Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role of their Strategy for Disability Inclusive Development, published on 3 December, towards meeting the United Kingdom’s commitments given at the Global Disability Summit in July.
My Lords, the Global Disability Summit in July was co-hosted in London by DfID, the Kenyan Government and the International Disability Alliance. It marked the first time that the humanitarian and development sectors had come together formally to plan action on making aid more inclusive of people living with disabilities. More than 800 delegates from Governments, civil society and the private sector attended and discussed four broad themes: addressing stigma; supporting inclusive education; promoting economic empowerment; and the importance of the effective use of technology and the reasons for providing better access to it. Of course the summit was important, but we can judge how important it was only when we consider the global challenge faced by people with disabilities and how effective the results of the summit prove to be.
On Monday last week, DfID again showed welcome leadership on the issue by taking the further step of publishing DfID’s Strategy for Disability Inclusive Development 2018-23 to establish the ground rules for the UK’s fulfilment of pledges made at the summit. It sets out a renewed vision of disability-inclusive development. My right honourable friend Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary of State, made clear the scale of the challenge when she said:
“One billion of the world’s population have a disability, with an estimated 80% of people with disabilities living in developing countries”.
They are one of the hardest groups to reach. They often face exclusion by their communities or even their families, which limits their voice, choice and control over their own lives. Too often, international aid does not reach them. Too often, they are not involved in decision-making processes about the delivery of policies that should assist them.
Penny Mordaunt recognised that the UK and the world as a whole have made far too little progress in tackling the root causes of the stigma, discrimination and abuse that hold back those who live with disabilities. She committed the UK to raise our efforts and be more accountable for them. The new disability strategy therefore focuses on four strategic pillars of action: social protection, routes to economic empowerment, humanitarian action to strengthen inclusive humanitarian approaches and inclusive education.
I have a few questions for the Minister that follow on both from DfID’s commitments made at the summit and the publication of the strategy last week. At the summit, DfID said the UK would set up, fund and lead the new inclusive education initiative that is to become operational next year. What progress has been made on that? Is the Minister still optimistic that tangible results should be delivered before 2021? More substantively, when will DfID set out clearly how it will implement the strategy for disability-inclusive development in the long term? The importance will be in that detail.
How will DfID measure change in the lives of people with disabilities, and by when? Will the strategy encompass a whole-of-government effort? For example, has DfID had discussions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the principles underlying the strategy and the implications for FCO procedures in awarding its grants to NGOs for overseas projects?
I have witnessed the delivery of outstanding work by projects overseas funded by both DfID and the FCO in my travels as a Minister and as a Back-Bencher, and I admire the work of our diplomats and DfID officials, often in areas where the security environment is highly challenging—countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq or South Sudan. However, I am all too aware that there is often an assumption in government, here and around the world, that development policies and programmes targeting extreme poverty will automatically include people with disabilities. It is becoming clear that this is not always the case. They can be routinely excluded from development and its benefits. Too often, disabled people are invisible from official statistics, left out and, as a consequence, disempowered in society.
I am one of the co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children and therefore have a particular concern for street-connected children living with disabilities. They are visible on the streets but usually invisible from official statistics. They have increased vulnerability to violence, abuse and exploitation; more difficulty in overcoming the barriers to accessing services for their welfare and protection; and are more vulnerable to the harms that can be caused by institutionalisation. How will DfID ensure that its strategy addresses the needs of street-connected children with disabilities?
I appreciate that unless data is disaggregated it is difficult to learn how best to target resources and ensure that people with disabilities are not overlooked. This issue was raised frequently at the Commission on the Status of Women, which I attended in New York earlier this year. I therefore welcome the UK’s commitment, in section E of DfID’s form for submitting pledges at the summit, published online on 23 July, that,
“DFID’s Inclusive Data Charter Action Plan will be finalised and launched in autumn 2018”.
On rather a chilly day in December, I ask my noble friend: what progress has been made and what lessons have been learned in preparation for that? I also welcome DfID’s commitment, published on 3 August this year on its website as part of the summary of commitments made at the summit:
“Working alongside our co-host, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), we will soon be publishing a new global tracker on the IDA website to ensure we all deliver on the promises made”.
