DRILL in Wales: The Impact so Far

Jody Mellor reflects on the learning for Wales, as the DRILL project begins to draw to a close, and introduces a series of webinars to share some key learning from the projects.

Historically, research on disability has rarely included people with lived experience. Disabled people have been excluded from participating in research about our own lives. Complex statistics and inaccessible research findings have precluded disabled people from understanding evidence and contributing to discussions about services or policies.

Disabled people have become suspicious of tokenistic inclusion, and when they have been invited to participate, their voices have often not been on a par with the views of professionals.

Wales has been lucky enough to receive DRILL funding for five research projects. These projects have explored a wide range of themes including:

These projects have all enabled disabled people to have a direct influence on decisions that impact our independent living, particularly in relation to policies and legislation.

In Wales, we have a much closer relationship to government than can be seen in other parts of the UK. This has allowed for disabled people’s increased involvement with the policies that directly impact us. Through DRILL, these five project teams have had the opportunity to present research evidence to several Members of Senedd at various events.

For a smaller nation like Wales, DRILL’s impact has not just been limited to policy change.

Wales has not benefitted from academic hubs such as a Centre for Disability Research, as other nations have. DRILL has played a crucial role in highlighting the wider relevance of coproduced social research to disabled people and DPOs (disabled people’s organisations) in our nation.

Thanks to DRILL funded activities in Wales, disabled people and DPOs have gained first-hand experience in leading research projects. They have become upskilled in research coproduction, methods of evaluation, commissioning research and systematic reviews of literature.

Disabled people have seen what works in terms of sharing evidence in an accessible way, and conducting ethical research. The DRILL Wales advisory group – led by disabled people and disability rights activists – has driven the programme and made decisions about which projects to fund. Our own organisation, Disability Wales, has led a research programme for the first time, developing DPO member expertise.

In 2019, we also secured funding for a PhD studentship and several funded internships for disabled students. Together, we are creating a repository of ‘good practice’ ethics and consent forms in accessible formats. We have archived anonymised data so this can be re-used by others in the future. Wales-based project teams have become part of research conversations by building networks with universities, third sector researchers and funding bodies.

Launched in 2015, DRILL is now drawing to a close after an astonishing five years. To mark its completion, Disability Wales is running a series of webinars to share key learning from the programme. The first of these was in June, and included a discussion with the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt. We hope you can join us at our next webinars, starting from September, to contribute to securing the legacy of this crucial programme for disabled people in Wales.

Jody Mellor  

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