A leading disabled activist has exposed the UK’s record on disability rights in front of an audience of disabled people from across the global south who had been invited to take part in the government’s Global Disability Summit.
Simone Aspis drew repeated loud applause from the audience at the Civil Society Forum as she highlighted the attacks on disabled people’s rights by the “arrogant” UK government.
She underlined the “hypocrisy” of the UK asking other countries to sign up to a new Charter for Change, which calls for governments to be held to account for their progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
She said: “Today the UK government is asking other countries to sign up to a charter which talks about the importance of holding governments to account under the CRPD and yet our government stands in breach of it. Hypocrisy.”
Last autumn, the chair of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities said the government’s cuts to disabled people’s support had caused “a human catastrophe”.
Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator for The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), a member of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, said the committee had made more than 80 recommendations for improvements and that it had never been as concerned about a country as it was about the UK.
She also highlighted how the same committee had found the UK government guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of the convention in 2016 because its austerity cuts had been “fundamentally breaching disabled people’s human rights to independent living and a decent standard of living and work”.
But she said the government had dismissed the findings of both CRPD reports.
Aspis (pictured after her speech, left, with ALLFIE’s Michelle Daley) was speaking at the Civil Society Forum, a sister event to the Global Disability Summit, headed by the International Disability Alliance and intended to “amplify” the voice of disabled people from across the global south the day before the summit was held in the same venue on the Olympic Park.
Aspis told the forum that UK disabled people’s organisations “absolutely welcome the giving of aid and support to our disabled brothers and sisters in other countries but we must also not let the UK government get away with its deliberate dismissal of its obligations under the [UN convention], because if one government should get away with it then others can follow.”
She said ROFA was calling for the government to implement CRPD’s recommendations, including the need for a cumulative assessment of the impact of its welfare and tax reforms; to reverse its welfare reforms; to introduce a national independent living support service; to reverse the reinstitutionalisation of disabled people; and to fully implement disabled people’s right to inclusive education.
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