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UN concerned by Britain's 'backwards' stance on disability rights

Article By: Angeline Albert

Britain’s approach to the rights of disabled people has been described as a ‘human catastrophe’ by the UN Committee on disability rights.

Credit: Marlinde/Shutterstock

‘Human catastrophe’

The committee, which reviews countries' compliance with the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has published a report on the limited rights of disabled people and the effect of social care funding cuts, with its chairwoman Theresia Degener describing the situation in Britain as a “human catastrophe”.

Ms Degener, who leads the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) said: “The austerity measures that they have taken – they are affecting half a million people, each disabled person is losing between £2,000 and £3,000 per year, people are pushed into work situations without being recognised as vulnerable, and the evidence that we had in front of us was just overwhelming.”

Committee member Stig Langvad said: ”The UK is at the moment going backwards in accordance to the information that we have received.

“Persons with disabilities are in our view not able to choose where to live, with whom to live, and how to live.”

Local authority budgets had not just been "slashed" but "they were no longer ear-marked for disabled people” Damjan Tatic, another committee member said.

Living independently 'is a human right'

In its report, the UN committee said it is concerned about numerous disability rights violations as the UK Government's 'legislation fails to recognise living independently and being included in the community as a human right which enshrines individual autonomy, control and choice, as intrinsic aspects of the right to independent living.'

It stated: ‘The fact that many persons with disabilities are still institutionalised and deprived of the right to live independently and being included within the community, when: i) persons with disabilities lack financial resources to afford personal assistance ii) local authorities are of the opinion that they can provide assistance within care homes.’

The 17-page report raised concern over policies that affect the ability of people to live independently in the community, such as the lowering of social protection schemes related to housing, household income and budgets for independent living, as well as the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

It highlighted a ‘lack of support services and accessible public facilities’ including personal assistance for those with disabilities, regardless of sex, gender, age and other status, to live independently and be included in the community. The report also raised ‘a lack of training and education of families, classmates, co-workers in high-quality sign language communication providing better abilities for inclusion within the community.’

What the Government says

In response to the UN report, a spokesman for the UK Government said: “We spend over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more than ever before, and the second highest in the G7.”

While the British Government described itself as a ‘world leader in disability rights’, the committee said it was more worried about Britain’s current stance on disability rights than any other country in its 10-year history.

The committee said those with disabilities must be involved in preparations for Britain’s Brexit talks to avoid losing protections that historically came from the EU.

‘Desperation, frustration and outrage’

Disability campaigners were hailed as the real world leaders for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK. Disability Rights UK and other disabled people’s organisations submitted written and verbal evidence to the committee on 21 August. The UK Delegation of Disabled People’s Organisations said in a 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.

‘We cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long.”


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