A KEY member of a disability support group has announced her split from the forum after she felt certain elements “scream out discrimination.”

Karen Hamilton, who is a disability service user and a Conservative member on Test Valley Borough Council, has left the Test Valley Disability Forum, saying she feels under attack for holding a political position.

Councillor Hamilton told The Advertiser she had been closely involved with the group’s establishment and believed it to be a safe space for service users to learn off each other and share information, but added she thinks it is now turning more into a political campaign group filled with “personal agendas.”

An online poll was created by forum chairman Maurice Sweeney asking members to vote on whether people affiliated with a political party should be allowed to hold a position on the forum or be an administrator on the forum’s Facebook group.

This came after a member expressed concern over Conservative councillors being administrators on the group, citing a potential conflict of interest, due to a “growing sense of frustration and anger at the way the Conservatives have treated a great many disabled people.”

The poll said changes will be made to the structure if 10 per cent of the group’s 300 members voted.

Karen said: “This is a big decision for me, as I have been there from day one, as it was my only outlet to be supported by a common-themed group.

“I felt we were moving in the right direction when I facilitated access to service users and that progress could start to help people.

“The mere fact that wanting to have a poll to see if anyone that is affiliated with a political party should have restricted access to the forum screams out discrimination.

“This forum is the one place I never thought that would happen. What is scary is they cannot even see the discrimination. No matter what your role is in life, you have positives and negatives that you can offer, and respectful people understand that.”

Karen added she had only ever used the group as ‘Karen the service user’, not as a councillor.

Mr Sweeney said the poll comes at a time the forum is looking to formalise its workings, and is currently in the process of creating a constitution.

He added: “I understand why Cllr Hamilton may have taken this decision at this time, a time when the group is questioning the viability of having elected members having undue influence on the forum.

“It is important that the great work the forum carries out is not influenced by people with a party-political agenda and the group is not used as a tool to get elected.

“Since Cllr Hamilton joined the group after its launch in 2015 she has helped financially in [her] 2016 mayoral year, for which we remain grateful.

“The group continues to grow in stature and we have welcomed a further three members since Karen’s resignation.We wish her all the best.”