Tim’s thoughts on the ‘Access to Elected Office’ scheme.
‘I’m concerned today about accessibility for people with all kinds of impairments as yet another government scheme launches which seems overly tailored to an over-represented need.
‘The ‘Access to Elected Office Fund’ is a much-hailed plan to award money to cover the extra expenses that disabled people incur in running for political office. So far, so good. But only this specific need is targeted, with no considerations to the broader social restrictions that can hold disabled people back from the point when they feel confident considering running as an MP, mayor or councillor.
‘To qualify for this fund, people must prove that they ‘have been involved or interested in civic, community or other relevant activities.’ However, there is no provision in the fund for accessibility expenses incurred while taking part in these activities. Sitting on a parish council, leading a local voluntary group, or campaigning on a grass-roots level all present their own challenges for disabled people, just as much as running for office does. With help only being given to those already able to take an active part in civic leadership, this scheme is not enabling those most hindered by a lack of diversity and accessibility within society. Without help at a local, grass-roots level, only a very small, comparatively high-functioning group of people will be able to make use of funds supporting an election campaign.
‘This scheme seems to be being exclusively advertised online: I’ve seen no TV or radio adverts for it, which are more likely to reach disabled people who do not use the internet. As with the Universal Credit system, which will cut off benefits to anyone incapable of claiming online, this is a example of counter-productive efficiency. A scheme designed to help disabled people has failed in its purpose if it cannot be easily discovered and used by people with varied access needs.
‘These problems often come as a result of having non-disabled people involved in there planning. Well-meaning people often overlook vital needs which make expensive schemes increasingly less efficient. Ironically, these flaws in access schemes aren’t likely to go away until disabled people are fully represented in government and the civil service.’