Supporting disabled people to stand for election

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Conference
2018 National Disabled Members' Conference
Date
29 June 2018
Decision
Carried as Amended

Conference is concerned that in the twenty-first century it is still almost impossible for disabled people to stand for elected office or pursue careers in the field of politics. For disabled women the barriers are exacerbated by societal sexism and misogyny.

Almost 30% of people old enough to vote are disabled yet less than 2% of the 650 MPs elected to represent us in Parliament openly identify as disabled. While 10% of Councillors are disabled, this is a significant reduction from 14% in 2010. Black disabled parliamentarians and councillors also significantly under-represented with racism an additional barrier faced.

Perhaps disabled people aren’t interested, capable or the best person for the job – at least that’s what the government would have us believe – but the reason disabled people don’t stand is the cost of standing for and holding elected office are so much greater for disabled people than non-disabled people that they are prohibitive.

Sign-language interpreters, Braille, support workers, specialist ICT and other reasonable adjustments that disabled people need at work are needed during a campaign and once elected but there is no support available to help with the costs.

The Access to Elected Office Fund used to offer grants to disabled people standing for election in UK Parliament, English local government and other elections for disability related expenses during the campaign. In 2015 the fund was “frozen and put under review” by the Tory government but despite disabled people being unable to stand in a General Election, Police and Crime Commissioner elections, three lots of local elections and mayoral elections since it was “frozen” there has been no progress on the review.

Of course, some disabled people have stood for election expecting that they would get the reasonable adjustments they need once elected but there’s no financial help then either. Access to Work helps employers pay for reasonable adjustments in the workplace but the same support isn’t available for elected positions even though it can be as time consuming and difficult as a full-time job.

For disabled women who are more likely to be low paid and have caring responsibilities, there are added barriers to being able to access political office that need addressing

Conference we are never going to achieve disability equality until there is a greater understanding of disability issues amongst those who hold elected positions. Our Disabled Members will never be properly represented until there are more disabled people in elected positions and we will never have more disabled people, including our Disabled Members able to stand for elected positions until the support is there to ensure a level playing field.

Conference calls on National Disabled Members Committee to work with the NEC to:

1. Join the campaign to restore the Access Elected Office Fund;

2. Write to all MPs asking them to support the campaign to restore the Access to Elected Office Fund;

3. Lobby for Access to Work funds to be made available to disabled people who hold elected office in local authorities, town and parish councils; and

4. Work with Labour Link to improve the support available to disabled people standing as Labour Party candidates.

5. Support appropriate campaigns to encourage Black disabled people to put themselves forward for election and to combat racism in standing for political office.

6. Support appropriate campaigns to address the specific barriers to political office faced by disabled women and to encourage them to stand for election.