The government’s shameful lack of progress on disability rights in the UK – new report update and submission to the UNCRPD Committee

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Despite equality being enshrined in protective legislation, disabled people in the UK are facing more barriers, exclusion and falling further behind as they try to thrive in an environment characterised still by oppressive obstruction, misunderstanding and austerity measures that hit home repeatedly, disproportionately and cumulatively.

Disabled people are more likely to be in fuel and food poverty, to have problems finding housing and to be affected by the bedroom tax.

We are underrepresented in politics, find it harder to access support and transport, experience significant health inequalities, and are less likely to be in employment. There is a significant wage gap between disabled and nondisabled people, too.

It is a shameful that in our society millions of disabled people are still not being treated as equal citizens and are denied the everyday rights that others take for granted. 

In August 2017, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) published a report that examined the extent to which the UK and devolved governments are in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). 

The CRPD Committee’s main concerns and recommendations to the UK governments were set out in its ‘concluding observations’ in their report, which summarised that the UK government had “gravely and systematically violated the human rights of disabled persons.”

The CRPD Committee requested further information from the UK one year on from the examination of the steps taken to implement its recommendations on: independent living; work and employment; and an adequate standard of living and social protection; as well as some related issues covered in the report on the CRPD Committee’s 2016 inquiry.  

A new report and submission to the UN CRPD – UK Independent Mechanism update report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in October 2018) – provides an assessment via the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM) on the steps taken (or not taken) by the UK governments to implement the UN’s recommendations since August 2017.  

The EHRC report says that the UK has taken “only very limited steps to address the concerns and recommendations of the CRPD Committee”. UKIM expressed “disappointment that the UK governments have not seized on this important opportunity to reflect on and progress disability rights.” The report authors are concerned by the lack of a prompt response to the CRPD Committee’s recommendations. 

In particular, 12 months on, there is no comprehensive UK-wide strategy demonstrating how the UK will implement the CRPD Committee’s recommendations. 

There has also been “continued reluctance” from the UK Government to accept the conclusions of the CRPD Committee’s inquiry report on the impact of the UK Government’s policies on the rights of disabled people. 

In May this year, the UK Government announced it was establishing a new Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society.  However, it is particularly worrying that the published terms of reference for the inter-ministerial group do not refer to the CRPD or the CRPD Committee’s recommendations. Furthermore, they do not specifically provide for the effective democratic participation and involvement of disabled people’s organisations or disabled people; and also it is not clear if, and to what extent, devolved administrations are involved in the group. 

The report says that the picture emerging from the most recent evidence about disabled people’s lives remains deeply concerning. Disabled people across the UK continue to face serious regression of many of their rights.

Social protections have been reduced and disabled people and their families continue to be among of the hardest hit. More and more disabled people are finding it difficult to live independently and to be included, and participate, in their communities on an equal basis. 

There are also fears that the significant uncertainty in relation to Brexit will lead to a further deterioration of disabled people’s rights.

The lack of a devolved government in Northern Ireland is also a specific concern to that jurisdiction, because it is significantly inhibiting the relevant departments from taking the required steps. The UKIM report reiterates its view that the grave and systematic violations identified by the CRPD Committee need to be addressed and that the overall approach of the UK Government towards social security protection requires an overhaul, guided by human rights standards and principles, to ensure disabled people’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

Serious concerns about the impact of Brexit on disabled people’s human rights

A serious concern raised in the report – one which I have also raised previously – is that following the European Union (EU) referendum in June 2016, there continues to be significant uncertainty regarding the future applicability of existing human rights protections in the UK that derive from EU law. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights was excluded from the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, meaning that from ‘exit day’ it will no longer apply in domestic law. As a result, domestic protections are now more vulnerable to repeal.

The Charter goes further than the non-discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010 or the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 26 of the Charter, in particular, is a useful interpretive tool to support disabled people’s right to  independence and integration and participation in the community. 

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 also leaves human rights protections at risk of being changed through the use of wide-ranging delegated powers. This means that changes to fundamental rights currently protected by EU law can be made by ministers through secondary legislation (statutory instruments) without being subject to full parliamentary scrutiny – which is something the Conservatives have done on a habitual basis.

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The EU is itself a party to the CRPD. Under EU law, international treaties to which the EU is party have a different status than they do under UK law. For example, EU law (unlike UK law) must be interpreted consistently with the CRPD. To ensure there is no regression, and that disabled people in the UK benefit from future progress driven by the CRPD, the UK Government should ensure these protections are incorporated into UK law, for example by giving enhanced status to the CRPD. 

