Four of the UK’s leading pan-disability organisations have secured £5 million in lottery funding for a major series of research projects on independent living.
The Big Lottery Fund has given the money to Disability Action Northern Ireland, and its research partners Disability Rights UK, Disability Wales and Inclusion Scotland, for the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) project.
The four partners said the project would “significantly strengthen our future capacity to influence decision making about independent living” and would “inform the policies, manifestos and campaigns of the disability sector for many years to come”.
The project will be spread over the next five years, with research carried out both across the UK and in each of the four countries.
The first task will be to work with disabled people and their organisations to decide on research priorities.
Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales, said she was “really thrilled” with the funding, and said: “This is a real opportunity in Wales to drive forward the disability research agenda.”
She said she hoped the project might even lead to a university setting up the first disability studies department in Wales.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK), said: “We are thrilled to be working with our sister organisations across the UK to push the boundaries of research based on what matters to disabled people’s lives.”
She said the research would be “unique in starting from the priorities that come from disabled people, and will be designed to impact on policies and practices that make a difference in people’s lives”.
Sue Bott, DR UK’s director of policy and development, said: “It is very exciting because we are going to be able to get some really robust research to back up our campaigning on the issues we are really concerned about.
“Otherwise you have to just wait and persuade some academics to be interested. This way, disabled people are really in the driving seat.”
Disabled people will co-produce the research, she said, which should provide an example to other research organisations, develop the careers of existing disabled researchers, and “upskill disabled people interested in acquiring research skills”.
The results of the research will be shared widely with disabled people and those responsible for policy and practice.
Sayce said: “We hope the research will underpin new work to foster the full participation of disabled people in a rapidly changing world – including people from different communities and backgrounds, living with a wide range of mental and physical health conditions and impairments.”
Bill Scott, director of policy for Inclusion Scotland, added: “The solution-focused research will also provide the evidence that we (disabled people’s organisations) need to influence the shape of future Scottish government policy and public service provision so that they support disabled people to reach their full potential and be involved in all aspects of Scottish economic and community life.”