A £2.6 million fund designed to help disabled people overcome barriers to becoming councillors, police and crime commissioners or MPs was launched by the government today.
The money will help meet the additional costs a disabled candidate may face in standing for election, such as extra transport or sign-language interpreters.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: ‘The ten million disabled people in the UK are under-represented in public life and today we are making an important step towards levelling the playing field. This is about breaking down the physical, financial and cultural barriers that prevent many talented people from playing their part in political life.
‘Encouraging disabled people to make their voices heard will not only help individuals fulfil their potential but will enrich and improve our politics at local and national level.’
The fund will be open for applications until the end of March 2014. It will help disabled candidates meet the additional costs they may face compared to a non-disabled person whether these are related to transport, communication, technology or support.
Police and crime commissioners
The new support will apply to the election of police and crime commissioners in November this year.
Lynne Featherstone added: ‘The arrival of police and crime commissioners in November will be the most significant democratic reform of policing in our lifetime. I hope this fund will enable more disabled candidates to come forward and hold the police to account.’
Alice Maynard, Chair of disability charity Scope said: ‘We are delighted that the government has launched the access to elected office fund which we believe marks an important step forward in increasing disabled people’s visibility and participation in society.’
In addition to the fund, a new online training package went live today, tailored to disabled people who are interested in a political career.
The fund and online training are part of the government’s access to elected office strategy which also includes paid internships for disabled candidates on the speaker’s parliamentary placement scheme.