People (0–19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs) was walking through Central Lobby as we were waiting to meet out MPs to talk about the importance of Speech and Language Therapy.
(Before every sitting of the House, the Speaker's procession leaves the Speaker's House inside the Palace of Westminster and heads for the Commons chamber.)

Mr Lavery took me through the Palace of Westminster to an outdoor seating area, looking out onto the Thames, where we sat with a cup of tea and talked about the valuable role of speech and language therapists. He was every bit as supportive during this meeting as he was when I had the 1:1 lobby in constituency early in the year.

View from the Palace of Westminster

I felt like I was part of something really special on Tuesday, and I have been delighted to see that MPs have been blogging about meeting with their constituents. I think as a profession we woke up Westminster with regards to Speech and Language Therapy and I hope they continue to talk about it and work with their constituents to protect the profession for the future, so that those people who need it can access SLT services.

Congratulations to everyone who attended (or supported) the Mass Mobilisation event on Tuesday, I am proud to say I was part of it. RCSLT report:

  • 255 Speech and Language Therapists and service users turned up for the Giving Voice rally
  •  Over 100 MPs were met – in private meetings, at the event within parliament and via the green card system
  • Over 400 tweets which included the hashtag #givingvoiceuk were published during the day (keep them coming!) Why not tweet your MP

Giving Voice is not over yet so let’s keep sharing the message that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives!

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