The Alliance for Inclusive Education - ALLFIE - is a unique voice! Formed in 1990, they are the only organisation led by disabled people focused on campaigning and information-sharing on education, training and apprenticeship issues. ALLFIE believes in the right of all disabled learners to access and be supported in mainstream education.

What difference has the pandemic made to the communities you serve?

COVID-19 has exacerbated the injustices and inequalities Disabled people experience. The pandemic has isolated our community further. It has excluded our voices and experiences in pandemic-related debates, adding to disablism and our forced separation from society. These experiences are further increased for Disabled people with intersectional identities.

What impact did you see on your services as a result?

  • Provided evidence to help us to better challenge policy and practice during the pandemic
  • Created a platform for Disabled young people to use their own voice and experiences to help inform and shape ALLFIE's work during the pandemic
  • Improved our publications and resources led by young people
  • Removed barriers by making it more accessible for young people to get involved in ALLFIE’s work during the pandemic
  • Increased motivation to develop the skills of young people to be recognised as an asset, to engage in social action and to support other young people in ALLFIE’s work and the wider disability rights movement
  • Provided evidence for longer sustainable investment in youth voice in our work

What has the NET funding enabled you to do for those people you help?

The NET funding allowed us to create opportunities for Disabled young people to use their voices during the pandemic to challenge disability inequality in education and other areas of their lives.

They were able to share their experiences, COVID related and otherwise, and support each other to build skills and influence other young people to get involved in ALLFIE's campaign work. This collective experience helped them to not feel as isolated, build skills to speak up to use their own experience appropriately to challenge structural and systematic disablism / ablism.

As Disabled young people, the funding supported them to recognise their voices as an asset to influencing and helping to strengthen the work of ALLFIE and the wider DPO's.

What challenges/opportunities do you see ahead?

There continues to remain challenges / opportunities with:

  • Lack of representation of Disabled young people (also addressing intersectional experiences) within DPO spaces
  • Lack of opportunities to use Disabled young people's experiences as assets to help support the work across DPO's
  • Lack of encouragement by funders to support more longer term strategic and sustainable work with Disabled young people
  • Lack of leadership opportunities for Disabled young people
  • The pandemic has made communication accessible for some Disabled young people (and others) with a wide range of impairments. We hope that post-pandemic this will continue, however we also recognise that this was not done for Disabled people and was a by-product rather than a direct choice. As the lockdown eases, we are concerned that people may return to their pre-COVID lives with little consideration of Disabled people’s needs. We also fear that the disablism experienced by Disabled young people will not be addressed adequately. Despite this, we hope to continue supporting Disabled young people being able to use their voice to share and learn intergenerationally to help tackle disablism in education.

The future of DPO’s - Why DPOs are important and why we need to invest in them and protect them in the future?

  • The pandemic showed that Disabled people would be in a far worse place if it was not for DPO’s
  • For the protection of Disabled people's voices, there must be fair and full funding of DPO's
  • DPO's are focused on tackling structural disability injustice and inequality which is very different from the work of non-DPO's
  • DPO's are dedicated to understanding and building the skills and value of Disabled people within the workplace and other areas of life
  • DPO's are most successful at educating and changing societal attitudes about Disabled people’s human rights
  • DPO's are most successful in nurturing and promoting leadership of Disabled people

Read more about ALLFIE