Anti-disabled 'apartheid' under attack: Campaigners accuse ministers of neglect

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PEOPLE with disabilities are living under a system of 'social apartheid', according to a report published yesterday.

The study, by Liberty, the National Council for Civil Liberties, accused the Government of 'abysmal neglect' of the disabled and said the UK had failed to erase discrimination.

Its findings are to be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Last month the former social security minister Nicholas Scott unveiled proposals for tackling discrimination against six million disabled people. They followed months of parliamentary wrangling over more radical measures, but were dismissed as 'piecemeal, partial and pathetic' by campaigners.

The report highlighted:

Participation in public life. It said disabled people were severely under-represented. Only 12 per cent of polling stations were fully accessible at the last election

Discrimination in employment. Disabled people were three times more likely to be without jobs as a result of indirect indiscrimination

Freedom of movement. By denying disabled people the ability to travel easily, the Government was breaching rights such as those to freedom of association and assembly, the study claimed.

Andrew Puddephatt, Liberty's general secretary, said: 'We are living in a system of social apartheid in which there are policies and practices which perpetuate the segregation of disabled people within the whole community.

'What is needed is legislation protected by a Bill of Rights which promotes and enhances the rights of disabled people.'

Roger Berry, the Labour MP for Kingswood, who sponsored the ill-fated Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, welcomed the Liberty report.

He said: 'The report demonstrates the overwhelming case for civil rights legislation for disabled people.

'It also indicates that the recent government proposals would be totally inadequate to tackle discrimination against disabled people.

'If the Government is serious about tackling discrimination, it should immediately enter into discussions with disabled peoples' organisations about reintroducing the Bill, which has the support of a clear majority of MPs.'