Yesterday was day one of the Global Disability Summit.  Hosted by the UK government’s Department for International Development, the event brings together delegates from governments, donors, private sector organisations, charities and disability organisations.  The aim of the summit is to “raise global attention and focus on a long-neglected area, mobilise new global and national commitments on disability and showcase good practice innovation and evidence from across the world.”

Speaking as a disabled UK resident, I can only gape in incredulity!  Can it really be the case that the Department for International Development is so outward looking in its work that it hasn’t noticed what domestically focused departments have been doing to disabled people over the last few years?!  

Perhaps it hasn’t noticed that around 70,000 disabled people have been underpaid thousands of pounds in benefits, being forced into hardship by a departmental ‘culture of indifference’ in a Department of Work and Pensions that, despite being informed of the problem as early as 2013, took no action until 2017. 

Or maybe they are oblivious that, since the closure of the Independent Living Fund in 2015, thousands of disabled people are facing cuts in essential social care, undermining their ability to lead independent lives.

Or perhaps the news that the National Audit Office has found that two thirds of disabled people on Universal Credit aren’t being paid in full and on time hasn’t got through yet!

Possibly the fact that 48% of UK households living in poverty contain a disabled person has passed them by completely!  

But it can’t be that because the current Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, is the former Minister for Disabled People.  So maybe they are hoping that no one else around the world has noticed that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities described the treatment of disabled people in the UK as a ‘human catastrophe’!  Surely that can’t be the case?

So, following Sherlock Holmes’s theory that once you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth, the only explanation I can come up with is that by hosting the summit in the UK, Penny Mordaunt has a cunning plan.  Maybe - just maybe - by showcasing good practice from around the world, Penny Mordaunt is hoping that some of it will rub off on her colleagues responsible for domestic disability policy. Go Penny!  

- Andy Shipley, Aspire's Policy Manager