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A man in a wheelchair transporting himself home after a meeting at a local church at Ntumda in the Biakoye District of the Oti Region/Ghana Somubi Dwumadie

A man in a wheelchair transporting himself home after a meeting at a local church at Ntumda in the Biakoye District of the Oti Region./Ghana Somubi Dwumadie


Reflections on the UK government's disability and inclusion rights strategy: Making the case for more investment

Our disability and inclusion programme Somubi Dwumadie provides a strong case for more investment in targeted support to people with disabilities.

6 June 2024
Daniel Wate

I recently travelled to Ghana to visit our Ghana Somubi Dwumadie programme, which is a four-year Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funded disability inclusion programme, to discuss how we can capitalise on the progress we’ve made since 2020.

The week before my visit, the UK International Development Committee (IDC) questioned the Minister for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, on the adequacy and effectiveness of FCDO’s disability and inclusion rights strategy, which was launched in 2022. Here are a few reflections on this.

The strategy is a great document that signals a clear and long-term UK government commitment to be a leader in disability inclusion. It also provides a framework for supporting disability and mental health through a “twin track approach”[1], which mainstreams disability inclusive approaches across all of its work, and provides targeted support to people with disabilities through disability-specific initiatives.

There have been clear steps forward since its launch. One thing that stuck with me from the IDC questions was that although 35.4% of bilateral overseas development assistants projects have a disability inclusivity element and fewer than 1% are focused on disability and inclusivity[2]. Ghana Somubi Dwumadie is one of those 1% of FCDO projects.

The programme provides a strong case for more investment in targeted support to people with disabilities. The challenges around mental health and disability services in Ghana are multifaceted and complex. Between 85% and 98% of people with mental health conditions in Ghana don’t have access the treatment they require[3]. In some districts where the programme operates, there is a 100% treatment gap. In a context where some 20% of the population have some form of disability, this is a poor starting point.

However, what has impressed me so much about Ghana Somubi Dwumadie is that it has tackled service delivery challenges at multiple levels, for example:

  • At the individual level, it has trained community volunteers to help disabled people to access support.
  • At the community level, it has established self-help groups for disabled people and provided grants to civil society organisations tackling stigma.
  • At the district level, it has worked with government to support the rollout of District Mental Health Care Plans, which have the potential to increase access to services.
  • And at national level, it has worked with the Ghana Mental Health Authority to address the supply of psychotropic drugs and establish the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which has the authority to visit and inspect any location where psychiatric patients live and aims to ensure that peoples’ rights are protected.

One of the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie Advisory Panel members (a group of champions and advocates for the programme) told me about how astonished she was about how much the programme had accelerated the prioritisation of mental health and disability in Ghana within just a few years.

Reflecting on this, I think one of the strengths of the programme is that its engagement at the policy level and practical implementation have complimented one another. Being a dedicated mental health and disability programme has helped Ghana Somubi Dwumadie maintain a razor-sharp focus on addressing the systemic issues specific to mental health and disability.

Mainstreaming and integration of mental health and disability remain, of course, critical. However, there has been severe underinvestment in mental health and disability from global funders and domestically by most governments. I think what programmes like Ghana Somubi Dwumadie demonstrate is that we have effective methods for addressing this and that there is an extremely high return on investment for initiatives targeting mental health and disability.




UK aid
Focus areas
Gender Equality Disability and Social Inclusion Gender, Equity and Social Inclusion

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