A further three paid internships are being offered to disabled people as part of a scheme to help them gain an insight into the world of politics. The internships are part of the Government’s Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Strategy, which includes a fund and online training, to help tackle the currently low levels of disabled people in public life.
David Nicholson, who has Apergers Syndrome, has just completed a placement with Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP. Read about his experience of working alongside MPs.
I come from a working class family and from a young age, I was taught about the values of aspiration, hard work, discipline, and respect for authority, courage and to fight hard for what you believe in and never ever give up. These values have shaped my life and I have never let my disability stop me from pursuing my dreams. I graduated with a 2:1 in Law and Politics and it’s thanks to the support of my family and friends that I’ve been able to achieve the things I have.
Speakers Parliamentary Placement Scheme
I have always been interested in politics but didn’t know where to start so when I saw an advert at my local job centre about the Speakers Parliamentary Scheme – I immediately put myself forward. The scheme was set up to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds gain experience of working in parliament. It involved working fours day a week dealing with telephone enquiries, correspondence, managing MP’s diaries, responding to emails and helping out with policy officials on certain projects. I have found the whole experience inspirational and really rewarding. I have come out of this a more confident man and have realised, that despite my disability, I can handle anything that is thrown at me. The one thing that stands out from this whole experience was the Autism Awareness event held at Parliament before Easter, where I shared the same platform as John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons. It was an incredible honour to stand in front of an audience, which included MPs and deliver a speech.
During this whole experience, I have been honoured to have met many MPs. Not only was it a pleasure to work with Hazel Blears MP but I had the opportunity to meet Mary Macleod MP and Robert Buckland. I was struck by their commitment to equality and to helping those who want to succeed. These MPs are fantastic role models, and it is important for disabled people like myself to have role models they can look up to.
The scheme has really taught me that people with my condition can work well in parliament with the right support. It is great that the Government Equalities Office funds three places on the scheme for three disabled people. This is a positive step in the right direction. I think there’s a lot more work that still needs to be done if we are to we see a much higher representation of disabled people in politics. Yes, it is partly about finance and for that it is good we have the Access to Elected Office fund in place but it is also about raising awareness and challenging stereotypes. It is also about disabled people taking their own initiative and getting involved and knowing that they are just as good as anyone else. I hope in part, that through my involvement with the scheme I have helped make parliamentarians and other people realise that disabled people are just as capable. It is imperative that we all work together to ensure that our political system can be boosted even further by embracing all the good things that disabled people have to offer and I want to emphasise that they have a lot to offer.
Being on the Speakers Parliamentary Placement Scheme has really given me the hunger to strive for the best and succeed. I am absolutely determined that I want to stand for parliament one day so that I can make a difference to people’s lives and to serve my constituents and my country. Make no mistake about it; I am going to make sure that my disability will never hold me back. I will fight hard and I will tear down every barrier that stands in my way to ensure that I can be the very best that I can be and that my goals in life are achieved.
Read the news story: Internships making politics more accessible for disabled people