The Green Party has slammed the government’s decision to axe a crucial fund that helps disabled people stand for election.
The decision will make it harder for people with a disability to stand for elected office, says the Green Party’s Oldham West and Royton by-election candidate Simeon Hart.
Mr Hart, who was the only Deaf and British Sign Language (BSL) user to stand for election in the 2015 General Election, is furious of the government’s failure to renew ‘The Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund‘.
The fund was set up in 2012 as a pilot scheme to help cover ‘disability-related costs’, such as carer prices and sign language interpreters.
However, the fund’s website now states that the government is currently unable to commit to its future and officially closed the fund earlier this year.
Simeon is calling for a temporary replacement for the scheme, while asking the public to help raise funds for his by-election election through a popular crowdfunding website.
Mr Hart said: “Becoming a candidate in elections and by-elections is supposed to be open to anyone eligible in the UK. Yet my experience has been a challenge and I know that many people with a disability will be put off trying to become an elected politician.
“My party and I have a detailed plan for how we can reduce fuel poverty and keep parks public in the constituency and I am unable to articulate my plans as well as the candidates from other parties because of problems finding and paying for an interpreter.
“If the government is serious about making elections a level playing field, it will reconsider its heartless decision to scrap the Access to Elected Office Fund.”
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said the decision to close the fund could deter disabled people from standing for election.
Miss Bennett said: “Simeon is an excellent candidate who is eager to meet with constituents to tell them about Green Party plans for the area.
“It has been tough for him in finding and paying for an interpreter and it saddens me to think that a good number of quality prospective candidates with a disability could be put off from standing for election.
“We await to hear from the government about their plans for the fund and what they can do to ease the financial burden that’s being unfairly imposed on prospective political candidates with a disability.”
The Green Party’s Disability Group convener Paul Weaver added: “If a change is ever to be made in the way that we work with and for disabled people within all levels of government then we need to ensure that funds are made available to assist with the extra cost involved.”
A government spokesperson said it is “committed to making sure disabled people can fulfill their potential and participate fully in society”.
They told the Huffington Post UK: “It is important that this extends to political participation so that disabled people are involved at every level in the decisions that affect how they live their lives.
“An evaluation of the Access to Elected Office Fund pilot is currently being undertaken and will include the views of disabled applicants on the effectiveness of the scheme.”
The Oldham West and Royton by-election will be held on Thursday, 3 December 2015.