Tag: Amnesty International

Amnesty International express grave concerns about UK government’s outsourced ‘back to work therapy’

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THE BRIGHTON AND HOVE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL GROUP NEWSLETTER.

January / February 2018. Page 4:

Mental Health and “Return to Work”

It’s not just the introduction of Universal Credit which is affecting the Human Rights of too many citizens of the UK. As part of the drive to force physically disabled people into work under the “Work and Health Programme” often via cursory “interviews” those facing mental health issues are being targeted as well.

Image result for equality is the best therapy

This is based on an article by Kitty S Jones. 

In 2016 she wrote: “Last April, more than 400 psychologists, counsellors and academics signed an open letter condemning the profoundly disturbing psychological implications of the government’s austerity and welfare reform measures. The group of professionals said that over the past five years the types of issues causing clients distress had shifted dramatically and now include increasing inequality, outright poverty and that people needing support because of structural problems, such as benefits claimants, are being subjected to a “new, intimidatory kind of disciplinary regime”. 

The signatories of the letter, published in The Guardian, express concern over chancellor George Osborne’s plans, laid out in the latest budget, to embed psychological therapy in a coercive back-to-work agenda. Osborne said the government will aim to give online CBT to 40,000 recipients of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, people on the Fit for Work programme, as well as putting therapists in more than 350 job centres. 

The letter stated that the government’s proposed policy of linking social security benefits to the receipt of “state therapy” is utterly unacceptable. The measure, casually described as “get to work therapy,” was discussed by George Osborne during his last budget (2015). 

The letter’s signatories, all of whom are experts in the field of mental health, have said such a measure is counter-productive, “anti-therapeutic,” damaging and professionally unethical. The intimidatory disciplinary regime facing benefits claimants would be made even worse by further unacceptable proposals outlined in the 2015 budget

The proposals are widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and  professionally unethical. With such a narrow objective, the delivery will invariably be driven by an ideological agenda, politically motivated outcomes and meeting limited targets, rather than being focused on the wellbeing of individuals who need support and who may be vulnerable. 

A major concern that many of us have raised is regarding consent to participation, as, if benefit conditionality is attached to what ought to be a voluntary engagement, that undermines the fundamental principles of the right to physical and mental care. Such an approach would reduce psychologists to simply acting as agents of state control, enforcing compliance and conformity. 

That is not therapy: it’s psychopolitics and policy-making founded on a blunt behaviourism,  which is pro-status quo, imbued with Conservative values and prejudices. It’s an approach that does nothing whatsoever to improve public life or meet people’s needs.

The situation seems to be getting worse. Despite the recent Carillion fiasco over outsourcing public sector work other agencies have been given the contracts to deliver the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy component of the Return To Work programme. Of these, G4S (“We are saving the taxpayer £120 million a year in benefit savings.” Sean Williams – Welfare to Work, Managing Director, G4S.) have published the criteria for applicants as therapists to deliver “return-to-work” advice in Surrey, Sussex and Kent. 

The Role Description:

Manage a caseload of Customers and provide return-to-work advice and guidance regarding health issues. 

Targeted on the level, number and effectiveness of interventions in re-engaging Customers and Customer progression into work. 

Focus on practical techniques that enable them to manage their conditions to enter and sustain employment. 

Work with Customers on a one-to-one basis and in groups to provide support on a range of mental health conditions. 

Refer clients to relevant external health or specialist services as required. 

Conduct bio-psychosocial assessments via face-to-face and telephone-based interventions and produce tailored action plans to support Customers in line with contractual MSO. 

Deliver specific health for employment workshops and input into delivery models to support achievement of MSO.

Build relationships with key stakeholders including GP’s, employers and relevant NHS bodies. 

Identify and build relationships with other organisations that contribute to the successful delivery of the programme. 

Expected to contribute substantially to the development of the service. Including the routine collection, review and feedback of activity/data, ensuring that activity targets are adhered to.

Basic Requirements

Experience of delivering CBT. 