The report authors also noted : “In July 2018, the Secretary of State for International Development hosted the Global Disability Summit, with representatives from disabled people’s  organisations, civil society, governments, and the private sector. The UK Government presented its new Charter for Change, which sets out 10 commitments to achieve full inclusion of disabled people.  

“Although the UK Government has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to making the CRPD a reality for all disabled people in the UK, and has claimed to be a global leader in disability rights, it has not incorporated CRPD rights into domestic law, or taken steps to implement disabled people’s rights systematically across the UK.” 

It was noted in the report that the Scottish Government has also made no formal response to the CRPD  Committee’s concluding observations falling within its devolved competence. However, the Scottish Government has set up an expert advisory group to make recommendations on ‘how Scotland can continue to lead by example in human rights, including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights’. The group will make recommendations to the First Minister before the end of December 2018.

It was also noted that the collapse of the devolved government (Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive) continues. Consequently, there has been no formal response to the CRPD Committee’s concluding observations falling within devolved competence. In the absence of ministers to provide approval, the relevant devolved departments have reported difficulties in obtaining the authority and resources to action the steps required to implement the CRPD Committee’s recommendations. 

Summary of concerns related to disabled peoples’ right to live independently

CRPD Committee concluding observations in 2017, paragraph 45: ‘The Committee recommends that the State party … : recognize the right to living independently and being included in the community as a subjective right, recognize the enforceability of all its elements, and adopt rights-based policies, regulations and guidelines to ensure implementation; conduct periodic assessments in close consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities to address and prevent the negative effects of policy reforms through sufficiently funded and appropriate strategies in the area of social support and living independently; … [and] allocate sufficient resources to ensure that support services are available, accessible, affordable, acceptable, adaptable and are sensitive to different living conditions for all persons with disabilities in urban and rural areas.”

Findings

The right to live independently in the community is not recognised as a statutory right in the UK and there do not appear to be any plans to change this. The increasing demand, along with reduced funding, for social care, particularly adult social care, may be leading to a regression in disabled people’s article 19 rights to live independently in the community. The shortage of accessible and adaptable homes, and long delays in making existing homes accessible, also has a detrimental effect on the right to live independently. 

There is evidence that social care, particularly adult social care, is at crisis point across the UK and there is a chronic shortage of accessible homes, which impacts negatively on  disabled people’s right to live independently in the community. The right to live independently in the community is not recognised as a statutory right in the UK and there do not appear to be any plans to change this. 

The increasing demand, along with reduced funding, for social care, particularly adult social care, may be leading to a regression in disabled people’s article 19 rights to live independently in the community.  The shortage of accessible and adaptable  homes, and long delays in making existing homes accessible, also has a detrimental effect on the right to live independently. 

Spending for adult social care in England was budgeted to be 3% lower in 2017/18 than in 2009/10.21 As the population has grown over this period, this is equivalent to 9% lower per person, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS). This means ‘fewer older and disabled people with more complexcare and support needs getting less long-term care. 

In March 2018, the EHRC started legal action against 13 clinical commissioning groups because the NHS Continuing Healthcare policies restricted funding and failed to account for individual circumstances. This may force disabled people into residential care when their preference is to remain at home. The EHRC is concerned that, in England, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and the devolution of this function to local authorities, without ring-fencing finance for this purpose, has resulted in a postcode lottery for support.  

The EHRC’s inquiry into housing for disabled people across Great Britain (GB), published in May 2018, found new evidence that disabled people face a shortage of accessible and adaptable homes and long delays in making existing homes accessible. Disabled people are not getting the support they need to live independently as the provision of advice, support and advocacy is patchy, and people report that they have nowhere to turn when their housing is unsuitable. 

The EHRC’s survey of local authorities found that just over a quarter (28%) of local authorities in GB set a percentage target for accessible housing. 

Research by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that nearly two-thirds of placements in residential-based mental health rehabilitation services are ‘out ofarea’, and very lengthy.26 This means that individuals are usually placed far away both from home and from the local support services that should care for them once they have been discharged. 

The CQC has also reported that some patients who are subject to the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983 continue to experience care that does not fully protect their rights or ensure their wellbeing. For example, there have been no improvements in involving patients in developing their care plans, and in making sure their views are considered in care decisions. 

