Making democracy work for people with disabilities

The UK Government has created a new fund to support those with disabilities who want to stand for elected office. In this guest post, the Minister behind the fund, Helen Grant, explains what it is and how it works.

Have you thought about standing for elected office? Becoming an elected representative – for example, as a local councillor, a police and crime commissioner, a mayor or an MP – can be an exciting and often life-changing experience.

Starting on the route into elected office can be daunting, particularly if you feel you face particular barriers in taking part fully in your community. As Minister for Women and Equalities, it seems obvious to me our democratic institutions make the best decisions when they have a mix of people with different skills, backgrounds and experiences, from right across the country.

But at the moment there are many faces missing – disabled people are currently under-represented in public life. Less than 5% of public appointments are currently held by disabled people, despite around 20% of the population having some form of disability.

A strong democracy is an inclusive one. We need everyone’s contribution. This is why Government is committed to providing extra support to tackle the particular obstacles faced by disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials.

We ran a public consultation seeking your views on a range of policy proposals designed to provide additional support for disabled candidates running for elected office. You told us what was important to you – and we are now working with political, disability and other stakeholders to make these proposals happen as part of an Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Strategy.

You told us the extra costs disabled candidates faced when standing for election, such as extra transport or sign-language interpreter, created an un-level playing field. We’ve therefore created the Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund which allows disabled candidates to reclaim these additional costs.

You told us that it was important to tackle the negative perceptions that people might have about disabled people in political parties and encourage the political parties to include disabled people fully. So we have launched new guidance to support political parties make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. We have developed this with the help of political parties and Disability Rights UK.

You also told us that training and development opportunities were important to support disabled people achieve elected office. We’ve therefore worked with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations in order to develop an online training package. We have also funded three paid internships for disabled people on this year’s Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme.

These policies are just the start of what we are doing to make Parliament and councils more representative of the people they serve. Who knows, you could be one of those whose contribution we are currently missing in our council chambers or even in Parliament itself.

To learn more about the Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund click here.

To access the free Access to Elected Office for Disabled People training click here.

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