Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

The election campaign is well underway with only 24 days left until 7 May.

As you would expect there has been a lot of discussion about the NHS. Social care has been a feature but not quite so prominently. I’ve heard various politicians say before that social care doesn’t feature as much in their postbag as the NHS does and maybe that explains the lower level of attention.

But now we are at the business end of politics — it’s not letters that count but votes. Which got me thinking — how many people using or working in adult social care services vote?

I don’t know and my research over the weekend (not extensive and heavily dependent on Google search and Twitter I confess) didn’t tell me specifically. But there were some signs to indicate that it may not be as high as it could be.

Who votes?

I discovered “9 Million Women” — a non-political campaign encouraging the 9.1 million women who did not vote at the last election to do so this time. The social care workforce is 80% female and the majority of care home residents are too. As they say in America “do the math”!

People with learning disabilities are less likely to vote — only 1/3 did in 2010. The law is clear — people with a learning disability have every right to vote. Mencap has produced a series of leaflets to explain how. I know a lot of providers are actively supporting people using their services to register and vote, for example, Dimensions Love Your Vote and United Response Every Vote Counts campaigns. I hope they are successful.

A significant percentage of older people using social care services are living with dementia. They have every right to vote too, but perhaps are less likely to be encouraged and supported to do so. This advice from the Alzheimer’s Society is helpful:

“It is clearly stated in the Electoral Commission’s guidance for Electoral Registration Officers that mental health conditions do not constitute a legal incapacity to vote…”

The Citizens Advice Bureau has been highlighting some interesting statistics about voting patterns — for example, in the 2010 general election people on the highest incomes were 43% more likely to vote compared to those on the lowest, while minority ethnic groups were less likely to vote in the 2010 general election and are less likely to be registered to vote now. Again, given the make-up of the social care workforce, that’s potentially a lot of people interested in social care who aren’t voting.

Why vote?

Votes equal voice. This is not a party political point — as a senior public servant and particularly at the time of an election, it is not appropriate for me to voice a partisan political opinion. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting people who use or work in adult social care to have their voice heard in our democratic society.

Don’t delay, register today!

There is just one week left to register to vote. The deadline is 20 April. It is simple and easy to do and you can find out how here. At the same time you can ask for a postal vote so you don’t have to go to the Polling Station on Election Day itself.

It would be great if this week there was a concerted effort in care homes to support their residents to register to vote; if people cared for at home were asked about it; and if staff themselves made sure they are registered too.

Make your vote count

Every vote counts and so please register by 20 April to make sure yours does too on 7 May.

Originally published at www.cqc.org.uk.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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