Summary of concerns related to the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection (article 28)

CRPD Committee concluding observations in 2017, paragraph 59: ‘The Committee recommends that the State party … introduce, adopt and implement legislative frameworks to ensure that social protection policies and programmes across the State party secure income levels for all persons with disabilities and their families, by taking into account the additional costs relating to disability … ; carry out a cumulative impact assessment, based on disaggregated data, of the recent and forthcoming reforms of the social protection system for persons with disabilities, and in close collaboration with organizations of persons with disabilities define, implement and monitor measures to tackle retrogression in their standard of living and use the cumulative impact assessment as a basis for policy development across the State party; … [and] conduct a review of the conditionality and sanction regimes concerning the Employment and Support Allowance, and tackle the negative consequences on the mental health and situation of persons with disabilities.’

Findings 

There have been a considerable number of research projects focusing on disabled people’s standard of living and social protection. The findings of this research show the disproportionate and significantly adverse effect of welfare reform on disabled people’s rights to independent living and to an adequate standard of living and social security. 

However, the UK Government has failed to act on this evidence and to implement the CRPD Committee’s recommendations regarding these rights.  

New evidence 

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that 30% of people living in a household with a disabled person live in poverty, compared to 19% of those in households without a disabled person. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that people aged 25–54 with a longstanding illness are 50% more likely to live in poverty and deprivation than those without.

However, the gap in living standards between those with a long-standing illness and those without is likely to be an underestimate, since illness and disability are also likely to lead to higher costs of living. 

The National Audit Office (NAO) found that the Department for Work and Pensions  (DWP) has not done enough to protect and support ‘vulnerable claimants’, who have experienced difficulties and hardship during the implementation of Universal Credit. 

The UK Parliament Work and Pensions Select Committee found that, since 2013, 290,000 claimants of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and theEmployment and Support Allowance (ESA) only received the correct award after challenging the DWP’s initial decision. 

New evidence suggests that benefit sanctions have had no tangible positive effects in moving disabled people closer to paid work and that the use of sanctions may have exacerbated many disabled people’s existing illnesses and impairments, especially for those with mental health conditions. The EHRC review of recent social security reforms also indicates that sanctions: do little to change claimant motivation; encourage hostility towards support services; and worsen relationships with job centre staff. 

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Social Rights recently concluded that the UK does not conform with the right to social security under the European Social Charter because levels of statutory sick pay, minimum levels of ESA, and long-term incapacity and unemployment entitlements are lower than 40% of the median income, and ‘manifestly inadequate’. 

The EHRC’s analysis of the tax and welfare reforms introduced between May 2010 and January 2018 revealed that their cumulative impact on disabled people by the 2021/22 tax year will be significantly regressive. This is particularly so for policy decisions taken in the 2015–17 Parliament (the impacts of which are, for the most part, still to come). The findings include:

Households with at least one disabled adult and a disabled child will lose over
£6,500 a year (over 13% of their net income).

 Disabled lone parents with at least one disabled child will lose almost £10,000
of their annual net income.

 Adults with behavioural difficulties will lose around £2,350 a year.

 Adults with learning difficulties will lose around £1,750.

Adults with mental health conditions will lose just over £1,799. 

Early findings from an EHRC analysis of the cumulative impact of changes to public  spending indicate that certain groups, including people who are the most severely disabled, are affected disproportionately by public spending cuts.

The combined analysis of the public spending changes and the EHRC’s earlier report on the impact of changes to tax and welfare reforms indicates that the losses in income for households where there is a higher disability score are even greater. 

Recent research commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) found that around 900,000 disabled people will see their weekly income fall by at least £50 a week by 2020 due to the cumulative impact of welfare reform. Under Universal Credit the average household containing a disabled person will be worse off in 2020 by £51.47 per week. 

In December 2017, the high court found that the rules brought in by the 2017 regulations that differentiate between physical and mental health issues in the award of the mobility component of PIP are unlawfully discriminatory against people with a mental health condition, in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The EHRC intervened in this case and put forward its view that the rule infringed and was ‘fundamentally at odds with Article 19 CRPD’s guarantees’. The high court agreed. Subsequently, DWP announced that all 1.6 million people receiving PIP would have their claim reviewed, it would end unnecessary PIP reviews for people with the most severe health conditions, and that it is currently developing new guidance. 

Concerns have been raised by disability rights organisations over the delay in implementing the judgment pending the publication of new PIP assessment guidance.  

In June 2018, the high court found that the implementation arrangements of Universal Credit unlawfully discriminated against two severely disabled men who both saw their benefits dramatically reduced when they moved to another local authority area, and were therefore required to claim Universal Credit.

Before moving onto Universal Credit, both men were in receipt of the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP), which were aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer. The court found that the implementation arrangements were contrary to article 14 ECHR in conjunction with article 1, protocol 1. The EHRC intervened in this case, arguing that article 14 of the ECHR, read with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), imposes positive obligations on the UK to address and remove the obstacles faced by disabled people in enjoying equal rights.