What progress has been made on that matter?
I am grateful to those who have provided briefing for this short debate: Sightsavers, our redoubtable House of Lords Library and the Conservative Friends of International Development, whose founder, my noble friend Lady Jenkin, is taking part in our debate today. I very much look forward to hearing the contributions of all noble Lords around the House. It is only by working together that we can make sure that people living with disabilities around the world see positive changes in their lives.
I welcome the leadership that has been so clearly shown by DfID. The strategy is an important symbolic step, but symbols need to be turned into reality. We must ensure that the global political movement created by the summit is not lost if we are to meet the goals of the SDGs. As my right honourable friend Penny Mordaunt said, now is the time to turn those ideas into action—and how.
The whole House should be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for initiating this debate today, at the end of a year that has been incredibly productive for the Secretary of State and her department in this area of policy. We should give credit to the Secretary of State for the way in which she has managed to put this issue on the agenda in less than 12 months in her position, at a time when almost every other member of the Cabinet seems to be preoccupied with another topic. She deserves credit for that. It shows two things: first, that it is possible to make progress on policy and strategy in a department, even in the current times, if you are clear enough about your objectives; and, secondly, that it is not just, or even, about money—it is about strategy, priority and effectiveness. I therefore welcome both the summit earlier this year and the specific departmental strategy that was launched in the autumn.
In the brief time available to me today, I wish to make three points. The first is in relation to the global goals. One of the things that I like about the new Secretary of State is that she mentioned the global goals. She wears the badge and champions the goals at home and abroad, unlike her predecessor. Unfortunately, however, the global goals do not run through the strategy. They are mentioned in the charter that was published at the time of the summit and are mentioned upfront in the first sentence of her introduction, but I believe the department could integrate the global goals and the strategic priorities and actions more effectively in this kind of policy and strategy document.
If the Minister takes only one thing away from today, perhaps it could be that although global goal 10 refers to inequality, “leave no one behind” runs right through the global goals. Although there are many categories of people to whom the objective of leaving no one behind refers, in my experience, in country after country, community after community, those with disabilities are definitely left behind. Therefore, closer integration of our strategy on the global goals and the disability strategy would be welcome, particularly leading up to the voluntary national review, which the UK will publish in 2019.
My second point is a question for the Minister. This may be a fault of mine and many others, but instinctively, even today, after these many years of progress, we are still talking about disability rather than ability—which a contestant on “Strictly Come Dancing” reminded us last weekend is a much better way to look at things. We think about physical disability. I hope that the strategy also covers what might be described as learning disabilities and other forms of disability and that the Government will have that in mind, particularly in the education and employment programmes that they support around the world.
My third and final point relates to capacity. It would be a tragedy if all this great work, commitment and strategic approach resulted in the addition of a few programmes to our work internationally. It would make the biggest difference in country after country if we could assist those countries to develop their own strategies and programmes, properly integrating work and opportunities for people with disabilities into their education and health systems, local economies, professions and so on. It will be critical that we adopt an approach that is not just about the projects we support or the ways in which we can tweak our programmes. If we can use some of the skills that we have developed to improve legislation, regulation and opportunity in this country to build capacity for regulation and legislation elsewhere, that will make the biggest difference in the longer term.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, not least because to hear “Strictly” mentioned in your Lordships’ House is always a bonus on a Thursday afternoon. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Anelay on securing this most timely debate, with the strategy being published only on 3 December. I also declare my interest, as set out in the register.
I salute the Minister for all his work in this area. He is a Minister who not only grips his brief perfectly but puts it into action. The work and commitment of the Secretary of State have already been mentioned. She has not only pushed this from day one of taking office but, at the disability summit earlier in the summer, when she made her opening keynote speech, she took the time to learn BSL to sign the first half of her presentation. That was impressive and demonstrated true commitment to inclusion.
