Disabled people who want to become councillors or MPs will have access to a fund to help them overcome the barriers they face, under proposals published by the government today.
The fund is just one part of a planned £1 million package aimed at improving access to elected office for disabled people. Proposals also include the creation of new training and development opportunities and the introduction of a mentoring programme that will allow aspiring disabled politicians to learn from people who have already made it to the top.
Home Secretary and Minister for Equalities Theresa May said:
It’s not fair that someone who has the right to take an active role in our democracy is prevented from doing so simply because they are disabled [by attitudinal and societal barriers]. If political representatives at all levels - from Downing Street to district councils - are to truly represent the views and needs of the communities they serve, they need to better reflect those communities. Disabled people are under-represented in politics, and this package of support will help remedy that.
Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform Mark Harper said:
Diversity of talent and experience is vital in politics, where important decisions are made that affect everyone. This is why we’re committed to identifying and tackling barriers that prevent under-represented groups from participating in political life.
No-one should be denied the opportunity to participate in our democracy just because they are disabled, and addressing this is an important part of our commitment to reforming and restoring trust in our politics as a whole.
Full details of the plans are contained in a consultation that was published today. The government is seeking views from across the community, including disabled people and those involved in the political process at all levels.
The consultation, which follows a coalition agreement commitment to introduce extra support for disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other types of elected position, will run for 3 months, with the scheme expected to launch in late 2011. It is a joint project being run by the Government Equalities Office, the Office for Disability Issues (part of the Department for Work and Pensions) and the Cabinet Office.
The proposals will apply to candidates who are applying to the following list of elections; UK Westminster elections, English local elections, Greater London Authority (GLA) elections, English Mayoral elections and Police and Crime Commissioners.