The DWP has subsequently committed to introducing changes that will ensure no severely disabled person in receipt of the SDP will be required to move onto Universal Credit until transitional protection is in place, and to compensate those who have lost out.

Summary of concerns related to the right to work and employment (article 27)

CRPD Committee concluding observations in 2017, paragraph 57: ‘The Committee recommends that the State party … develop and decide upon an effective employment policy for persons with disabilities aimed at ensuring decent work for all persons with disabilities, bearing in mind the State party’s target of 1 million jobs for persons with disabilities, and ensure equal pay for work of equal value, focusing especially on women with disabilities, persons with psychosocial and/or intellectual disabilities and persons with visual impairments, and monitor those developments; … [and] ensure that the legal and administrative requirements of the process to assess working capabilities, including the Work Capability Assessment, are in line with the human rights model of disability, that those who conduct the assessments are qualified and duly trained in that model, and that the assessments take into consideration work-related as well as other personal circumstances.’

Findings 

In the last 12 months, further information has become available on the failure of the UK to safeguard disabled people’s right to work and employment. The UK and devolved governments have announced a number of commitments to address these failings and to implement the relevant CRPD Committee’s recommendations; these commitments are welcomed.

However, concerns are already emerging regarding barriers to their effective implementation, as set out below. These include limited eligibility, funding shortfalls and lack of measurable targets. 

The UK Government has established the Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society, with one of its key aims being to increase disability employment rates. But there are concerns about the practical operations of this group and the omission of a specific reference to the CRPD or the CRPD Committee’s recommendations in its terms of reference. In addition, the listed membership of the inter-ministerial group does not adequately reflect that the devolved governments also have responsibility for taking action to address the disability employment gap. Nor does the group include the participation of disabled people and allied organisations. 

While the disability employment gap has narrowed slightly since 2015, disabled people are still less likely to be in employment than non-disabled people. Disabled people in the UK are paid less on average than non-disabled people.

A recent TUC report found that the disability pay gap (15%) was higher in 2016/17 than in 2013/14, 2014/15 or 2015/16.  It found that, in 2017, the average hourly pay for disabled workers was £9.90, compared with £11.40 for non-disabled workers – resulting in a disability pay gap of £2,730 per year. The TUC also reports that disabled workers are more likely to work in lower-paid occupations than non-disabled workers. Across the UK, there is no requirement on public or private employers to publish information on disability pay gaps.

Summary of concerns related to prejudice and negative attitudes (articles 8 and 16)

CRPD Committee inquiry recommendations 2016, paragraph 114 (h): Take appropriate measures to combat any negative and discriminatory stereotypes or prejudice against persons with disabilities in public and the media, including the assertion that dependency on benefits is in itself a disincentive to seeking employment, implement broad mass media campaigns, in consultation with organizations representing persons with disabilities, particularly those affected by the welfare reform, to promote them as full rights holders, in accordance with the Convention; and adopt measures to address complaints of harassment and hate crime by persons with disabilities, promptly investigate those allegations, hold the perpetrators accountable and provide fair and appropriate compensation to victims.’

Findings

The extensive data available indicate that progress to date is insufficient and, therefore not in line with the CRPD Committee’s recommendations. Prejudice towards disabled people persists. This includes negative attitudes towards disabled people claiming social security benefits and negative assumptions about disabled people’s human value
and quality of life.

New evidence 

In 2017, 75% of students in secondary schools and colleges with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, and 70% of those with a physical disability said they had been bullied compared with 50% of students with no disability. 

Research examining prejudice faced by disabled people found that 32% of disabled people felt there was a lot of disability-related prejudice, but only 22% of nondisabled people thought this was the case. This indicates a gap between the reality of disabled people’s lives and the public’s perception. The study also found evidence that ‘paternalist’ attitudes about disabled people are still prevalent:

 75% of the study’s respondents thought disabled people need to be cared for some or most of the time.

 13% tended to ‘hardly ever’ or ‘never’ think of disabled people as the same as everyone else

In a related study of disabled people, national disability charity Scope found that:

 40% of all respondents indicated that they did not feel valued by society

 49% responded that they feel excluded from society because of their long-term impairment or health condition, and

 42% felt the UK is a good place for disabled people to live.

The police registered 5,558 disability-motivated hate crime cases in England and Wales in 2016/17. This is a 53% increase since 2015/16 (though this significant increase may be partly a reflection of improvements in reporting). Recent research suggests a significant drop-off between the number of cases recorded by the police and the number of prosecutions. Estimates from the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicate an average of 67,000 cases of disability hate crime per yearThe UK Parliament Petitions Select Committee led an inquiry into the online abuse of disabled people, which reported in August 2018.

