My Lords, I also 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.