Today Minister for Women and Equalities Helen Grant announced that the fund will continue for another year, and be extended.
Helen nailed the central issue and reason it was created in the first place when she said: “Disabled candidates can often be faced with additional costs that make standing for election more difficult than their non-disabled counterparts.”
The fund also “creates the space for disabled people to play a key role in these decision-making processes, but can also lead to increased visibility in public life, and ultimately change attitudes towards disability” according to Scope chair Alice Maynard.
In the run up to the 2010 election the Conservative party manifesto committed to “introduce a £1 million fund to help disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials with the extra costs they face in running for office”.
The fund idea was then reflected in the coalition agreement after the election.
Since the fund was launched in July 2012 there have been over sixty applications to the fund, which will now also cover Parish and Town Council elections.
The Local Government Association Be a councilor campaign is also being expanded and will now help aspiring disabled candidates by providing coaching, mentoring and training, to help build their confidence, knowledge and skills.
Everyone involved deserves a huge amount of credit, for recognising the potential disabled people have, and the benefits they can bring to our communities and political life. Crucially that is being backed up with money, time and commitment, particularly at a time the public purse is under pressure.
Disabled people are still massively under-represented in public life, but here’s hoping that more people take the plunge and use to its full potential.
In you’re interested you can apply on the Access to Elected Office Fund website.