I shall limit my comments to the area of technology and the global disability innovation hub. The fourth industrial revolution offers such potential, such tools for intelligence: machine learning, AI, the internet of things and so on. They are fabulous opportunities for all of us. Why do I believe that disabled people globally have so much more to gain through a fully deployed fourth industrial revolution? I believe it because disabled people globally have all too often been on the wrong end of policy, strategy and approaches that have not only not included but actively excluded them from almost every element of the public and civic space.
I was lucky enough to participate in the Global Disability Summit in July. It was held in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for one simple reason: it is as good a blueprint as we have on planet Earth for what inclusive design can look, feel and be like when operating such an event. It was an extraordinary event—not only a unique conversation but one that led to real, solid and achievable commitments. The Olympic and Paralympic Park was the right place to host the summit.
We located the Global Disability Innovation Hub in the same park for the same reason. What is the GDI hub? It has tremendous support from DfID and is a legacy programme from the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Many people know—not least because of my endeavours—about the inclusive nature of the 2012 Paralympic Games. What is perhaps less known is that the Olympic Games 2012 were also the most inclusive ever staged, so it was the perfect place to host an innovation hub to reach out right around the globe, to form a movement to accelerate disability innovation for a fairer world, not least through collaboration and co-creation. It considers issues of inclusive design much broader than the physical environment: assistive technology, participation, partnership, human-computer interactivity and, of course, sport, art and culture.
More than half the world’s disabled people live in situations of conflict or disaster. The mission is in no sense easy, but if it is possible to get inclusive assistance to disabled people in enemy-held Syria, and to construct refugee centres predicated on inclusive design, that golden thread of possibility can and must run through everything we do in international development. As I said, the mission is massive, but as my noble friend knows, even a marathon starts with a first step. The strategy set out on 3 December is a fantastic more than first step on this journey. Ultimately, it boils down to a pretty simple mission—as is so often the case for disabled people globally—of addressing that fundamental blight: around the world, talent is everywhere but, currently, opportunity is not.
My Lords, I salute the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for securing this short debate on a very important subject which I fear has not made the headlines that it deserves—in this country, anyway. However, those of us who live in the disability landscape are used to comparative invisibility. It is very good for us here to lift our eyes from our travails for once to look outwards to the wider world, where we see millions of disabled people far worse off than we are.
I also pay tribute to the Secretary of State for this ground-breaking initiative. Formerly, she was Minister of State for Disabled People, a role that meant our paths often crossed. I am sure her experience in that department influenced her thinking on the global stage.
The strategy is right to emphasise the importance of access to education, particularly that of women and girls, which is not seen as important everywhere, even if a woman is not disabled. I spoke to Noshila in Pakistan on Sunday, who told me that women’s education, particularly in rural areas, could not be taken for granted, meaning that those who are widows or disabled struggled to earn any money. Because all disabled people find it so difficult to get jobs, some questioned why they should go to school, let alone university. She said that the whole mindset had to change.
I also had an interesting conversation with Rabia in Pakistan, who is almost blind. She is 25 and has a degree in international relations, but is finding it very difficult to get a job. Getting about is obviously a challenge for her. Dogs, even guide dogs for blind people, are not looked on favourably in Pakistan and I am told that even walking down the street with a white stick is sometimes ridiculed. I asked Rabia if she ever saw people using wheelchairs; she replied that this was uncommon. In any case, there is an acute shortage of wheelchairs in Pakistan, and many roads are too rutted for them. Interestingly, there is a jobs quota for companies in Pakistan to employ disabled people, which has recently been raised from 2% to 3%, but it is not enforced. We here know all about the question of no enforcement.
Turning briefly to the humanitarian context, this will be particularly important in war-torn countries such as Somalia. Perhaps the Minister might write to me about that, particularly the Garasbaley Community Development Organization, a self-help group in Mogadishu, which is doing great work. There must be hundreds of young people with disabilities as a result of the conflict there.
It is absolutely crucial that disabled people themselves must be involved at every stage. “Nothing about us without us” will not sound so poetic in other languages, but the sentiment should always be attempted and we must not think that we have all the answers. We should be eager to learn from other countries, where disabled people have to be far more creative in finding ways to live with a disability that we have to be, simply because there is no alternative.
