Funding for running for an elected office
- ACCESS TO ELECTED OFFICE FOR DISABLED PEOPLE FUND
- UK Government Equalities Office
- Country of Implementation
- United Kingdom
- Western Europe
- First published
“The Access to Elected Office Fund was a lifeline to me as it enabled me to fund a support worker to accompany me when I went out canvassing and met residents and community groups.” Alison HANSFORD, former Local Council candidate
Context: In 2010 a House of Commons Conference on parliamentary representation stated that there is considerable evidence that the financial barriers facing candidates with disabilities were particularly high; that the necessary extra spending has to be borne by candidates who are often poorer than other candidates; and that social care funding packages limit the area in which persons with disabilities can be candidates. While assistance to Members of Parliament can be provided through the Access to Work programme (Innovative Policy 2013) it is not available to candidates. In response, the disability charity Scope recommended establishing a fund to meet the cost of reasonable adjustments during campaigns. As a result, a Stakeholder Group, chaired by the Government Equalities Office and including the main political parties as well as a variety of disability organizations, developed the Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund, launched in 2012. The Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund, established in 2012, offers individual grants of between £250 and (only in exceptional circumstances) £40,000 (about €320 to €49,700) to persons with disabilities who wish to put themselves forward as a candidate or for running their election campaign, but who incur additional costs associated with their disability. While the Fund was initially set to run until March 2014, the government decided to extend it until March 2015 and to fully evaluate it by summer 2015.
In most countries people with disabilities are underrepresented in public life because they face substantial barriers to putting themselves forward for election. In the United Kingdom grants are available to help meet the additional costs associated with running for election that candidates with disabilities can face.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
The Fund offers individual grants of between £250 and, only in exceptional circumstances, £40,000 to candidates with disabilities. Grants can cover, for example, the cost of using private taxis if public transport is not accessible, the cost of accessible meeting rooms, or the cost of a sign language interpreter. In order to be eligible, the person with a disability needs to demonstrate that the nature of their condition creates a barrier to standing for election and to provide evidence of their involvement in community activities. The Fund is administered by Convey, which is independent of the government and assesses all applications and pays grants. Convey is advised by an advisory panel, which consists of members – including four with a disability – who have expertise in a range of disability and electoral issues. The monitoring and evaluation is carried out by the Government Equalities Office. Towards a level playing field _x000B_By funding the disability-related costs associated with standing for selection and election, the Fund enables candidates with disabilities to better compete with other candidates. _x000B_Cooperation with civil society The fund is an excellent example of a government working with civil society to develop an evidence- informed approach to removing barriers to the political participation of persons with disabilities. Testing cost-effectiveness Launched as a three-year pilot project, the Fund is the first of its kind, and its effectiveness will be evaluated in June 2015. - The Fund was initially set to run until March 2014, but the government decided to extend it until March 2015 and to evaluate it by summer 2015. _x000B_ - 35 applicants have stood for election to date, mainly in Local Authority elections. _x000B_ - The Fund has received considerable media coverage, and has been promoted through _x000B_political networks and disability charities to raise awareness of the support it can provide. _x000B_
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Depending on the outcome of the pilot period of the Fund, it could, in principle, be replicated in other countries, depending on their laws regarding limits on electoral expenses for candidates. Start- up costs were approximately £30,000 (€38,000).
THE STORY OF KIRSTEN HEARN
“As a blind person, there are many barriers put up to stop me from participating in society.”
Kirsten Hearn, who is partially sighted and who was able to run for elections thanks to the Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund, is an elected Councillor at the Haringey Council. For her it is clear that “as a blind person, there are many barriers put up to stop me from participating in society. This is reflected in how political parties organize and how would-be politicians campaign. Canvassing on the doorsteps and streets is expected of candidates, but this is not easy to do if you are disabled. In order to run a good campaign, I must keep abreast of local issues and research policy areas so I can say what I will do when I am elected. This is hard when information is very inaccessible. If I am to have an equal chance of being nominated and of participating as a candidate, this is the kind of support I need.“