Taking a lead from the family friendly Sheffield campaign HQ

Politics and families don’t always go well together. Being active in politics, whether as a volunteer, team member or candidate often means spending time in the campaign headquarters. When you have a child with you, that often becomes a barrier that prevents you from taking part.

Here in Sheffield Hallam we have Laura Gordon as our PPC and she has a one year old little girl. That has prompted us to take a much more proactive approach to becoming a family friendly campaign HQ.

In the clerical room we have a playpen in the corner, with a playmat for newborns to lie on. In the canvass area, we have a little toddler sized table and chairs with a load of toys, books and colouring they can do. In the refreshment room we have a table for older kids to play Jenga or do colouring in too. We’ve put a changing mat in the ground floor bathroom and a high chair for feeding in the area between canvassing and clerical.

It really hasn’t taken much effort to do this – everything has been loaned or donated – and so far it’s working really well. The only problem has been stopping some adult visitors from playing with some of the better toys – the animal sounds book is a firm favourite with some of the team!

In Sheffield they’ve established a pattern of “Little Lib Dems” events, where parents can bring their kids to someone’s home each week so the adults can discuss politics while the kids play. We hope that by making the HQ family friendly we can encourage this to continue and grow.

Parents of younger children are too often excluded from politics and this is a good change we can all make in our local campaigns. Let the kids design campaign posters or play a game while the parent contributes to the campaign effort. Older kids might even enjoy the chance to do some clerical work (that’s how I started as a child!).

We also need other party reforms, like safeguarding the ability of candidates and other key team members to take leave for personal reasons, be it a new baby, a carer role or a bereavement. Those reforms are being developed now.

But let’s all take a lead from the Hallam HQ now and make our offices more open to parents and their kids too.

There are full details of how you can help Laura Gordon and the Shefiield Hallam team here.

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This entry was posted in Parliamentary by-elections.
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14 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 25th Aug '19 - 12:49pm
  • Peter Chambers 25th Aug '19 - 12:57pm

    This is excellent stuff. This sort of support organisation is exactly the sort of enabler to allow our people to perform at their best. In his book Winning Here, Chris Rennard relates how in many campaigns all the effort was direct campaigning, and none was to the support that would allow the team to eat proper healthy food. Teams seemed to live on take-away means eaten at mad hours. The sort of organisation you describe, at little additional cost, to allow people with real lives to join in, should be encouraged.

  • Christine Narramore 25th Aug '19 - 1:47pm

    What steps are Sheffield taking to “safeguard” children? Any DBS checks, policies on children left alone with a friend briefly. Any people who should not be in the family friendly environment? Sheffield isn’t that far from Rotherham

  • @Christine We aren’t doing DBS checks of volunteers and we are not providing a creche facility. We are simply trying to welcome parents who want or need to bring their children to participate in political activism. To try to make a connection between an effort to be welcoming at an HQ with one of the worst child abuse scandals of recent times is really extraordinary. Children at the HQ will be with their parents and in their care. If someone with older kids wishes to leave them here while they go out canvassing, it will be up to that parent to ask a person of their choice to look after their kids. How this could be seen as a bad thing is utterly beyond me!

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Aug '19 - 4:26pm

    @Christine Narramore

    I wonder if you have ever been to a LibDem campaign HQ when it’s busy….?

  • nigel hunter 25th Aug '19 - 4:40pm

    Lib dem HQs can be noisy, busy, people coming in and out and usually buns and sarnies in one corner to mention just a few!! ,

  • Miranda Roberts 25th Aug '19 - 5:53pm

    @Ruth – in fairness, my Federal committee has only known for less than a year of your struggle to pass this reform. And in that time we have consulted with reps of the English Party, HQ diversity staff and obtained Compliance HR advice, held two meetings with MPs, secured the backing of Jo Swinson and Ed Davey and are currently drafting a motion for Federal and State conferences. We are working on it! I do recognise you’ve been trying to get this done for a very long time and you have every right to be frustrated – but I am trying.

  • Thank you Miranda for your 2 very patient and to-the-point replies in the comments section. I’m always heartened to see party officials positively and effectively engaging with such queries, even more so when the queries are being addressed in such a rude and off-hand manner. I know I certainly wouldn’t have the same level of patience

  • Catherine Smart 26th Aug '19 - 8:33am

    This is great – and much needed: the major requirement is SPACE – which is at a premium when running a campaign. of any size. How have you managed to make sure the new arrival of several thousands of printed leaflets/boxes of envelopes/boxes of A3/A4 etc etc are not put into the children’s area “just for now”? Making the children’s space off-limits permanently is impressive. The key point, of course, is that the space needed has to be part of the calculation when choosing an HQ.

  • Parents with young children are often the most committed members as they act from what they perceive as best for their offspring as well as themselves. They often think more long-term than others. We must bust the myth that they will not be able to participate in political activities because of their child caring responsibilities.

  • Hilton Marlton 26th Aug '19 - 9:18pm

    Excellent work Miranda and team. It makes such sense to have a welcoming, inclusive environment for absolutely everyone who wants to help us win. The Lib Dems always talk about being a big family, so this is placing young families right at the heart of our core activities. Well done. Let’s hope it becomes the norm.

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