As a newcomer to DfID, I am struck by its soaring rhetoric, although I am not sure about the image conjured up by “taking concrete leaps forward”. I see that there is to be DfID-wide disability inclusion delivery board and I make a plea that disabled people should not just be represented on it, but will be members of it.
My Lords, I also welcome this strategy and thank my noble friend Lady Anelay for securing this important debate. I also thank the Secretary of State, Penny Mordaunt, for her leadership on this issue, her ministerial team, DfID itself, NGO partners such as Sightsavers and, of course, our partners in the developing world for the way in which they have come together to make the Global Disability Summit happen and now to develop the strategy.
Although there are a few aspects of the strategy that I would query, I welcome it. It may not extend to anything like 585 pages, but it has substance. Is it not refreshing, noble Lords, to read a document that neither fudges nor says one thing while meaning the opposite? How exciting to read a strategy with a clear sense of purpose and urgency, which recognises that bringing people together in some of the most challenging parts of the world requires clarity, transparency and trust.
The strategy is clear in both its vision and its priorities. With an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities globally, an estimated 80% of whom live in developing countries, the challenge is huge. So the strategy’s vision is bold and ambitious and is worth repeating: a world where all people with disabilities, in all stages of their lives, are engaged, empowered and able to exercise and enjoy their rights on an equal basis with others, contributing to poverty reduction, peace and stability. Its four priorities or “essential outcomes”, as they are described in the strategy, make sense.
I also largely agree with the four strategic pillars for action particularly, as others have mentioned, the focus on inclusive education, given that more than half of the 65 million children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries are not in school. Although my own experience of being excluded from mainstream state schools as a child because of my disability pales into insignificance, I can relate very much to the importance of accessing inclusive and equitable quality education.
In conclusion, I just highlight one other distinctive feature of this document—its confident tone, which its commitment to transparency and visible accountability reflects. That confidence both informs its vision and inspires trust in an ability to deliver. At a time when Parliament has seldom been more divided, on Brexit, this strategy surely reminds us all that transparency, clarity and projecting fact-based confidence are fundamental to bringing people together. For if we do not believe in ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to take us seriously? To its credit, this strategy shows that people should do exactly that.
My Lords, I too join in thanking my noble friend Lady Anelay for initiating this debate. But before we start advising other countries what they should do to improve services for disabled people, perhaps it would be wise to examine our own recent past and how we failed even in the 1970s and 1980s to provide adequate services for disabled people. In particular, I shall illustrate this by describing the pitfalls in providing services for those who need artificial limbs and wheelchairs.
Prime Minister Thatcher realised that something was radically wrong with these services, so I was asked to chair a national inquiry to find out exactly what it was. Our committee found that there was no shortage of money in the provision of this service but the management was deplorable. First, the attitude to disabled people showed arrogance and a lack of respect, as well as incompetence. The artificial legs with which disabled people were fitted very often simply did not fit, were painful to walk on and were hopelessly out of date in design. The commercial firms were given cost-plus contracts with no system for controlling the cost. The plus should have been limited to 4% but in some cases was as high as 16%. But we were told that it was all above board and that the contracts went out to tender. When we attended these tendering occasions for wheelchairs, one company tender was £119, another was £120 and a third was £121. Does that not sound suspiciously like a cartel?
I was fortunate in having on our committee outstanding members including the late Lord Hussey and the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, but the trouble was that we were outnumbered by civil servants, who tried to block almost every idea we put forward. We called them the congenital snag hunters. We therefore sacked them and went on to produce a report that was critical of the civil servants who had run the service for many years.
When it was presented to the senior civil servant, a knight of the realm, no less, and Permanent Secretary, he was very angry—in fact, he was white with rage. He told me that my report would be buried. He went on to say, “Most of the reports done by people like you we put on the shelf and they collect the dust”. I replied, “Never mind my report, though I spent a lot of time doing it; what are you going to do about disabled people?”. He shrugged; that was my signal to go to Prime Minister Thatcher and tell her exactly what was going on. You can imagine what she said: “What are the names of these people?”. When I told her, she was surprised. It is a regular feature that senior bullies and abusers are deferential to those above but abuse those below. Our report was implemented and improved services for several million disabled people.