Evidence of understanding of Welfare to Work and the issues that unemployed people face.

Amnesty say: “Should this delicate and sensitive work be entrusted to the likes of G4S? It behoves us as, Human Rights activists, to be aware of the grave potential for Human Rights abuses in our country and to act to monitor non governmental agents such as G4S who have already got a very poor track record in Human Rights matters.” 

I listed some of G4S’ Human Rights abuses in my original article, which you can read in full here.

I have also written more than one article about my concerns regarding the related government claim that “work is a health outcome”, and about the political pathologising and stigmatising of people claiming social security.

Please read Amnesty’s newsletter, you can also sign up here, the national and international websites are listed at the foot of the newsletter.

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United Nation’s investigation in the UK concerning the human rights of disabled people- submission deadline

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I reported last year that the UK is to be investigated formally by the United Nations because of allegations of “systematic and grave” violations of disabled people’s human rights.

In August I wrote that officials from the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) are to visit Britain. The inquiry is confidential, and those giving evidence have been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.

A United Nations team have arrived in the UK and it’s understood they will visit Manchester, London, Bristol, as well as parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The United Nations team are also expecting to meet with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, members of parliament, individual campaigners and disabled people’s organisations, representatives from local authorities and academics.

The team will be gathering direct evidence from individuals about the impact of government austerity measures, with a focus on benefit cuts and sanctions; cuts to social care; cuts to legal aid; the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF); the adverse impact of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA); the shortage of accessible and affordable housing; the impact of the bedroom tax on disabled people, and also, the rise in disability hate crime.

In 2013, Amnesty International condemned the erosion of human rights of disabled people in UK, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights conducted an inquiry into the UK Government’s implementation of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the right to live independently and to be included in the community. The inquiry, which began in 2011, has received evidence from over 300 witnesses.

The inquiry highlighted just how little awareness, understanding and employment of the Convention there is by the (then) Tory-led Government. Very few of the witnesses made specific reference to the Convention in their presented evidence, despite the inquiry being conducted by the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, with the terms of reference clearly framing the inquiry as being about Article 19 of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities. (UNCRPD.)

“This finding is of international importance”, said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director, “Our experience is that some Governments are of the view that the CRPD is nothing more than a policy nicety, rather than a treaty which sets out legal obligations which governments must fulfil.”

The report was particularly critical of the Minister for Disabled People (Maria Miller, at the time) who told the Committee that the CRPD was “soft law”. The Committee criticised this as “indicative of an approach to the treaty which regards the rights it protects as being of less normative force than those contained in other human rights instruments.” (See the full report.) The Committee’s view is that the CRPD is hard law, not soft law. 

In August, I wrote about how the inquiry was triggered by campaigners and groups using the convention’s optional protocol, (which the last Labour government signed us up to, in addition to the convention.) The protocol allows individuals (and groups) who are affected by violations to submit formal complaint to the UNCRPD.

The deadline for evidence submissions to the UNCRPD is thought to be 31 October.

Contact details are here.

Inquiry needed into GCHQ’s spying on us

The following letter was published in the Guardian on Friday 10 July, 2015, from representatives of three leading human rights organisations, who have called on the prime minister David Cameron to launch an inquiry into why the intelligence services spied illegally on Amnesty International.

The revelation that GCHQ has been monitoring its communications came in a revised judgment this month from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the body responsible for handling complaints about state surveillance:

One measure of a free society is how it treats its NGOs and campaign organisations. The recent revelation (Rights groups targeted by GCHQ spies, 23 June) that Amnesty International has been snooped on by the UK security services is the death of the canary in the coalmine.

Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the existence and scale of the US and UK mass surveillance programmes two years ago, campaign groups across the world have been worried that we are being spied on. We now know definitively that Amnesty International and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa were. That is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.

We only know what little we do because GCHQ fell foul of its own internal rules on handling communications once they had been intercepted.

As human rights organisations, we all work regularly with victims of abuses and government critics. That vital work is put in jeopardy if people can justifiably fear that their confidential communications with us might be opened up by governments.

