Are you struggling to access services, is school failing to meet your childs needs? There are many things we struggle with that our Member of Parliament (MP) can help us with.
I have now met with my MP twice. The first time was when my eldest did not get access to regular speech and language sessions following funding cuts. My MP wrote to the council on our behalf. Within a week we had a block of six speech and language sessions booked for my son as well as visits to his nursery by the speech therapist.
The second time was more recently whilst struggling to secure a specialist placement for my youngest. Again my MP wrote to the council making representations on our behalf. Then again a week after our MP wrote the letter, our local authority directed the specialist school to provide a place for my son.
Your MP can help move things along particularly if the issue is related to your local authority or a government department. I used to work for a government housing agency and often wrote briefings for MPs, Ministers and for parliamentary question responses. Having said that meeting my MP about personal issues impacting my children was very different because it mattered so much more to me.
What is a Member of Parliament / MP?
Everyone in the UK has a Member of Parliament (MP) that represents them in the House of Commons. MPs are elected by the residents within a constituency at a General Election, this is how the public decides who runs the country. Most MPs will also be a member of a political party.
While in Parliament MPs will raise issues in the House of Commons relating to their constituents, vote on new laws / policies and attend debates.
In their constituencies MPs will meet with local residents at their ‘surgery’ to discuss areas of concern. They also make visits to local schools, businesses and local functions.
MPs split their working time between parliament and their constituency. Some MPs will become ministers as part of the governing party. These MPs will continue to be responsible for representing their constituency while carrying out their ministerial role.
Who is your MP?
Who your MP is depends on where you live. To find out who your MP is you can enter your postcode on the Parliament Website. You will then see who your MP is along with their contact details. There is also details of their parliamentary career and voting records. If you want a bit more information about your MP will may also find information on They Work for You helpful.
What can an MP help you with?
You can ask an MP to attend or speak at local events in support of them. This can add to media attention for an event.
Your MP can contact government departments, agencies and local authorities on your behalf. As their contacts are often at the top of the organisation this can be a good way to get a solution to a problem.
An MP can also raise an issue within the House of Parliament making it public. This can help raise awareness of an issue with the public and raise media attention.
Asking your MP for Help
There are two main ways to get in touch with your MP, the first is to write to them and the second is to visit them at their local ‘surgery’. An MP can only raise concerns on behalf of their own constituents so you do need to meet your MP. You will also need to provide them with your address so they know you live within their constituency.
You do not need to like or agree with your MP to approach them for help. Many of us have MPs that we did not vote for and disagree with actions they have taken. This does not matter as it is there job to represent everyone in their constituency.
Writing to your MP
The easiest way to reach your MP quickly is to e-mail them. Their e-mail address is included on Parliament Website. Just remember to include your address if you want them to take any action on your behalf or to receive a response. You can write to them by post if this is your preference and some MPs will only respond with a written letter.
Remember they are very busy people, the best way to get help is to focus on one thing and what needs to be done. You can write to your MP about anything but generic complaint letters are unlikely to be responded to.
Having said that it is very important to raise issues that you care about with your MP. Some charities will have template letters you can send to raise an issue with your MP. Whilst you are unlikely to receive a personal response when raising concerns it is good to highlight issues that you care about to your MP. Sometimes they may be unaware of the issues, I told my MP about ATU’s – Assessment & Treatment Units he had never heard of them. It is always beneficial to raise issues that are important to you.
However if you want them to help with a specific issue then try and stick to that point. Give them detailed facts, they need to know what the problem is, why it is a problem and what the solution is. Where possible keep information brief and to the point.
Meeting with your MP at their ‘surgery’
Most MPs hold local ‘surgeries’ usually you will need to make an appointment to attend. They can be held at their office or at local meeting spaces like church / town halls. The majority of MPs will now have websites and often details of when and where ‘surgeries’ are taking place will be on them.
Get in touch and make an appointment to attend, you can go alone or with someone depending on your preference.
I would strongly recommend writing down the important points that you need to raise to make sure you remember to say them. You will often only have a short appointment (maybe 10 / 15 minutes). It is also worth having a printed copy of those points that can be left with your MP to assist them to follow up the issue. If you can email this then even better as they will be able to copy across any important points easily.
Don’t be nervous it is their job to help you. Often we have strong emotions about the issues we need to raise but the more professional you can be about providing clear information the more likely you will get the points across. This can be difficult particularly when we are discussing failures in the system to support our vulnerable children. If this is something you will struggle with bring a friend who can help advocate for you.
My first meeting with my MP
As I mentioned above I had experience of working with politicians in my previous job along with a degree in Politics so I have a good understanding of the system. However it is much harder to be objective and professional when the issue concerns your child. Having said that many of us SEN parents are used to putting on our game face to get our children the support they need and have a right to.
My eldest (now 6) is non-verbal and at 2 and a half was really struggling with communication. We had seen speech and language therapists as part of his autism diagnosis but had not been offered ongoing therapy support.
I knew that other parents had been given blocks of therapy thanks to local support groups. I queried why my son was not being given this and was told it was down to funding cuts. I then complained to the local speech team and council who were both very sympathetic but unable to do anything due to the funding cuts to this service.
I then met with my MP explained the difficulties we were having and the need for support. I told him about the service that had been available and was now cut. I explained how important this service was.
Following our meeting my MP wrote to the council who in turn offered us a block of speech therapy sessions. The cuts to that service were down to my MPs political party and whilst the service has been cut he was still willing and able to push for the support we needed. Don’t make assumptions about what they will or won’t do. If you need help it is worth talking to them.
Have you written to or met with your MP?