‘Heart-breaking’ report for UN details isolation, harassment and humiliation


newslatestA “heart-breaking” report into how disabled people’s human rights are being breached across England is set to demonstrate to the UN how the coalition is failing to implement its disability convention.

The report by the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) concludes that inequality and discrimination are affecting “every aspect of disabled people’s lives”.

And it warns that discrimination has actually worsened since the Labour government ratified the convention in 2009.

The UK Disabled People’s Report, which will be sent to UKDPC members this week for their comments, includes scores of case studies showing discrimination in areas such as public transport, social security, banking, housing, employment and leisure facilities.

It details multiple examples of the isolation, harassment, poverty, bullying and humiliation experienced by disabled people, who face daily barriers in every area of their lives.

The report has emerged from UKDPC’s lottery-funded Disability Rights Watch UK (DRWUK) project, which was supported by the Disability LIB alliance.

It was set up to ensure that disabled people and their organisations and allies were involved in monitoring implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

There were more than 1,400 responses through the DRWUK website. The new report summarises those responses, and further research carried out on behalf of UKDPC.

Disabled people and their organisations have the chance to submit their views on how the government has implemented the UN convention in “shadow” reports, giving alternative views to the report submitted by the government in November 2011, and another shadow report set to be provided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Disability News Service reported last week that hopes that disability organisations could unite behind a single, strong, well-researched shadow report were in tatters, with at least four separate reports – and possibly more – being prepared.

Despite this set-back, the UKDPC report is likely to provide strong evidence for the UN to consider later this year.

The issues most frequently mentioned by disabled people who responded through the DRWUK website included other people’s attitudes, inequality and discrimination, independent living, poverty and benefits, and health.

On article 19, which covers independent living, the report concludes that cuts to benefits and services, and the government’s failure to challenge disablist attitudes and raise awareness of legal rights, mean disabled people “are less included within their communities now than in 2009”.

In one example, a respondent describes how a friend who was born with a heart defect and had undergone three open heart surgeries, was found fit for work by Atos, the company paid to assess disabled people’s “fitness for work”, but “died within weeks of the decision of a massive heart attack”.

Another respondent says the government’s “skivers and strivers” rhetoric has made them feel less safe, and adds: “I am so worried, I feel as if I am being harassed and victimized by my own government, the rhetoric they use to describe people on benefits such as ‘skivers’ makes me feel that I don’t deserve to be alive.”

Another says: “Accused of being a ‘scrounger and a leach on society’ because I’m an amputee and walk (poorly) with a stick.

“This has happened several times in recent months. I was angry and upset. I fear going out now. It’s only started to happen since all the negative reporting about sick and disabled people instigated by our government and ATOS.”

A fourth describes being spat at and called “scrounger scum” by a group of young people in a crowded shopping centre.

But the breaches of the convention detailed in the report are far wider than those linked to cuts and reforms to benefits and services.

One respondent describes how both a local council and a private agency discriminated against them because they were Deaf, after they applied to become a foster carer, another how a disabled man “experienced bullying, intimidation and name calling by work colleague on daily/weekly basis. Colleague calls [him]a cripple and criticises his work.”

Another response describes how even planning permission is affected: “Disabled chap refused planning permission to deck his rear garden, as a wheelchair user he needs it decked to allow rear access to the property.

“What has been the impact? Cannot access the rear garden or kitchen door, has a garden he cannot use.”

Yet another says: “Man walking through City Centre, 3-4 youths started calling him names (Mental, retard etc) and then pushed him over.

“Gentleman has a mobility impairment and mild learning difficulty. What was the impact? Knocked his confidence, was ashamed to report it — felt like they were right.”

Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, said the “people’s report” was “heart-breaking” and showed the “absolute misery” of many disabled people’s lives.

She said the report was just “the tip of the ice-berg”, and added: “I could replicate each one of those stories 50 times and all would be pertinent to the UNCRPD.

“Every single one of us activists in the movement who has any kind of relation to a disabled people’s organisation can echo the stories in the report.”

She said: “I think it is the most substantive piece of work I have seen in relation to what it is like for a broad cross-section of disabled people in the UK today.

“For all of us it is a struggle, whether it is anxiety related to the welfare reforms, the cutbacks in local authority social care provision, the lack of commitment to fully-accessible transport systems throughout the country, access to healthcare, or anxiety about whether you are going to be resuscitated or not [in hospital], it is all of those issues that affect independent living.

“It is anxiety, apprehension and the lack of opportunity to express and enjoy aspiration.”

She said it had not yet been decided whether the report would be submitted to the UN as it was, or whether further work would be carried out before the mid-August shadow report deadline, once UKDPC had received feedback from its members.

Newman said: “However it is presented to the UN, the important thing is that people’s voices will be heard.”

She said that other disability organisations preparing their own shadow reports were welcome to make use of the research, which will be uploaded to UKDPC’s website this week.

8 May 2014