“Second class” are words we use when buying stamps at the post office, but they shouldn’t apply to human beings. This is the point behind a freshly minted set of postage stamps that might not be legal tender for lockdown letters – but still have a powerful message to send.
Featuring the face of TV comedian Rosie Jones and five other public figures who all have cerebral palsy, the mock ‘2nd Class Citizen’ stamps are part of a campaign asking the government to “stamp out” the gap in healthcare those with cerebral palsy encounter as they turn 18.
When Jones guested on Question Time in November, she was painfully clear what life with a disability was like during the pandemic. “As a disabled person I don’t feel I am getting the care and support I need right now,” she told viewers.
But this new campaign, launched ahead of Cerebral Palsy Month in March, aims to draw attention to the wider challenges faced by the 130,000 people living with cerebral palsy in the UK once they are out of the child healthcare system.
“Adults with CP are treated like second class citizens when it comes to healthcare,” says Emma Livingstone from Adult Cerebral Palsy Hub, the charity that commissioned the stamps and fed into care guidelines for those with cerebral palsy. These guidelines were drawn up by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), but are yet to be adopted across the NHS.
“We do not get joined-up healthcare like other adults with life-long conditions and there are no clear care pathways,” says Livingstone. “At the age of 18, we are basically just told to ‘get on with it’.”
It’s an experience echoed by thousands across the country, which is why Jones, along with her fellow ‘wobbly’ comic, Francesca Martinez, Britain’s Got Talent winner, Lee ‘Lost Voice Guy’ Ridley, Emmerdale actor James Moore, and para sports stars, Tegan Vincent-Cooke and David Smith, have put their faces to the stamps and an appeal for signatures on the charity’s petition to Matt Hancock.
The petition’s key demand, “Care Parity for CP”, is simple enough to fit on the back of a stamp, says Livingstone (literally so – flip the celebrity faces over to see it). “In simple terms this means: specialist services for adults with CP, adoption of the NICE guidelines and quality standards universally across all the NHS services,” she explains.
“We believe an investment of £20m into joined up healthcare for adults with CP could give £422m back to the economy in gross employment benefits. At a time when the healthcare system and economy is under unprecedented pressure, this actually offers a way to save money,” she adds.
Moore, who won a Daily Star Soap award for his role as Emmerdale’s Ryan Stocks, tells HuffPost UK it’s “perplexing” why the care gap even exists.
“It gives me the impression that people with CP are being severely undervalued, especially when you consider how many people could access better work opportunities, better living standards, and generally a better quality of life with this extra support,” the actor says.
Baroness Stephanie Fraser of Craigmaddie, Conservative life peer and chief executive of charity CP Scotland, which also helped develop the NICE guidelines, adds: “The answers to closing this gap already exist. There is absolutely no reason not to adopt the NICE guidelines and there is also no reason not to adapt those to SIGN guidelines for Scotland and adopt them.”
The campaign hopes to get 100,000 signatures by World Cerebral Palsy Day on October 6 to prompt a parliament debate. Subject to lockdown, it will also deliver its “petition on a postage stamp” to Downing Street.
“Whether or not you have or know someone with CP, please sign,” Moore says. “It makes sense for the NHS and the economy and it will help the 130,000 adults with CP.”