Disabled people are being 'shut out of society' by spending cuts, equality bodies warn

Campaigners say human rights being ignored as those in need of additional care 'bear the brunt' of austerity policies

Jon Vale
Wednesday 23 August 2017 13:58 BST
Campaigners say the UK and devolved governments must start taking the human rights of disabled people more seriously
Campaigners say the UK and devolved governments must start taking the human rights of disabled people more seriously (iStockphoto)

Disabled people are being “increasingly marginalised and shut out of society” as they bear the brunt of Government spending cuts, the UK's equality and human rights bodies have warned.

Campaigners said the UK and devolved governments must start taking the human rights of disabled people more seriously, as officials prepare for an examination on the issue at the United Nations.

Members of an independent watchdog set up to monitor disabled people's rights in the UK say their right to independent living has been eroded as health and social care budgets are cut.

It is among a series of policies criticised by the groups in their submission to the UN.

The UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) previously said welfare reforms have led to “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people's rights, findings the Government said it strongly disagreed with.

The committee is now conducting a much wider investigation to assess the UK's progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, as part of a periodic review all nations signed up to the convention must go through.

The Government said the UK is a world leader in disability rights and spends billions of pounds to support those with disabilities and health conditions every year.

But David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “There is a real concern that disabled people are being increasingly marginalised and shut out of society as they bear the brunt of the accumulated impact of cuts in public spending.

“Disabled people have won hard fought battles in recent decades to ensure that they can live independently to exercise choice and control over their support.

“Evidence of regression must be confronted and urgently addressed.

“As the UK and devolved governments' track record on disability rights comes under the international microscope, we call for concerted action to remove the barriers in society that prevent disabled people living full lives on equal terms with non-disabled people.”

The report states that seven years of social security reforms have had a “particularly disproportionate, cumulative impact” on disabled people, resulting in a “regression of disabled people's rights to live independently and to an adequate standard of living”.

Other issues raised include underfunding of mental health services, gaps in legal protection and barriers to accessing justice, the continued use of physical and chemical restraint, and the levels of legal protection for disabled people in Northern Ireland, which is lower than in the rest of the UK.

“Everyone is entitled to the same opportunities and respect, the governments must start taking the human rights of disabled people more seriously,” Mr Isaac said.

The Government says, as a share of GDP, the UK's public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany, while its focus has been on helping disabled people achieve their potential in the job market and wider society.

A spokeswoman said: “The UK is a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality, which is why we supported the development of the UN convention.

“Almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work over the last four years and we spend over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions, more than ever before.

“This first periodic review will help build on our progress to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) act as independent monitors of the convention and made a joint submission to the UN.


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