School children chatting with politicians and workshops for deaf people about how democracy can work better for them are just a few ways the Welsh Government is looking to get more people involved with politics.
The Welsh Government is funding 11 projects through its Democratic Engagement Grant, targeting those less likely to be active in the democratic process. These range from helping people to register to vote, to encouraging them to participate with democratically elected bodies such as Town and Community Councils.
British Deaf Association Cymru will be supported to deliver bespoke workshops across deaf centres, clubs and groups in Wales with the aim of empowering people who are underrepresented in politics to get involved.
Another organisation, the Politics Project, will be supported to continue to run their ‘Digital Dialogue’ sessions in schools. These bring students and elected members together to discuss what matters most to them.
Other projects include the Innovate Trust, enabling people with learning disabilities and their local authorities to come together to create digital content on what to expect when they go to a polling station.
Nick French, Innovate Trust CEO, said:
“We’re delighted to have received funding from Welsh Government’s Democratic Engagement Grant. Many of us take being able to vote for granted. Yet people with learning disabilities face countless barriers when it comes to registering to vote, knowing who to vote for and casting their vote with confidence. With this funding, we will be breaking down these barriers to promote democratic engagement amongst the people that we support by delivering a programme of accessible, informative sessions about the democratic process as a whole.”
Boys & Girls Club Wales will also receive funding to run Pizza and Politics workshops and Raise your Voice projects, with an emphasis on those who are currently marginalised from democracy – including people from ethnic minority backgrounds, LGBTQ+ young people, disabled people, and those with poor mental health.
Grant Poiner, Boys & Girls Club Wales CEO, said:
"This grant will have a significant impact on young people who do not normally engage with politics. Through innovative workshops led by trained Youth Workers the project will provide young people with the information and the confidence to be able to exercise their democratic right of being able to vote at the age of 16 in elections in Wales.”
The Counsel General Mick Antoniw confirmed the funding in a statement to the Senedd today. He also outlined the Welsh Government’s intention to legislate for a legal duty which would improve diversity by providing support to remove barriers to participation, building on previous initiatives such as the Access to Elected Office Fund which was piloted with support from Disability Wales.
Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, said:
“In recent years we have made significant progress in strengthening Welsh democracy, including giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote as well as for qualifying foreign citizens.
“The projects we are supporting through our Democratic Engagement Grant will continue these efforts to improve participation in our democracy.
“Our actions are in direct contrast with the UK government. What we see across the border are very deliberate efforts to make it harder to vote. Its new voter ID laws are nothing short of an attack on democracy. We are not only rejecting this in devolved elections in Wales, but we are actively working to improve democratic engagement and make it easier for people to vote.”
The funding comes as the Welsh Government’s programme to modernise elections in Wales continues to gather pace, including an automatic voter registration pilot scheme being worked on with local authorities and additional funding support for MySociety who provide support for meaningful participation in democracy and access to political information, including They Work For You.