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Disabled Candidates Grant Scheme To Return For 2019 Local Elections

December 4, 2018

People with disabilities are to be offered thousands of pounds to help them run for elected office in next year’s council elections as part of an effort to tackle under-representation in town halls.

Grants averaging £4,000 will be made available to some to cover costs of campaign expenses including specialist transport, screen reader software, sign language interpretation and braille transcription.

Only 10% of councillors have a disability, compared with about 20% of the UK population. The government is offering £250,000, which is expected to fund around 60 candidates. Almost 9,000 council seats will be contested in local elections in May.

Mayoral and police and crime commissioner candidates will also be able to apply to the scheme, which is to be relaunched by the equalities minister, Penny Mordaunt, on Monday three years after it was scrapped.

“Empowering people with disabilities leads to better decisions and more effective outcomes for all of us,” she said. “Unless every one of our citizens can reach their full potential, our nation never will.”

Officials hope the return of the scheme will encourage the main political parties to prioritise the selection of people with disabilities. Applications for grants will be accepted from January.

Disability rights campaigners called for the scheme to be expanded, but welcomed its return.

Sue Bott, the deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Local councillors make decisions on a myriad of important areas which impact on disabled people. From social care to education budgets, we need to hear more voices from disabled people on local issues.

“We hope this is the beginning of something which will see funding increase. Political parties across the spectrum have a poor track record when it comes to selecting and supporting disabled candidates. They should be doing better.”

Representation is worse in parliament than in local councils, with five MPs out of 650 having declared themselves as disabled.

Studies have shown that cuts to welfare and local authority budgets have fallen disproportionately on people with disabilities. Last month the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, said austerity measures in the UK meant the government had breached its human rights obligations towards people with disabilities.

Alston cited figures from the Social Metrics Commission showing that a fifth of the population were living in poverty and nearly half of those were from families in which someone was disabled.

On 2 May, 281 councils in England and Northern Ireland are being contested. There are also six mayoral elections in England.

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