Disabled people’s organisations are searching behind the government’s “smoke and mirrors” for evidence to show how disability rights have continued to regress since a UN committee’s ground-breaking report seven years ago.
The UK government is set to be examined in public in Geneva next month on how it has responded since being found guilty of “grave and systematic” violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in November 2016.
The UK and devolved governments had been due to be examined on their overall progress in implementing the convention, but that process has now been delayed by the pandemic until 2026.
Instead, the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities will examine the UK government on its actions since being found responsible for grave and systematic breaches of the convention in the areas of independent living, work and employment, and the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection.
Most of those breaches were caused by policies introduced by Conservative ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) between 2010 and 2015.
The 2016 findings were the result of the first high-level inquiry ever carried out by the committee, which followed years of research and lobbying by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).
The committee has decided to put aside a day in August to examine the government’s progress in implementing the recommendations made in 2016.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of DPAC, played a key role in persuading the UN committee to carry out the inquiry, alongside the late Debbie Jolly, another DPAC co-founder.
Burnip told an online meeting of disabled activists this week that such an investigation “had never been done before and the [committee] had to be persuaded to implement this unprecedented procedure”.
She said activists had found 42 different government cuts that had breached the UN convention.
A coalition of UK disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), including DPAC, is now putting the finishing touches to a “shadow” report that shows how the UK government has responded to the 2016 recommendations, which they will submit to the committee.
Ellen Clifford, from DPAC and the coalition, told this week’s meeting: “They wanted to make sure that the UK government knew that our special inquiry hadn’t been forgotten about and that they are still keeping an eye on us.”
Representatives of some DPOs, including DPAC, are also likely to give evidence in person when the UK government is examined on its progress in Geneva on 28 August.
The coalition of UK DPOs is still looking for last minute evidence from disabled people with personal experience of breaches of rights in areas such as care charges, employment discrimination, benefit sanctions and the Access to Work scheme.
Their report has to be submitted to the UN committee by 1 August.
Last week, speaking at the TUC Disabled Workers Conference in Bournemouth, Clifford said: “We need to help the committee see behind the smoke and mirrors that the government tries to put up and give them a true picture of what’s happening.”
The coalition of UK DPOs includes DPAC, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, DPO Forum England, Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, Disability Rights UK, and Inclusion London.
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