Welfare reforms break UN convention – Patrick Butler


By .

Posted in The Guardian, Monday 7 July 2014

The UK government is risking “systematic violation” of international human rights law in its treatment of disabled people, charities claim.

Britain is a signatory to a binding UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities, and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. Austerity measures and welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax mean the rights of disabled people to independent living, work, and social security have been undermined, causing significant hardship, say campaigners.

A report published by Just Fair, a consortium of 80 national charities including Amnesty International, Save the Children, and Oxfam, says the UK is in clear breach of its legal obligations. Support structures for many disabled people have disappeared or are under threat as local authorities cut social care budgets, while cuts to benefits will leave many disabled people without crucial help for daily living.

Jane Campbell, a cross-bench peer who is disabled said: “It is both extremely worrying and deeply sad that the UK – for so long regarded as an international leader in protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights – now risks sleepwalking towards the status of a systematic violator of these same rights.”

The government vigorously denied the claim. Disability minister Mike Penning said: “It is simply not true to say we are breaching our legal obligations to disabled people. We spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services and our reforms will make sure the billions spent give more targeted support and better reflect today’s understanding of disability.

“We are fixing a broken welfare system, which trapped tens of thousands of people on incapacity benefit for more than a decade with little done to see if their condition had improved and support them into work.”

The report calls for a right to independent living to be enshrined into UK law, so that government and public bodies are obliged to ensure policies and practices support – rather than compromise – independent living.

Aoife Nolan, professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Nottingham and a trustee of Just Fair said government policies were compromising disabled people’s human rights.

“Not only do these policies cause significant hardship and anxiety, but they also amount to impermissible backward steps in relation to disabled people’s human rights, contrary to the UN human rights framework.”

The report will be submitted to the United Nations, which is in the process of reviewing UK compliance with its obligations to the rights of disabled people.



Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, just five years after the Maslow’s publication of “A Theory of Human Motivation”, echoes the work via a set of Articles stating the rights of every human being. There is a very clear connection between human needs and human rights.

A person who has problems satisfying lower level needs, will not be able to find the material and psychological resources necessary to focus on higher level needs, and fulfil their potential. Aside from the biological, psychological, motivational, emotional and human potential dimensions of human rights, and how that correlates with the prerequisite to meet our fundamental needs, this is the 6th most wealthy nation in the world, it was once a first world liberal democracy, and a beacon for observed human rights. We have a moral obligation, as well as a legal one, to ensure people are able to meet their basic survival needs.

In just four years of an authoritarian, Tory-led administration, we have moved away from the equality and rights based society to become a one based on competition, rigged “market forces”, a “small” and unresponsive state and an era of self help and personal responsibility. Free bootstraps not included.

Our political freedoms and human rights must not be subservient to ideological bartering and political definitions of “economic success”. Democracy is not about the private accumulation of wealth. It is about the wise use of the collective wealth for the common good of the public – and an economy that extends to include ALL of our citizens. And a decent, civilised, democratic society supports its vulnerable members and upholds universal human rights.


Also related:

Amnesty International has condemned the erosion of human rights of disabled people in UK

The UK Government have got it wrong about our Human Rights.

The Labour Party address welfare wrongs with human rights and strong equality principles.

Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era


A flower for every person that died within 6 weeks of ATOS finding them fit for work.

Apparently, this powerful symbolic commentary of the catastrophic consequences of government policy wasn’t deemed newsworthy by the mainstream media.

20 thoughts on “Welfare reforms break UN convention – Patrick Butler

  1. Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog and commented:
    I imagine they will huff and puff and call the Un names, like before Additionally, go on to completely ignore every single announcement. I just cannot believe the amount this Government is getting away with human rights laws. The complete and utter ignorance of, not only human rights laws. But the neglecte and shameful withdrawal of support. That is both financial and care support. I have whitenessed this within the previous few years. With huge withdrawal of money to the NHS, much needed support for occupational, physiotherapists, stroke nurses , neurological and so on.

    The time and level of support from these professionals I believe as dramatically reduced. The written support from these medical professionals , for medical evidence purposes to receive much needed benefits have also been restricted. Doctors instructed, or informed not to write letters of support. Even then, when you forward professional evidence all ignored. All this combined with the main aim or goal to restrict entitlement to much needed welfare support.


  2. And if found guilty (as we know that they are) – what will happen to them?
    This unelected coalition have proved time and time again that they care nothing for the disabled, indeed they positively discriminate against them.


  3. Buggar Maslow, it’s simple human decency. We know that both Smith and McVey subscribe to some ancient madness, aka Roman Psychopatholicism, but they can leave their madness for their private lives. We expect our servants to employ scientific methodology, not rely on what they “believe”.


  4. Everyone has been affected by the economic collapse, caused by the banks, and the misappropriation of the economic downturn to target everyone but the rich (especially bankers).
    The positioning of the three main Westminster parties implicitly absolves the banks from responsibility from the current economic problems – only the moronic or dishonest say Labour are to blame for the Global financial crisis, and the same for those who say the Coalition is to blame for the current economic performance, or who say the performance is good.

    The first step to restoring, and indeed improving, equality and fundamental social security is to make the banks repair the economy; remember Project Merlyn? Remember it working?
    To actually “force” the banks to repair the economy, and thus free monies to help those from whom it has been unfairly removed, is to link banker and bank taxes to unemployment level and cost.

    I urge all organisations who are interested in fairness and equality to read and adopt the ideas in:


  5. Reblogged this on Community Champions Sub-IT and commented:
    Will the people of this country actually wake up and see what is happening to their fellow human being. We are equally all to blame if this unelected coalition government is simply allowed to ignore the basic principles of human rights for all


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