International Development Committee inquiry on Disability Inclusion Development

The Leprosy Mission Nepal (TLMN) submission


The Leprosy Mission Nepal is the largest organisation working on leprosy in Nepal. Leprosy (Hansen's Disease) is caused by a bacillus (germ) called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae). Left untreated, leprosy causes permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. The loss of sensation makes everyday activities challenging and causes patients to develop large ulcers and permanent disabilities such as paralysis, loss of limbs, sight and ability to work.

The organisation works with people affected by leprosy, people with disabilities, and marginalised communities. TLM Nepal support unemployed skilled people with disabilities to find and thrive in formal or self-employment. We also provide treatment and care to end suffering and disability caused by leprosy and conduct in research that can accelerate the elimination of leprosy. We aim to reduce stigma surrounding leprosy and disability to promote active participation in society for all.

1.0 The adequacy of FCDO’s new disability and inclusion rights strategy as a framework for approaching disability-inclusive development

  1. While disability and social inclusion are recognized as important cross-cutting concerns, they have not yet gained the status of being central mainstream issues.
  2. Over the past three years, especially after COVID, there has been a noticeable absence of new initiatives focused on disability-inclusive employment.
  3. Disability-inclusive programs are not prioritized by FCDO, a fact exemplified prominently by the withdrawal of UK Aid Direct Fundings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. When the government sought assistance from bilateral donors during the pandemic, the UK Aid Direct program decided to reallocate its budget away from this cause.
  5. In comparison to organizations like CBM and USAID, FCDO's investment in disability-inclusive programs in Nepal has been inadequate.
  6. According to the multiyear plan of FCDO, the Disability Inclusive Development Program is allocated an annual average of 1 million pounds, which is a relatively insubstantial amount considering the significance of the disability sector.


1.2 Right based approach vs. skill-based approach: Over an extended period, persons with disabilities have predominantly emphasized a rights-based approach, enabling them to grasp both the fundamental rights of all individuals and the specific rights of those with disabilities. However, presently, persons with disabilities are eager to adopt practical methodologies like skills-based approaches. These approaches will enable them not only to express their viewpoints but also to actively participate within the community, utilizing their expertise to make meaningful contributions to the economy. it is imperative for the FCDO to endorse projects that employ blended approaches, encompassing both rights-based and skills-based methodologies.


2.0 The adequacy of FCDO’s spending on disability-inclusive programmes and the impact of cuts to ODA programmes on people with disabilities

2.1 FOUND (Fuelling Opportunities to end Unemployment of Nepalese with Disability) Project: The discontinuation of the first ever mainstreamed disability inclusive employment project by FCDO in Nepal let to a sense of disappointment among Persons with Disabilities and Persons affected by leprosy, causing notable decline in both their livelihood and opportunities for personal development. Especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when the most marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, were anticipating assistance from the government and donors, the withdrawal of funds gave rise to considerable hardships concerning well-being and mental health. This was primarily attributed to the increased financial instability and heightened dependency experienced by both groups.

The FOUND project’s objective was to create formal and self-employment by becoming a bridge between persons with disabilities, employers and traders. It aimed to increase the understanding of persons with disabilities among employers, and other duty bearers; enhance skills and understanding of persons with disabilities to gain employment and succeed in chosen occupation; ensure entry and retention of persons with disabilities into formal and self-employment; and due to the inadequacy of substantial evidence and data concerning the skills and employment of persons with disabilities in Nepal, the project aimed to produce robust evidence of what works in supporting people with disability to enter and thrive in formal and self-employment in Nepal.              

2.2 FOUND Project fund withdrawal: Had the withdrawal been executed using a participatory approach, the adverse consequences of hardship among persons with disabilities could have been significantly reduced. Given that the funds allocated for enhancing the economic independence of persons with disabilities are already considerably low, the decision to withdraw the funds allocated for disability inclusive employment has led to a decrease in trust of the disability community towards FCDO. Thanks to the Kirby Liang Foundation, a UK-based organization, for stepping up to carry on the project that was withdrawn by FCDO. This support brought about renewed optimism among persons with disabilities and employers. As a result, over the past three and half years, the FOUND project has thrived, yielding numerous groundbreaking accomplishments. Notably, it has facilitated the enrolment of 3000 persons with disabilities and 550 employers in the project, employment linkage of 1200 persons with disabilities, out of which 931 have experienced a salary increase of at least 20%. Similarly, 275 employers employing persons with disabilities in their workplaces.


2.3 Policy Advocacy in disability inclusive employment: Advocating for policies is crucial for fostering inclusive employment. Many existing laws and regulations require revision to promote the seamless inclusion of persons with disabilities in both private and public sectors. Similarly, introducing diverse incentive schemes for employers who hire persons with varying degrees of disabilities can motivate them to engage in inclusive hiring practices. The enforcement of government-conducted HR audits ensures employers' compliance with regulations.


2.4 Are FCDO partners disability sensitized? : The FCDO needs to make sure that its partners are well-informed about disability issues and the concept of inclusivity in the workplace. Furthermore, FCDO partners should demonstrate these practices in their own actions. The tendency of certain partners to prioritize disability inclusion solely when projects specifically focused on disabilities are secured should be actively discouraged.


2.5 Accessible education and vocational training: In order to promote disability inclusive employment, disability inclusive education and vocational training program cannot be ignored. Vocational training must be based on market demand.


2.6 Establish chain partnerships to encourage disability inclusive employment: Establishing a network of interconnected partnerships is crucial for ensuring the sustained inclusion of disability in the workplace. This involves mapping out all stakeholders contributing to disability-inclusive employment, including persons with disabilities, employers, organizations of persons with disabilities, traders, suppliers, governmental bodies, vocational training centres, and career counsellors, among others. All these entities should be recognized as integral contributors within the employment generation and sustainability process. These interconnected entities should remain actively engaged, particularly after project completion. For instance, persons with disabilities seeking disability-inclusive employment can be connected to suitable career counsellors or training centres through the project. Once job-ready, the project can then link them with employers. Likewise, those pursuing self-employment can be linked to suppliers and buyers, thus integrating them into the supply chain system. Within this framework, disability organizations can play a pivotal role by serving as intermediaries for disability-inclusive employment, effectively linking persons with disabilities to a wide array of job prospects. Meanwhile, government bodies will take on the responsibility of generating comprehensive implementation guidelines to foster disability-inclusive workplaces. Furthermore, they will actively engage in monitoring and evaluating these initiatives to ensure their effectiveness.


3.0 FCDO’s work to encourage and facilitate the participation of people with disabilities, and relevant advocacy groups, in developing its strategy and approach.

3.1 Despite being a pilot project, FOUND's exemplary endeavours in enhancing the skills of persons with disabilities through partnerships with organization of persons with disabilities, employers and government agencies are evident. The project keenly sought guidance and support from the FCDO office in Nepal and the UK embassy. The project also attempted to communicate with FCDO office in Nepal. Additionally, the project also wished to be part of the review and reflection process before the decision to withdraw the FOUND project was made. Unfortunately, the collaboration in either situation were not feasible.