I took part in the MP dialogue scheme in early 2009 I believe. I was invited to put myself forward for the MP dialogue scheme having recently graduated from Radar's leadership programme.
I was delighted to be accepted on the scheme, but at the same time a little nervous. I had never forayed into politics before and to me the thought of actually meeting a politician was daunting.
It was important to me, having a bipolar mental health condition, that I felt supported. Radar gave me all the background support and confidence I needed. They provided me with the name and contact details of my local MP, Brian Jenkins of the Tamworth Constituency, together with details of the scheme.
Armed with this information, I contacted my MP's office and spoke to his secretary. She immediately made me feel at home and arranged, much to my surprise, an appointment with Brian for the following Friday.
On the day of the meeting, I was really nervous. I felt a bit like David approaching Goliath. On arrival however, I was soon made to feel at ease with a steaming hot cup of tea and our meeting was a lot less formal than I anticipated. Talking to Brian was more like talking to an old friend than one of the leaders our country. It was a very productive meeting.
We covered a lot of ground on mental health and disability issues. Together we formed a plan for more local involvement for disabled people through a community gardening project in
As a result of our meeting, Brian raised a few questions in Parliament. Further still, I was invited to speak in Parliament itself, at a Parliamentary reception for the MP dialogue scheme. Although daunting, it was an opportunity too good to miss and I duly prepared a speech.
Again, I had all the backing and help from Radar to support me and more importantly, believe in me.
On the day, it wasn't until I stood at the lectern facing a pack room full of MP's, Lords and dignitaries, that I realised the enormity of my task. I took a deep breadth and then read my speech to this expectant audience. All was quiet while I recited my speech, but I was surprised on completion to receive rapturous applause. I was even more surprised when the then Minister for disabled People Jonathan Shaw praised me for my speech and said it was one of the best speeches he had heard. It was such kind praise as this which helped build that most important of things, self esteem and led to my future.
I have since given evidence at the Speakers Conference on proportional representation in Parliament; helped with the following consultation on access to elected office and successfully applied for the post of Empowerment Manager at Radar. My work at Radar helps more disabled people become leaders and through the MP dialogue scheme, I hope for more of them to enter politics.
David Stocks - Radar Head of Leadership and Empowerment
Radar believes that it is vital that MPs hear directly from disabled people about the issues that affect them to find out more about MP Disability Dialogue and how you can get involved please visit www.radar.org.uk