Disabled people’s voices needed in political debate | Letters

Letters from Phyl Meyer of the access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland), Michelle Mitchell of the MS Society, Ted Hill of the British Polio Fellowship, Clare Pelham of the Epilepsy Society and others

The article by Frances Ryan (24 May) regarding the lack of support for disabled candidates seeking election raises an important issue that the next UK government must address. Missing from the article was reference to the situation in Scotland, where the Scottish government has funded the creation of the Access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland). The Scottish fund recently supported 39 disabled candidates in the local authority elections, of whom 15 were elected. Unfortunately the terms of the Scotland Act 1998 prevent the Scottish government from funding a project which covers the UK general elections as these are fully reserved to Westminster, so we are unable to assist disabled candidates who have come forward in this election. If we are ever to achieve fair representation for all sections of society, the general election this month must be the last one ever to systematically exclude disabled people from equal opportunity to serve in elected office. The only way this can be achieved is reinstatement of the UK fund (allowing the Scottish fund to cover UK elections in Scotland), and the introduction of job-sharing for elected office roles (which will also open up elected office to more people with childcare responsibilities, among others).
Phyl Meyer
Project manager, Access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland)

• Tomorrow the Disability Benefits Consortium will be delivering a resolute plea to party leaders, urging them to protect disability benefits from further cuts in the next parliament. More than 16,500 people have backed this call in an open letter being delivered to party leaders tomorrow. As a coalition of 80 charities and organisations, we are seeing every day how years of damaging welfare reform are having a devastating impact. Across the country, thousands of disabled people are currently struggling without the support they need.

Continue reading…