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Education: Disability Financing

Volume 783: debated on Monday 10 July 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the #CostingEquity report on disability responsive education financing, published by the International Disability and Development Consortium, which outlines the steps and resources necessary to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 on inclusive education.

My Lords, we welcome the IDDC’s report. Disability has been underprioritised in the past and, as a result, insufficient global resources have been allocated to education. We recognise the challenge and are steadily taking steps to scale up our own response and encourage others to do more.

My Lords, I am very grateful for that Reply. The Minister will be aware that more than 32 million children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries are out of school and denied an education. That is why 40 NGO leaders have endorsed a joint call to action to invest in disability-inclusive education, in which they have agreed to make education for children with disabilities in developing countries a top priority and to urge donors to increase funding for inclusive education and make disability inclusiveness a necessary criterion for accessing funding for all education programmes and projects. Can the Minister assure the House—and from his Reply I am very hopeful that he can—that the UK Government will follow the same approach and support these recommendations?

I am very happy to give that assurance, and I pay tribute to the noble Lord for his work on the steering group of this very valuable report. We are still digesting a lot of its conclusions—but, undoubtedly, the one that we should focus on is that 90% of children in the developing world with disabilities are not in school. Clearly, that is contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to at least goal 4—and probably goals 8 and 10—of the sustainable development goals. It is something that we are committed to responding to, and I will be very happy to speak to the noble Lord afterwards to outline some of the thoughts that we have in this area about what we hope to bring forward in response to the report.

In response to the report on disability from the International Development Committee three years ago, the Government adopted a disability framework. What progress is being made in evaluating the data to identify how many disabled children in particular are affected in countries where DfID has programmes and to what extent is DfID targeting them, as well as on employing disabled staff in the department to ensure that there is a real connection between the rights of disabled people and the need to serve their needs?

One thing that was identified in the report to which we have just referred was the lack of data about what the need was and what the responses were. We have a disability framework in the department, which guides everything that we do across our aid strategy. We are looking at finding better practices for what is working; for example, we are working in Kenya and Uganda with Leonard Cheshire to try to find better examples of what is working on the ground to address this problem.

Is the Minister looking at how many of these children are in institutional care and whether it is always appropriate for them to be so? Many of them could be better placed in foster or kinship care. Is that a matter that the Minister might look at?

A number of excellent charities are working in this very area. It is certainly something that we are sympathetic to; disability has been one of the core criteria for UK Aid Direct, a new round of which has come in. We also have the Girls’ Education Challenge, which has educated some 46,000 girls with disabilities in schools. The next round of that project will increase the allocation still further to 15% of the total fund.

My Lords, promoting inclusive education is obviously a key priority for DfID. The International Development Committee of the other place recommended that DfID should spend at least 10% of its budget on that, but it is currently 8%. What steps is the Minister going to take to ensure that we reach that target so that we can deliver the promise referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Low?

There is a significant financing gap in global education. The UK is one of the better ones—in fact, the report on page 26 highlights that DfID was ranked number one by donors for its disability education as a priority, and number 2 for its funding overall. The amount is currently at 8.5%, about £650 million; we also spend about £227 million through multilateral agencies, so I think we are doing better than most. But with the scale of the problem that has been identified, we cannot afford to be complacent and we will certainly keep that under review.

My Lords, perhaps I may refer to the Minister a charity called Wheelchairs of Hope. Using old plastic chairs, the inventors have created strong and sturdy wheelchairs for the developing world at a cost of somewhere between $50 and $100 per chair. This has been a great thing for people in the developing world, especially for young children who would otherwise not be able to get to school. I suggest that the Minister has a good look at it. I hope that DfID might help these children get to school and give them a bit of mobility which they have not had before.

I am very happy to look at that. I also encourage the charity itself to see whether it would be eligible for the UK Aid Direct funding round which is in place at the moment, or the small charities challenge fund, which has just been launched.

My Lords, one noble Lord mentioned earlier the need for DfID to employ people with disabilities. This is extremely important: we need their talents and we need them as role models. What is DfID’s policy? Also, what is its policy towards other organisations to which it gives grants? It is extremely important that they, too, employ people with disabilities.

Through the disability framework, we now ask a question about disability inclusion as part of all business cases. I am very happy to write to the noble Baroness with specific numbers. Our annual report was produced last week and the numbers are listed in it, as they should be. I am sure that there is more that could be done, but we can take a degree of pride from the report on what UK aid is doing for those with disabilities around the world.

My Lords, this is obviously work of great international importance. However, does the provision for our own children meet the criteria that we are recommending for international communities?

The international standard that has been adopted by the UN recommends that between 4% and 6% of GDP should be spent on education. In the UK it is currently 5.6%. In many of the countries that we are helping most, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, it is 2.4% and 2.2% respectively, so there is a lot more that those countries can do themselves—and, of course, there is always a need to keep spending in this country under review to ensure that we continue to maintain our standards.