A summer of political engagement
One of the Epilepsy Society's three core pillars, alongside research and care, is advocacy – campaigning in support of the issues that matter most to people with epilepsy. This summer and early autumn, we have continued to campaign on a number of key issues.
This campaigning comes in light of our recent survey, "It's all about you", which showed that the top concern among respondents was lack of awareness of epilepsy (83%), with 63% (almost two thirds) saying they wanted to see greater awareness of epilepsy at government level.
In May, we hosted a parliamentary roundtable to discuss our Safe Mum, Safe Baby campaign, which is calling for research funding into safer medicines for pregnant women. Attendees included Alex Norris, the Labour spokesperson for patient safety, and Caroline Nokes, who chairs the Women and Equalities Select Committee. In total we met with seven MPs representing constituencies from across the country – from South London to Lancashire.
To build momentum with our Safe Mum, Safe Baby campaign we wrote to the Patient Safety Minister, Nadine Dorries and hosted an event at the Labour party conference in Brighton. This event, which was livestreamed by the Daily Mirror, heard from a number of MPs including Cat Smith who said it was "outrageous that women are being prescribed drugs today that cause birth defects" and Emma Hardy, who had spoken in support of Safe Mum, Safe Baby in a parliamentary debate in July.
Alongside Safe Mum, Safe Baby, we have also continued to fight for #ZachsLaw, which is seeking to create greater online safeguards for people with epilepsy. Our CEO, Clare Pelham, spoke in front of a cross-party parliamentary committee about the need to criminalise the sending of flashing images and GIFs to people with epilepsy, and received coverage on BBC Radio's Today in Parliament. We also attended the Conservative conference where we hosted an event with two MPs on the important Joint Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill, and Zach Eagling, our #ZachsLaw figurehead, met with Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak. And we received extensive coverage in the Daily Express, including an article from SNP culture spokesperson John Nicolson.
Earlier this year, we were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dame Cheryl Gillan, the MP for Chesham and Amersham, where the Epilepsy Society is based, and a long time Vice President of the charity. Cheryl was a great supporter of the Epilepsy Society and will be missed. Ahead of the subsequent by-election, we hosted site visits from a number of candidates including the Conservative, Peter Fleet, and the Green party's Carolyne Culver. And, we are delighted to say that in late October we will be showing the newly elected Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Green around our site in Chalfont St Peter.
It has been a busy few months, but we know it is important not to rest on our laurels and to keep campaigning on behalf of our beneficiaries and people with epilepsy everywhere.
Our External Affairs team engages with MPs from across the political spectrum in order to push our campaigns up the political agenda and effect positive change for people with epilepsy. This year we have engaged with politicians from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP and Greens in order to champion the rights of people with epilepsy. If we can help any further, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org