The government has this month launched a £2.6 million fund to support disabled people who wish to stand for elected office.
This proposal, which reflects the government’s commitment to empower disabled people by ensuring they are represented politically, is outlined in the Access to Elected Office Strategy, developed by the Home Office in collaboration with the Cabinet Office and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Disabled people are under-represented in public life according to the Speaker’s Conference report and the Parliamentary debate on 12 January. In an attempt to address this, the government, following public consultation, last year published proposals to provide extra support for disabled people who wish to stand for elected office.
Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information explained: ‘‘The Fund we are launching today will support disabled people with some of the additional costs that a disabled person may face in standing for elections, compared to a non-disabled person.
‘‘This will not, however, replace existing obligations for parties, which is why I have published guidance for political parties on their legal responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010, particularly on the reasonable adjustments they should make for disabled people.’’
The fund will be complemented by an introductory online training course on standing for elections, and include contributions from disabled politicians and others to encourage disabled people to stand for elected office.
Lynne Featherstone announced that funding will also be provided for up to three additional placements specifically for disabled people, as part of the Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme.
The Fund, which will remain open until March 2014, will be available to support disabled people seeking elected positions in the following polls, including by-elections: Police and Crime Commissioners; English local and English mayoral; Greater London Authority; and UK Parliament.
The impact of the fund and the strategy overall will be evaluated to inform any decision about any further support beyond the current spending period and the Home Office will continue to work with colleagues in the Devolved Administrations to share what they have learnt from this strategy.
For further details of these initiatives to support disabled people seeking elected positions, visit http://homeoffice.gov.uk/equalities/equality-public-political/.
Written by Catherine Ridge