Commons inquiry ‘holds out hope for a new disability focus’ for DFID


newslatestA committee of MPs has launched an inquiry into whether the UK government should do more to focus on including disabled people in its international development work.

The decision of the Commons international development committee to hold an inquiry into disability and development has been welcomed by a leading disabled academic, who co-authored a major global report on disability.

Estimates suggest there are more than one billion disabled people, but less than four per cent of them benefit from international development assistance.

The UN has warned that global development targets will be missed without a greater focus on disabled people.

It is thought that more than half of disabled people in low income countries cannot afford healthcare, and that almost 90 per cent of disabled children in Africa do not go to school.

The UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) has announced that all new DFID-funded schools will be accessible to disabled children, and has called for better global data on disability, and an increased emphasis on disabled people in future development targets.

But the committee’s inquiry – which particularly welcomes evidence from disabled people – is to look at the “adequacy” of the government’s policies on disability and development.

It will also examine whether DFID needs its own disability strategy, and other issues such as the effectiveness of its approach to service provision for disabled people, and how disability is integrated into programmes such as health, education and sanitation.

The disabled academic and writer Tom Shakespeare, who was one of the authors of The World Report on Disability, published by the World Health Organization and The World Bank in 2011, said: “It’s very good news that the House of Commons international development committee are doing an inquiry into disability and development.”

He said the UK government had once “led the world on disability-inclusive development”, and was the first to talk about the “twin-track approach” of being both inclusive in its mainstream programmes and targeting specific work at disabled people.

But he said the issue appeared to have had “a low profile” within DFID more recently, with countries such as Australia, Finland and USA taking the lead.

Shakespeare, now a senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia, said: “One of the few good things this government has done is to ring-fence overseas development assistance, and this is a chance to ensure that removing barriers to the participation of disabled people is a central part of the DFID work.”

He called on non-governmental organisations, activists and researchers from both the developed and developing worlds to submit evidence to the inquiry.

The deadline for written submissions to the inquiry is 13 December.

14 November 2013