Politics

Funding to encourage candidates with disabilities to run in elections returns

It’s hoped the government scheme will up the number of disabled voices in town halls around the country

Polling station sign

A grant scheme giving disabled people financial help to run in council elections is to return in 2019.

The £250,000 fund is intended to tackle the underrepresentation of disability in local politics, with an average of £4,000 each offered to 60 people. It is hoped that the funding will cover some of the costs of running as a candidate including braille transcription, specialist transport, screen reader software and sign language interpretation.

Around 20 per cent of the UK population have a disability, compared to only 10 per cent of councilors. Only five of 650 MPs are recorded as having a disability.

The scheme was scrapped three years ago, but is being relaunched by equalities minister Penny Mordaunt. She said: “Empowering people with disabilities leads to better decisions and more effective outcomes for all of us.”

As well as local council candidates, police and mayoral candidates will also be able to apply for the funding. Almost 9,000 council seats will be contested in local elections in May.

Campaigners have welcomed the scheme’s return as a first step to proportionate representation in town halls for disabled people, who have been severely impacted by austerity measures. Sue Bott, the deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Local councillors make decisions on a myriad of important areas which impact on disabled people. From social care to education budgets, we need to hear more voices from disabled people on local issues.

“We hope this is the beginning of something which will see funding increase. Political parties across the spectrum have a poor track record when it comes to selecting and supporting disabled candidates. They should be doing better.”

As part of the United Nations poverty envoy, Philip Alston said last month that the UK government was failing to fulfill its obligations to the rights of disabled people. Social Metrics Commission numbers showed that nearly half of those living in poverty in the UK were from families affected by disability.

The initiative is open for applications from January.

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