ALLFIE observes Social Justice Day 2024

As we mark the recent United Nations Day of Social Justice, ALLFIE’s Capacity Development Officer, Lani Parker, reflects on last year’s impactful event and looks forward to the year ahead.

Image of Lani Parker smiling at the cameraIt is widely acknowledged that education is a social justice issue, and it is clear that this includes inclusive education. To mark World Social Justice Day and our Capacity Development Officer’s return to work after maternity leave, she reflects on ALLFIE’s capacity building work by looking back at the impactful event held last year on this day and looking forward to the year ahead.

Lani says:

As I come back to work after a year of getting to know the amazing new human I have the privilege of parenting, I reflect on how the Stronger Voices project and ALLFIE’s work are underpinned by principles of social justice and human rights. The principles of World Social Justice Day are human rights, access, participation and equity. Our capacity-building work – which focuses on Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) being able to campaign and advocate for inclusive education as it connects to poverty and other intersecting oppressions – clearly relies on the principles. But I would go further to say that to have truly inclusive education, education systems must prioritise not only access equity and participation, but also safety, dignity and belonging.  

I am filled with gratitude for Iyiola, Michelle and the rest of the team for the way they have taken the Stronger Voices project forward whilst I’ve been away. ALLFIE ran a series of events giving us a chance to discuss important issues related to inclusive education, poverty and intersectionality, going back to what we believe and why, and hearing the voices of those most impacted at the event to mark World Social Justice Day 2023. Discussions were broad and wide ranging. When we think about education and social justice, it cannot be separated from other issues such as housing and lack of good support. These are structural barriers that we must change in order to achieve social justice.  

 Lucy Bartlett pointed out: 

“Poverty of opportunity leads to poverty of outcome: Segregated education, poor housing, lack of good support, lack of time, barriers that prevent access and participation, lack of supportive networks/relationships, medical model thinking, misappropriated resources i.e. resources that are invested in the wrong things.”    

We have our work cut out as always: more special schools are being built and Education Health and Care plans (EHCPs) are being cut, which will make it more difficult to get support in mainstream schools. The tightening up of exam standards pushes many young people further out of the education system. Even what could be seen as progressive policy suggestions, such as the rolling out of childcare, will have a negative impact on the poorest families, according to the Women’s Budget Group, and many nurseries will not take Disabled children, increasing segregation further. But this is exactly why getting together, putting forward visions, and discussing the why and how, is so critical.  

Andy Greene (DPAC) pointed out at the same meeting: 

“Our gains were most when we were aspirational and when we were vision building, and I think we have to regain the initiative in that and really grab hold of that going forward, and us as Disabled people have to kind of step forward and be brave enough to step into these spaces, and really go for it, and talk about ourselves as workers again and neighbours and contributors to this society rather than people who are passive recipients and life goes on over our heads. So, I think we have to start reclaiming that and stepping into that space confidently.” 

The Stronger Voices project hopes to support DPOs to do this, by strengthening the work they’re already doing. Many DPOs are building the confidence of Young Disabled people, and Disabled people are changing perceptions, working against segregation, as well as sharing these experiences and making our collective voice louder. We need to be bold and bring forward the much-needed work of supporting young people and families at this time, as we know many families are facing deeper poverty and young people are being stripped of voice and opportunity. Disabled People’s Organisations, through the fight for inclusive education and through building stronger movements, need to make it a priority to support and lift up young people and build the strength of parents and other adults to support them.  

As Yewande Akintelu-Omoniyi, ALLFIE’s Our Voice Project Youth Officer stated so clearly: 

“When we come back to World Social Justice Day, we need to start listening to Disabled Young people and giving them the platform to get into leadership positions. If we can treat inclusive education, and the lack of it, as a human rights issue then things such as independent living and employment will follow and then I hope we can be a few steps closer to social justice for Disabled Young people.” 

This year, I hope that I can build on the amazing work already done towards social justice in the project, particularly strengthening our collective visions and actions to support young people and families, and to challenge poverty and other intersectional oppressions at the roots. The project will be responsive to what people want and need. To start with, we will be hosting a series of action-orientated meetings to share skills to strengthen Disabled People’s Organisations’ abilities to advocate for families against poverty and other injustices. Sign up for updates

I look forward to connecting with you and working with you. 

In Solidarity 

 Lani Parker

Further reading

  1. Hundreds of children with special needs wait a year for support in England | The Guardian, February 2024
  2. 180 pupils a day in England given special needs support plan | The Guardian, June 2023
  3. Record number of SEND children with Education, Health and Care Plans | Nursery World, May 2022 


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