What advice could one give to developing countries seeking to offer a good service for disabled people? The person at the top—the senior person in charge—must have the right attitude; they must be competent, free of arrogance and understand the meaning of “service”. It goes without saying that corruption must be eliminated because that undermines government departments and services all round. In the end, our report was a success story but we had to fight tooth and nail to get it implemented. I have illustrated all these problems so that developing countries may be able to avoid them. They should have senior people at the top who believe in service and are neither arrogant nor incompetent.
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lady Anelay for introducing this debate so ably, as always, and I thank other noble Lords who have made inspirational speeches. The noble Lord, Lord McColl, and I share a room and talk about these matters often; it is always a great pleasure to follow him.
DfID is clearly delivering on its promise to work towards a fairer world where no one is left behind. I am sorry to have left my global goals badge behind this morning; I would otherwise be wearing it with pride. The current Secretary of State has continued the work of her predecessor, Priti Patel, in making disability a key focus. Her first speech in November 2017 reinforced this commitment and, notably, the Secretary of State was also the first Minister to use sign language at the Dispatch Box when discussing this summer’s Global Disability Conference.
I welcome the substantive action taken by DfID and the Secretary of State to meet the commitments made at that summit. The recent release of the Strategy for Disability Inclusive Development demonstrates its seriousness in making society inclusive for all those who live with a disability, setting out in some detail how it will achieve those goals. It is worth reminding ourselves that we still have challenges with our own disabilities policy in this country, as raised by my noble friends Lord McColl and Lord Holmes. As a member of the 2016-17 Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability, chaired so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, I am only too well aware that we do not get everything right and still have much to do in this country.
The 1 billion people worldwide with disabilities are often trapped in a cycle of poverty, unable to access key social services; they face exclusion and stigma. Nineteen million children have no access to education and many face unequal health outcomes due to little or no access to services and treatments. As my noble friend Lady Anelay mentioned, the strategy has been welcomed by organisations such as Sightsavers, which by happy coincidence has had its exhibition, “Cast Your Vote”, in the Upper Waiting Hall this week. It has focused on how, for people with disabilities living in developing countries, there can be multiple barriers to participation, which prevent their taking part in decisions that affect their lives. The pledge of £250,000 to cover disability-related expenses will help resolve problems that people might face when seeking elected office. These are all clear indicators of DfID’s commitment to tackling barriers to democratic participation.
DfID has a record of achievement to be proud of. It is championing female education, with 46,000 disabled girls given access to schooling through the Girls’ Education Challenge. The construction of accessible toilet facilities in Mozambique and trained health workers in Ghana are further examples of support. Others include the funding of education programmes in opposition-held areas of Syria—pioneering the use of new assessment tools to help meet the needs of children with disabilities—and a young boy of 11, himself with a disability, teaching coding to people with autism and Tourette’s in Bangladesh.
By centering the strategy on inclusive education, social protection, economic empowerment and humanitarian action, DfID is committing to empowering disabled people and enabling them to exercise their rights and freedoms. Practical initiatives are what will make a difference: ideas such as improving access to financial services and digital technology, with best practice sought from countries that do this well. The department itself has pledged to increase the number of disabled people in its workforce, with minimum standards on inclusion to be implemented by the end of 2019. Like my noble friend Lady Anelay, I look forward to hearing more from the Minister, with details of how DfID intends to implement the strategy, how it will measure change and by when.
My Lords, I too welcome this debate and the publication of the Government’s strategy following the disability summit in the summer. I am particularly pleased that the initiation of disability as a priority, which started effectively with the International Development Committee’s investigation into aid and disability, initiated in 2012 and reporting in 2014, has been maintained. There is always the fear of a response but no follow-through; there has been follow-through and that is very welcome. I commend my noble friend Lady Featherstone, the first Minister with that specific brief, who formulated the disability framework, which was taken forward.
