Today the Government are publishing a consultation paper, co-produced with Equality 20251 and disability organisations, which seeks views on the additional support which can be offered to disabled people who wish to become elected representatives.
We want to ensure that our democracy is diverse and that we have a political system which better reflects the people it serves. To this end, the coalition programme contained an important commitment to introduce additional support for disabled people “who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials”. This commitment was borne from the recognition that the 10 million and more disabled people in the UK are under-represented in public life. It also follows the recommendations made by the cross-party Speaker’s conference in January 2010 on how to improve the representation of women, disabled people and minority ethnic people in the House of Commons.
In order to produce an effective strategy, we need to establish the practical support needed by disabled candidates to encourage greater participation in public and political life. This consultation is an opportunity for us to seek a diverse range of views, from disabled people themselves and others, on the measures which would make a real difference.
The consultation paper sets out a range of proposals including the establishment of a fund to support disability-related costs. This will not, however, replace existing obligations for parties under the Equality Act 2010/Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In addition to helping break down financial barriers, the proposals are intended to address some of the wider obstacles faced by disabled people who seek elected office, for example introducing measures to raise awareness and tackle attitudes which might discourage disabled people from putting themselves forward for election.
The proposals will apply to: English local elections, Greater London authority (GLA) elections, English mayoral elections, police and crime commissioners and all candidates from all parts of the UK who are seeking elected positions at UK Westminster elections. We would continue to work with colleagues in the devolved legislatures to help best practice from this strategy to be embedded in the electoral practices for their elections.
The consultation will run for a period of 12 weeks, until 11 May. A consultation document and instructions for responding can be found on the Government Equalities Office website at www.equalities.gov.uk and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.
A summary of the results of this consultation will be published on the Government Equalities Office website within three months of the end of the consultation period.
1Government’s advisory body on disability issues