Hopes for single UN ‘shadow’ report in tatters


newslatestHopes that disabled people and their organisations could come together to produce a single “shadow” report on how the UK is implementing the UN disability convention appear to be in tatters, with four separate documents apparently being prepared.

The UN committee that will examine how the UK been implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has made it clear that it would prefer a single report on behalf of the disabled people’s movement, in addition to reports covering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But attempts to broker an agreement to produce a single report from all of the leading disabled people’s organisations in time for the August deadline appear to have failed.

This week, the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance – the Alliance for Inclusive Education, the British Deaf Association, Disabled People Against Cuts, Equal Lives, Equalities National Council, Inclusion London, Shaping Our Lives, Sisters of Frida and the TUC – announced that it would be producing its own shadow report.

The alliance said it believed there was still time to produce a solid, well-researched report, and issued a last-minute call for evidence, with a deadline of 14 May.

But the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) is set to announce that it also plans to produce a shadow report, building on research it is publishing next week on how far the UK has gone towards making the rights in the convention a reality.

UKDPC had originally been leading on work to produce a shadow report, before it was hit by funding and technical problems, and its own near-collapse.

Next week’s report is likely to summarise about 1,400 responses to a consultation UKDPC held under its Disability Rights Watch umbrella, which was intended to produce case studies for a shadow report.

Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, said the government had failed to provide proper funding and support for disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) to prepare a shadow report.

She said: “If there is more than one report I would not be surprised and that should give a very clear indication to the committee of the state of DPOs in this country.”

Disability Rights UK is planning to publish a third shadow report, although it will concentrate on “priority” areas in the convention. It will be sharing its conclusions with those organisations preparing other shadow reports.

Philip Connolly, policy and communications manager for Disability Rights UK, said he believed there would be attempts to bring the various shadow reports together, but he added: “Maybe the deadline will concentrate minds, but it is certainly going to be a difficult task.”

There is believed to be at least one other shadow report being prepared.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said in March that the disabled people’s movement would look “frankly pretty silly” if it produced more than one shadow report, which would be “very counter-productive”.

Dan Pescod, campaigns manager for RNIB, said his charity hoped to contribute to both the UKDPC and the ROFA reports.

But he said: “I think it’s a shame that there cannot be just one report.”

Asked why that had not happened, he said: “You would need to ask the people in charge of both organisations.

“I think some of it is to do with personalities and some of it is organisations that do not quite see eye to eye.”

He added: “The committee would say that in an ideal world there will be just one report. We don’t live in an ideal world and I don’t think we will be the only country that has more than one report.

“It is slightly sub-optimal but not the end of the world. What is important is what those reports say and what impact they have on the committee.

“It would be sad if two or three shadow reports said vastly conflicting things, but I think the chances of that are pretty slim.”

A spokeswoman for the disability charity Scope said it had met with both UKDPC and ROFA and wanted “to ensure that any evidence we do have is made available to whoever needs to use it”, but had yet to decide “how best to take forward this work in partnership with other organisations”.

The deadline for shadow reports to be submitted to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been set back until 15 August, but was previously the end of next month.

The UK government’s report on how it believes it is implementing the convention was submitted to the committee in 2011, although it made almost no reference to the coalition’s programme of cuts to disability benefits and services.

CRPD will be finalising a list of questions to send to the government this autumn, with a public “constructive dialogue” between the committee and the government due to take place next April, just weeks before the general election.

1 May 2014