Many questions remain. Which other organisations are being spied on? What confidential information was GCHQ looking at? Why was it of interest? Who read it? Was it shared? Is it still going on? How did it come to this?

David Cameron must immediately set up an independent inquiry into how spying on law-abiding human rights organisations was allowed to happen, and what justification there could possibly be for such an invasive and chilling violation of privacy.

Kate Allen, UK director, Amnesty International
Shami Chakrabarti, Director, Liberty
Gus Hosein, Executive director, Privacy International

Any plan to bypass or ban end-to-end encryption will only be of limited help in spying on terrorists. Though only the new permitted encryption schemes would be used in officially available apps, the fact that working encryption standards are open source and available means that anyone determined enough could program their own applications which use them. Terrorists are known to adapt their methods quickly, the public is not. I wonder why the spy masters and government are so determined to push through such legislation.

Mustafa Aydin,
Department of computer science, University of York.

In a separate letter sent by Amnesty to Cameron, the human rights group asks for an urgent meeting with the prime minister and for “as much as possible” of the IPT’s secret findings to be published.

Kate Allen, Amnesty UK’s director, said:

It’s absolutely shocking that Amnesty International’s private correspondence was deemed fair game for UK spooks, who have clearly lost all sense of what is proportionate or appropriate.

A key measure of a free society is how it treats its charities and NGOs. Snooping on charities is a practice straight out of the KGB handbook. If Amnesty International is being spied on, then is anyone safe?

Downing Street said it was considering its response to Amnesty International’s letter, repeating the government statement given at the time of the IPT judgment:

The IPT has confirmed that any interception by GCHQ in these cases was undertaken lawfully and proportionately, however technical errors were identified.

GCHQ takes procedure very seriously. It is working to rectify the technical errors identified by this case and constantly reviews its processes to identify and make improvements.”

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Satellite receiver dishes at a GCHQ facility near Bude, Cornwall.

“Snooping on charities is a practice straight out of the KGB handbook.”

And I thought the Tories were claiming to be minarchist types, with state shrinking aims …

Photograph: Education Images/UIG/Getty.

UK becomes the first country to face a UN inquiry into disability rights violations

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We ought to be very concerned about the government’s declaration that they intend to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, (ECHR) and to repeal our own Human Rights Act, (HRA). One has to wonder what Cameron’s discomfort with the HRA is. The Act, after all, goes towards protecting the vulnerable from neglect of duty and abuse of power. The rights protected by the HRA are drawn from the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, which was a way of ensuring that we never again witness the full horrors of the second world war, and overwhelmingly, one of the greatest stains on the conscience of humanity – the Holocaust.

Human Rights establish a simple set of minimum standards of decency for humankind to hold onto for the future. The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was drafted as a lasting legacy of the struggle against fascism and totalitarianism, as well as the atrocities of world war 2.

What kind of government would want those basic protections for citizens overturned?

One that doesn’t value or wish to uphold the universal protection of its citizens. From the State.

Last month, a new report, Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the Rights of Disabled People in the Austerity Era – Jane Young is the lead author – exposed the Coalition’s failure to meet its international human rights obligations under both the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The report – also published by the Just Fair Coalition, 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, whilst cuts to benefits will leave many disabled people without crucial help for daily living.

Jane Campbell, a cross-bench peer who is disabled herself, 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 UK government seems to be the first to face such a high-level international inquiry, initiated by the United Nations Committee because of “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people. That ought to be a source of shame for the Coalition, especially considering that this country was once considered a beacon of human rights, we are (supposedly) a first-world liberal democracy, and a very wealthy nation, yet our government behave like tyrants towards the poorest and some of the most vulnerable citizens of the UK.  As disability specialist, campaigner and first-class human rights activist, Samuel Miller says: “Britain is [now] a retrograde society and a flagrant violator of human rights—especially the rights of the sick and disabled”. 

