Government’s Treatment of Disabled People is a ‘Human Catastrophe’ says UN

By Benjamin Lowrie, Digital Producer 1 Sep 2017

Theresa May’s government has been condemned by a UN Committee over declining living standards of disabled people following cuts to care budgets.

The new report says the government has “failed to recognise living independently and being included in the community as a human right”, while also attacking the failure to provide adequate education support for disabled pupils, with particular concern placed on the rising numbers attending ‘special schools’.

Alongside rising poverty levels among disabled people, bullying in integrated schools is also endemic, in spite of the government’s repeated commitments to an inclusive society and education policy.

Commenting on the findings, chairwoman of the UN committee Theresia Degener described it as a “human catastrophe”

Austerity leading to inequality

“The austerity measures that [the government] have taken – they are affecting half a million people,” she added. “Each disabled person is losing between £2,000 and £3,000 pounds per year, people are pushed into work situations without being recognised as vulnerable, and the evidence that we had in front of us was just overwhelming”.

The report calls for a review of benefit sanctions, a policy which has reinforced poverty and made independent living harder to achieve for disabled individuals.

Problems starting with education

Image Credit: Cel Lisboa / Unsplash

The paper also claims “the education system is not geared to respond to the requirements for high-quality inclusive education, in particular, the practices of school authorities turning down the enrollment of students with a disability who is deemed as disruptive to other classmates”.

There was also “concern” regarding care and treatment policies, which they described as insufficient to the extent of being “inconsistent with the right to life of persons with disabilities as equal and contributing members of society”.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary said “The UN committee has found that this Tory government is still failing sick and disabled people. Their damning report highlights what many disabled people already know to be true: that they are being forced to bear the brunt of failed Tory austerity policies.”

Reflecting reality – or a skewed picture?

Image Credit: UK Parliament / Flickr

A Government spokeswoman, however, claimed the report “does not accurately reflect the evidence we gave to the UN”. They added: “It fails to recognise all the progress we’ve made to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives.

“We spend over £50billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more than ever before, and the second highest in the G7. We’re committed to furthering rights and opportunities for all disabled people, which is why it is encouraging that almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work in the UK over the last four years.

“We’re also a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality, which is why we supported the development of the UN convention.”

The council noted only two areas where it considered the Conservative government to be a “positive” for disabled people – compared to over 60 listed as “concerned” or “deeply concerned”.

A recent history of warnings

Last year the same UN committee criticised “systematic violations” to disabled people’s rights as a result of policies stemming from austerity measures.

UKIM, comprised of four major human rights bodies in the UK, also released a report just last week claiming disabled people have been “shut out of society” by austerity measures.

They cited the continued use of physical and chemical restraint” and “bullying of disabled children in schools” as key areas of concern.

Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission David Isaac told RightsInfo: “This is a damning assessment by UN experts of the failure to protect disabled people’s rights across many areas of life in the UK.

“We have long urged the Government to make changes and the UN recommendations are further proof that immediate action must be taken.

“Drastic cuts to health and social care budgets have had an impact on disabled people’s ability to live independently; barriers to accessing justice persist and there are significant gaps in legal protection for disability rights. If government is serious about delivering a fair and equal society it must involve disability groups to help design and implement new policies to ensure that disabled people are no longer treated like second class citizens.

“We stand ready to work with the UK and devolved governments, as well as Disabled People’s Organisations, to ensure that disability rights are prioritised.”

Featured Image: Karl Ludwig / flickr.