What the UN says about the UK's treatment of disabled people

The most damning passages paint a bleak picture of the lives of people with disabilities in the UK

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A damning UN report released last year stated that the UK Government enacted ‘systematic violations’ of the rights of people with disabilities due to their welfare reforms in the period 2010 to 2015.

The report’s findings were rejected by the current government, with little sign of major reform in response that would bolster support for people with disabilities.

While further cuts to people with disabilities' personal independence payments (PIP) were scrapped in 2016, a further £30 cut to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is scheduled by the government this year. In February the head of Theresa May’s policy unit, George Freeman MP, was criticised for saying that welfare spending should prioritise “really disabled people”.

The UN’s report concerns the welfare reforms of the coalition government of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, that were part of their broad agenda of austerity. These included cuts to disability benefits and social care budgets, and the bedroom tax, all facets of the welfare state that help people with disabilities live independent lives.

As a result of these reforms, the report found that “the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met in the State party”.

The Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green rejected the report’s findings, saying “at the heart of this report lies an outdated view of disability which is patronising and offensive. We strongly refute its findings."

“The UN measures success as the amount of money poured into the system, rather than the work and health outcomes for disabled people. Our focus is on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst taking care of those who can’t."

However, the UN committee stated in its findings that it cross-checked “facts that appeared to be controversial” with a multiplicity of sources, including reports and data from governmental and non-governmental departments, independent experts, universities and service providers.

The report found that disabled people's hardship as a result of the policies resulted in "arrears, debts, evictions" and cuts to essentials such as "housing and food".

The report also called attention to the scape-goating of people with disabilities who rely on government support, who are regularly portrayed as “lazy”, “committing fraud as benefit claimants” and “putting a burden on taxpayers who are paying ‘money for nothing'”.

"Persons with disabilities continue to experience increasing hostility, aggressive behaviour and sometimes attacks to their personal integrity," the report said. "The reforms have resulted in people experiencing increasing reliance on family and kinship carers, reduction in their social interaction, increased isolation and, in certain cases, institutionalization."

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