The Committee produced draft recommendations for consultation, including that: social media companies should be required to ensure their policies and processes are accessible to, and developed in partnership with, disabled people; and that the UK Government commit to introducing new legislation covering online communications by 2020, reflecting findings from the ongoing Law Commission review of the current legal framework. 

UKIM is not aware of any actions to address the main concerns of the CRPD Committee and to combat any negative and discriminatory stereotypes or prejudice against disabled people among the public and in the media. In particular, there have been no steps taken to tackle the negative attitudes towards those claiming social security benefits, and, more broadly, to promote the human rights model of disability.

On the contrary, there are examples of government comments and negative role-modeling that have potentially reinforced negative attitudes and the stigma surrounding mental health and disability.

This includes the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, stating before a committee of the UK Parliament: ‘It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people – something we should be extremely proud of – may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements.’

It’s evident that many people understood this statement as indicating that the increase in disabled people in employment is partly responsible for the UK’s decreasing productivity.

Concerns regarding Access to justice (articles 12 and 13)

CRPD Committee inquiry recommendations in 2016, paragraph 114 (f): ‘‘Ensure access to justice by providing appropriate legal advice and support,including through reasonable and procedural accommodation for persons with disabilities seeking redress and reparation for the alleged violation of their rights, as covered in the present report.’

Findings

Overall there has been little progress on the UK’s implementation of the relevant CRPD Committee recommendations. In the UK, education tribunals are not able to award financial compensation where there has been a finding of disability discrimination or harassment. Despite newly revised guidance, there is no formal system of support in court for people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities in place across the UK.  

There are continuing barriers to accessing justice, for example in relation to social  security cases. There has been a substantial decrease in the number of disabled people being granted legal aid in the wake of the legal aid reforms introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). 

The removal of welfare benefits law from the scope of legal aid has exacerbated the impact of recent welfare reforms, which is likely to have affected disabled people disproportionately. 

People entitled to disability benefits relied on legal aid to support appeals of incorrect decisions and to provide a valuable check on decision-making concerning eligibility for welfare benefits.

New evidence 

Independent research suggests there is poor and inconsistent use of reasonable adjustments in the criminal justice system for defendants with mental health conditions and learning disabilities. 

Particular concern has been raised about the underuse of defendant intermediaries to aid comprehension and participation during criminal justice proceedings. 

Deaf people using an interpreter continue to be denied the opportunity to carry out jury service in courts. Although, since 1999, the UK Government has repeatedly indicated its commitment to address the issue in England and Wales, there have been no changes to date. The EHRC is providing legal assistance in a case involving a deaf man who was told he was not required for jury service after disclosing that he was deaf.

Concerns related to involving disabled people and their organisations (articles 4(3) and 33(3))

CRPD Committee inquiry recommendations 2016, paragraph 114 (g): ‘Actively consult and engage with persons with disabilities through their representative organizations and give due consideration to their views in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of any legislation, policy or programme action related to the rights addressed in the present report.’

Findings 

There is a continued lack of action from the UK and devolved governments on the CRPD Committee’s recommendations. This includes setting up systems that will ensure that disabled people and their organisations are involved in the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of legislation, policy or programmes that affect their lives.  

It remains unclear how the new Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society will work with disabled people and their organisations, and UKIM, to promote and monitor implementation of UN CRPD. It is particularly concerning that the UN CRPD’s requirement to effectively involve disabled people and their organisations is not specifically reflected in the inter-ministerial group’s terms of reference. Nor do
the terms of reference refer to the CRPD or the CRPD committee’s recommendations.  

The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) stated in its State Party report in September 2018 that it had increased its efforts to engage with disabled people and their organisations in recent months, including by creating a new role of stakeholder manager. However, this does not seem to have translated into a publicly available engagement plan or any concrete activities to date.

Dissemination of concluding observations and inquiry findings (article 36)

CRPD Committee concluding observations 2017, paragraph 77: ‘The Committee requests the State party to disseminate the present concluding observations widely, including to non-governmental organizations and organizations of persons with disabilities, and to persons with disabilities themselves and members of their families, in national and minority languages, including sign language, and in accessible formats, including Easy Read, and to make them available on the government website on human rights.’

Findings

There has been little progress regarding the UK and devolved governments’ dissemination of the CRPD Committee’s concluding observations and inquiry findings  Dissemination of the CRPD Committee’s concerns and recommendations by the UK Government and efforst to raise awareness have been minimal.

