Supplementary submission from Scope: Access
to Public Life Participation Fund (SC 106)
Scope is a national disability organisation
whose aim is that disabled people achieve equality. In pursuit
of this aim we have a particular interest in improving the representation
of disabled people in public and political life. There are certain
needs, interests and concerns that arise from disabled people's
experience that will be inadequately addressed in a politics that
is not reflective of the diversity of our society. Disabled people
have an important role to play in enriching and informing political
debate, thus helping to ensure that disabled people's experiences
are adequately addressed by policy-makers. We are therefore very
concerned at the under-representation of disabled people in public
and political life.
1.2 Disabled People in Political and Public
Holding political or public office is often
highly competitive and many non-disabled people repeatedly try
for selection and election without success. Scope recognises that
there are key competencies that must be demonstrated by all applicants,
regardless of background. We are not arguing for a levelling-down
for disabled people, but recognise that inflexible processes and
assumptions about what political or public office holders should
look like can operate to exclude people who would make good candidates.
1.3 Disabled people make up approximately
20% of the population and approximately 15% of the working age
population. While there are no official figures on the numbers
of disabled MPs or disabled candidates, anecdotal evidence suggests
that disabled people are severely under-represented within Parliament.
The benefits system, inaccessible appointment processes and negative
attitudes towards disabled people make participation in public
and political life more difficult for disabled people.
1.4 Figures from the Cabinet Office show
that disabled people holding public appointments are also under-represented,
with only 5% of the total of public appointments held by disabled
Of those disabled people who do hold public office, many hold
more than one position meaning that there is significant duplication.
1.5 The number of disabled councillors is
higher, with the Councillors' Census in 2008 showing that 13.3%
of councillors identify as disabled people. However when contrasting
the sample of disabled councillors with the general sample, the
survey showed that disabled councillors were of a higher average
age then non-disabled councillors, suggesting that many had age-related
This is supported by a Councillors' Commission report which stated
"Younger disabled councillors are notably absent from most
1.6 Barriers to Participation
There are a number of barriers that prevent
disabled people from getting involved in public and political
life. These include:
Negative attitudes and assumptions about
disabled people's capabilities which can act as a deterrent to
disabled people who want to participate in public life.
Inaccessible buildings, processes and
information are specific barriers to participation that impact
disproportionately on disabled people.
The complexity and inflexibility of the
welfare benefits system. There is a lack of clarity among benefits
advisors as to whether allowances received for public or elected
duties should be taken into account when calculating benefit entitlements.
The additional costs associated with
undertaking day to day activities that many disabled people face.
1.7 As the law currently stands, an employer
has a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee
or an employee who becomes disabled during their employment. The
cost of most adjustments is negligible but for more significant
costs, for example where specialist equipment or a personal assistant
is required, there is the "Access to Work Scheme" (see
Appendix A for the types of support available under Access to
1.8 Access to Work plays a major role in
enabling disabled people into work and off benefits and in helping
keep people who become disabled during their working life in their
jobs (see Appendix B for cost benefit analysis). While Access
to Work is available for people within employment, so could be
claimed for by a sitting MP, there is no similar scheme to support
disabled people who want to run for elected or appointed office
and face additional costs. Clarification is also required as to
whether the scheme is available to sitting Councillors as it currently
seems to operate on a council by council basis with some Councillors
receiving support while others are denied the costs of reasonable
adjustments. For those Councillors receiving support this often
only extends to their "formal council duties" and does
not cover them when councillors are acting in a political campaigning
capacity, such as door knocking.
1.9 The additional costs faced by disabled
people can make running for elected or appointed office prohibitively
expensive. For example if a deaf candidate who required a British
Sign Language interpreter were to run for electionthey
would need to fund the costs of the interpreter themselves. Typically
this is around £54 per hour.
1.10 The fear of additional costs can also
act as a deterrent for local parties when selecting a candidate.
During Scope's research into barriers facing disabled candidates,
one participant was told that while they were the strongest candidate
his local party could not select him as he was a wheelchair user.
Since the party building did not have level access the local party
thought he would not be able to participate in local party meetings.
