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Inclusive social protection will ensure persons with disabilities no longer left behind, event hears


Hannah Kuper, director, Director, the International Centre for Evidence in Disability

8th November: A shift from social protection as charity to a right is necessary both to tackle stigmatisation of persons with disabilities and to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, a London event on disability and social protection has heard.

Disability-Inclusive Social Protection: A Time for Action, co-hosted by Development Pathways, Leonard Cheshire, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and HelpAge International, brought together key institutions working on research linking social protection and disability, to discuss the key challenges persons with disabilities face in accessing social protection in low- and middle-income countries. The expert panel in their presentations shared case studies of some policy actions countries have taken in order to overcome some of these barriers, and offered recommendations in line with the commitments countries agreed to at the Global Disability Summit.

Hannah Kuper, Director of the LSHTM’s International Centre for Evidence in Disability, highlighted how 81% of 150 studies reviewed by the LSHTM found an association between poverty and disability, a relationship akin to that between smoking and lung cancer, she said. And yet LSHTM research for the Australian Government suggested that while persons with disabilities had a greater need for social protection, even where there are disability-specific schemes, as in Nepal and Vietnam, coverage is too low and transfer levels do not meet the additional costs persons with disabilities face.

Few low- or middle-income countries were investing necessary amounts in order to build disability-inclusive social protection systems, said Stephen Kidd, Senior Social Policy Specialist at Development Pathways. He called for child disability benefits to be introduced as an urgent priority for building such a system, at a cost of around 0.1% of a nation’s GDP, as outlined in a new paper.

Dr Raymond Lang, Senior Research Fellow at the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre, UCL, pointed to evidence that as economic development increases, the gap in poverty rates between persons with and without disabilities grows. He concluded that it was “clear that the internationally agreed objective of achieving the SDGs will not be achieved unless disabled people are included in social protection programmes”.

Lastly, Carmen Leon-Himmelstine, Senior Research Officer at the ODI, presented on research on Nepal’s cash allowances for children with disabilities, highlighting that children with disabilities continue to face discrimination and that as many as 60% of those eligible may not be receiving the benefit.

A clear message that came across from the presentations was that there is a need for a shift from a charitable approach towards social protection to a more inclusive and transformative approach that is based on human rights. Watch a recording of the event here.



  • An interesting and interactive seminar at LSHTM. The importance of home grown and sustainable social protection policies is vital and to be reviewed periodically to evaluate impact and relevance to current trends. “Good” policies will wane with time be overtaken by events and it is important to have continued research and evaluation to align with new and developing trends as well as matching the global trends.
    However some countries in the LMIC need support from development partners to establish effective, transparent and sound baseline systems to prevent leakages and inequity in the process.


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