Fighting for the support that our communities need has seldom been more important.
Additional stress on the NHS and finances has had short term effects and as we continue to progress into and past the COVID-19 crisis the consequences for those who already faced challenges in maintaining their wellbeing will continue to be pronounced.
Over the coming months political parties will gear up for May’s election and focus for much of the electorate will be on how the pandemic has been dealt with and the impacts on their lives in 2020 and early 2021.
For the 15,000 people in Scotland living with MS and the many others living with long term health conditions a new parliamentary term will not only be defined by life post-pandemic but by how we address the issues that were present before. Many of which will be redoubled as the government adapts to unforeseen budget pressures.
Everyone’s MS story is unique and we have listened to feedback from our community as we plan our campaigning and release our manifesto calling for candidates to pledge their support in making real change for people with MS.
MS is a progressive, fluctuating condition and as a result people live with uncertainty about what the future will bring.
The best we can do for people who face this doubt is to make sure that there is support – whether it’s financial, social or in healthcare – they can depend on.
In the midst of global uncertainty there has been progress on a number of fronts but there is still a long way to go.
In the past year three new treatments have become available for MS in Scotland yet we know from speaking to our community that access to therapies can still depend on where you live – this needs to change.
The Scottish Government have taken steps to ensure that assessments for benefits treat people with more respect but while arbitrary measures like the PIP 20 metre rule continues to impact people’s wellbeing and employment there is more than can be done.
Our local MS groups, community support services and volunteers across the country have proved how strong and adaptable they can be – moving services online, pulling together to help others and keeping connected. New ways of working have been discovered for many people. This provides opportunities and fresh challenges in equal measure. We want to see candidates commit to lending their support to the services provided by the third sector which ensure that people can maintain their wellbeing whatever their location or situation.
In 2016, before the run-in to polling day, we spoke to politicians who overwhelmingly gave us support in our aims but more needs to change.
So that’s why we’re getting #LouderForMS – to bring these issues to the forefront for everyone affected by the condition as canvassing gets underway.
Once again we’re asking them to listen to the stories of the real people who their policies effect, to understand that they are experts in their experience and to turn up the volume when on the campaign trail.
Morna Simpkins is the Director of MS Society Scotland.