Concern over progress on vital ‘shadow report’ on UN rights


theweek120by150The disabled people’s organisation (DPO) leading work on a vital report to the United Nations (UN) on disability rights in the UK has been forced to reassure concerned activists that the work will be finished on time.

Activists had warned this week that the disability movement risked missing a unique opportunity to tell the UN “how things are for disabled people in the UK” because of delays in completing the report.

The UK government’s report on how it is implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was submitted to a UN committee more than 14 months ago, although it made almost no reference to the coalition’s programme of cuts to disability benefits and services.

But the UN committee will also be accepting a 60-page “shadow” report on the government’s progress, which is being led by the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), under its Disability Rights Watch UK banner.

Tara Flood, who campaigned for a UN disability convention and worked on it when chair of the now defunct Disability Awareness in Action, said the shadow report would allow DPOs to set a “benchmark” for the state of disability rights in the UK, and to show the UN committee “how things are for disabled people in the UK now”.

Flood told a legal network of lawyers and DPOs* – set up by Inclusion London and the Public Law Project – that the UNCRPD was a “blueprint for activists” that creates a “campaigning framework for social, political and cultural rights”.

Evidence from the shadow report will help the UN committee quiz the UK government on where it is failing on disability rights, she said.

The UN monitoring committee had been due to scrutinise the UK government’s record this year, but there are believed to be about 20 countries to be assessed before the UK, with the committee only dealing with about five of them every year.

David Buxton, chief executive of the British Deaf Association, told the meeting he was “very concerned” about delays to the shadow report, particularly because there had to be time to secure agreement among Deaf and disabled people’s organisations about its contents.

Flood said she supported Buxton’s concerns, and told Disability News Service afterwards: “The shadow report should have been in 12 months ago.

“What I know from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is that to get consensus across the sector when there are so many differences of opinion, that negotiating work needs to start a good period of time before the report starts to get written.”

Jaspal Dhani, UKDPC’s chief executive, who was not at the meeting, said the target was to finish the report this year.

He said: “I am totally aware that some organisations may be feeling a bit anxious about the timing.”

But he added: “We could have produced a report last year, but all that would have done would be to sit in the UN office on a shelf. It will be done and it will be done through consultation through the DPOs.”

Dhani said there was a risk that if the report was sent to the UN too soon, it would be out-of-date by the time it was examined by the committee.

He also said that further research had been commissioned for the shadow report, following the purchase of new software that will allow more detailed data analysis.

Disability Rights Watch UK has already secured 500 case studies from disabled people, but hopes to collect another 500 through a new survey.

*The Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPO) Legal Network aims to bring lawyers and DDPOs together to swap information, identify possible legal cases, and raise understanding of the legal system, legislation, case law and policy relating to the “quality of life, rights and inclusion of Deaf and disabled people”. 

For more information, email Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, or phone her on 020 7036 6036.

7 February 2013