UK faces UN examination: Government criticised over independent living

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The government has been criticised over its commitment to independent living by a disabled member of the UN committee investigating the UK’s record on disability rights.

The criticism came during a public examination in Geneva of the UK’s record in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Civil servants from eight UK government departments, and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, were being grilled yesterday and today (Thursday) by members of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD).

Robert Martin (pictured, speaking), a CRPD member, asked the UK government to explain why it had cut funding for disabled people’s services and support.

He said: “I would like to know why you have cut access to funding in services, including benefits and advocacy services, especially for people with what you call mild or moderate disability.

“If you cut funding in services, the people will lose the ability to live independently in the community. And that is not a way forward if you want to implement the convention.”

One of the committee’s vice-chairs, Danlami Umaru Basharu, also asked the civil servants to explain the consequences of the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

None of these questions appeared to be answered by the UK government delegation.

Disabled activists conducted a high-profile campaign to keep the fund open but it finally closed in June 2015, with research later showing that many former ILF-users subsequently experienced substantial cuts to their care packages.

After it closed, non-ring-fenced funding was transferred to councils in England and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland. Scotland has since set up its own fund.

Basharu asked the UK government representatives how the government would ensure that disabled people “are not negatively affected” by this transition.

This question was also not answered by the UK government.

The committee have asked questions on a huge range of issues affecting disabled people’s rights under the convention, including discrimination in the housing market; the “disproportionate” levels of violence and abuse experienced by disabled women, and the support available to them; the “high levels of poverty” experienced by disabled people; the availability of accessible information; and the shortage of British Sign Language interpreters.

Other questions raised included the institutionalisation of children with mental health conditions; the economic impact of Brexit on disabled people; the impact of cuts and reforms to legal aid and the introduction of employment tribunal fees on disabled people’s access to justice; and the levels of bullying experienced by disabled children.