Inclusive social protection is not about preferential treatment for persons with disabilities, it is about ensuring we have the appropriate support systems and processes in place to put us on an equal playing field with others, taking into consideration age, gender, so that we can truly realise our rights and progress.
These were the words of Joshco Wakaniyasi, Manager Inclusive Development, with the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF).
Social protection programs and systems that understand the unique barriers faced by persons with disabilities, and are designed and resourced to address these barriers, can ensure the full and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities. PDF, a Pacific regional organisation representing persons with disabilities, that represents 71 organisations across 22 Pacific Island countries (PICs), has developed a set of six pre-conditions to achieving the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Social protection is one of these(1).
Social protection is broadly understood to cover a variety of interventions designed to guarantee basic income security and access to essential social services. It can be considered a network of responses that take a coordinated approach to the multiple, compounding, and dynamic vulnerabilities faced by persons with disabilities throughout the life course. Social protection responses can come in the form of cash or in-kind benefits that assist people to meet their basic needs or buffer them from economic shocks.
Much of the discourse on persons with disabilities focuses on their disadvantage, rather than the realisation of their rights to fully and effectively participate in all aspects of society. Our research, “The case for including persons with disabilities in social protection in Pacific Island Countries”, found that when designed and implemented correctly, inclusive social protection offers powerful, multiplier benefits for persons with disabilities, their families, and the broader community.
It reflects accountability
Governments have legal commitments and obligations to provide social protection for persons with disabilities. Over the last 10 years, social protection has become an integral part of policy discussions for Pacific Island governments; however, government expenditure is low and in many Pacific Island Countries, contribution towards disability-specific schemes is less than 1 percent of national GDP.
It increases access to livelihood opportunities
Social protection systems can play a critical role in supporting persons with disabilities to enter and remain in formal and informal employment. Social protection supports persons with disabilities to become part of the workforce by providing financial support to overcome physical, communication and other barriers to economic participation.
It increases household resilience to shocks
Social protection has proven to be a crucial channel for providing disaster and post-pandemic relief in a number of countries in the Pacific. In their evaluation of post-disaster cash transfer support provided to vulnerable communities including persons with disabilities in Fiji, Tonga, and Vanuatu, PDF found that households that benefitted from the top-up transfers recovered more quickly. The stronger the national support system for persons with disabilities, the more responsive and effective this post-disaster relief can be.
It increases overall productivity and labour participation
In addition to supporting persons with disabilities to become part of the workforce, social protection can also contribute to the cost of care. This can reduce the burden of unpaid care work which, because of its gendered nature, means that female carers can return to the labour market and contribute to household economic wellbeing.
Inclusive social protection alone is not the solution, and creating meaningful and active participation for persons with disabilities requires a holistic approach. We know that including the lived experience and perspectives of persons with disabilities in designing social protection activities makes them more effective, and accessible for all. Persons with disabilities should be included in social protection systems not only because it is their right, but because equitable access to opportunities for all has positive impacts for everyone in society.
This blog is co-authored by Leaine Robinson and Joscho Wakaniyasi (PDF). It is based on the paper “The case for including persons with disabilities in social protection in Pacific Island Countries”, by Elayn Sammon, Iris Low and Leaine Robinson, which was funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The paper was developed for organisations of persons with disabilities in Pacific Island Countries, to support their advocacy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in social protection programs. It responds to the increased focus on social protection in the Pacific region in response to the social and economic effects of COVID-19, and reflects the global conversation on disability and social protection.
(1) The Pacific Disability Forum’s six pre-conditions complement the UNCRPD pre-conditions and were developed from the perspective of a person with a disability. The six pre-conditions are: 1) Accessibility; 2) Assistive Devices; 3) Support Services; 4) Community Based Inclusive Development; 5) Social Protection; and 6) Non-Discrimination.
(2) John, E., Thomas, G. and Touchet, A., February 2019, The Disability Price Tag 2019 Policy Report. Scope: London.
Sammon, E., Low, I., Robinson, L. (2021). The case for including persons with disabilities in social protection in Pacific Island Countries, Social Protection Approaches to COVID-19 Expert Advice Service (SPACE), DAI Global UK Ltd, United Kingdom. Available at: https://socialprotection.org/discover/publications/space-case-including-persons-disabilities-social-protection-pacific-island
Pacific Disability Forum (2020). Guideline on Pre-Condition to Inclusion Persons with Disabilities- COVID-19 Response. Retrieved from: https://pacificdisability.org/resources/