UN calls for radical changes to UK disability policies

By Agencies
September 1, 2017

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has released its Concluding Observations on the UK. It made numerous significant recommendations, including:

'Repeal the Personal Independent Payment (Amendment) Regulations of 2017 and ensure that eligibility criteria and assessments to access Personal Independent Payments, the Employment Support Allowance, and the Universal Credit are in line with the human rights model of disability'.

The Observations conclude last week’s public examination of the UK Government’s record on delivering disabled people’s rights. The examination was declared by the UK rapporteur Mr Stig Langvad, to be “the most challenging exercise in the history of the Committee”.

Mr Langvad raised deep concerns on the UK Government’s failure to implement the rights of disabled people. He also noted the government’s “lack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the (2016) Inquiry” which found "grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights". 

Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) were hailed as the genuine “world leaders” for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK. 

The UK Delegation of Disabled People’s Organisations issued the following joint statement: 

"Today the UN(CRPD) Committee has, once again, condemned the UK Government’s record on Disabled People’s human rights. They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is no longer acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community.  

"UK Government representatives committed during the review to rethinking the way they support Disabled people to monitor our rights. We welcome this commitment.  However, we are clear that our involvement must be genuine and inclusive and that we cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long. 

"DPOs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with following a long campaign of challenging the Government’s blatant disregard for the lives of Disabled people in the UK. The unity and solidarity demonstrated by the Committee and the UK Independent Mechanism in supporting our calls for justice continue to strengthen us."

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said, “The committee’s final observations and comments represent a grim reality check for the UK government and its record on ensuring the human rights of disabled people.

“After nearly a week considering the UK’s record, the committee paints a worrying picture of the battles Disabled people face every day as they seek to lead independent lives.

"We were proud to give evidence to the committee alongside other Disabled people’s organisations. The UK government should now cut the rhetoric and start delivering on these excellent recommendations.”

DR UK is particularly pleased that while the committee has reminded the government of the on-going crisis triggered by its welfare reforms, it has also highlighted serious concerns on issues such as the use of mental health legislation to deny people control over their treatment and their liberty. 

Mr Mallick said: “The seemingly endless rise in the numbers of people with mental health problems being detained or forcibly treated in the community is a daily reminder that human rights violations take place in the UK. Those powers continue to be disproportionately used against black people and people from ethnic minorities which only underlines the need for urgent action.”

He also urged the devolved administrations, public service providers and the private sector to study the investigation’s findings so that disabled people can access education, employment, transport and housing.

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was also involved in giving evidence to the UN Committee, made the following statement, “This is a damning assessment by UN experts of the failure to protect disabled people’s rights across many areas of life in the UK. We have long urged the Government to make changes and the UN recommendations are further proof that immediate action must be taken. 

"Drastic cuts to health and social care budgets have had an impact on disabled people’s ability to live independently; barriers to accessing justice persist and there are significant gaps in legal protection for disability rights. If government is serious about delivering a fair and equal society it must involve disability groups to help design and implement new policies to ensure that disabled people are no longer treated like second class citizens.

"We stand ready to work with the UK and devolved governments, as well as Disabled People’s Organisations, to ensure that disability rights are prioritised.”

The Concluding Observations of the UN Committee can be downloaded here

[Ekk/6]

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