Duncan Smith could face election contest with disabled activist


theweeksubThe architect of the government’s unpopular welfare reforms could face an attempt to unseat him at the next general election from a leading disabled activist.

Julie Jaye Charles, who lives in Iain Duncan Smith’s Chingford and Woodford Green constituency, said she wanted to oppose the Conservative MP as a black disabled woman with bipolar disorder.

Jaye Charles is founder and chief executive of the black and minority ethnic (BME) disabled people’s organisation Equalities National Council (ENC), and is a government adviser and expert on issues around race, disability, health and social care.

She said: “I just want people to feel comfortable that people with mental health difficulties are not stark raving mad.

“I have lived experience of mental health but I have been a successful CEO and ambassador for BME disabled people.

“I just feel that it is time to stand as an MP to support the needs of the most grassroots communities, particularly the needs of people with long-term conditions, disabled people, people with learning difficulties and those with mental health difficulties.”

She has already secured support from the government’s new access to elected office fund, which helps disabled people with the extra disability-related costs they face while campaigning.

If she is selected by Labour to fight the seat, it could force Duncan Smith into a high-profile defence of the impact of his welfare cuts and reforms on disabled people.

Jaye Charles said: “He has made it quite clear in the way he has done business that he wants huge changes around what services disabled people should receive, and he has made it clear that he is making it difficult for us to access services.

“He has also made it clear on welfare reform that he is targeting people with long-term conditions and disabled people and so I think it is important not only that I am someone with a mental health difficulty but also that I am a black woman.”

Jaye Charles said that – if selected – she would campaign for more accessible housing, better access to health and social care, and more support for disabled people to get back into employment, including efforts to force employers to employ more disabled people.

Duncan Smith retained the seat in 2010 with a majority of nearly 13,000 over Labour, taking nearly 50 per cent of the vote.

16 May 2013