UK government wins reprieve from UN disability committee


newslatestA UN committee is set to postpone its public examination of how the UK is implementing the disability convention until after next year’s general election.

The decision will mean that the coalition will avoid the potential embarrassment of a high-profile discussion with members of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which had been due to take place next April.

This “constructive dialogue” is now likely not to take place until September or October of 2015, say disabled activists.

Some activists are unhappy that the committee’s decision to postpone the hearing will allow the UK government to avoid having to justify what they say is a clear regression in disability rights since 2010.

But others have welcomed the extra time they will now have to prepare strong reports to submit to CRPD.

And although there are still likely to be several “shadow” reports submitted by different parts of the disability movement, it now looks probable that disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) will come together to provide a joint summary of key issues to the committee.

This “list of issues” should allow the movement to summarise the main areas where it wants CRPD to question the government, while allowing individual DPOs and networks to submit their own more detailed reports.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London – which is part of the Reclaiming Our Futures (ROF) alliance – said the delay was welcome because the deadline for submitting reports to CRPD had been “very tough”.

The alliance – which includes the British Deaf Association, the Alliance for Inclusive Education, and Disabled People Against Cuts – is working with organisations from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and other leading DPOs, to produce “one united UK list of issues”.

Lazard said: “A minor delay is helpful to us so that we can carry on with that partnership working.”

But she warned that a delay any longer than next autumn risked seeing hundreds of pages of evidence collected by DPOs becoming “out-of-date”.

Lazard said: “Rather than trying to merge the shadow reports… we are just focusing our partnership efforts on the UK list.

“That feels right for ROF and the other nations and I know it will be something the UN disability committee will be relieved to hear, that we have one document that has a united voice.”

She said the evidence collected by ROF would be published this autumn, and added: “We will do what we can to ensure that the really quite damning evidence that we have collected through the ROF network is out there in the public domain and we hope DPOs will use it in their work lobbying and campaigning in the run-up to the election.”

Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, said the delay was “very convenient” for the government, as it would now not be held accountable for the effects of its austerity policies, which would be “swept under the carpet” until after the election.

She welcomed the idea of a joint “list of issues”, but added: “I am extremely frustrated at the delays, because I don’t know what is going to make this government or any political party accountable.”

The CRPD has yet to respond to a request for a comment about the delay.

6 August 2014