By Claire West
Women and Equalities Minister Helen Grant announced that another three paid internships are being offered to disabled people as part of plans to tackle the low levels of disabled people in public life.
The scheme offers ten paid placements a year, three of them are offered specifically to disabled people and the rest go to young people from a range of disadvantaged backgrounds, providing an opportunity to work in the House of Commons for MPs across all three main parties.
Helen Grant said:
“I am passionate about opening up Parliament to a more diverse mix of people so that we better reflect the society we live in and represent and it’s great that three of the places will be given to disabled applicants.
“These internships are a great opportunity for those who are passionate about politics, who may not otherwise have considered pursuing a career as an MP because of their background, to experience life at the heart of the British political system.”
The internships offer people the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how Parliament works. Each intern is assigned to an MP and works in their office for four days per week. One day per week is spent working in various parts of the House of Commons, developing skills in a range of areas. The placements run from October each year for a full Parliamentary session until the following July.
David Nicholson completed his placement in July with the Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP. David, who has Aspergers Syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum, was diagnosed as having the disability when he was 18-years-old.
“The scheme has really helped me develop into a confident young man, and made me realise that, despite having a disability, I can handle working in Parliament.
“It has given me the confidence to know that there is room in politics for more disabled people. It’s great that the Government Equalities Office funds three places a year — so that people like me with a disability get the chance to see if politics is for them.
“The scheme is helping to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes. I hope that through this more disabled people will realise that they too have the talent and potential to succeed and compete for elected office.”
The internships, which were introduced in September 2011, are part of the Government’s Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Strategy, and are run through the Speakers Parliamentary Placement Scheme by the Social Mobility Foundation. The initiative was set up Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, Eric Ollerenshaw OBE MP and Jo Swinson MP, with support from the Speaker of the House of Commons.