This mapping report gives an overview of nine social protection programmes for people with disabilities. The programmes are all run by governments of low income or lower middle income states in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Many of the programmes have been established within the last decade, for example in Uganda, Kenya and Indonesia, and may still be in trial and error mode. Others are due to be re-designed within the coming year, such as the programmes of Sierra Leone and Bangladesh.
Some of the selected programmes were designed specifically with disabled people in mind, such as in Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, and Afghanistan. Others focus on tackling extreme poverty and act as general social safety nets, such as Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Ghana. These programmes include disabled people, senior citizens, and orphan/vulnerable children, among others, as they are often amongst the poorest. Five out of the nine programmes target households, rather than individuals. For a majority of the programmes, poverty was one of the eligibility criteria. However, a definition of what constitutes living in poverty was rarely provided.
Some of the common constraints concerning the design and implementation of the programmes include:
- Most of the programmes only reach a low percentage of the disabled people in need. This is usually due to limited funds and resources, and national governments often depend on assistance and funding from donors and development partners.
- Information on how eligibility for disability pension is assessed was not found for all the programmes listed. Additionally, an evaluation for the Bangladesh social protection programme found that even if criteria was detailed in the guidance handbook at the national level, it wasn’t always practical. Decisions about whether to include beneficiaries was often at the discretion of the local authorities and facilitators on the ground. Lack of specific identification criteria may result in the disabilities that are included mainly being visible disabilities rather than invisible disabilities (Schneider, 2011).
- A common criterion for disability pension is a medical certificate of disability. This tends to exclude many of the potential beneficiaries, as it can both be expensive and/or require travelling long distances to the nearest clinic.
Mleinek and Davis (2012: 15) suggest a number of other common challenges for operating social protection programmes for people with disabilities in any country:
- Lack of data and understanding of the need leads to expensive and unreliable targeting.
- A proper targeting system requires follow up assessments and monitoring, which are also costly.
- The benefit is sometimes worth less than the cost of travelling to receive it.
- Many poor people with disabilities, living in remote areas, are unaware of social protection schemes or cannot access them.
- Budgets are often not sufficient, which can create social tensions within communities and weaken the informal community-help mechanisms if only certain people receive assistance.
- Programmes designed with a focus on charity rather than empowerment can create a disincentive to work (when eligibility criteria are tied to a perceived “incapacity to work”).