Government ministers are failing to uphold the rights of disabled people, ignoring the need to engage with disabled people’s organisations, and do not understand the UN’s disability convention, according to a new report.
The highly-critical report has been compiled by disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across the UK and submitted to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities.
It analyses how the UK and devolved governments have responded to key parts of last year’s highly-critical report by the committee on the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
The new report includes some criticism of the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales – and raises concerns about the impact of the continuing political impasse over the Northern Ireland Executive – but most of its concerns are directed at the UK government in Westminster.
The UK government, the report says, is responsible for “continuing retrogression and re-institutionalisation” of disabled people and continues to disagree with the UN committee’s findings and recommendations.
It adds: “We have concerns that the UNCRPD is not embedded within government and is poorly understood at all levels, including ministerial.”
It provides the example of international development secretary Penny Mordaunt, who appeared to try to redefine the meaning of inclusive education at the government’s Global Disability Summit in July, telling the international audience that inclusive education meant “that everyone has an education and it is done in a way to reach their full potential”.
The report says that many of the concerns raised by DPOs last year in their evidence to the UN committee remained a “significant problem”, with disabled people still subject to “tightening eligibility” for support, the removal and sanctioning of benefits and the bedroom tax.
It also raises concerns about the continuing rollout of universal credit (UC) and says DPOs are “gravely concerned” at the failure to assess the access needs of disabled people due to be moved onto UC and the lack of the necessary data to monitor its impact.
It warns that the social care funding crisis has led to the removal of further essential independent living support for disabled people and the closure of community services for people with mental distress, while increasing social care charges are leaving thousands of disabled people in debt or choosing to pull out of receiving support completely.
The DPOs also point to the chronic shortage of accessible housing in England, with new housing for disabled people often limited to segregated supported housing complexes.
And the report says that the number of disabled children being forced into special schools is rising, while budget cuts are reducing the quality of inclusive education, and the number of disabled pupils left without any educational placement at all has risen, as has the number of disabled pupils excluded from school.
Among the DPOs that contributed to the report are the Alliance for Inclusive Education, Disability Action (Northern Ireland), Disabled People Against Cuts, Disability Wales, Inclusion London, Inclusion Scotland, the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance and Sisters of Frida.
They make 22 recommendations of their own that are aimed at the UK government, including calling for: a new legal right to independent living; the abolition of charging for social care; an end to the practice of placing disabled children and young people in long-stay hospitals; and a new social security system that is based on “an accurate analysis of need” and is “consistent with a human rights approach to disability”.
There are also four recommendations for the Welsh government – including a call to incorporate the UNCRPD into Welsh law – and six for the Scottish government, including the need for a national strategy on the provision of accessible housing.
The DPOs conclude that examples of “progressive” policy-making have been restricted to the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, although the two executives are “not without room for improvement” themselves.
There is also repeated criticism in the report of the UK government’s “inadequate engagement” with DPOs and its failure to recognize the importance of consulting disabled people.
The report says that “engagement with non-user-led charities is continuously prioritised over engagement with DPOs”, while requests by DPOs to meet ministers “are frequently turned down”.
It also says that engagement with the UK government is “undermined by an increasing lack of trust”, and warns that “without trust, consultation and engagement cannot take place in ‘good faith’”.
The report does welcome one measure taken by the UK government, the increased funding for disabled facilities grants, although it warns that “delays in processing applications can still be a problem for under-resourced local authorities”.
This week’s report follows the publication of the government’s own progress report last month.
The DPO report is highly critical of the government’s progress report, accusing it of effectively ignoring many of the UN committee’s recommendations.
One of the recommendations ignored, it says, was to carry out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of its cuts and reforms on disabled people, with the UK government continuing to insist that this is not possible.
It points out that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a CIA earlier this year, while the Greater London Assembly is conducting its own CIA for London “using the same methodology as the EHRC”, and both the Scottish and Welsh governments are “exploring carrying out their own”.
There is also frustration at the government’s failure to follow up the UN committee’s recommendation that it should devise a “comprehensive” plan aimed at the “deinstitutionalisation” of disabled people, in “close collaboration” with DPOs.
Picture: Theresia Degener, chair of the UN committee, speaking last year about the UK’s progress in implementing the convention
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