Politicians will often talk about being swayed by the testimony of an individual and can be keen to show their down-to-earth credentials by citing the inspirational work of a little known local charity.
Children’s secretary Ed Balls, for example, started championing disabled children long before he was a senior minister. Then £340m of government money followed his appointment as secretary of state.
So every issue has its junior minister with some power to change policy, if you can get past their gatekeeper officials and make your contact count.
Ways in to ministers:
- You have a ready made route in if one is your local MP. Invite them to visit or go to a surgery with a service user.
- Ask your MP to write to the relevant minister. You need to show the relevance of your issue to local people. MPs will not take up issues from out of constituency individuals, but peers or MPs may work with organisations if they have an interest or responsibility for an issue. Backbenchers in both houses like to be seen as experts in a particular issue, so if they engage with you, keep them up to date with your issue and experiences.
- The relevant All Party Parliamentary Group may be open to visits from groups of service users. APPGs exist for almost every topic, from drugs to chocolate. They have no formal powers, but bring together backbench MPs and peers of all parties to discuss and lobby on an issue. A good first point of contact is the chair or the secretariat, often provided by a voluntary sector organisation.
Alex Fox is assistant director (policy and service development), The Princess Royal Trust for Carers