MPs and peers highlight discrimination faced by disabled children


A report by an influential group of MPs and peers has highlighted some of the discrimination experienced by disabled children in the UK.

The report on children’s rights by the joint committee on human rights includes evidence of discriminatory attitudes towards disabled children by medical professionals and the “high incidence” of “bullying” of children with learning difficulties.

The committee was also told of disabled children whose chances of having children themselves when they were older was damaged by non-essential medical treatment.

And it heard evidence of 16 and 17-year-olds who find it difficult to access mental health services because they fall between child and adult services.

The report calls on the government to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into UK law, a call backed by all four of the UK’s children’s commissioners.

The report also calls on the government to “review and explain” why there are so many children with autism in the criminal justice system, as well as those from other marginalised groups, such as Gypsies and Travellers, and why existing strategies to deal with this “appear to be failing”.

It adds: “Such children, who are already likely to have experienced significant disadvantage and even discrimination in their early lives, require specific and targeted measures and support, outside of the criminal justice system.”

The report also says that children with mental health conditions and learning difficulties are over-represented in youth custody, and instead need targeted support outside the criminal justice system.

Witnesses who gave evidence to the committee also raised concerns around education, such as the lack of a national strategy for including all disabled pupils in mainstream schools.

The report concludes that there have been many positive developments in the UK in the 20 years since the UN adopted the convention.

But is says there is “still much more for the UK to do, particularly for those children who live on the margins of society or who come from groups which do not always command popular public support”.

No-one from the Department for Children, Schools and Families was available to comment.

Meanwhile, Baroness Walmsley, a Liberal Democrat children, schools and families spokeswoman, has introduced a children’s rights bill into the Lords.

The private members’ bill, which would incorporate the UN convention into UK law, was drafted with the support of members of the Rights of the Child UK (ROCK) coalition, whose members include the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education and Scope.

25 November 2009