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Access to Elected Office for Disabled People

Volume 548: debated on Monday 9 July 2012

The Government are today launching a £2.6 million fund to support disabled people who wish to stand for elected office. This proposal forms part of the Government’s strategy to provide support for disabled people—the access to elected office strategy. Following public consultation, the strategy has been developed by the Home Office, working with the Cabinet Office and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Disabled people are under-represented in public life, as the Speaker’s conference report and the parliamentary debate on 12 January recognised. Following public consultation, the Government last year published proposals to provide extra support for disabled people who wish to stand for elected office.

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 open until March 2014 and will be available to support disabled people seeking elected positions in the following polls, including byelections: 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. We will also continue to work with colleagues in the devolved Administrations to share our learning from this strategy.

The fund will be complemented by an introductory online training course on standing for elections, launched today. It will be of interest to anyone without previous experience who wishes to stand for elections but is aimed particularly at disabled people. It includes contributions from disabled politicians and others to encourage disabled people to stand for elected office.

As I have already announced to the Speaker in my letter of 16 March, I am also pleased to say that, as part of the access to elected office’s commitment to provide support to disabled people, I am funding up to three additional placements specifically for disabled people as part of the Speaker’s parliamentary placement scheme.

Further details of all these initiatives can be found on the Home Office website at: http://homeoffice.gov.uk/equalities/equality-public-political/.