Local parties often have limited financial resources which they
want to dedicate solely to campaigning. The thought of incurring
additional costs in this case by hiring a different accessible
venue or by installing a ramp acts as a deterrent to the local
It is recommended that an Access to Public Life
Fund is set up.
In order to address this specific barrier to
disabled people's participation, Scope proposes that an "Access
to Public Life" fund be set up. Disabled people who wish
to stand for elected or appointed office could apply for this
fund to meet the costs of reasonable adjustments.
2.2 We would recommend that the fund operate
in the same way as Access to Work and be delivered at a local
level by Job Centre Plus Disability Employment Advisors who currently
assess Access to Work applications. This would help to establish
economies of scale in the procurement of equipment and recognises
the accumulated expertise of advisors who assess claimants' access
Due to the smaller numbers of disabled people seeking election
or appointment (as opposed to work) Scope recommends that local
advisors are supported by a national advisor who would be a dedicated
resource providing advice and guidance and promoting the fund.
2.3 Eligibility guidance should be drawn
up by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Office of the
Commission for Public Appointments and the Electoral Commission
in conjunction with disabled people who hold, or would like to
hold, public office, to ensure it addresses the full range of
disabled people's access needs. Additional training would be required
for advisors and we recommend that this be done in association
with the Electoral Commission and disabled people.
2.4 The fund would be a ring-fenced, stand
alone fund which would operate outside other expenses and would
fall outside of calculations such as election campaign expenditure
Candidates could apply directly to the fund
for assistance with:
Adaptations to premises and equipmentmodification
of a party / constituency office or equipment.
Communication support throughout the
selection processhelp with the costs of employing a BSL
interpreter or communicator to accompany a person, where there
might be communication barriers during the selection processes
Special aids and equipmentprovision
of aids and equipment which non-disabled candidates would not
Support workershelp with the costs
of employing personal support workers to support the disabled
candidate in undertaking their candidate duties.
Travel and accommodationsupport
with the extra costs of travel or accommodation, for example the
extra cost of taking a taxi rather than a bus, or staying in an
accessible hotel room rather than at a party member's house, while
performing their duties as a candidate.
items of support that do not fit elsewhere, such as a grant towards
the costs of disability awareness training for members of the
Scope would recommend that a review is undertaken
after a five year period in order that the benefits of the fund
could be monitored over a full election cycle.
2.5 Benefits of an Access to Public Life Fundcase
The following case studies illustrate the ways
in which an Access to Public Life Fund could be of benefit to
disabled people running for public and political life. The names
of the individuals have been changed to protect their anonymity.
2.6 Beth, Prospective Parliamentary CandidateLabour
For many years Beth had been an active member
of her local Labour Party, this included being a councillor for
two terms. When an opportunity arose to become a PPC, many people
recommended that she stand for selection. While competition was
tough, Beth was selected with a strong majority.
Beth worked hard as the local PPC until she had
a serious car crash which left her in hospital for a number of
months. Given the situation Beth stood down while she recuperated
in hospital. After discharge from hospital Beth became a wheelchair
Four years later Beth decided that she wanted
to become a PPC again and tried for selection. Unlike her previous
attempt Beth encountered a series of barriers. At one selection
meeting the local CLP booked a hall which required members to
walk up two flights of stairs.
After repeated attempts Beth was selected for
a non-winnable seat. In an effort to prove herself, Beth has been
campaigning at the level that she would put into a target seat.
The local CLP is delighted and have promised to recommend her
if she wants to move to a more winnable seat following the General
As Beth couldn't get selected locally she now
needs to travel further to her constituency. Inaccessible transport
systems mean that she has to pay for taxis to and from the constituency.
She occasionally stays over in the constituency. Before her accident
she would have just stayed at a member's house or in a cheap B
& B. The only accessible option available to Beth within the
constituency is a hotel which costs three times the price of a
B & B.
An Access to Public Life Fund could assist Beth
with the additional transport and accommodation costs she faces.
2.7 Oliver, Prospective Parliamentary
Oliver is currently a PPC for a target seat.
Throughout the selection process there were a couple of opportunities
for Oliver to declare that he was dyslexic, however he was concerned
that this declaration might damage his chances of selection so
decided to keep quiet.
