Author Archives: Luke Richards

Accessing Conference

I love conference.

My first Federal Conference was at Harrogate in Spring 2009 (a lovely venue that we’ve not been back to since) and the buzz I got from being around my fellow Lib Dems from around the country was great and inspired me to go to many more. In fact, it probably inspired me to be involved in the party in other ways as well. I’ve been to a number of conferences since from Bournemouth to Sheffield and each one is different and interesting in its own way. When I started work as a school teacher in 2014 though, my ability to find the time to go to Conference dropped off. With the exception of a special visit to Brighton in 2016 specifically to support my fantastic friend Hywel ap Dafydd and his motion to promote NHS funding for PrEP medication, I haven’t been to conference for quite a few years.

Fast forward to last summer and I gave up my job as a school teacher and returned to university to study a masters programme in Data Science, AI and the ethics and regulation of AI (or ‘Responsible Data Science’ for short). This has afforded me the time to be more involved with the party again. I was delighted to be elected to Federal Policy Committee last year – my first time elected to any federal role after nearly two decades as a member.

Giving up work and returning to full time studies does have one big drawback though: finances. This year has not been without it’s financial challenges for everyone, but adjusting to life without my teacher’s salary has been difficult. As much as I love conference, I really felt that I couldn’t justify the cost to go this year. That is, until I was advised to apply for the Conference Access Fund. The application process was so simple and Susie Murray at HQ was very friendly and helpful as well.

From the fund I was able to claim £45 a night towards accommodation costs, I could have claimed travel costs as well. As someone who has had mental health difficulties for years I also qualified for a claim as a disabled member in the access fund as well, which increased my accommodation claim by a further £45 per night, taking me to £90 per night for accommodation. The rates for Autumn 2023 have already been published and include an uplift to £55 for the basic accommodation cost.

Being granted an award under the access fund literally allowed me to attend conference this year for the first time since 2016. But the big question – was conference worth it after all this time?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments
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