Welfare reforms ‘could breach government’s UN duties’


The government’s welfare reforms could cause it to breach its obligations to disabled people under the UN disability convention, peers have suggested.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell said the government’s disability living allowance (DLA) reforms and the closure of the Independent Living Fund to new applicants could lead to a breach of its duties under the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities.

She said the government had a duty under the convention to ensure disabled people had an adequate standard of living, and pointed out that a third of disabled people already live below the poverty line, even before the extra costs of disability are taken into account.

Lord Freud, the Conservative welfare reform minister, said the government was on “a journey towards complete equality for disabled people”.

He added: “It would be naive to claim that within one bound we shall produce total equality. This has been a long journey, which started many years ago.

“We are committed to press on and make sure that as we move ahead we produce greater equality and improve the lot of disabled people steadily as the years progress.”

Baroness Greengross, a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, asked whether, in the light of government welfare reform announcements around incapacity benefit (IB) and DLA, planned cuts to public spending could impede the implementation of the UN convention.

Lord Freud said that “in our welfare reforms we will look precisely at making sure that those who need support the most continue to receive it”.

Lord Knight, a Labour peer, asked how the government had involved disabled people in decisions which would cut £360 million from the DLA budget in 2013 and more than £1 billion in 2014.

Lord Freud said the government would “go through the normal budget processes in terms of ensuring that equality and human rights issues are dealt with”.

6 July 2010