Caroline Lucas reapplies pressure on Government to act. Newly-elected disabled MPs join call for fund to be reinstated.
MPs from across the political spectrum are calling on the Government to reinstate a fund to help people with disabilities stand for election.
The Access to Elected Office Fund, established by the coalition government in 2012, has been closed since May 2015. Though five people with disabilities were elected to Parliament this year there is still significant underrepresentation of disabled people in the House of Commons. MPs have tabled an Early Day Motion calling for fund to be reinstated. Three newly elected MPs with disabilities are co-signatories on the EDM.
A pilot project funded by the Scottish Government supported 39 candidates in the 2017 Scottish local authority elections and was heralded as a success.
In September 2015 The Equality and Human Rights Commission's recommended that the Government reopen the Access to Elected Office Fund in England and work with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to explore options for making the scheme, or similar funds, available across Great Britain.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader and lead signatory on the Early Day Motion, is urging the Government to take immediate action to assist disable people in standing for Parliament.
Caroline Lucas said:
“Though the representation of disabled people in Parliament is improving there’s still a huge amount of work to do. The Government’s prevarication on this issues is bewildering. We should be doing all we can to help people with disabilities stand for office, but instead Ministers have refused to reinstate this scheme.
“Our democracy is enhanced when MPs reflect the communities they represent and we should be doing all we can to increase the number of disabled MPs to reflect the levels of disability in Britain.”
Jared O’Mara, the newly-elected Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, who has cerebral palsy, said:
"We are now all but two full decades in to the 21st century and as a disabled person it fills me with immense pride to see the strides we have taken together, with cross-party support, towards creating a more equal world for disabled people in comparison to the immensely discriminatory and prejudiced world of the previous millennium. The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 and its successor The Equality Act 2000 were both historic and moral pieces of legislation that parliament can be most proud of putting in place, however there is still so much to do and so much further to go on the long road to building an equal society for disabled people. I implore the government to take a few further strides in the direction of justice and virtue by making the Access to Elected Office Fund a permanent and unrestricted fixture of public life, thus creating a level playing field to help ensure that more and more disabled people can stand as candidates and ultimately become politicians. The costs arising from having any impairment should be no barrier to taking part in democracy and restoration of this fund is very much inexpensive and of utmost importance to our shared goal of true equality in the United Kingdom."