North Wales MS and Chair of the Senedd’s Cross-Party Group on Disability, Mark Isherwood MS, has today sponsored and spoken at the ‘Equal Power Equal Voice Event 24’ in the Senedd, highlighting the underrepresentation of disabled people in politics.
Equal Power Equal Voice (EPEV) is a partnership between Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales, Stonewall Cymru, Disability Wales, and Ethnic Minorities & Youth Support Team (EYST) Wales.
It is a mentoring programme aiming to increase diversity of representation in public and political life in Wales, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and Welsh Government.
Speaking at the event, Mr Isherwood said:
“A core principle of representative democracy is that all sections of the public have equal rights and opportunities to participate in political decision-making, both as citizens and as representatives.
“Following the 2019 UK General Election, 66 or 10% of Members of the House of Commons were from minority ethnic backgrounds, compared with just Four in 1987.
“Six or 4.5% of the Scottish Parliament’s 129 members and three or 5% of the 60 Members of the Welsh Parliament are from minority ethnic backgrounds, including the first woman of colour elected since the start of devolution. None of the 90 Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly were recorded as being from a minority ethnic group.
“Disabled people, who make up around 1 in 5 of the UK population, are thought to be under-represented in politics at different levels of government, both across the UK and internationally.
“The UK Government’s 2021 ‘Barriers to elected office for disabled people’ Report states that the number of disabled people in politics across all levels of Government ‘are almost always below 1 in 5’, confirming that disabled people are underrepresented.
“The report concludes that ‘Disabled people face a number of barriers when participating in party politics, including venue accessibility, lack of interpretation, inaccessible formatting of materials, lack of facilities, and cultural barriers - including a lack of awareness, knowledge and interest on the part of some local parties to make politics more accessible for disabled people’.
“The Welsh Government’s Action plan called ‘Action on Disability: The Right to Independent Living’ states that ‘the Social Model of disability says that people are disabled by barriers to Society that stop them from doing something, and not by their health condition or difference’.
“I hear almost daily from disabled people, communities and carers who are having to fight for the support and services they need to enable them to lead an independent life. Despite the existing rights that do exist, we must go further.
“For example, I have recently called for the Welsh Government to implement personal wheelchair budgets in Wales, as in England.
“This is one of many areas where we can increase voice, choice and control for Disabled people in Wales.”
Mr Isherwood also referred to the fact that he has long supported proposals by Disability Wales for the Welsh Government to include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD) into Welsh law, stating “we must turn legislation and plans into action, to give Disabled people real voice, choice, control and independence. Disabled people have the right to speak for themselves”.
He added that he was delighted to take part in the ‘Equal Power Equal Voice’ cross-equalities mentoring programme to increase diverse representation in public and political life in Wales, stating:
“I must therefore mention and thank my previous excellent mentees under both this mentoring programme and EYST’s predecessor ‘Wales Routes into Public Life’ programme, Rebecca Brown, Sam Njoku and Lee Tiratira. I learned more from each of them than they learned from me, and I wish each of them– and each of you - every future success.”