Help make sure social housing residents and users of homelessness services have their say in local and national politics.
7 reasons why you should register to vote.
1. Have a say on important issues
Residents of social housing and homelessness services typically have high levels of contact with public services, but low levels of engagement with those with the power to influence how these services are run.
According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, 60% of people agree that ‘voting is the only way to have any say’ in what government does. Voting equals power and registering to vote gives your clients the opportunity to influence who is elected to represent their views local and nationally.
We know that disillusionment with political process is commonly felt amongst users of homelessness services and social housing tenants, but this can only begin to be repaired by helping people realise their influence.
2. Make sure decision makers don’t ignore your views
When politicians make policy decisions, they look to represent the concerns of the electorate. In the 2010 General Election, 76% of over 65s voted compared to just 55% of 18-24 year olds; 76% of AB social class voted compared to 57% of DE social class.
There is a risk that this pattern of voting behaviour creates a bias in favour of certain social groups. Encouraging more social housing residents and homeless people to register, and vote, is the most profound way to make policy makers take notice of this these groups when making decision.
3.Improve your credit rating
Many of your clients may be unaware that being on the electoral roll is one of the major checks made by credit reference agencies. Not being registered could seriously damage their chance of being approved for a bank account or mobile phone contract.
Developing good money management skills is an important factor in many people’s journey out of homelessness, and is embedded in the support many service offer. Even if it doesn’t lead to a vote, just registering can make other areas of life much easier to manage.
4. No fixed address? No problem
Housing status should be no barrier to voting, and a permanent address is not absolutely necessary. People experiencing homelessness can register using their temporary accommodation, such as a hostel, or by filling in a ‘Declaration of local connection’ form, available from the local council.
5. Keep your information private
We know that many people express concerns about their details being shared if they register to vote. Access to the full electoral register is strictly controlled, but there is a version, called the ‘open register’, which can be bought for non-electoral activities.
The good news is that you can remove your details from the open register when making an application or at any point thereafter by contacting your local electoral registration office.
If you work with people for whom anonymity is important, such as those fleeing domestic abuse, there is an option to register without appearing on either list. Applicants will need certain documentation and should contact their local electoral registration officer.
6. Register online in minutes
The system for registering to vote in Great Britain has changed to make the process easier and more secure. Whereas in the past the head of the household was responsible for everyone living a property, Individual Electoral Registration means that everyone who is eligible to vote is responsible for their own registration.
You can register online in just a few minutes. If going online is not suitable, a paper registration form is still available.
7. You don’t have to go to a polling station
Getting to a polling station on 7 May could present a range of practical difficulties for the people you support. This is no reason for them to miss out, and there are two alternative options.
Anyone can apply to vote by post, simply by downloading and completing a form, and you don’t need to give a reason why. Alternatively, you can vote by proxy – nominating someone to vote on your behalf. Details about both of these options can be found at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
Homeless Link has been funded by the Cabinet Office to run the Your Vote Matters project, which seeks to increase engagement with democracy and voter registration amongst social housing tenants and users of homelessness services.
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