University of York Students' Union (YUSU)

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NUS Disabled Students Conference Report

Posted by Thomas Ron, 18/03/2014

Hello all,

I hope everything is going well and that the easter holidays are in full swing.  I am merely uploading this blog as our conference report.

Between the 4th and the 6th of March I attended the NUS Disabled Students' Conference as the official delegate from YUSU.  It was a very interesting experience and it was very nice meeting disabled students from all over the country who do very interesting work and who have excellent ideas that all bear sharing.

We came to the conference with five motions, four of which passed (you can see the motions here). 

The ones that passed were the Accessible Freshers Week motion (Motion 205), which was expertly promoted by Callum Dziedzic, as this is an issue that is close to his heart and he has done some amazing work on it.  There were amendments on it, one by us including Further Education on it, which we forgot to mention in the original motion but felt it was important to add on, credit to Maddy Kirkman for suggesting it, as well as another one by the national committee making the motion less demanding and focusing more on working with, rather than dicating to universities.  Our delegation voted in favour of the first and against the second (on this one I waived my voting rights to Callum as he wished to promote this motion).  While both amendments passed, we still felt that the motion was good enough to be supported as a whole

The second motion of ours which passed was one that I promoted about making universities more accessible (motion 402).  This was passed with all the amendments, which again mostly focused on further education, which we forgot to include in the initial motion, due to the fact that many of us were writing motions for the first time.  However, we rectified this by submitting an amendment, authored by Maddy Kirkman, as well as supporting an amendment by Derby College.  The amendment was very strongly supported and was passed by an overwhelming majority

The third motion of ours which passed was written by Naomi Barrow, which was entitled 'NHS Prescriptions" (Motion 405).  This motion called for the NHS to provide a faster system of transferring records, which is a major problem for students on medication at universities, as their records do not transfer in time.  This recieved widespread support.  There were two amendments, one by Susan Cook of London Metropolitan University, adding that the NUS campaign should provide guidance on campaigns to improve the speed at which records should be transferred and for improved services.  YUSU also submitted an amendment (also written by Naomi) to adopt best practice overall and also promote the possibility of being a temporary patient at a surgery.  These amendments, and the entire motion passed with a very strong majority

The fourth and final motion of ours that passed was also written by Naomi Barrow, which called for Health Centre Prioritisation (motion 406), which called for Health Centres to treat mental health issues with a lot more priority than many of them do, as well as calling for them to provide faster access to a GP from the first point of call.  This is done to reduce the stigma against mental health issues and make them be treated seriously.  We also submitted an amendment, which just changed the words 'health centre' to 'any place which provides healthcare'.  This was a DSN-wide submission and was passed as well, as was the entire motion.

The fifth motion we submitted, which was not carried was a motion on having a fourth maintenence loan for Disabled Students (Motion 504).  It was submitted by Ben Green, but was not very well explained and many students felt that this was covered by DLA.  As a Union we waived our right to speak on this motion as no explanation had been made to us during our consultations defending the motion, and it was agreed at the meeting where I was ordered to vote that we would abstain.

During the consultation meeting I was asked to vote in favour of Motion 201, callling for a Disabled Students Officer on every campus.  I strongly supported the motion and duly voted in this way.  I additionally followed the direction of the Network in regards to Motion 206 (which I voted against) and Motion 304 (which I abstained on).  All of the other motions were agreed to be down to my own discretion and I followed this and voted with my conscience.

At the conference there were two fantastic workshops, one by Attitude is Everything, who talked about their excellent work with festivals and clubs which they have made more accessible, as well as their rating scheme.  Both Callum and I were incredibly impressed and we have spoken to Attitude is Everything about helping make our clubs in York more accessible, as well as our campus.  I also attended a workshop on Political engagement, which talked about our political system and how to engage with MPs.  This was interesting and useful for many students and gave a good overview of how to engage with parliaments.

Finally, we had the vote for Disabled Students' Officer.  The candidates were Maddy Kirkman and Graeme Brittles.  I voted for Maddy Kirkman who won by a terrific margin.  This is a very positive step for York as we will have a passionate advocate who has been a great voice in our Network determining national policy

Have a great easter!