Funding and technical problems, and the near-collapse of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), have delayed efforts to produce a single “shadow” report on behalf of the disabled people’s movement.
Any reports have to be submitted to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by the end of June.
CRPD will be finalising a list of questions to send to the government this autumn – based partly on various reports submitted by the UK – with a public “constructive dialogue” between the committee and the government due to take place next April, just weeks before the general election.
But despite disabled activists carrying out extensive, detailed research on how the UK government has implemented the convention, and on the impact of its austerity programme, there is no funding to pull that work together into a single shadow report.
Disabled people’s organisations, members of the disabled people’s anti-cuts movement, and leading disabled figures such as Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, as well as charities such as Scope, and Neil Crowther, the former director of human rights at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, have all been involved in a range of discussions about producing a shadow report.
Meanwhile, UKDPC has pulled together the responses to a survey of disabled people, launched last spring under its Disability Rights Watch banner.
A report on the responses – delayed for several months because of software problems – has built a picture of what life is like for disabled people across the UK, and of the country’s progress towards making the rights contained in the convention a reality.
But this research still has to be incorporated into a full shadow report before it can be submitted to CRPD, while plans to open the research up to comments from UKDPC members and the wider disability movement have yet to be finalised, again because of a lack of funding.
Separate research has been carried out by a group of organisations including the Alliance for Inclusive Education, Transport for All, Inclusion London, Equal Lives and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).
Baroness Grey-Thompson told Disability News Service that the shadow report was “a great opportunity for people to work together to have an impact”.
But she added: “There will need to be some compromises, which is always a challenge.”
Debbie Jolly, a co-founder of DPAC, said: “It is vital that we, as disabled people, put together a robust shadow report as an answer and further challenge to this government on their continuous decimation of disabled people’s rights.”
She pointed to issues such as the closure of the Independent Living Fund and the “desperate crisis” in local authority funding for social care.
She said: “This government has committed grave and systematic violations of the UN convention – it is crucial that these are documented.”
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said the shadow report provided a “rare opportunity” for the disabled people’s movement, but there was now “huge deadline pressure”.
She said: “We are just one organisation of a few that are trying to coordinate a definitive, effective shadow report that genuinely is the voice of disabled people and genuinely communicates the impact of people’s experiences, and where disabled people are.
“There is loads of work out there, a lot of research being done. The key challenge is trying to find the capacity to pull that all into one report.”
She said there were “a number of obstacles” to producing an effective shadow report, including a lack of funding.
Lazard said the disabled people’s movement would look “frankly pretty silly” if it produced more than one shadow report.
She said: “It would be very counter-productive. I hope everybody will realise that and as a consequence all pull together on this.”
She said her group approached the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) late last month to ask for funding to produce the shadow report.
She said: “We will be pursuing that in the hope that they recognise that DPOs will need money to produce an effective report.”
EHRC no longer has a grant-making arm, while its budget has been slashed by the government.
An EHRC spokeswoman said: “We are in the process of responding to this letter and are unable to share that with you until they have received it.”
6 March 2014