UN committee claims UK's record on disabled rights is a 'human catastrophe'

Posted On: 
1st September 2017

A UN committee has said the Government's treatment of disabled people is a "human catastrophe".

Britain has been a signatory to the UN convention on disabled rights since 2007
Credit: 
PA Images

A report by the organisation found the UK has failed to meet its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The convention, which Britain has been signed up to since 2007, enshrines the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination.

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The UN committee’s chairwoman Theresia Degener branded the situation in Britain a “human catastrophe”.

“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,” she said.

Meanwhile committee member Stig Langvad said the UK is “going backwards” on disability issues.

The inquiry raised concerns across a range of areas from education, work and housing to health, transport and social security with more than 60 recommendations for UK ministers.

They include calls for legislation to ensure mainstream schools provide “real inclusion” for disabled children; a review of benefit sanctions which have been linked to rising poverty; and an increase in resources to allow disabled people to live independently.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “The UN committee has found that this Tory government is still failing sick and disabled people.

“Their damning report highlights what many disabled people already know to be true: that they are being forced to bear the brunt of failed Tory austerity policies.”

A government spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed that this report does not accurately reflect the evidence we gave to the UN, and fails to recognise all the progress we’ve made to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives.

“We spend over £50bn a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more than ever before, and the second highest in the G7.

“We’re committed to furthering rights and opportunities for all disabled people, which is why it is encouraging that almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work in the UK over the last four years."

Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac, said the “damning” report showed disabled people in Britain were being treated like “second class citizens”.

“We have long urged the Government to make changes and the UN recommendations are further proof that immediate action must be taken,” he said.

“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.”