A charity has called on Matt Hancock to renew his efforts to raise awareness about dyslexia after apparently only fleetingly addressing the issue on I’m a Celebrity.
The former health secretary defended his decision to take a break from Westminster and sign up for the ITV reality show in the Australian jungle by claiming he wanted to use it as a platform to raise the profile of his dyslexia campaign.
In the end it was mentioned three or four times, according to Kate Griggs, the founder and CEO of Made By Dyslexia, who said it was “a shame” there was not more about dyslexia in the show.
“For us, yes, it would have been fantastic if there had been a really big focus on dyslexia,” said Griggs. “What matters most is what he does now he is out of the jungle.”
Writing in the Sun after he was announced as one of the contestants, Hancock said politicians should embrace popular culture. “Reality TV is a very different way to communicate with the electorate – it’s both honest and unfiltered.
“For example, while most people will know me for being the health secretary during the pandemic, what you probably won’t know is that I am dyslexic and I’ve been campaigning for better identification and support for dyslexic children.”
Hancock added: “I want to raise the profile of my dyslexia campaign to help every dyslexic child unleash their potential – even if it means taking an unusual route to get there … via the Australian jungle. I’m a Celebrity … is watched by millions of Brits up and down the country. I want to use this incredible platform to raise awareness, so no child leaves primary school not knowing if they have dyslexia.”
Viewers claimed it was not until two weeks into the show that Hancock finally raised the issue of dyslexia, when he discussed being diagnosed at university while in conversation with the comedians Seann Walsh and Babatunde Aléshé.
“It’s a reality TV show. It was not particularly surprising there was not a huge focus on one particular issue,” said Griggs, who conceded that more might have been cut out in the editing process. “It’s what happens now that’s really going to determine how effective Matt’s campaigning is.”
On Friday, there will be a second reading of the dyslexia screening and teacher training bill, a private member’s bill tabled by Hancock to provide universal screening for dyslexia in primary schools and improve teacher training on the issue.
A spokesperson for Hancock, who lost the Tory whip over his jungle adventure, said: “Matt’s bill in front of parliament on Friday is incredibly important. By Matt going on I’m a Celebrity he was able to raise and discuss the vital issue of dyslexia in front of millions of people.”
Griggs said: “This bill is way, way overdue. It’s crazy we are not screening every child. It’s quite frankly a disgrace every teacher is not given the skills they need to help and empower these children. Now Matt is not tied to a party, I hope he is really, really able to champion the cause and put things right for dyslexic children. Let’s see what Matt does now.”
Chivonne Preston, the interim chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, said: “We are grateful when public figures like Matt use their platforms to draw attention to the barriers and challenges that the dyslexia community faces. Dyslexia is misunderstood and despite being incredibly common is often hidden; many people in our community feel like their struggles are unseen. We welcome opportunities to shine a light on dyslexia and inspire people to seek help and support.”