Neither the concluding observations nor the inquiry report have been published on the UK Government’s website, only its own State Party reports. The CRPD Committee’s reports have also not been made available in accessible formats, including easy read, as requested by the CRPD Committee. The EHRC has published the concluding observations and reproduced them in accessible formats. 

UKIM’s experience is that the UK governments tend to put more energy into reporting to, and examination by, the UN, and less into the follow-up of UN concluding observations. Therefore, one of UKIM’s continuing challenges is to develop and maintain momentum for implementation of UN human rights treaties, including the CRPD. 

Recommendations 

UKIM reiterates its recommendations made to the CRPD Committee during the examination process in August 2017. This list includes all recommendations relevant to the issues covered in this report.

Where necessary, these recommendations have been updated to reflect changes in the policy context and the emergence of new evidence.

The right to live independently in the community (article 19) – independent living funding

The UK Government should act upon the recommendation of the Work and Pensions Select Committee to set out a clear plan for identifying where new Employment and Support Allowance work-related activity group claimants have additional, unavoidable living costs relating to their condition, and ensure a financial support package is in place to adequately support all new claimants looking for, and moving into, work. 

The UK Government should take swift action to reform the work capability assessment to offer a more flexible, personalised approach to providing support to unemployed disabled people, including those with the greatest needs and fluctuating conditions. The focus should be on identifying work potential and the types of adjustments and support that could remove barriers to individuals accessing and staying in work.

This should be separate from any financial assessment. Financial support for people unable to work, or where there are inadequate adjustments or personalised support in place, should not be conditional on actions linked to jobseeking or subject to benefit sanctions. 

The UK Government must take steps to ensure compliance with CRPD article 19 where it has delegated responsibility for independent living funding to local authorities in England. These steps should include:

providing sufficient funding to each local authority to meet the independent living needs of disabled people in their area through mechanisms (such as ring fencing)
that ensure the funding is used for that purpose

 providing guidance to local authorities to clarify what they must do to meet the
requirements of article 19, including examples of best practice, and

 putting in place a monitoring mechanism so that each local authority reports on
independent living funding and activities, and service-user experience, so the  UK Government can assure itself that it is complying with article 19.

The right to an adequate standard of living and social protection (article 28) – poverty, material deprivation and food insecurity 

The UK and devolved governments should examine the factors behind the higher levels of poverty among disabled adults and children and develop strategies to address these factors. The UK and devolved governments should ensure the rights of disabled people, including disabled children, are prioritised within anti-poverty strategies. 

The UK Government should act on the findings of the July 2017 Trussell Trust report on food bank use, in particular the conclusion that an inquiry into the support and  sufficiency of benefit allowances for disabled people is needed, especially in light of 
new reforms which may have a further negative impact.

Updated UK-wide recommendations: 

The UK Government should monitor and publish the impact of welfare reforms on disabled people. This should include assessments of the cumulative impact of taxand social security changes and public spending reductions on disabled people. 

In relation to existing social security entitlement and any future reforms, the UK Government should address the UN criteria for non-retrogression to determine whether potentially regressive measures are temporary, necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory, and that they do not undercut a core minimum level of protection, putting in place any mitigating measures required to safeguard disabled people’s rights. 

To mitigate some of the adverse impacts on disabled people, the UK Government should: 

 uprate all benefits in line with inflation and review the level of benefits to ensure
this meets adequate living standards

 reinstate the level of work allowance to the 2012 level

 reinstate the severe and enhanced disability premiums under Universal Credit

 provide increased support to disabled people placed in the Employment and Support Allowance work-related activity group that is equivalent to the support group and acknowledges the additional, unavoidable living costs relating to their condition

all full-time disabled students who receive DLA or PIP should be eligible for Universal Credit on the grounds of being treated as having a limited capability for work

 carry out an equality impact assessment of the conditionality and sanctions system on claimants to ensure that sanctions are not disproportionately applied, and that conditionality is reasonable and based on flexibility of easements, specifically for lone parent families, ethnic minority groups and disabled people

 introduce publicly available service standards for the social security system that set out the rights of claimants, are fair and accessible, and measured and reported on

 ensure that work coaches are trained to deliver tailored employment support, providing evidence of the steps taken to ensure that the specific needs of lone parents and disabled people are being met.

The right to work and employment (article 27) – employment gaps and barriers

Updated UK-wide recommendations 

The UK and devolved governments should evaluate how well employment support programmes help disabled people find and stay in work, and take steps to improve their effectiveness. This should include a regular and transparent evaluation of progress made on the UK Government’s ‘Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability’ strategy (November 2017) to ensure progress is seen as a shared, long-term, priority objective across all relevant Government departments.

