Tag Archives: conference access fund

Can’t afford to go to Conference?

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Did you know about the Access Fund which supports members who want to go to Conference? I expect you think that it provides resources for people with disabilities – and that is indeed true, because, amongst other things, it funds the BSL signers.

But it also offers grants to individual members who can’t afford the full cost of Conference. It can cover childcare costs and also accommodation and travel.

The deadline for applications to the Access Fund for Spring Conference was a couple of days ago, but not many applications had been received by that date so they are happy to receive late submissions this year. Full details are to be found on the Conference Access Fund page.

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Financial support to attend Conference

Have you ever wanted to attend our federal party conferences but been discouraged because of financial or access issues?

The Federal Conference Committee (of which I am a member) wants to enable everyone to attend, so some years ago we set up an Access Fund to provide support.

This is how it works:

  • Everyone who registers for conference is asked if they would like to contribute to the Fund.
  • Anyone with relevant needs can apply to the Access Fund for support. In short, it can cover childcare, accommodation and travel for anyone who could not otherwise afford it, plus specific costs for those with disabilities (such as sign language interpreting and mobility scooters). You can see more detail about what can be covered and how to apply here.
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Why the Conference Access Fund is a good thing

I would like to tell you about the Conference Access Fund which Liberal Democrat members have provided. It helps members on low incomes or those who have a disability by providing financial assistance so that they can take part at conference. I used the fund to assist with the costs of having a support worker to enable me at conference. May I firstly say how helpful the stewards and Lib Dem HQ conference staff were at conference.

The Conference Access Fund is unique to the Liberal Democrats as the other four parties with the exception of the Green party (who give their members up to £90 for travel and expenses) do not have such a fund. The Labour Party mentions disability access and having a women’s day at the start of their conference but they do not provide financial help with the associated costs of attending. The Conservatives and UKIP do not mention either disability access or a fund.

Having discovered this, I then googled how many MPs are disabled within the current parliament. Only  2 MPs out of 650 have a disability. Also from the Bridge Review of the Civil Service and its fast stream programme, disabled people are significantly underrepresented. Where is the voice of disabled people in Parliament and in the policy making teams within the civil service?

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How you have helped the Conference Access Fund

 

Last week I reported that the Conference Access Fund has helped a good number of people to attend conference. A few days later, Matthew Clark told us about his experience as a disabled young person and how the fund helped him.

Conference goers are remarkably generous. 30% of them this time have contributed to the fund. A big thank you to all of them!

What we haven’t mentioned so far is how you, Lib Dem Voice readers, have helped – to the tune of £3000. That’s the amount we have been able to contribute to the fund this year: £1000 for Spring Conference and £2000 for Autumn Conference.

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Young, disabled and believed in

glasgow conference 2014I am young and partially sighted (registered blind so far as law is concerned). At times it can feel as if these factors make me fairly insignificant in economic and political society.

Factually, I have far less economic potential than my parents. What little savings are in my name have been scuppered to get through university. My peers and I face harsher economic prospects with less opportunity to buy and control our own destinies than our parents.

Politically, I am part of a demographic that isn’t valued or represented by the quintessential modern politician, who learning from trends set by 1980s Conservatives (and followed still by that party today) seeks victory based on cold statistics and media spin. It helps them win in a First Past The Post system, but that comes at cost of developing best policy for, including engagement with, and seeking to represent, young people. So many of us cannot vote for being too young, and by voting age not enough young people do vote. So we do not entice this winning obsessive type politician. The system is biased against the future generation, and broken.

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Conference Access Fund helps more members to attend

Rally entertainment Spring Conference Liverpool March 2015 Photo by Liberal Democrats

Spring Conference 2016 saw the launch of the Conference Access Fund, which makes grants to members to enable them to attend conference. It was pretty successful at York, and is proving to be even more popular this time round for Brighton.

When members register for Conference they are asked if they would like to make a donation to the fund and they have been amazingly generous. The fund is ring-fenced and any that is not spent is carried over to the next conference.

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The Conference Access fund is up and running for Brighton …

 

… but would like to help even more people this time. The Conference Access fund was set up at the beginning of the year to provide financial support to people who otherwise might not be able to afford to attend Federal Conference.

The fund supported 19 people at the Spring Conference in York.  A good proportion of these were first-timers, one of whom wrote about the experience here on Lib Dem Voice.

Registrations for the Autumn Conference in Brighton are well underway. Once again, when you register you are asked whether you would be willing to make a donation to the fund, and a good number of generous people have already contributed. Watch out for the request if you haven’t yet registered – the more money donated, the more people can be supported.

So how do you apply for a grant?

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Conference Access Fund gets off to a good start

 

Generous party members have already contributed nearly £5000 to the Conference Access Fund – and I’m proud to say that included a donation from Lib Dem Voice. The bulk of the fund has now been allocated to around 20 members to help them with the costs of attending conference and to pay for the BSL interpreter.

Last month I wrote about How you can help to send someone to party conference. I had been asked by Federal Conference Committee to convene a working group to look at Financial Inclusion. Conference already managed an Access Fund to support members with any additional costs relating to their disability needs, but we decided to broaden it so it could be used to support anyone who would find it difficult to afford to attend Conference for any reason.

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Want to go to Spring conference and can’t afford it? Apply to Conference Access Fund by Friday

2015 policy pitch autumn conference by Paul WalterOur Spring Conference in York between 11-13 March is the first to be held under the new One Member One Vote rules. That means that every single party member could have a say as we make our policies.

I say COULD, because not every member can afford to go. Travel, accommodation and childcare costs put going to conference beyond the reach of many members.

This time, however, people can apply for a grant from the Conference Access Fund:

We have established a Conference Access Fund to improve accessibility for members attending conference. The fund consists of a contribution from the core Conference budget as well as donations from party members. Any contributions made by party members are ring-fenced for this purpose only and where applicable, any unused donations will be carried over to the next conference.

All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If there is high demand, priority will be given to members who are attending Conference for the first time and members from underrepresented sections of society.

To do so for this Conference, you have to apply by this Friday. The online form is here.

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Let’s all make conference more financially diverse.

Tackling inequality is one of my greatest passions, it quite literally gets me out of bed in the morning.

It’s also quite well established now that the more representative decisions making bodies are, the more all of us benefit, no matter if we belong to an underrepresented group or not. The past decade has been a historical time in politics for minorities and activist groups have many proud achievements to celebrate in the name of diversity (yet of course, we still have so very far to go), but there’s one spectrum of diversity that’s not doing so well lately, and we don’t really appear to be tackling it head on, and that’s financial diversity.

Politics favours the rich. Not just because we aren’t doing enough to create a more fair society, but because Parliament is the most unrepresentative forum you could imagine, and by design: unless you’ve got a spare £34k knocking about, as Isabel Hardman estimated in the Spectator last year, you’d better be prepared to work 50 hours a week and volunteer maybe 20 on top of that if you want a chance of ever standing as a parliamentary candidate.

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