Lords debate support for BME disabled people

The research team here at Scope has been working with the Equalities National Council (ENC) – a charity run by and working with black and minority ethnic (BME) disabled people – to find out about the lives of BME disabled people, and to find ways they can be better supported.

Our research findings – published last year - were shocking:

  • There are at least one million disabled people from BME background in the UK and this figure is growing.
  • One in two BME disabled people live in poverty.
  • Only two in every five BME disabled people have a job.

Last week the House of Lords recognised the importance of this work, and held a two and a half hour debate on the report. The debate was tabled by the former Minister for Disabled People, Lord Paul Boateng.

The challenges BME disabled people face

The debate gave lifted the lid on the challenges BME disabled people face. Over 15 Peers spoke powerfully and movingly about issues ranging from the importance of translation services for BME disabled people, to the need to fix the social care system so that everyone who needs care and support can get it.

Many of the Lords echoed our recommendations. Scope and ENC found that many disabled people are falling between the cracks of Government departments – an issue that the Government Minister Baroness Browning argued needed to be resolved.

Disabled children from BME communities experience deep and saddening barriers to the support they need. Baroness Tyler recognised this in her contribution to the debate, and asked the Government to consider the recommendation of Scope’s Keep Us Close campaign to ensure that BME disabled people can access the right services in their local area.

Our report also found that the best way to provide services is to support small, user-led organisations like ENC to provide local services, a point Lord Addington made in his speech.
Although the debate successfully raised awareness of the challenges BME disabled people face, it is important to recognise that this is just the first step in a longer journey of change for this often overlooked community.

In the words of Lord Boateng, when introducing the debate: “To be black, a member of an ethnic minority or disabled is to know what it is to be invisible – to be there but somehow not be seen, or to be heard but simply not heeded.

“You suffer a double whammy of neglect and disadvantage. All too often you find yourself between a rock and a hard place.

“When we take action to enable and empower all of us in our God-given and precious diversity, then we really will have something to celebrate.”

Read our report on BME disabled people.

You can find a transcript of the full debate in the Lords here.