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Our journey towards the disability justice fund

Disability activists walking up a tree-lined road at the Hardest Hit March.
Disability activists walking up a tree-lined road at the Hardest Hit March.

Author: Tania Bronstein, programme manager, Trust for London

Our new disability justice fund is a very important milestone in a journey that started more than 30 years ago.

The Trust has long recognised that poverty and disability are intrinsically linked, and that Disabled people at the crossroads of overlapping systems of oppression are at far greater risk of living in poverty.

In 1989 we took our first steps to act on this recognition by launching Count Us In. This was a five-year programme to support small disability organisations and self-advocacy groups of people with learning difficulties, in particular those catering for Black and minoritised communities.

Over two decades later, there was growing evidence that austerity cuts and the resulting growth in poverty and exclusion, was not just stalling, but reversing progress towards equality for Disabled people in the UK. In 2018, the Trust set up Strengthening Voices Realising Rights (SVRR), a special initiative aimed at to encourage a renewed emphasis on rights and inclusion.

SVRR was devised to bolster the capacity of Deaf & Disabled people's organisations (DPPOs) to hold the line and protect and promote the rights of Deaf and Disabled Londoners. Through this initiative we have been exploring how we might construct a different way of grant-making that emphasises leadership of experts by experience. This was previously unchartered territory for us. We have been on an unremitting learning journey that has been both challenging and hugely rewarding.

Recently, the disproportionate impact of Covid 19 on Deaf and Disabled people has shone a light on deeply ingrained system injustices. We are more aware that we need a different path forward to help in ensuring that progress towards equality is back on track. Social justice will not come about through some inevitable process of human progress. Our investment in this area needs to be strategic and intentional.

The disability justice fund wants to contribute to strengthening DDPOs’ influencing capacity, and to developing a broader, more inclusive movement for social justice that embraces historically excluded groups of Disabled people, such as people from Black and minoritized groups, migrants and those from LGBTQ+ communities.

As a funder, we wish to be an ally, continue forging relationships of trust with grantees, offer multi-year flexible funding, and take a step back to ensure that our partner DDPOs define the narrative and roadmap to equity, rights and social justice.

This new Fund envisions a disability justice movement in London that is strong, vibrant, diverse and sustainable. Undoubtedly these goals are long term – but I am confident that the work this programme will fund will take strides towards them.

Funding for disability justice