MP to Government: Provide Level Playing Field for Political Candidates with Disabilities
Bath’s MP, Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse, the party’s Spokesperson for Equalities, has called for the creation of a permanent Government fund to provide support for those with disabilities who run for elected office.
This fund would replace both the Access to Elected Office Fund, discontinued in 2015, and the interim EnAble Fund which succeeded it, worth £250,000, which was formally closed on 31st July 2020. These funds provided financial assistance for disabled candidates who may need additional support in their campaigns - such as British Sign Language interpreters, which cost approximately £230 per day.
The Access to Elected Office Fund supported 94 applications and 67 disabled candidates for a total value of £418,734. Quantitative data on the EnAble Fund and the number of disabled people prevented by cost barriers from running for office has not yet been produced but has been called for by Disability Rights UK.
Speaking to the Leader of the House Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg recently, Ms Hobhouse asked whether he agreed that “having a disability should never stand in the way of running for public office”. She requested an outline of “when the Government will bring forward a permanent fund as a first step towards removing barriers for candidates with a disability.”
In response, Mr Rees-Mogg agreed with Bath’s MP, admitting that she was “absolutely right that people with disabilities should face no barrier to engaging in public life.” Disappointingly, he then said that the “primary responsibility is with the political party” regarding financial support.
Disabled Rights UK have commented, stating that “leaving it to the political parties just isn’t working”.
Wera Hobhouse followed up her question with a letter addressed to both the Leader of the House and the Minister for Women and Equalities, Elizabeth Truss, applauding the election of Pam Duncan-Glancy, the first permanent wheelchair user in Scottish Parliament. She said that more work must be done to ensure that all members of our society have equal access to stand for elected office.
Wera Hobhouse said:
“A permanent fund which covers the reasonable adjustments for standing for political office should be the first step in a wider strategy for breaking down the barriers faced by those with disabilities and ensuring better, more inclusive policy-making across theUK.”
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