Disabled people take complaints about government's rights record to UN

By agency reporter
August 21, 2017

Deaf and Disability organisations from across the United Kingdom will today (21 August 2017) highlight the Government’s ongoing human rights violations and evasive behaviour towards a major United Nations committee.

Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations (DDPOs) will tell the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva that the Government has ignored many of the questions put to it earlier this year by the UN team. The committee is assessing the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, which the UK government ratified in 2009.

It will consider the Government’s response to its questions and the DDPOs’ observations before quizzing representatives from the UK and devolved Governments in Geneva later this week (23 and 24 August).

Referring to the Government’s submission for the investigation, Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Many of the Government’s answers have a tone of complacency at best and high-handed evasion at worst.

“The Government produced no evidence or detail to show how it is supporting people to lead independent lives; something it committed to when it ratified the convention in 2009. The Government document also makes grand claims about the impact of the Equality Act and the Care Act that simply don’t reflect the everyday experiences of disabled people in the UK.”

DPPOs will tell the committee that a range of Government policies – many arising from the austerity agenda – place it in breach of the convention. These shortcomings are aggravated, the campaigners say, by the failure of other public sector bodies such as local authorities and NHS organisations to deliver the support and safeguards set out in the convention.

Among the issues highlighted in the DDPOs’ submission are:

  • The poor supply of accessible housing
  • The impact of the Government's welfare reforms
  • A rise in the number of Disabled children in segregated education
  • Cuts in health and social care services that support people to live independently
  • The growing use of compulsory detention and forced treatment powers contained in mental health legislation that are incompatible with the UN convention
  • Plans to cap funding for support that allows Disabled people to work – possibly forcing many to give up satisfying and worthwhile jobs
  • Concerns about the level of hate speech and hate crime
  • A tendency by public bodies to focus on processes rather than meaningful outcomes when fulfilling their legal duty to eliminate discrimination and promote equality.

The cumulative impact is that many disabled people are unable to live the independent, fulfilling lives that the convention commits nations to delivering. Instead, they continue to face serious discrimination in accessing educational, employment and social opportunities.

Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive Officer of Inclusion London, speaking on behalf of the Reclaiming Our Future Alliance, said: “There is clear and extensive evidence of retrogression of Disabled people’s rights in the UK since 2010. To date responses from the Government have failed to acknowledge the existence, let alone the scale, of this problem – a problem that is having a dramatic adverse impact on the lives of millions of Disabled people and our families every day. We look forward to taking part in proceedings in Geneva to continue to ensure the disability committee has accurate information about the situation in the UK and in hearing how the government responds to their questions.”

Tony O'Reilly of the North West Forum of People with Disabilities, an organisation in Northern Ireland, said: "The Government needs to do much more to ensure that disabled people are properly and effectively engaged with in the decision-making processes that impact on their lives."

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said: “Disabled people in Wales are angry at the continued dismissal of their rights by the UK Government. There is only so much that the Welsh Government can do to mitigate the impact of austerity policies. With the highest proportion of Disabled people in the UK, the cumulative impact of benefits and service cuts is devastating lives in Wales.”

Sally Witcher, Chief Executive Officer at Inclusion Scotland says: “We remain deeply concerned about the erosion of Scottish Disabled people’s human rights caused by the UK Government-led cuts to benefits and services. We are pleased to join our colleagues from across the UK to challenge this. The Scottish Government’s approach is more positive, with commitments to new devolved disability benefits founded on dignity and respect, and to reducing the employment gap, as well as support for Disabled people’s participation in politics and policymaking. However, we now need to see more action to realise Disabled people’s human rights – particularly in relation to the real failings of our social care support system.”

Steven Robertson, Chair of the Law and Human Rights Group within People First Scotland, says: “We are again excited to be part of the delegation of Deaf and Disabled People's Organisations attending the United Nations Committee session. People First (Scotland) have been campaigning for the replacement of substitute decision-making regimes, such as Guardianship, with a system of supported decision-making for people with learning disabilities. Only then will Government be in compliance with Article 12 of the convention.”

DPPOs will also point to the Government’s failure to act on the recommendations of a separate inquiry report the committee published last December. In that special inquiry, which was triggered by the DPPOs, the committee concluded that the UK Government’s welfare reforms were violating rights set out in the convention.

The DDPOs' submission was co-produced by Disability Rights UK, Reclaiming our Futures Alliance, Inclusion Scotland, People First Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, British Deaf Association and Black Triangle.

* Read the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilties here

* Disability Rights UK https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/

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