It’s because of the sterling work of people such as Mr Miller that the UN have been made aware of our dire situation, here in the UK. Many of us have contacted the UN and made submissions, detailing the detrimental impacts that punitive Tory policies such as the bedroom tax, other welfare “reforms” (cuts), including the increasing use of benefit sanctions, the Work Capability Assessment, Tory targets for reducing spending and local authority cuts, for example, are having on sick and disabled people.

This is a government who refuse to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of their “reforms” and also continue to dismiss any evidence provided that challenges their own glib and deceitful account as “anecdotal”. Yet we are expected to regard Tory soundbites such as the “culture of entitlement” and the “something for nothing culture”as some sort of empirical evidence that somehow justifies the cruel removal of people’s lifeline benefits and support.

There’s more than one issue here, though it’s plain that the government have no intention of addressing any of the terrible consequences of their draconian policies, and use denial and stigmatising others to deflect attention from their intents. I am reminded of Techniques of Neutralisation – a well known collection of tactics used to justify prejudiced views and discriminatory actions.

Another related and important issue is that people’s qualitative experiences should matter to any decent government, but the Coalition is far more concerned with its persistent attempts at INVALIDATING those experiences, (such attempts to invalidate and exclude the narrative of experiences of previously and presently marginalised people is a hallmark of the oppressive, supremacist condescension of historically powerful and privileged groups) –  denying their victims a voice and remedy. We know that this is not a democratic government that serves its citizens and reflects their needs.

Thanks to the sterling work of Dr Simon J Duffy, from the Centre for Welfare Reform, amongst others, we know that the austerity measures in the UK have disproportionately affected those people with disabilities and their carers. Dr Duffy’s work on the impact of the austerity cuts shows us that:

  • People in poverty are targeted 5 times more than most citizens
  • Disabled people are targeted 9 times more than most citizens
  • People needing social care are targeted 19 times more than most citizens

Yet, this government claims a cumulative impact assessment is “too difficult and costly”, I suggest that they use their considerable publicly donated, tax-collected wealth to fund the work of the Centre for Welfare Reform, who managed to undertake this work without hitting the obstacles the government claims it has. This said, perhaps the findings are the real obstacle that the government are concerned about. Because those findings are damning, and tell us that the welfare “reforms” are NOT “fair” as claimed, and are causing harm, distress, hardships and sometimes, death. The grossly punitive, draconian “reforms” need to be repealed.

The UN Committee has the power to launch an inquiry if it receives “reliable information” that violations have been committed, and as the Labour Government signed up to the protocol in 2009 – the UNCRPD and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights – it is legally binding. Many of us have used the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to send communication and make submissions since 2012.

Austerity measures and welfare “reforms” such as the bedroom tax (which is in itself established by the UN as being a contravention of human rights law) mean the rights of disabled people to independent living, work, and adequate social security have been seriously undermined, causing significant hardship, and sometimes, leading to tragic consequences.

Such investigations are necessarily conducted “confidentially”, so the UNCRPD  has formally refused to confirm or deny that the UK is being investigated. However, a recording has emerged (one hour and twenty five minutes long, watch from one hour and four minutes) of a former CRPD member seemingly revealing that the inquiry has been launched.

Professor Gabor Gombos, who is the co-founder of Voice of Soul, Hungary’s first organisation for ex-users and survivors of Mental Health Institutions, and co-chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, can be heard informing the audience that CRPD has “started its first inquiry procedure against the United Kingdom”.

He informs the Sixth International Disability Law Summer School at the National University of Ireland in Galway, June, that inquiries are only used where there are suspicions of “grave” violations of human rights. He says: “Where the issue has been raised and the government did not really make effective actions to fix the situation – it is a very high threshold thing – the violations should really be grave and very systemic.”

Earlier this year, the level of UK benefits paid in pensions, jobseeker’s allowance and incapacity benefits was deemed “manifestly inadequate” because it falls below 40% of the median income of European states, by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

The finding in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European social charter is likely to provoke a fresh dispute between the government and European legal structures. Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, dismissed it as “lunacy”. Not an open, accountable Minister, or government, then.

