November 2018: Your Local MP
In politics there are often instances where local issues and campaigns become so significant that they succeed in gaining national attention, providing a platform to help local campaigners spread important messages to Government and policymakers.
As local residents know, this was the case with the ‘Justice 4 Ross & Clare’ Campaign, which received overwhelming support locally at first, and then nationally, leading to a government commitment to change to the law on dangerous driving.
We are now seeing this happen again with the campaign for mandatory autism and learning disability training for healthcare professionals. This campaign is the result of a remarkable effort on the part of a local resident and mother, Paula McGowan. Paula has tirelessly been working to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people with learning disabilities ever since the tragic death of her son Oliver McGowan, who tragically died in Southmead in November 2016, aged just 18.
Paula’s petition, started in Oliver’s memory, has now reached more than fifty thousand signatures and was recently debated in Parliament at the end of October. I was honoured to take part in that crucial debate and to pay tribute to the work Paula and other local families are doing on the issue. As a local man and the local MP, I was keen to make sure Paula’s voice was clearly heard.
I was very pleased to be able to represent the hundreds of Kingswood residents who signed Paula’s petition and to call for change and improvement in the care people with autism and learning disabilities receive in a healthcare environment. I firmly believe it is unacceptable that one in four doctors and nurses has never had any type of training on learning disability, and have asked the Government to ensure this will be a turning point in how we treat those with autism and learning disabilities in the NHS.
I also called on the Minister to meet with Paula to discuss Oliver’s campaign as soon as possible and will continue to offer any support I can. I was proud to speak in Parliament as Paula’s representative, and I know what she was able to accomplish so far is truly remarkable. However, my hope is that we will now be able to build on this success and continue the fight to help prevent further avoidable deaths such as Oliver’s. I will continue to work to support this vital campaign and remain fully committed to supporting Paula and other local residents and families in calling for changes to the law so that what happened to Oliver never happens again.