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Empowering disabled people

Published: 2 Dec 2015 10:50

New project to tackle underrepresentation of disabled people in politics.

New funding of £35,305 will help disabled people participate in politics.

Disabled people, a group which is under-represented within elected offices across Scotland, will now get extra support to help encourage participation and representation. The wide ranging support for increasing disabled people's representation in politics is evidenced by the cross-party support for the goals of the One in Five Campaign.

Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment Marco Biagi, said:

"The Scottish Government is dedicated to ensuring more people from underrepresented groups are treated equally and fairly at all levels. It is vital for society that all of our groups are represented in politics and elected offices at all levels. We know that disabled people often find it difficult to access elected offices due to the many barriers that exist.

"This Community Empowerment Funding to support disabled people to participate in politics will offer a programme of direct, practical, non-financial support to disabled candidates standing for any party or as an independent in the 2016 election, to prospective candidates for the 2017 local government elections.

"The project contributes towards our broader ambition to encourage more people from under-represented groups to stand for elected office so that our local councils and parliament become more reflective of the communities they serve."

The project will be run by Inclusion Scotland, on a pilot basis until March 2016 and will offer disabled people:

- Direct assessment of access barriers and individual support needs

- Tailored advice about appropriate adjustments

- Confidence building and emotional support

- Mentoring and peer mentoring, working in partnership with one in five ambassadors.

Jamie Szymkowiak, Founder of One In Five, said:

"Today's announcement that the Scottish Government will be supporting the Access to Politics Project for aspiring disabled politicians is fantastic news. When the One In Five campaign launched earlier this year, our aim was to increase political participation amongst disabled people leading to representation that reflects modern Scotland and this Project will help remove the non-financial barriers that face disabled people whilst allowing the Scottish Government to gain an understanding of what could make financial support more effective in the future.

"The fact our campaign has gained support from all Scotland's main political parties, various political groups and organisations shows there is a willingness to address the under-representation of disabled people and we hope this project will inspire disabled people across the political spectrum to seek selection in future elections.

"One In Five recognises the work Inclusion Scotland has done to ensure the full inclusion of disabled people into all aspects of Scottish civil, social and economic life and our team of cross-party ambassadors look forward to supporting them in this important Project."

Inclusion Scotland's Chief Executive Officer Sally Witcher said:

"Disabled people have the human right to be politically active, just like non-disabled people. Yet, despite having a great deal to contribute to political life in Scotland and despite cross-party commitment to open up access many barriers exist that prevent their equal participation. Furthermore, if Scottish Government is to achieve its vision for a Fairer Scotland, one which values the participation of all its citizens, it is imperative we find out more about just what those barriers are and what can be done to remove them.

"For all these reasons, Inclusion Scotland is delighted to receive Scottish Government funding for a short-term pilot project to investigate what bars disabled people's participation and what practical steps can be taken to make lasting improvements to access. This will enable us to provide non-financial support and advice to individual disabled people seeking to become involved in politics and those seeking to promote and facilitate their involvement.

"Inclusion Scotland looks forward to working with the One in Five campaign, their cross-party supporters and aspiring disabled activists to help make the commitment to increase disabled people's political participation a reality 'on the ground', thereby helping to promote a Fairer Scotland for all."