The Council of Europe, which has 47 member states, said the conclusions were legally binding in the same way that judgements relating to the European Convention on Human Rights had to be applied by member states.

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 was submitted to the United Nations, which, as I’ve previously outlined in earlier articles here, is in the process of reviewing UK compliance with its obligations to the rights of disabled people.

Last year, Amnesty International condemned the erosion of human rights of disabled people in UK, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights conducted an inquiry into the UK Government’s implementation of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the right to live independently and to be included in the community. The inquiry, which began in 2011, has received evidence from over 300 witnesses.

The inquiry highlighted just how little awareness, understanding and employment of the Convention there is by the Tory-led Government. Very few of the witnesses made specific reference to the Convention in their presented evidence, despite the inquiry being conducted by the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, with the terms of reference clearly framing the inquiry as being about Article 19 of the UNCRPD.

“This finding is of international importance”, said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director, “Our experience is that some Governments are of the view that the CRPD is nothing more than a policy nicety, rather than a treaty which sets out legal obligations which governments must fulfil.”

The report is particularly critical of the Minister for Disabled People (Maria Miller, at the time) who told the Committee that the CRPD was “soft law”. The Committee criticised this as “indicative of an approach to the treaty which regards the rights it protects as being of less normative force than those contained in other human rights instruments.” (See the full report.) The Committee’s view is that the CRPD is hard law, not soft law. 

Dr Hywel Francis MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We are concerned to learn that the right of disabled people to independent living may be at risk through the cumulative impact of current reforms. Even though the UK ratified the UNCPRD in 2009 with cross-party support, the Government is unable to demonstrate that sufficient regard has been paid to the Convention in the development of policy with direct relevance to the lives of disabled people. The right to independent living in UK law may need to be strengthened further, and we call on the Government and other interested organisations to consider the need for a free-standing right to independent living in UK law.”

“The Government is meant to include disabled people in making sure people have their human rights upheld. We are concerned that a part of the Law on treating people equally and fairly (Equality Act section 149) does not say any more that disabled people should be involved. This is a step backwards.”

In other words, the Tory-led Coalition has quietly removed this part of the Equality Act.

The budget of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which was established by the Labour Party when they were drafting this flagship policy, is being reduced by over 60%, its staffing cut by 72%, and its powers restricted by the Coalition. Provisions that are being repealed by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Bill include the duty on public authorities to have due regard to the need to reduce socio-economic inequalities.

Savage Legal aid cuts from April 2013 have also contributed significantly to creating further barriers to ensuring Equal Rights law protect us, and the Tory-driven Legal Aid Bill also contravenes our right to a fair trial under Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is not a coincidental multiple policy timeline, but rather a very coordinated political attack on potential legal challenges at a time when Tory-led severe and devastating multiple welfare and provision cuts have affected disabled people so disproportionately. The changes, which came into effect in April, will hit “the same group of disabled people over and over again”. 

Our political freedoms and human rights must not be subservient to Tory notions 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 – that must extend to include ALL of our citizens. And a decent, civilised, democratic society supports its vulnerable members and upholds universal human rights.

We need to ask why our Government refuses to instigate or agree an inquiry into the substantial rise in deaths amongst sick and disabled people, as these deaths are so clearly a correlated consequence of this Government’s policies.

What kind of Government uses the media to scape-goat and stigmatise sick and disabled people, by lying and inventing statistics to “justify” the persecution of our most vulnerable citizens, and the withdrawal of their crucial lifelines and support?

One that does not value those lives, or regard them as having an equal worth with others.

