Disability inclusion

IDC inquiry into disability inclusion: four key priorities for the government’s response

Last week, the International Development Committee (IDC) published its report and recommendations on the adequacy and effectiveness of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) work on disability inclusion.

The Bond Disability and Development Group (DDG) was pleased to contribute oral and written evidence to support the inquiry, and, as highlighted in our initial statement, is grateful to the IDC for their consideration of all the evidence.

The report highlights the FCDO’s good work on disability inclusion in recent years, including the launch of the Disability Inclusion and Rights Strategy 2022–30. This was a timely and positive progression from previous developments and has potential to advance the UK’s leadership in disability inclusion amid overlapping global crises. The DDG were also pleased to read that, of the 17 commitments the UK made at the Global Disability Summit in 2018, all but four have been implemented, with progress on the remainder underway.

Progress, but also challenges and gaps

The IDC provides evidence of the harmful consequences that the UK cuts to its development budget have had on persons with disabilities. As a result, 90% of members responding to our DDG survey believed that the UK’s leadership on disability inclusion has weakened in recent years. As the report outlines, it is critical that lessons are learnt from the cuts, and mechanisms are put in place to improve decision-making around allocation of resources.

Crucially, the report shows that the FCDO has not sufficiently mainstreamed disability inclusion across its development work, with only around a third of UK aid-funded projects having any focus on disability inclusion – and only 0.7% having a “significant” focus on disability inclusion. This suggests that there is still a long way to go in terms of the FCDO embedding the needs of people with disabilities into all its development work.

In the light of these two significant issues, we support the IDC’s calls for the FCDO to introduce department-wide targets on disability inclusion, as measured by the OECD-DAC markers. The return to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA is also critical to meeting the UK’s ambition on disability inclusion, particularly in helping to address the impacts of exclusion in development programmes for lower and middle-income communities.

We were concerned to read that the FCDO’s commitments on data collection, safeguarding of people with disabilities and engagement with organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs), particularly in humanitarian response and climate change adaptation policies, have not yet been met. This echoes the evidence from the DDG’s survey, in which 95% of DDG members who responded did not feel confident that the FCDO will deliver the commitments made in the Disability Inclusion and Rights Strategy and Global Disability Summit of 2022.

Going forward from here

We welcome all of the Committee’s recommendations, which – if implemented – have the potential to accelerate the UK’s leadership on disability inclusion. The DDG sees four key areas that must be a priority in any government response:

A published plan with targets and resourcing

The Bond DDG supports the Committee’s call for the FCDO to publish the delivery plan for its Disability Inclusion and Rights Strategy, alongside its response to this report, and a commitment to adequate funding that is fit for purpose. Publishing and strengthening the Delivery Plan will make it possible to track where more inclusive laws, policies, programmes and decisions are being made.

Data, data, data

We need to understand the barriers and issues faced by persons with disabilities. Nick Dyer, Second Permanent Under-Secretary at the FCDO, rightly acknowledged in his evidence that the FCDO “does not have sufficient disaggregation data on disability either in the organisation or international development more broadly.”

We therefore welcome the Committee’s recommendation for the FCDO to include specific, measurable data-disaggregation policies on disability inclusion in the upcoming delivery plan for the Disability Inclusion and Rights Strategy. We support the call for the FCDO to share this openly with stakeholders and delivery partners, and for all bilateral ODA projects to include these targets from now on.

Meaningful engagement

The report also points out that the FCDO is not adequately fulfilling its commitment on engaging with OPDs, “making it all too common that policy decisions affecting people with disabilities are made without their direct input.” Although there have been some promising examples in this area, including the FCDO’s new internal guidance on OPDs, the Committee has rightly urged that this should be supplemented with clearer FCDO-wide approaches to consultation and engagement. We welcome the recommendation that any new iteration of the published delivery plan should also ensure that OPDs are meaningfully consulted on any policies that may affect them.

Safety and safeguarding

People with disabilities are significantly more at risk of sexual exploitation, as well as other forms of exploitation. It was therefore concerning to read that the FCDO is not doing all it can to properly safeguard people with disabilities in its programming – described by some witnesses as an “afterthought for programme managers.”

We support the recommendation for the FCDO to review its approach to securing value for money in development programmes, to ensure that these considerations do not affect the ability of programmes to effectively safeguard people with disabilities. The FCDO should also leverage its global leadership in influencing networks on disability-inclusive safeguarding, such as the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network, in order to encourage strict adherence to inclusive safeguarding standards in ODA spending.

Implementing these key areas would make incredible progress towards the promised goal of increasing accountability and transparency around UK development, and will show a clear way forward on global disability rights.