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Sue Ryder at the English Party Conferences

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt placing his words of bereavement support on our online community's giant ball of wool

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt place his words of bereavement support on our online community's giant ball of wool.

Part Three: Conservative Party Conference and reflections

Early in the morning on the last Saturday of September, a crack team of volunteers from across Sue Ryder assembled in the foyer of the Manchester Central Convention Centre and began to set up a giant ball of wool.


Why a giant ball of wool?

This was because, for the next few days, the Conservative Party Conference was coming to town, and at Sue Ryder, we were going to be there as an exhibitor to promote our online community and wider work.

You might remember the giant ball of wool from the launch of the online community in London's Victoria Station, or at subsequent events in Reading Station or the SNP Conference in Glasgow. This ball of wool spent the duration of the conference standing in a prime location in the foyer of the Manchester Central Convention Centre.

During the four days of the conference, we spoke to attendees, handed out materials about the charity and the online community, and raised our profile with Parliamentarians, Councillors and Conservative Party members.

Two highlights were meeting the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured above) and the Junior Minister responsible for end of life care, Jackie Doyle-Price. The important thing now is to try and nurture some new relationships, and leverage this increased awareness to help our influencing and policy work.


Themes from the conference

Mental health was a theme that cropped up across all the English party conferences, and the Conservatives' was no exception, with it featuring prominently in speeches by Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt.

Social care was not given the same emphasis as during the Lib Dem and Labour conferences, which may be due to any new announcements waiting on a future government white paper to set out their plans.

There were, however, announcements on health workforce (with Jeremy Hunt announcing an increase in the number of nurse training places), bereavement support (May floated proposals for an independent public advocate for families bereaved in disasters) and support for carers (such as Jeremy Hunt’s emphasis on how to support nurses in the caring roles they also play in their own families).

It would be particularly positive if this reflected a wider move towards a greater emphasis on supporting carers and helping people coping with bereavement.

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