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I’m adding this comment from Samuel Miller, as it highlights his ongoing, excellent, valuable and much appreciated work with the United Nations on our behalf, which is a most welcomed addition to our own ongoing submissions of evidence over the past couple of years:

A superlative piece, which I will bring to the attention of senior UN officials. Ahead of the September meeting of the Human Rights Council (see third paragraph of :-http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.ca/2014/08/an-inopportune-time.html), I will shortly submit an inquiry request to the CRPD and Human Rights Council, petitioning them to open an investigation into Britain’s benefit-sanctioning regime. (At the request of Jorge Araya, UNCRPD Secretary, I am completing a bibliography of media articles on this subject, with particular focus on inappropriate sanctions.)

You already know my views on this matter: http://twishort.com/1RVfc.

My bibliographic assignment for the UNCRPD Secretary might be an indication that the UN has already opened an investigation into Britain’s benefit-sanctioning regime, but for the sake of certainty I’ll make that request myself.”

And further:  See my letter to High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, below. I included your superb article in my letter, Sue.

Subject: There is an urgent need for a UN investigation into the United Kingdom’s benefit-sanctioning regime

Samuel Miller 

Attachments3:58 PM 

High Commissioner Navi Pillay
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson
52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland.

Dear Ms. Pillay,

I am a 57-year-old Disability Studies specialist and disability activist from Montreal, Canada who has been communicating frequently and voluntarily, since January 2012, to senior United Nations officials, on the welfare crisis for the United Kingdom’s sick and disabled.

(See attached, and the following:

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rp0uui,
http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rtnc63,
http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rtvfk5 )
.

It is my understanding that a 22-page letter, pointing out that cuts to social security benefits introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and enforced by his Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of the Coalition government may constitute a breach of the UK’s international treaty obligations to the poor, will also be discussed at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in New York, in September. It is signed by Raquel Rolnik, the former UN special rapporteur on adequate housing; Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, the former UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty; and Olivier De Schutter, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to food.

Could you please add, as an addendum to that letter, my partial bibliography on Britain’s benefit-sanctioning regime, which is attached below in PDF format. My views can be found on page two; I am extremely concerned about the British government’s soaring use of benefit sanctions, and the evidence from MPs and the Work & Pensions Committee, which provides oversight of the Department for Work and Pensions, is especially compelling and strongly suggests that the government is stitching-up benefit claimants and is involved in a cover-up of that fact. The refusal of the government to agree to the Work & Pensions Committee’s request for an independent inquiry into this matter only compounds suspicion.

In closing, I would be most appreciative if the Human Rights Council and the OHCHR would open an investigation into this matter. This article (https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/uk-becomes-the-first-country-to-face-a-un-inquiry-into-disability-rights-violations/) is very worthy of your—and their—attention, as well.

I wish to congratulate you on your tenure as High Commissioner, and wish you every success in your future endeavors.

Warm regards

Samuel Miller

 

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Pictures courtesy of  Robert Livingstone 

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The last Labour government introduced a host of measures to strengthen the rights of our most vulnerable groups – in particular they protected the rights of disabled people. They formulated the Human Rights Act 1998. They passed the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, introduced the Equality Act 2010, formed the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and, in 2009, the Labour government signed the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The few successful cases we have seen brought against the Tories are down to these Labour laws. We mustn’t lose sight of that. And I’ve every faith that a Labour government will address the gross injustices extended by the draconian of this government, using the existing laws, and their currently proposed policy of prosecuting people for hate speech against the vulnerable.

 


I don’t make any money from my work and I am not funded. I am disabled because of illness and struggle to get by. But you can help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others, by making a donation. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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

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Dr Simon Duffy recently wrote an outstanding briefing: How the cuts target disabled people which shows very clearly how the poorest and most vulnerable citizens are paying for an economic problem that they did not cause.

Austerity has never had any moral legitimacy, or indeed any other kind of basis for validity. We know it isn’t working. Osborne’s careful selection of “leading economists”  (who are mostly business leaders with vested interests, rather than economists of an  academic calibre) to endorse his very damaging austerity program meant that he carefully excluded those who presented valid criticisms of the centrepiece of Osborne’s strategy: accelerated austerity for purely ideological ends, (see also Minarchism: the Nightwatchman State), and it halted the recovery that happened under the previous Labour Government. Much of the case for austerity also rests on The great debt lie and the myth of the structural deficit.

