Despite being the largest minority groups in the United Kingdom (one in five working-age adults), disabled people have been and continue to be under-represented at every level in our political system. Only 8 out of the current 650 Members of Parliament have identified as disabled (1.23%). At the local government level, representation is slightly higher, with 16.1% of elected representatives declaring themselves disabled. Even with this statistic in mind, it is approximately 700 councillors short of being proportionally representative of the general population in the United Kingdom.
Findings from the Disability Policy Centre
Earlier this year, the Disability Policy Centre launched our Breaking Down Barriers Report in the Houses of Parliament, which highlighted important findings from disabled people about representation in politics. Our main takeaways from the report show that out of our interviewees who are disabled or have long-term health conditions:
What can we do to improve representation?
From interviews, roundtables, and surveys, the Disability Policy Centre captured the experiences and views of disabled people. From these findings, the Disability Policy Centre put forward recommendations for the government as well as recommendations for political parties to identify specific challenges and barriers that limited the full potential of disabled people in politics. These are as follows:
Recommendations for the UK government
Recommendations for political parties
Representation is much more than a tick-box exercise. Our political system must accommodate disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to allow for full political representation and participation. We must act to dismantle the societal, attitudinal, and physical barriers which create inaccessible environments. By tackling these issues directly, disabled people as well as individuals with long-term health conditions have the choice to participate in and engage with politics.
You can read the full report here: https://thedisabilitypolicycentre.org/representation.
Kirstie Stage is a Director of the Disability Policy Centre. She is a disabled researcher passionate about public policy, political engagement, and human rights.