The UK Government should:

 Introduce interim targets and a statutory reporting requirement on its commitment to a target of one million more disabled people in work over the next 10 years

 report regularly on progress, including by impairment group, and identify steps if progress is insufficient.

The UK Government should ensure that changes to the Access to Work programme comply with article 27 by:

 widening support for mental health and complex health or medical conditions

 monitoring any adverse impact on employment opportunities, for disabled people generally and for people with sensory impairments specifically 

 introducing mitigations such as additional funding flexibilities, and extending transition arrangements, and 

 putting in place a publicity programme for the Access to Work scheme among employers to increase awareness. 

To help remove barriers to recruitment and retention of disabled people, the UK Government should build training on disability law and providing reasonable adjustments into new models of support resulting from the ‘Improving lives’ strategy.

The right to work and employment (article 27) – pay gap

Updated UK-wide recommendations

By April 2019 UK governments should: 

 provide clear and country-appropriate guidance on the classification system to be used for disability monitoring by all types of organisations and practical guidance for different types/sizes of employers on how to collect, report on and use the data.

Once consistent classification, collection and reporting systems are in place to support employers to use employment data effectively, the UK Government should: 

require private, voluntary and listed public sector employers with 250+ employees to monitor and report on disability in recruitment, retention and progression within the workplace by April 2020 

require private, voluntary and listed public employers to publish a narrative and action plan with time-bound targets, informed by analysis of their disability data. 

This analysis should help explain the factors underlying the data and focus on
how to make substantive improvements to the workplace.

Prejudice and negative attitudes (article 8)

The UK and devolved governments should: 

 resource long-term positive awareness-raising campaigns, training and education to address prejudice and negative attitudes towards all disabled people, including those with mental health conditions and those claiming social security benefits 

 ensure that government communications do not fuel prejudicial views, particularly with regard to the rights of disabled people claiming social security benefits, and 

 ensure that there is awareness of the CRPD among disabled people, public service providers, and throughout society

Disability-motivated hate crime, hostility and harassment (articles 8 and 16) 

To address under-reporting of disability-motivated hate crime, the UK and devolved governments should ensure that the police and other statutory agencies evaluate their reporting and recording processes, in consultation with disabled people, and take steps to simplify them. 

The UK and devolved governments should employ consistent data collection methods across countries, the criminal justice system and within individual agencies to allow comparative and chronological analysis.

The UK Government should:

 undertake without delay a full-scale review of the aggravated offences and enhanced sentencing provisions to ensure parity for all characteristics protected under hate crime law

 monitor the use of sentencing guidelines to assess consistency in sentencing across all hate crime strands 

 conduct a review of the provision of third-party reporting of hate crime in England and Wales; evaluate the impact and sustainability of provision; highlight geographical and thematic gaps; and ensure third-party and police recording systems are consistent  

 ensure the police, Crown Prosecution Service and probation services adopt and publish a single, clear definition of a disability hate crime and communicate it effectively to the public and staff.

Access to justice (articles 12 and 13) – legal aid and advice

Updated England and Wales recommendations  

In its review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) in 2018, the UK Government should consider the full range of evidence available on the impact of legal aid changes on people with certain protected characteristics. It should identify whether there have been disproportionate impacts on particular groups that may have limited their access to justice, and the availability of legal advice from non-government organisations, and take effective steps to mitigate those impacts. Those responsible for the review should seek input from disabled people, wider civil society and the EHRC. 

The UK Government should further review the operation of the telephone gateway service (Civil Legal Advice) in England and Wales with regard to its accessibility  and effectiveness, particularly for disabled people and parents of children with special  educational needs (SEN), and mitigate any adverse impacts.

Access to justice (articles 12 and 13) – court and employment tribunals

Updated England and Wales recommendations  

In light of the Supreme Court judgment on employment tribunal fees and the fundamental rights underpinning the court’s reasoning, the UK Government should not introduce any new barriers to accessing employment tribunals, and should reaffirm its commitment to ensuring equal access to justice for all. 

The UK Government should ensure that all those who paid employment tribunal fees are reimbursed, and take steps to ensure anyone who was deterred from bringing claims because of fees has not been disadvantaged.

We also recommend that the UK Government:

does not proceed with any court closures until it has collected the evidence about court users necessary to conduct a meaningful equality impact assessment, and has conducted that assessment

conducts a thorough assessment of the digital literacy of court users in order to determine the nature and content of the support required to ensure access to justice in the context of increased digitisation, and

establishes a clear evidence base setting out the impacts of virtual processes (including virtual hearings and online court processes) and the equality and human rights issues that need to be addressed before any new measures are introduced or existing pilots are extended.

