On Saturday 3rd March 2018, Jackie Driver, Chief Executive of Breakthrough UK, and Jenny Gradwell, Daughter of the late Lorraine Gradwell, will launch the Trust Lorraine Foundation at the Walk for Women in Manchester. The Foundation - in Lorraine Gradwell’s name - is a joint project between the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) and Breakthrough UK to increase local disabled people’s representation in elected office.

Lorraine Gradwell MBE, a champion of and for disabled people, was a founding member of the GMCDP and of Breakthrough UK - her drive and involvement in both organisations continued right up to her untimely death last year. Lorraine was also a passionate advocate locally and nationally for disabled people’s democratic participation and access to elected office.

In the 2017 elections, some disabled voters went to the polling station and, unacceptably, were sent away or were not able to get in. In elected office, evidence indicates an educational and demographic divide in political representation, particularly amongst young people, disabled people, women, transgender people and people from BME communities. Disabled people, at less than 1%, are hugely underrepresented.

The Trust Lorraine Foundation, targeted at disabled people - aims to remove barriers and create the conditions which will enable increased diverse political representation in and around Greater Manchester. The Foundation will work with disabled people who want to get into elected office and the responsible agencies to drive a 7-point plan to:

  1. Create the right conditions for diverse representation
  2. Secure all party commitment to true diversity
  3. Promote opportunities for under-represented people
  4. Re-open the Access to Elected Office Fund
  5. Monitor progress towards the diversity of those in elected office
  6. Take proactive steps to ensure that polling stations are accessible to disabled people
  7. Ensure that disabled voters are given an equal level of service to others

Vivienne Stone, Breakthrough UK’s Chair, says:

“Today, 100 years on from the start of women’s right to vote, we are calling upon you to pledge your support to the Trust Lorraine Foundation – entrusting Manchester disabled people’s led organisations, in the name of Lorraine Gradwell, one of the city’s finest civil rights campaigners – to ensure that disabled people of the region enjoy the same participation and representation as others.

Until the barriers to disabled people to vote and get into elected office are removed – democracy is fictional and only works for the privileged.”

To get involved and make an impact, go to the GMCDP and Breakthrough UK websites at www.gmcdp.com and www.breakthrough-uk.co.uk

Tel: 0161 636 7534 (GMCDP) and 0161 234 3950 (Breakthrough UK).

Texts to 07508 537561 (GMCDP) and 07800 557 053 (Breakthrough).

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(GMCDP does not necessarily support or promote any organisation, individual or website mentioned in this post.)