Issues for BME Disabled People

  • Scope and the Equalities National Council – a user-led BME disabled people’s organisation – carried out research to identify how BME disabled people, their families and carers feel about the services available to them and how these could be improved in the future.

    Scope research found that:

    • Nearly half of all minority ethnic disabled people live in household poverty, compared with 1 in 5 of the population as a whole.
    • Individual incomes for BME disabled people are 30% lower than for the general population.
    • Less than 4 in 10 BME disabled people of working age are in employment.


    In focus groups, participants talked about experiencing:

    • Communication difficulties and language barriers:

    For older people and recent migrants especially, limited spoken English is a considerable barrier to full service access. Many other people reported difficulties understanding technical, medical or bureaucratic languages.

    • Stigma:

    Many respondents reported experiencing stigma, and felt that it remains particularly acute within some ethnic minority communities.

    • Social isolation:

    Social isolation was widespread among our focus group participants, especially for women, migrants and carers.

    • Discrimination:

    BME disabled people experience wide-ranging, subtle and complex forms of discrimination.



    BME disabled people's needs and views have often fallen between the two areas of disability and race equality policy. Finding ways to bring these two policy fields together is extremely important for developing effective support for BME disabled people, therefore there are changes that the policy makers need to consider.

    Recommendations for the Government:

    • Develops a national race equality strategy which includes BME disabled people's needs and views, and ensures that they are recognised in the forthcoming disability strategy.
    • Creates a joint implementation plan linking these two strategies, to be led by the Office of Disability Issues and the Government Equalities Office.
    • Includes the intersections between equalities characteristics on future Equalities Impact Assessments, which the government has a duty to carry out when designing policy.

    Commissioners have a hugely important role to play in creating fully inclusive services for BME disabled people, in order for the process to fully reflect local need.

    Recommendations given for Local Authority Commissioners:

    • Work with local community groups, disabled people's organisations and religious centres to develop targeted information campaigns to build awareness of disability services, and improve attitudes towards disabled people.
    • Develop an effective evidence base about local need in partnership with community groups and disabled people's organisations, in order to improve the available data for BME disabled people.
    • Set community-led outcomes for project managing service delivery, which should be co-designed with both community groups and service providers.
    • Re-design commissioning contracts to better facilitate collaboration between small and large organisations, in order to allow more consistent, wide-ranging care that meets both personal and community needs.

    Knowing how to provide accessible and useful services for BME disabled people is often seen as challenging. Scope have developed a ‘Plato' model to highlight the kinds of services
    that BME disabled people reported finding accessible and useful.

    Services recommended for Service Providers:

    • Person-centred - Engage with user-led organisations to better understand the cultural dimensions of person-centred planning, and improve the planning process;
    • Local - Support existing BME disabled people's organisations and build better working links between local agencies to create a better, more knowledgeable local offer.
    • Advocacy - A critical part of improving service access and outcomes for BME disabled people is the role of advocates; we recommend developing networks of community and self-advocates,
    • Translation and communication - Develop more effective pre-translated materials in partnership with communities, in order to create more up-to-date, relevant and wide-ranging information.
    • Outreach - Improve outreach into local communities through strong partnerships with local organisations. Employ dedicated outreach workers, who should also contribute to the development of community support networks.


    See the full report by Scope, Over-looked Communities, Over-due Change: how services can better support BME disabled people.

     Image source:

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