Fund open to support disabled people seeking election
The costs for sign language interpreters, taxi fares or equipment could be met for disabled people seeking election, as part of a pilot Welsh Government fund.
The Access to Elected Office Fund - managed by Disability Wales - is now open to support individuals for next year’s local government elections who may need extra help to run for office.
With 1,254 councillors elected to 22 principal councils across Wales, the fund aims to increase diversity and address the current under-representation of disabled people in public life at all levels.
In addition to support for council candidates, the pilot is also available for those seeking election to community and town councils in the 2022 local government elections - amounting to 735 community and town councils, with over 8,000 councillors.
The expansion of the fund will provide a greater number of opportunities for disabled people to achieve their aim of participating in local democracy to support their communities.
The fund will cover additional costs such as equipment, training, travel and communication support workers such as British Sign Language and other interpreters.
Damian Bridgeman, who has complex cerebral palsy and previously stood for election before the fund was established, said:
“I really wanted to make a difference to society and to show the people of Wales that actually we need a diverse electorate to represent us, because if we don't have diverse voices, we're not really going to be able to represent them fairly.
“I would have put funding support towards a personal assistant. I would have put it towards running a lot more meet-and-greets, so that it felt a bit easier than actually running on a traditional door-knocking event. I could have controlled the environments that I would have actually interacted with the electorate therefore taking away the barriers and allowing myself to achieve what I needed to achieve.”
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said:
“I am pleased to be able offer this funding for any disabled person who is looking to get involved in public life and needs some help to do so. We want to enable participation for as many people as possible in our upcoming elections.”
Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice, said:
“We have to do more to increase diversity among our elected officials if we are to make Wales a fair and just society, free from discrimination and inequality.
“This funding will help to ensure that disabled people do not face barriers when taking part in Welsh elections by paying for the reasonable adjustments they need.”
To apply for the funding and for more information visit: www.disabilitywales.org/projects/access-to-elected-office-fund-wales
Notes to editors
Damian Bridgeman is a board member for a public body with complex cerebral palsy who has stood for election twice found there was limited assistance available when he stood for election. He is based in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Tina Sharp is a Knighton town councillor with Arnold Chiari Malformation found it difficult to canvass as a wheelchair user when she stood for election. Tina said:
“Running for election is really difficult in a wheelchair because going around campaigning, I can't get down everybody's front path or if they live in a flat, I can't get there so I had my one of my personal assistants come around with me to post pamphlets through the door. A positive thing though, because I'm in a wheelchair, I can go around town so people can approach me on the street where they do that quite a bit.
“There were a few people that didn't know me so they did tend to speak down to me, tend to speak to the chair. But I'm not the chair, I am a person.
“It needs to be put out there that anybody can run for election. You don't have to be able-bodied, you can have a disability. Whether you’re in a wheelchair, whether you have sight problems, whatever your disability is, if you want to stand you should be able to stand. There are ways around obstacles if you put your mind to it.”
Interview clips of Damian and Tina are available here: https://bit.ly/3G3PCAq
Accessing the fund
To apply for the funding and for more information visit: www.disabilitywales.org/projects/access-to-elected-office-fund-wales or email: firstname.lastname@example.org