North Swindon MP & former Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, has joined the UK based Leonard Cheshire Disability charity in Parliament to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to “leave no one behind” yet a recent report by Leonard Cheshire and the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) revealed that only 10% of children with disabilities in developing countries go to school.
The global literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as 3% and 1% for women with disabilities, according to a 1998 UNDP study. Less than 42% of women with disabilities have completed primary school education.
Justin spent fourteen months as the Minister for Disabled People, a role in which he was responsible from more than £50bn of support for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. During this time, the number of disabled people in work across the UK rose by more than 250,000 and he reformed the rules around apprenticeships to ensure people with a learning disability were not disadvantaged.
As the Minister, Justin also worked alongside Leonard Cheshire; to relaunch the Disability Confident campaign to reduce the disability employment gap, extend the Access to Work scheme (to provide support to disabled people entering the workplace) as well as reforming Personal Independence Payments and Employment & Support Allowance to improve the system for terminally ill people. He also visited the charity’s Gloucestershire House specialist support service in Cheltenham.
Girls with disabilities are less likely to enrol in education, and have lower rates of attendance and completion, making disability one of the most prominent factors in educational marginalisation. For girls with disabilities, the situation is even more challenging; due to gender norms and practices common in many developing countries, they face triple discrimination, on the basis of their poverty, disability and gender.
Leonard Cheshire Disability runs a number of programmes aimed at improving access to inclusive education for disabled children, particularly girls, and employment opportunities for disabled people in 13 countries across Africa and Asia.
Most recently, Leonard Cheshire has been working to support girls with disabilities realize educational opportunities in 50 primary schools in Kenya through its Girls’ Education Challenge project, funded by the UK Department for International Development, which tackles the barriers girls face in accessing a quality education.
Justin Tomlinson MP said: “I was delighted to join Leonard Cheshire Disability to help mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The important research Leonard Cheshire has conducted into girls’ education shows the additional barriers girls with disability face in accessing an education. Around the world, people with disabilities are often significantly poorer, significantly less likely to reach school or to receive a comparable quality of education, and significantly less likely to secure employment or livelihoods. It is vital that the UK continues to ensure that disabled people, especially girls with disabilities, around the world are not left behind.”
Ola Abu Alghaib, Leonard Cheshire Disability’s International Deputy Director added: “Our ultimate goal is a society in which every person is equally valued. Today is an important reminder that whilst progress has been made, there is still so much more to do to ensure that disabled people are not left behind, particularly in ensuring access to inclusive education.”