International Development Committee inquiry submission on “FCDO and disability-inclusive development”

Whilst we recognise the importance of disability inclusion across all areas of development and humanitarian response, Save the Children’s submission focuses specifically on the intersection of education and disability inclusive development.

What is the adequacy of FCDO’s new disability and inclusion rights strategy as a framework for approaching disability-inclusive development?


The Strategy includes a welcome and much needed focus on inclusive education – children with disabilities are 2.5 times more likely never to attend school compared to their peers without disabilities. [1] The Strategy includes key commitments relating to improving disaggregated data, and tackling barriers to inclusion, two of the main drivers of stubbornly high out of school rates and low learning outcomes amongst children with disabilities. While we welcome these commitments, we would recommend that the FCDO provides more detail on how this will be actioned and progressed.

Our key concern relates to how the strategy aligns with other FCDO Frameworks. For instance, the International women and girls strategy 2023 to 2030 does not make reference to, or align with, the Disability and Inclusion Rights Strategy (DRIS) despite commitment in the latter to prioritise interventions which tackle the barriers that girls with disabilities experience in accessing education. This represents a missed opportunity to adopt an intersectional approach and mobilise action to tackle the multiple and intersecting barriers. As FCDO progresses the implementation of these two strategies, it should adopt a twin-track approach to inclusive education that mainstreams inclusion for all learners whilst supporting targeted interventions for children with disabilities.

The DRIS includes a welcome focus on education in emergencies for children with disabilities as the barriers they face in accessing education are compounded in humanitarian contexts.  However, it is difficult to reconcile that stated commitment with UK’s disappointing recent pledge to Education Cannot Wait (ECW). This pledge of £80 million made in February 2023 was less than half of the £170 million called for by the Send My Friend to School Coalition and represented just 5% of the overall fundraising target (versus a historic burden share of 20%). This is despite ECW’s effective performance (as observed by ICAI) and the strong commitments on disabilities in ECW’s 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, and Policy and Accountability Framework on Disability Inclusion [2].

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

There has been a growing focus on addressing the needs of children with disabilities in FCDO’s education programming. The Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) Fund has played an important role in promoting disability inclusion in education. An independent evaluation of the Girls’ Education Challenge Phase II, with a focus on results for girls with disabilities (GWDs)[i] identified that approximately 98% of the 41 GEC II projects engaged with GWDs – although only 73% of projects engaged with GWDs through direct/intentional targeting. Across the portfolio, positive outcomes were also observed in improvements in the learning outcomes and socio-emotional skills of GWDs. Given uncertainties regarding the next phase of the GEC and Leave No Girl Behind (LNGB) funding window it is important that FCDO ensures that a strong focus on girls with disabilities is mainstream across FCDO’s education portfolio. This has been complemented by FCDO’s technical expertise which in contexts such as Tanzania has strengthened the capacity of national governments and partners to develop inclusive education strategies.

Despite these positive results it remains difficult to assess how many children with disabilities have been reached by FCDO programmes. ICAI’s assessment of UK aid’s results in education[3] last year raised concerns that FCDO were unable to track the number of children with disabilities reached by UK education programmes, and results on disability overall were unclear. This means we cannot assess the aggregate reach of the UK’s education ODA for children with disabilities as disaggregated data on spending on disability (by type) is scarce. We urge FCDO to strengthen its reporting against equity indicators, including by tracking all expenditure against the OECD-DAC policy makers on both gender and disabilities.

Concerns were also raised by ICAI that the UK’s focus on education for children with disabilities has weakened in recent year. Overall education has been disproportionately affected by ODA cuts - analysis by Save the Children identified that ODA spending on education fell by 68% between 2019 to 2022, from £762 million to £244 million. However, due to a lack of disaggregated data, we are unable to assess the true impact of these cuts on children with disabilities – however it is likely to be significant.

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

Across the design, delivery and evaluation of FCDO education programmes, policies and funding allocations the FCDO should strengthen child-friendly mechanisms for meaningful consultation with people with disabilities - including children and youth, parents, teachers and organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs). This is necessary to truly understand and address the barriers that children with disabilities face in accessing education.

We welcome the willingness of FCDO to strengthen child and youth participation, including through the establishment of formal youth engagement process. In developing mechanisms to strengthen child and youth participation FCDO should ensure that they are safe and inclusive, child-friendly and adequately resourced to enable the full and meaningful participation of children and youth, including those with disabilities.

What is the extent to which other ODA-spending departments are ensuring that their ODA expenditure is inclusive of people with disabilities?


What is the role of the UK in disability inclusion within the global humanitarian and development community?

Other key donors have recently made commitments to ensure all their education programming is inclusive, which is still to be matched by the UK's ambitions. For example, the World Bank has committed to ensure that all its education programs and projects are inclusive by 2025. USAID has committed to promote the Universal Design for Learning approach in all new education programs and recently challenged the World Bank to see which agency would meet its goal first to have 100% of education programs disability inclusive

Given its historic leadership in championing 12 years of quality education, the UK is well-placed to advocate for the needs of girls with disabilities - only 42% of girls with disabilities complete their primary school education, compared to 51% of boys with disabilities.[4] Moreover the G7 Girls Education Declaration commits to prioritising the most marginalised and vulnerable girls – including girls with disabilities – however currently there is a lack of leadership demonstrated by the UK in how it will deliver the two global targets.

The UK can also play a key role in ensuring its education multilateral investments effectively reach children with disabilities. As a leading donor to Education Cannot Wait (ECW) the UK can play a key role in ensuring ECW’s investments effectively reach children with disabilities in line with its commitment that at least 10% of children with disabilities are reached across its investments. The UK should also consider implementing a similar target across its education programming. Similarly, given ICAI’s observation that ‘GPE’s level of ambition in promoting the inclusion and learning of the most marginalised still needs to increase’ the UK is well-placed to push for a greater focus on disability inclusive education across the Global Partnership for Education.

FCDO’s has established a strong reputation for expanding global research on “what works” in education. Given the significant evidence gaps that pertain in relation to improving education outcomes for children with disabilities, particularly those in humanitarian context, and the need to improve the collection, analysis and use of disability disaggregated data in education planning and programming, we urge FCDO to prioritise addressing evidence gaps in these areas.

What are the safeguarding issues within disability inclusion that should be prioritised in FCDO’s work tackling sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector?


What has the FCDO’s progress been in implementing the Committee’s previous recommendations, and the commitments made at the Global Disability Summit?





[3] Assessing-UK-aids-results-in-education.pdf (



[i] gec-ii-evaluation-study-4-disability-report_may2023.pdf (