Not one of the seven ministers for disabled people who have served in the post since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 issued a message of support on social media on the UN’s international day of disabled people this week.
Tuesday’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), launched by the UN in 1992, was marked by activities and messages of support from disabled activists and campaigners, charities, politicians – including the prime ministers of Canada and Armenia, the Welsh government, and even the British embassy in Beijing – and businesses in the UK and around the world.
But the day was ignored by the current minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson (pictured), although he did find time on his Facebook page to celebrate his own inclusion on a new list of the best local MPs in Britain.
It was also ignored by the other six Tory politicians who have served as minister for disabled people over the last decade: Maria Miller, Esther McVey, Sir Mike Penning, Mark Harper, Penny Mordaunt and Sarah Newton.
Of the six, all of them apart from Penning were active on Tuesday on either Twitter or Facebook, and sometimes both.
Most of them focused instead on their own general election campaigns, with Newton reposting a video on Facebook about the importance of spending on the armed services that had first been posted by Mordaunt.
The only one of the seven who even mentioned disability was McVey, who posted her support for a small local mental health charity in Derbyshire, but still failed to mention the international day or disabled people’s rights.
Their silence contrasted with Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, who posted a video about Labour’s disability manifesto on her Twitter account, and expressed support for the UN day.
Last year, Newton was unable to explain why she had failed to make any public statement to support disabled people’s battle for rights on IDPD, when she was minister for disabled people.
It was the second year in a row that Newton had appeared to demonstrate a lack of interest in UK and international efforts to further disabled people’s rights.
Successive Tory-led governments have been repeatedly criticised by UN organisations for their breaches of disabled people’s rights.
Two years ago, the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities told the UK government to make more than 80 improvements to the ways its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights.
The committee raised concerns and made recommendations on all but three of the 33 articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) it could have breached.
There is no mention of UNCRPD and the government’s duty to achieve progressive implementation of the treaty in the Conservative party’s general election manifesto.
Tomlinson had not responded to a request for a comment by noon today (Thursday), and neither had the Conservative party.
Meanwhile, campaigners and organisations used IDPD for a series of non-political activities and announcements.
Among them were disabled campaigners Alan Benson, chair of Transport for All, and Dr Jon Hastie, chief executive of the user-led charity DMD Pathfinders, who completed a challenge they had set themselves to visit all 78 step-free stations on the London Underground between them in 24 hours.
They completed the feat in a total of 21 hours and 23 minutes.
Their Step Free Tube Challenge aimed to highlight the access barriers facing disabled people, and that only 78 of 270 tube stations are step-free, while raising money for a new London travel guide for disabled people.
Also on Tuesday, BBC unveiled a three-point plan that it said would “significantly improve representation of – and opportunities for – disabled people on and off air”.
It included: the launch of BBC Elevate, which intends to give disabled people with some industry experience the chance to work and gain further experience on flagship BBC shows; a pledge to provide more “authentic and distinctive” representation of disabled people on screen; and a new “BBC passport” for disabled staff, which will record their needs and help ensure they secure the support they need when moving between jobs.
The broadcaster also unveiled a range of new programmes featuring disabled people, including a series of monologues on disability curated by actor and performer Mat Fraser; actor and comedian Liz Carr delving into her family tree in Who Do You Think You Are?; and a new series of comedy Jerk.
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