Access to justice (articles 12 and 13) – disability discrimination in schools

The UK should allow education tribunals to award financial compensation for disability discrimination or harassment in schools.

 

There are more detailed recommendations in Annex 2  – from page 62 of the report and onwards.

You can read the report in full here

Image result for Human rights disabled people UK


 

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7 thoughts on “The government’s shameful lack of progress on disability rights in the UK – new report update and submission to the UNCRPD Committee

  1. A large part of the EU human rights originated in the U.K., but like the workers rights have been watered down the anti disability stance beloved of David Cameron with his incessant for hard working people mantra, was enabled by this aspect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Of course the truth is that all of the egregious policies are part of the bigger picture or should I say agendas. I just watched a parliament vid and heard a minister state clearly that it was out of order for the Labour MP (Not sure may have been a minister at conference) Suggesting we should have a general strike and that this was ‘Unlawful’ That is not my understanding but it was allowed to pass which knowing what we do is open to being it is unlawful to protest at all, you may have seen the Fracking protesters who were jailed.
    It brought to mind my tribunal which if I understand correctly is a court of law (Which DWP do not have to take any notice of) If it is a court of law why was there no redress when DWP informed the tribunal that I hadn’t sent in my application or med records. I had copies of my application and twenty years worth of medical records including hard copy proof that they had received it (Not easy to get and probably impossible now) The tribunal asked if I had any comment I replied ‘How did I get to tribunal’ The assessment prior to the tribunal the assessor lied blatantly after half an hour discussing my previous employment history he reported that I had told him ‘I had never worked and didn’t want to work’ again no redress.
    In the same parliament sitting I heard a minister say that there were over 200 new tribunal judges being brought in with medical experience completely ignoring the fact that if the DWP benefit system was fair there would be no need for them to go to a court of law, if they are judges in the full sense of the word their word would be law and DWP would not be able to ignore them or get away with lying to that court. It would also be important that if the tribunal accepts that you are unable to work and gives you your benefits back then we shouldn’t have to go back to assessment and tribunal since they are a court of law. We should be allowed if pushed into more assessments to use the ruling of the tribunal who returned your benefits?

    I’ve just listened to this video of a political journalist who talks about why people put themselves up for office and the need to change the system. That there is such a high incidence of mental illness that the government have put things in place to help MP’s with mental health issues particularly in that it would affect how they are able to perform their jobs and make rational decisions. She also talks about the fact that few MP’s are in touch with the laws that rule us and how government can push through statutory instruments without referring new laws to parliament and don’t know anything till they’re approached by constituents and have often been whipped regardless of their stance on an issue into voting for it even when they have serious flaws. Here’s the link to that and the sitting

    15 min 40 secs re: General strike https://twitter.com/Waterstones/status/1049651575986298880

    Like

  3. Noam Chomsky has been telling us the truth for decades. We find ourselves writing blogs filling petitions and moaning on social media. We are conditioned to be too afraid to speak the truth watering issues down to ‘Is this happening’ That ‘Might’ be happening. JC stood up for the first time against TM but still along with others allow them to constantly conflate Blair’s Lab with the Labour party of today which is a completely different animal. Not forgetting that they beat us over the head with what Blair’s Lab did at every opportunity conflating it with today’s Labour left.

    We know it was the banks who caused the crash and Blair’s right wing party who bailed them out to allow them to bring in austerity which we also know is a blatant lie. As I said, we have been conditioned to believe we have no power and that politicians have the power, control and who make laws to suit their agendas and that we have no choice people are categorically and consciously ‘Dumbed down’ to ensure they don’t know their rights and are too afraid to stop whats happening https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69HqxE74P5w&list=PLh0mP2ESggC1fsPhhNgm8DIm7Y85eQs51

    The proof if we needed any there are millions of us and a handful of them yet people feel they have no choice. There is an answer but the majority live in fear of the next egregious policy and of repercussions particularly as a result of the laws and law who support them – Self interest also plays a part and has been promoted by Capitalism and weaponised by Neo Capitalism – Those that support such regimes really believe that they will be safe, but once they’ve done their dirty work they will become us. We are not ruled by a government but by the so called elite, multinationals etc. Once the latter have got what they want they too will be surplus to requirement and it has been mooted that they are aiming us at a one world government via the new world order. I voted against the EU because they were trying to create an EU army which I believed was part of the above agenda.

    Noam Chomsky Lecture, May 2018
    Noam Chomsky talks about the major threats to the human race and other important issues of today.and is the author of over 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.

    Liked by 1 person

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