I also commend Penny Mordaunt as Secretary of State for the big focus she has given to disability and her determination to make it a mainstream part of delivering development assistance in DfID. We all recognise that this is the kind of thing that, fortunately, unites politicians who want to see action, rather than divides us. I have some questions for the Minister, but they are all in the spirit of ensuring that we get positive action. We have here a declaration of commitment and objectives that the Government are signing themselves up to, but we really need to see it followed through in detail and in specific action.
I declare my interests, particularly in disability relating to deafness. I am an honorary vice-chairman of the National Deaf Children’s Society and of Action on Hearing Loss. I am also president of DeafKidz International, which, I am glad to say, is carrying out work in Pakistan on deaf-screening, funded by DfID—a specific example of the kind of programme that is possible. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McConnell. We are trying to build awareness about disability, end stigma and help countries to address the problems themselves, while giving them practical and financial support to do so.
My questions arise from ICAI’s evaluation of the strategy, which the Government say they have taken on board. I hope the Minister, either in his answer or in writing, will be able to give me some answers. First, on ensuring that there are more visibly disabled people in DfID helping to deliver these programmes, those who are there say that they do not believe DfID is doing enough and they are looking for more action. DfID needs to recruit people with disabilities rather than just find disabilities that already exist within the department. What is being done about that?
There is also a need to involve disabled people directly in the formulation of policies and programmes in-country, to consult them and ensure that what is done takes proper account of their needs. ICAI suggests that country managers should be required to look at all the programmes they are implementing, to ensure that the disability element is specifically addressed and, if not, to ask why not. In some cases there will be a need for specific programmes that target specific disabilities without compromising the fact that disability should feature in every programme and be built into the mainstream. There are also practical requirements that poor countries and poor people have for disability aids, whether hearing aids, prosthetics or wheelchairs. These should not just be rejects and failed ones, but ones that meet their needs and are suitable to the circumstances in which they are operating, so that they can be supported and maintained, and are practical and useful. I should be grateful if the Minister would take those questions away.
I also suggest that the department produces an annual audit on disability, not only on the aspirations and objectives but on the practicalities regarding how many disabled people it has reached, specific examples of where it has helped disabled people and how they have been built into the programme. I absolutely believe that the Government intend to do that—that is what the objectives are about—but I hope that the Minister and the House will understand that in the end people want to see very positive outcomes that will make a difference. We have made a very good start and I have complete confidence in the Minister’s and Penny Mordaunt’s commitment to this but we want to see it turned into practical action and practical results.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for initiating this incredibly timely debate. My noble friend Lord McConnell referenced the UN’s 2030 agenda. Disability is referenced specifically in the SDGs relating to education, growth and employment, inequality, and accessibility of human settlements, and that is key to delivering this strategy. Education is fundamental to ending the poverty, discrimination and exclusion faced by disabled people in developing countries, yet it is estimated that in most countries disabled children are more likely to be out of school than any other group of children.
Nor should we forget the older population. In developing countries, people over 60 account for at least 43% of the population living with disabilities, compared with 38% globally. Raising awareness of the experience and rights of older people with disability requires data and evidence about what happens throughout a person’s life course. Can the Minister tell us how DfID is backing the work of the new UN Statistical Commission Titchfield City Group on Ageing, which is developing standardised tools and methods for producing data disaggregated by age and ageing-related data?
The 2018 disability strategy, which has recently been published, recognises the economic potential that can be unlocked by tackling discrimination and exclusion. Of the 1 billion people with disabilities, 80% live in developing countries. Economic growth has the potential to be the engine to drive change, but growth without jobs, inclusion, healthcare, education and human rights simply will not deliver on the SDGs or, for that matter, see the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, the strategy is an action point from the first Global Disability Summit held in July. I was very pleased to participate in a very small way in that summit, and I thank the Minister for facilitating that. It brought together not just Governments but civil society and the private sector, and of course it was co-hosted by Kenya. We should not forget the important role of civil society. It is not just a question of raising awareness among Governments; faith groups and trade unions also have an important role. Certainly, following on from the Rana Plaza disaster, trade unions played a key role in trying to help the injured and disabled, who were facing really terrible conditions, back into work.
