Amnesty condemns erosion of human rights of disabled in UK

By Bernadette Meaden
April 19, 2013

In the last few days, the economic case for austerity has been dealt more than one significant blow. The IMF has warned George Osborne that he is ‘playing with fire’ and an academic paper which had ostensibly given the policy great legitimacy has been shown to be fatally undermined by mathematical and statistical errors.

As practiced by our Coalition government, austerity has never had any moral legitimacy, as it has made the poorest and most vulnerable pay for a problem they did not cause. Hardest hit have been disabled people, who ever since the last General Election have felt their human rights were being undermined by their own government. They have received little sympathy from the wider public or support from the political Opposition, and the media has in many cases been openly hostile. Now however, a significant ally has emerged to stand alongside them.

Amnesty International UK, at its AGM on 14th April 2013, passed a resolution on the Human Rights of sick and disabled people in the UK.

The resolution read:

‘This AGM calls for urgent action to halt the abrogation of the human rights of sick and disabled people by the ruling Coalition government and its associated corporate contractors.

Calls for Amnesty International UK to urgently work with grassroots human rights campaigns by and for sick and disabled people, carers and their families. And to set up a specialist Disability Human Rights network…..

To protect the human rights of people with disabilities, ill people and carers to halt this regressive and lethal assault on our rights.’

You can read the full resolution, with supporting information, here.

The resolution was proposed by Rick Burgess and Nancy Farrell of WOW petition

For disabled people, this represents a significant step forward. For three years they have been experiencing a relentless attack from government, being hit by one cut after another. Their security and peace of mind has been steadily eroded, as Government ministers and their allies in the media have shamelessly misused statistics to convince the public that many disabled people are fraudsters and those who receive benefits are living in the lap of luxury. This has led to a steep increase in disability hate crimes.

When an organisation with the gravitas of Amnesty International recognises that the human rights of disabled people in the UK are being attacked by their own government, and feels it has to act in their defence, perhaps we have reached something of a watershed. Disabled people are no longer struggling alone. An internationally respected and very effective body has come to their assistance, and that is a relief and an encouragement. The government can no longer bully disabled people, confident that they cannot easily defend themselves. Sick and disabled people now have protection.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. Personally I believe that when people look back at this time, and see things clearly, unclouded by propaganda, they will be appalled, and many politicians will be shamed. They have used their power to attack the weakest in society, and sacrificed the vulnerable to their own political ends. History may not be kind to them.


© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.