Oliver was quickly selected as a PPC and his
local Association were pleased with his dedication to campaigning,
his connection to the voters, and his talent for making speeches.
However, Oliver was surprised by the amount of
paperwork that is involved with being a PPC. Specifically; responding
to residents' concerns, writing press releases, updates for the
party newsletter and copy for "In Touch." In addition
Oliver is finding it difficult to keep up to date with reading
about new policies or initiatives affecting the constituency.
Oliver is struggling so much with the amount of paperwork and
has concerns over the spelling within his correspondence that
he is seriously considering standing down.
An Access to Public Life Fund could support Oliver
by providing him with computer equipment with voice and spelling
recognitionthis could help him proofread work and could
also convert reading material to audio. Alternatively, the fund
could provide secretarial assistance for Oliver for a couple of
hours per week to help him with his paperwork.
2.8 Matt, Prospective Local CouncillorLiberal
Matt has cerebral palsy and wanted to be a local
councillor. He had previously been actively involved with his
local disability organisation and had supported his local Liberal
Democrat Party by helping deliver literature and making donations.
After seeing an advert in the Lib Dem members'
newsletter looking for new council candidates, he approached the
party's local executive and told them that he would like to put
his name forward. The local executive refused Matt's application
on the grounds that he had a speech impairment which he felt would
prevent him being able to make speeches in council.
An Access to Public Life Fund would be a benefit
to Matt as it could fund the cost of Disability Equality Training
for the local executive and could also provide Matt with the communication
support that he might require when giving speeches.
2.9 Other relevant initiatives
The Access to Volunteering Fund was established
by the Government in April 2009, with the aim of increasing disabled
people's participation in volunteering. In establishing the fund
the Government recognised that disabled people frequently find
it more difficult to take up volunteering opportunities as many
organisations cannot afford the additional costs associated with
supporting a disabled volunteer. The fund is designed to meet
the additional costs of transport, physical alterations to premises;
personal assistants and communication support that some disabled
people need to participate in volunteering.
2.10 The fund has a total budget of two
million pounds. As part of the two-phase programme an electronic
costings toolkit will be developed to allow individual volunteering
projects to calculate accurately and robustly the full cost of
involving disabled people in volunteering.
3.1 Funding an Access to Public Life Fund
Available data does not allow us to calculate
accurately the level of funding required to meet the additional
costs of adjustments for all disabled people who wish to run for
3.2 Robust data on the numbers of disabled
people who require adjustments with a financial cost is not available.
Access to Work data is helpful in some respects but overall take-up
is low; it is designed to support ongoing employment, rather than
short term arrangements while someone campaigns for office; and
it will not pay for adjustments under £300.
3.3 We calculate that representation of
disabled people at a level commensurate with their representation
in society generally should mean that there are 27,825 or 114,610
disabled applicants (excluding and including school governors
respectively) for public office.
In light of the paucity of useful data we recommend
that an initial fund of £500,000 be made available over two
years, with take-up monitored to provide a more robust data set
that can be used to determine future levels of funding.
3.4 Indicative Figures
|Total number of adults in the UK population
||Total number of disabled|
adults within the UK
|Percentage of disabled|
adults in the UK
|Total annual Access to Work claimed
||Total claimants (0.06% of total|
numbers of adults in the UK)
|Average claim per claimant|
|Number of candidates for elected public positions in the UK
||Percentage of people|
standing for elected public
positions in the UK
|Disabled people's projected|
involvement to reflect 23%
disabled people in society at
|120,978 (excluding school governors) |
498,304 (including school governors)
4. EVALUATION METHODS
The success of the scheme could be evaluated in a number
of ways including:
Awareness of the fund amongst disabled people and
local political parties
The number of applicants to the fund.
The number of successful applicants to the fund.
The total amount spent by the fund.
Improvements in the overall number of disabled applicants
for public / elected office.
Improvements in the overall number of disabled people
holding public / elected office.
The views of disabled applicants who have accessed
The views of local parties considering disabled candidates.
