Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have launched a fresh bid to hold the government to account over its implementation of the UN disability convention, four years after their previous efforts helped lead to ministers being accused of causing a “human catastrophe”.
A partnership of DPOs from across England are leading work to collect evidence from disabled people and their organisations on how the UK government has met its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PDF).
That evidence is likely to include repeated and continuing breaches of many of the convention rights, including rights to independent living, to accessibility, to education, to an adequate standard of living, to participation in public and political life, to work, to health, and to life.
The evidence collected will be included in a report that will be sent to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.
This shadow report, alongside other evidence, will eventually play a part in a public examination of the UK government’s progress in implementing the convention.
Four years ago, that examination resulted in public humiliation for ministers after the committee’s chair, Theresia Degener (pictured), told the UK delegation that the UK government’s cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe”.
The committee later told the government in a report to make more than 80 improvements to the ways its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights, raising concerns on all but three of the 33 treaty articles it could have breached.
The committee is believed to be keen to see how the UK government has responded to the recommendations it made in 2017.
Yesterday, a partnership of DPOs, led by Inclusion London on behalf of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), launched a call for disabled people, DPOs and allies across England to submit evidence that can be used in a “shadow report” that will eventually be submitted to the UN committee.
Svetlana Kotova, director of campaigns and justice at Inclusion London, said: “Hearing from Deaf and disabled people from a range of backgrounds and different experiences is an important part of the committee’s examination process.
“Too often non-disabled people are talking on our behalf – whether it’s non-user led charities giving comments to the media or people being denied choice and control in their own lives.
“This is an internationally-important exercise, and we should lead it.”
Ellen Clifford, lead author for the report, said: “We’re hoping that the end result will be a report that Deaf and disabled people across the country feel genuine ownership over.
“It’s a steep task, given that the word limit for the report is just 5,350 words and we know people will have a lot to say, but collectively Deaf and disabled people can do great things when we come together in a spirit of unity.”
The UN committee will use the shadow report to help draw up a “list of issues”, a series of questions it will ask the UK and devolved governments to answer in their own reports on how they have made progress under the convention.
The UK and devolved governments will later be examined in public on these issues.
Over the next month, DPOs across England will hold more than 20 events that explain the UN process and accept evidence on the most crucial issues to include in their shadow report.
There will also be targeted work to capture views among seldom heard groups, such as disabled refugees, sex workers, and members of the gypsy and traveller community.
DPOs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – led by Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Action Northern Ireland – are compiling their own reports, which will be combined with the England version into a single UK shadow report that will be submitted to the UN.
A key part of the process will involve consulting on the priority issues to be included in the UK shadow report, as the UN will only allow a maximum of 10,700 words.
Other organisations working with Inclusion London are ROFA, DPO Forum England, Disability Rights UK’s Our Voices group of member DPOs, Disabled People Against Cuts, and experts from the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights and the London School of Economics.
The shadow report is due to be formally launched next March.
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