The Government is facing a legal challenge to restore the Access to Elected Office fund (AEOF) which helps Deaf and Disabled candidates, of all parties, with the extra costs of standing for election. The legal challenge is being brought by 3 Disabled would-be MPs from 3 different parties and is being supported by the cross-party campaign group More United.
There are over 13.9 million Disabled people in the UK, that’s 21% of the British population. Fair and accurate representation of all demographics is an essential part of any healthy democracy. However, just 5 Disabled MPs were elected to the House of Commons at General election 2017. Together, they make up less than 1% of Parliament.
A major reason for the under-representation of Disabled people in Parliament is the additional financial barriers faced by Disabled candidates when seeking to stand for election. The AEOF was set up in 2012 to allow Disabled candidates to campaign on an equal footing to their non-disabled counterparts. The fund offered grants between £250 and £40,000 to cover extra costs such as BSL interpreters, assistive technology or extra transport.
But in 2015 the government froze the fund and it was put ‘under review’. Three years on, there are still no plans to restore the fund, despite a recommendation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for it to be restored. Without the financial support provided by the AEOF, many Disabled would-be MPs are effectively prevented from standing for election.
Now more than ever, Disabled people’s voices need to be heard. If there are not enough Disabled MPs who truly understand the barriers and discrimination we face, decisions will continue to be made against our interests. The recent cuts to Personal Independence Payments, the narrowing of social care criteria and the closure of the Independent Living Fund demonstrate this.
Standing for election should be accessible for all. The AEOF must be restored to level the playing field and allow more Disabled candidates to stand for election. Please join Labour’s Emily Brothers, Liberal Democrat David Buxton, the Green Party’s Simeon Hart and More United in their call for the Government to reopen the fund.
Join the campaign and sign the petition here: https://www.moreunited.uk/restore-the-fund