The government hopes a new strategy will help more disabled people become local councillors and MPs.
The £1 million-a-year package of six proposals includes a new Access to Elected Office Fund to help would-be disabled politicians meet the extra disability-related costs of running for office.
The government also wants to change attitudes about disabled politicians among the public and political parties, build a network of disabled MPs and councillors to act as role models, and develop new training opportunities for disabled candidates.
It also wants to help political parties improve their support for prospective disabled candidates – particularly at local level – and do more to explain their legal obligations under the new Equality Act.
The announcement comes a year after the cross-party speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation reported on ways to increase the number of disabled, female and minority ethnic MPs.
A consultation on the new proposals will run until 11 May, with the scheme expected to launch later this year.
It will apply to UK Westminster elections, English local elections, Greater London Authority elections, English mayoral elections and elections of police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.
Theresa May, the Conservative home secretary and minister for equalities, said: “It’s not fair that someone who has the right to take an active role in our democracy is prevented from doing so simply because are disabled.
“Disabled people are under-represented in politics, and this package of support will help remedy that.”
Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, strongly welcomed the strategy.
She said: “RADAR has supported several disabled people to stand for election and to successfully become local councillors or mayor through our Leadership Programme.
“We need more initiatives to give disabled people the confidence, the practical support and the flexibility to become a local councillor or MP.
“Having more disabled people included in decision-making means local and national policies are created which reflect what everyone wants and needs in their communities.”
The disabled MP Paul Maynard told young disabled people at the launch of an all party parliamentary group, on the same day the strategy was launched: “It is really, really important that you just do not wait for somebody else to speak on your behalf and you grab those opportunities with both hands.
“I hope that some of you today… might before too long be sitting at this end of the table.”
17 February 2011