It is essential that our public offices, from the UK Parliament to local government, reflect the diversity of the UK population. Currently the disabled population of this country is not sufficiently represented.
If we want to inspire and encourage businesses and other organisations to place inclusivity at the heart of their work, then politicians should lead by example. Political parties also have a duty to ensure they encourage and support their candidates as well as support to their workforce and ensure a level playing field in recruitment.
The Government Equalities Office, together with the Office for Disability Issues and the Cabinet Office, will consult with disability stakeholders to undertake a programme of work over the next 12 months to help both major and smaller political parties best support disabled candidates.
The prime responsibility for this would sit with political parties themselves. However within this, there will be ways the government can help too, for example by looking at extending the support we already provide in other areas such as employment to enable other activities such as volunteering or representing their communities.
Within 12 months we hope to have political parties offering and advertising support, as well as solutions to help independent candidates.
While this work is ongoing we want to ensure that disabled people can run for office, so we are announcing a fund of up to £250,000 to support disabled candidates, primarily for the forthcoming English local elections in 2019. We will set out further details about the scheme in the near future and any measures taken to ensure such costs are not considered to be part of a candidate’s election expenses.
Establishing this fund should not disincentivise political parties from continuing to develop their own measures. Instead, it should help them prioritise this issue and take action to ensure no one is disadvantaged in the democratic process.
I hope that the interim fund will also help us gather further evidence of what good practice looks like.
I will keep the House updated on further developments.
The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP
Chloe Smith MP
Sarah Newton MP