The government has been accused of publishing a “laughable” and unevidenced report that was supposed to provide an update on its progress since being accused in 2016 of “grave and systematic” violations of the UN disability convention.
The 10,500-word report by the government’s Disability Unit and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was quietly published last Thursday.
But instead of a detailed analysis of progress the UK government has made in addressing the violations in the last five years, the report appears instead to simply list a series of disability-related policies introduced in each area of violation, while ignoring evidence that suggests continuing breaches of the convention.
The UK government is supposed to update the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) every year on its progress in addressing the treaty violations, but it appears to have failed to produce a report in 2020.
The committee concluded in November 2016 that the UK government had discriminated against disabled people across three key parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD): independent living, work and employment, and the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection.
In this month’s annual update report, the government fails again to agree to carry out one of the committee’s key demands, for a rights-based assessment of the cumulative impact of its cuts and reforms on disabled people’s right to independent living, poverty, inclusion in the community and employment.
It also ignores key concerns raised about its engagement with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations, while suggesting – wrongly – that meeting with non-user-led charities helps it to meet its duties under the convention.
There is no mention in the report of the legal action being taken by four disabled campaigners who are arguing that work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey failed to carry out a lawful consultation with disabled people before the government’s National Disability Strategy was published in July.
There is also no mention of Coffey’s claim that she did not have a legal duty to consult with disabled people on the strategy before publishing it, and that she had chosen not to do so.
The section on social care spending makes no mention of the current funding crisis – widely reported by disabled people, the care sector and the media – and also confusingly refers to plans to “publish further detail in a white paper for reform later this year”, despite its adult social care white paper having been published two weeks ago.
Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – which is likely to contribute to a response to the government’s update report next year – said it was “the usual list of important-sounding policies, programmes and measures that purport to improve disabled people’s lives, and figures for disability-related spending by government, that is absent of any context or comparative data.
“There is no evidence given as to how any of this has actually affected disabled people, presumably because any evidence there is points to how far things have continued to regress since the investigation took place in 2016.”
She added: “The government still refuses to carry out a basic cumulative impact assessment, despite the feasibility of doing so.”
Clifford said the section of the report on consultation and engagement was “particularly laughable” because of its frequent reference to “charities”.
She said: “The CRPD is very clear that they expect consultation and engagement to take place specifically with organisations run and controlled by Deaf and disabled people.
“The report refers to the Disability Charities Consortium, despite the fact that the only DDPO* involved, Disability Rights UK, publicly left it this year.”
Most of the breaches of the convention highlighted by the committee in 2016 were caused by policies introduced by Conservative ministers at DWP between 2010 and 2015.
It was the first such high-level inquiry to be carried out by the committee, and it was only made possible by years of research and lobbying of the UN committee by disabled activists at DPAC.
Meanwhile, the Government Equalities Office has launched a consultation on one of the disability employment measures included in its disability strategy.
The consultation, launched this morning (Thursday), seeks views on how employers with more than 250 employees “might be encouraged to collect and report statistics about disability to make their workforces more inclusive”.
The consultation document does not make it clear whether the government wants to make reporting on disability mandatory for large employers, but says instead that it is “seeking views that will shape our future approach”.
*Deaf and disabled people’s organisation
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…