This CBMA policy note provides a high level overview of our understanding and policy position on relevant topics, and outlines our engagement with these areas in conjunction with our partners and other areas of the organisation. 

Downloadable PDF


‘Social protection’ refers to a set of policies and programs financed by the State designed to support individuals and families in reducing and preventing poverty and addressing sources of vulnerability and social exclusion throughout their lifecycle. Successful social protection programs should build resilience to respond to economic, environmental, and social crises and shocks, and foster social inclusion.  


The main forms of social protection include: 

  • Social assistance, such as transfers in cash, vouchers, or in-kind, fee waivers for basic health and education services, and subsidies for food and fuel. 
  • Social insurance providing compensatory support for events such as illness, injury, disability, death of a spouse or parent, unemployment, and shocks affecting livestock and crops. 
  • Social care services to assist those facing social risks such as violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and social exclusion. 
  • Labour market programs to promote labour market participation or at least ensure minimum employment standards.


The right to social protection for people with disabilities is outlined in Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which details that States Parties should recognise the rights of people with disabilities to social protection without discrimination and that appropriate steps shall be taken to safeguard the realisation of this right. 

This means ensuring access to: 

  • appropriate and affordable services, devices and other assistance for disability-related needs 
  • social protection programs and poverty reduction programs, particularly for women and girls and older people with disabilities 
  • assistance from the State with disability-related expenses, including financial assistance and respite care, for people with disabilities and their families living in poverty 
  • public housing programs
  • retirement benefits and programs, particularly given the increased incidence of disability alongside older age 

In addition to the CRPD, the right to social protection is enshrined in multiple international human rights agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is also a central component of the Sustainable Development Goals with specific social protection targets under: 

  • Goal 1 – End poverty in all its forms everywhere. 
  • Goal 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. 
  • Goal 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. 
  • Goal 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  • Goal 10Reduce inequality within and among countries. 

Social protection is crucial to uplifting the whole of society and fostering social inclusion, however it plays a particularly important role for people with disabilities. Persistent barriers and discrimination prevent people with disabilities from accessing employment, being unable to meet the costs of the healthcare (which are higher for people with disabilities), rehabilitation and support services they require to participate in society on an equal basis with others, and experiencing increased vulnerability to the effects of conflicts and disasters. 

These barriers lead to people with disabilities being overrepresented in rates of poverty due to extra costs of living and requiring higher income in order to achieve an equivalent standard of living as people without disabilities. People with disabilities with intersecting identities, such as women and girls, older people, and indigenous people with disabilities, face greater social insecurity. Successful social protection systems are designed to address these barriers by enabling universal access to food, healthcare, education, employment, and livelihood activities, as well as ensuring resilience to external shocks. 

Inclusive social protection

Establishing inclusive social protection programs is highly important for people with disabilities and benefits the rest of society. Ensuring that social protection is accessible to people with disabilities is vital to curb widening inequalities and promotes inclusive economic recovery. Continued exclusion of people with disabilities from social protection impacts society as a whole, with an estimate 3 to 7 percent loss to gross domestic product in low- and middle-income countries while people with disabilities remain excluded from the labour force

For people with disabilities to benefit from social protection, states must move towards rights-based social protection systems and away from traditional disability-welfare approaches that view people with disabilities through a lens of incapacity and do not account for the social barriers to inclusion that have led to their systemic exclusion. 

Taking a ‘twin-track approach’ to social protection is an effective means of facilitating this by adapting mainstream social protection to be inclusive of people with disabilities, while also implementing disability-specific social protection programs. This could look like adapting Universal Health Coverage schemes to include the costs of assistive devices while separately establishing Personal Support Grants to account for costs such as housing modification, interpreters, or transportation for people with disabilities. 

Evidence on creating sustainable and inclusive social protection shows that social protection programs must be designed and delivered in a way that is accessible and relevant to people with disabilities. For this, it is imperative that people with disabilities are consulted and involved in all stages of design, delivery, and evaluation of social protection schemes. This involves engaging in effective outreach and awareness-raising with people with disabilities to continually monitor, learn, and improve and further increase coverage and uptake. 

Accessibility is paramount to disability-inclusive social protection so that barriers to inclusion are not perpetuated. Information on programs should be available in accessible formats and relevant social protection facilities should be physically accessible and have reasonable accommodations provided where necessary so that people with disabilities can engage with these programs independently.  

For cash-based social protection programs, many people with disabilities, in particular people with cognitive or psychosocial disabilities, are restricted accessing payments due to barriers to opening bank accounts in their own name due to institutional barriers and situations of legal incapacity. This speaks to the importance of CRPD-compliant institutional change so that people with disabilities are granted access to the services necessary for receiving social protection benefits. 

CBM Australia’s position on reasonable accommodations

CBM Australia (CBMA) advocates for rights-based disability-inclusive social protection. One of the key calls of our submission to the International Disability Equity and Rights Strategy, which is set to be released in 2024, is for a rights-based approach to social service systems to move towards fully inclusive social protection, particularly considering the growing interest in disability-inclusive social protection within the Indo-Pacific. Noting Australia’s history of supporting social protection within its official development assistance program and its knowledge and skills from the domestic setting, CBMA calls upon the government to increase its investment in social protection within the development program by establishing a Centre for Excellence to consolidate expertise on disability-inclusive social protection. 

Inaccessible social protection schemes impact not only people with disabilities but their families and social networks, too. When social protection schemes do not adequately support people with disabilities, women and girls in particular are also impacted as they are often the ones who take on the role to support family members with disabilities in the absence of effective support systems. To address this, CBMA’s submission calls on the government to ensure all social protection programs have a specific focus on women with disabilities and give particular attention to recognition and redistribution of unpaid care work for women with disabilities and carers. 

CBM Australia’s engagement

In an advocacy capacity, CBMA will continue to push for the Australian Government to increase its investment in inclusive social protection in the lead up to the IDEARS publication.  

CBMA’s partnership work and collaboration with regional organisations of people with disabilities (OPDs) is crucial to ensuring governments in the Indo-Pacific establish robust and inclusive social protection schemes. 

In its program work, CBMA has a history of developing disability-inclusive cash transfer programs in humanitarian response. The evidence base from these programs can be used to support disability inclusion in cash transfer social protection schemes for government providers.