However, as the noble Baroness said, to be effective and deliver lasting change for people with disabilities, DfID needs to set out clearly how it will implement the strategy long term and how it will measure change in the lives of people with disabilities, and by when. Can the Minister tell us how often DfID will update its delivery plan, which accompanies the strategy? We need to ensure—I hope that he will be able to reassure us on this point—that adequate human and financial resources are in place to implement all of the commitments set out in the strategy. That is key. However, I very much welcome the Government’s commitment and the Minister’s involvement in this initiative.
My Lords, I thank all who have taken part in this debate, which has very much brought us together. My noble friend Lady Anelay led it in her characteristic style, with great expertise and knowledge drawn from being a distinguished Minister in the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development. Her ongoing passion has been expressed through the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children. She spoke about people with disabilities being invisible and in the form of statistics.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, focused his contribution on the sustainable development goals and the need to make sure that, although there might be explicit references in only five of the 17 goals, there are, through No One Left Behind, implicit references in all of them. My noble friend Lord Holmes reminded us of that great parliamentary moment, which I think will go down in history, when Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt was the first to announce the disability summit in British Sign Language at the Dispatch Box. He also spoke about how technology, far from creating barriers, can remove barriers and create great inclusion. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, spoke about access to education by women and girls, particularly in conflict situations. My noble friend Lord Shinkwin talked about the disability strategy having a clear sense of purpose and urgency, bringing people together.
My noble friend Lord McColl reminded us to approach all our dealings, strategies and actions with a sense of humility. He reminded us of the struggles that we went through to provide a decent service for people with disabilities as recently as the 1980s. My first job in government was in 1993 when I was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Minister for Disabled Persons, Nicholas Scott. Some of the work that we did then paved the way for the Disability Discrimination Act, which was ground-breaking legislation. On a personal note, that Act and the Modern Slavery Act are probably the two pieces of legislation that I am most proud of being associated with.
My noble friend Lady Jenkin, who has done extensive work in promoting female involvement in our democratic processes, reminded us of the Voice & Vote exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall organised by Sightsavers. In democracies, exercising a vote and standing for election are very powerful ways in which people can become visible and ensure that their needs are addressed fully.
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, made a very profound point, saying that it was important to get better at involving people with disabilities in driving forward these changes, both in DfID operations and in programme delivery in-country. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, talked about how education was critical in giving people a pathway out of poverty. However, people with disabilities are the most excluded of all groups from that important right, and that needs to be addressed.
My challenge in the remaining eight minutes is to respond to 22 questions and to read the speech that has been prepared. I should say to my noble friend Lord McColl that since the 1980s the nature of the Civil Service has changed dramatically, particularly in the Department for International Development. They are very much focused on the “service” part of their title.
There are an estimated 1 billion people with a disability worldwide—that is, 15% of the global population—yet people with disabilities and their families are still poorer than people without disabilities in every social and economic area. My noble friend Lady Anelay reminded us that during the UK Government’s first ever Global Disability Summit in July 2018, which the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and many others were party to, the world promised to do more for disabilities. The Secretary of State for International Development—the former Minister for Disabled Persons and currently the Minister for Women and Equalities across government —said that the UK will take a lead in working towards a fairer world in which no one is left behind. At DfID we have been working diligently on this and have already met a significant number of the commitments that we made at the summit. Over 170 Governments made commitments, and civil society and private sector organisations made new global and national commitments at the summit, with over 320 organisations signing our Charter for Change.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the importance of civil society, particularly trade unions, in raising the issue of increased access for those with disabilities. We must work together with our partners and hold each other to account and, as the noble Baronesses, Lady Anelay and Lady Thomas, reminded us, learn from one another. Alone, we cannot achieve our vision of a world where all people with disabilities are engaged, empowered and able to access and enjoy their rights on an equal basis, but, together, we can. Unless all truly put disability inclusion at the heart of everything they do, we will not eradicate poverty and deliver on the sustainable development goals, as the noble Lord, Lord McColl, mentioned, or uphold and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, referenced by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others. That is why the new disability inclusion strategy, which my noble friend Lord Shinkwin referred to, lays out how we can raise our ambition beyond the summit and build on our achievements to date.