5. POINTS FOR
Eligibility restrictions would be needed to ensure
that any assistance provided is to level the playing field between
disabled and non-disabled candidates and not to provide unfair
Consideration should be given as to whether any fund
is divided proportionally to reflect the size of the political
party / the relative proportion of public appointments.
Consideration is needed as to what stage a prospective
candidate could apply (Scope would recommend at the initial candidate
assessment stage). Thought would need to be given as to how the
fund would apply to independent candidates to ensure that they
were genuine applicants. Scope would recommend that the fund be
tied in with rules governing candidates in elections.
Applications to the fund are likely to be in peaks
and troughs in relation to election dates.
Consideration would need to be given as to how any
such fund is promoted.
ACCESS TO WORK FUND
Access to Work can help pay for:
Adaptations to Premises and EquipmentModification
of an employer's or self-employed person's premises or equipment.
Communication Support at InterviewHelp with
the costs of employing an interpreter or communicator to accompany
a hearing impaired person, where there might be communication
difficulties at a job interview with an employer.
Miscellaneous"One off" items of support
that do not fit elsewhere, such as a grant towards the costs of
deaf awareness training for close colleagues of a deaf person.
Special Aids and EquipmentProvision of aids
and equipment which a non-disabled person doing the same job would
Support WorkersHelp with the costs of employing
personal support for a job interview, on an individual's journey
to and from work or other help including Personal Reader.
Travel to WorkSupport when an individual incurs
extra costs in travelling to and from work because of their disability.
ACCESS TO WORK COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS
Positive numbers represent benefits. Negative numbers are costs.
Figures based on DWP EIA in February 2009
Programme and running costs, including additional Jobcentre
Plus staffing. Payments for ongoing support, such as support workers
and travel to work. Payments for one-off support, such as workplace
It is estimated that approximately 27,000 people will be
supported in work between 2008-09 and 2013-14 as a result of this
policy. The benefit of higher economic output is estimated as
the gross wages from additional employment offset by individuals'
losses of non-market time from moving into employment. Furthermore,
there will be gains to the economy from a reduced tax burden.
Estimated savings from more people moving into work and reduced
numbers of people claiming incapacity benefits/ESA and, increased
income and indirect tax and National Insurance contributions.
Estimates are net of increases in other benefits and in-work support.
Creates choice and control, supports independent living and prevents
social and economic exclusion.
Administrative evidence has shown that for every pound the
Government invests in Access to Work, there is a benefit of £1.67,
from savings on benefit expenditure and increased tax revenue.
All costs and benefits are presented as Net Present Values
in 2008-09 prices, and include costs and benefits occurring between
2008-09 and 2013-14.
The administrative costs of the policy are included in both
the Economic Costs, which are the costs to the economy as a whole,
and the Fiscal Costs/Benefits which are costs and savings to the
Programme fundingaccording to James Purnell/Jonathan
The Government has committed to doubling it to £138
million by 2013-14.
The under-representation of disabled people in public and political
life has been acknowledged as an issue of concern by numerous
enquiries and formal reports. These include the Speakers Conference
on Parliamentary Representation which is currently conducting
enquiries, The Report of the Councillors Commission, December
2007, The Report of the Cabinet Office Short Life Working Group
on Improving Diversity in Public Appointments see http://www.publicappointments.org/consultations/documents/AnnexF-SummaryofPreviousResearchinDiversityinPublicAppointments.pdf
Cabinet Office January 2004 and the Working Group on Disability:
Report, OCPA January 2004 see https://www.publicappointmentscommissioner.org/web-resources/resources/bf77408eea7.pdf Back
It should be noted that the current administration of Access to
Work may change to take account of the Right to Control Agenda
which would enable people to get cash / vouchers to purchase their
own equipment instead of Access to Work procuring equipment or
support on their behalf. Back
Office of National Statistics Back
DWP figures Back
Based on three candidates per elected position, breakdown of appointments:
MPs (England and Wales) = 646; Scottish MPs = 72, Councillors
(England and Wales) = 21,000; Welsh Assembly Members = 60; GLA
= 25; Elected Mayors (England) = 23; Public Appointments (UK)
School Governors (England) = 300,000 Back