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.