The strategy identifies four thematic areas where DfID can make a significant difference and where we will focus our work. The first is ensuring that all children with disabilities can access high-quality education—my noble friend Lord Shinkwin gave some powerful personal testimonies as to how things were in this country not so long ago, while the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, urged us to take more action in that regard. The second area is working with other Governments to ensure that social protection systems, referred to by my noble friend Lady Jenkin, are inclusive of people with disabilities and their families. Thirdly, we should ensure that people with disabilities have access to economic opportunities, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned. Finally, we must promote a fully inclusive humanitarian response in conflict situations, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas.
The strategy highlights three cross-cutting themes that will run through our work. The first is tackling stigma—the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, gave testimony in relation to Pakistan, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, spoke of his personal experience in his work with DeafKidz International, an organisation that I have visited and am enormously impressed by. The second theme is empowering women and girls and, the third, enabling access to life-changing technology, of which my noble friend Lord Holmes reminded us. I pay tribute to the work of my noble friend through the Global Disability Innovation Hub and share his pride at the worldwide legacy of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. We have also committed to step up our efforts on mental health and psychosocial disabilities, an area that has been seriously neglected by the international community for too long.
Let me try to answer as many of the specific questions asked in the debate as possible. My noble friend Lord Shinkwin asked about education. We will support millions of children with disabilities out of school and are delivering targeted interventions to improve learning outcomes. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, asked about conflict situations in Somalia. Our office in Somalia is developing an action plan on disability inclusion. It will do more to get reliable and comparable data on disability and push its partners to prioritise the issue. The noble Baroness talked also about women’s and girls’ access to education. We are committed to supporting women and girls with disabilities who are marginalised both for their gender and their disability. The Girls’ Education Challenge has supported 40,000 girls with disability into education and we will continue that work.
My noble friend Lord Holmes asked how we could make greater use of technology. Access to appropriate assistive technologies such as wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids and glasses—mentioned also by my noble friend Lord McColl—is a key enabler and can be transformative. We have now launched with the Global Disability Hub the AT 2030 programme, which we hope will take action towards that end. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, asked whether we could assist countries to integrate the disability strategy into their own policies. Across the department, every country team will be expected to meet a set of standards by the end of 2019, including standards on leadership, engagement with disabled people’s organisations, influencing programmes on collecting data and shaping systemic reform.
My noble friend Lady Anelay asked what progress had been made on the global tracker on the International Disability Alliance website. A database of all commitments made at the summit is being developed on the IDA website, to be launched early next year. The “one year on” report is looking at initial progress made against the commitments and will be published later in 2019. My noble friend asked about progress on disaggregation of data. Key international partners made commitments at the summit to collect and use disaggregated data. For instance, the World Bank committed to include the Washington Group’s short set of questions for disability aggregation in at least 12 countries, with the upcoming household surveys reporting back to the bank by 2020. My noble friend asked what measures we were taking to ensure that the strategy addressed the needs of street children. Street children are among the most vulnerable people in the world. We have said that we will intensify our commitments to protect them. Our support around the world helps us develop systems, services and policies to that end.
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked how many disabled people were employed by DfID. As part of the disability strategy, we have committed to increasing the attraction, retention and career progression of people with disabilities within DfID. One of our aims is to ensure that our workforce reflects the proportion of disabled people within the wider UK population. It is not compulsory for staff to declare that they have a disability. In September 2018, about 9% of staff within DfID confirmed to us that they had a disability. Our aim is to reach 12% in the next few years.
My noble friend Lord McColl asked how we were leading the way as an example to developing countries. We have some of the strongest equalities legislation in the world, including the Equality Act 2010, which my noble friend Lady Jenkin also referred to. The Government do not limit themselves to upholding the rights of disabled people in the UK; they champion disability rights across the world.
With my 12 minutes up, I thank again my noble friend Lady Anelay for leading a powerful and persuasive debate which, in this week of all weeks, has brought all sides of this House and all persons in it together.