The widespread and relentless use of stigmatising and divisive Tory propaganda in the media has undermined public support and sympathy for the sick and disabled people of the UK. Examples of such propaganda include the ad nauseum use of value-laden terms in political narratives and the media, such as “benefit cheat”, “dependency”, “entrenched”, “fraud”, “worklessness”, “addiction”, and more opprobrious examples such as “scrounger”, “skiver”, “workshy” (see Aktion Arbeitsscheu Reich and the origins of this word, it’s now being used very frequently in the media to describe unemployed and disabled people.) 

Several studies show that compared with the end of the Labour Government, such pejorative language use has risen dramatically, and Duncan Smith is the most frequent Parliamentary user of value-laden terminology.

At the AGM on 14th April this year, Amnesty International UK passed a resolution on the Human Rights of sick and disabled people in the UK. The resolution was proposed by Rick Burgess and Nancy Farrell of the WOW petition.

The resolution said:

“This AGM calls for urgent action to halt the abrogation of the human rights of sick and disabled people by the ruling Coalition government and its associated corporate contractors.

Calls for Amnesty International UK to urgently work with grassroots human rights campaigns by and for sick and disabled people, carers and their families. And to set up a specialist Disability Human Rights network … To protect the human rights of people with disabilities, ill people and carers to halt this regressive and lethal assault on our rights.”

The full resolution with supporting information is here.

It’s taken an organisation with the respect, gravitas and the impartiality of Amnesty International to recognise that the human rights of disabled people in the UK are being attacked by their own Government, and feels a need to act in our defence. That is very encouraging, and perhaps we have reached something of a turning point. I hope so.

It is my own hope that people will recognise that their prejudice and their own lack of support and sympathy for the persecuted poor disabled people in the UK has been fuelled by the insidious propaganda of the Tory-led Coalition to justify the transfer of wealth from the poorest, and from our publicly funded welfare and support services, to the very wealthy. Tory ideology is and always has been about handouts to the very wealthy, funded by the poor. That recognition ought to generate outrage and disgust, and a publicly consolidated, conscientious consensus of determination to ensure that this never happens again.

The years immediately after the Second World War marked a turning point in the history of human rights, as the world reeled in horror of the Nazi concentration camps, there came an important realisation that although fundamental rights should be respected as a matter of course, without formal protection, human rights concepts are of little use to those facing persecution. 

So in response to the atrocities committed during the War, the International Community sought to define the rights and freedoms necessary to secure the dignity and worth of each individual.  In 1948 the newly formed United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), one of the most important agreements in world history.

Shortly afterwards another newly formed international body, the Council of Europe, set about giving effect to the UDHR in a European context. The resulting European Convention on Human Rights was signed in 1950 and ratified by the United Kingdom, one of the first countries to do so, in 1951. At the time there were only ten members of the Council of Europe. Now 47 member countries subscribe to the European Convention, and in 1998 the Human Rights Act was passed by the Labour Party in order to “give further effect” to the European Convention in British law.

The current Government are most certainly outrageous propagandists, on par with the Nazi Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, controlling the news media in particular, with the aim of shaping and controlling public opinions, attitudes and behaviours by a process of indoctrination, using übertreiben neo-liberalist dogmata to both create and justify neo-feudal subordination, oppressive hierarchical social structures and to signify the end of our humanist ideal and practice of shared citizenship.

We have an authoritarian Government in the UK currently that has scant regard for our established rights, and wants to see them gone, and they have systematically shut down all voices of opposition, via the media. An important question to ask is why.

We must recognise our past and remember our future. We must re-remember the basic humanist principle: we are all equally precious, each life has equal worth. A society that isn’t founded on those basic principles of decency, dignity and mutual respect is untenable and unthinkable.

Further Reading:

Simon Duffy – Who Really Benefits from Welfare?

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

and – The Poverty of Responsibility and the Politics of Blame.

and – The ESA ‘Revolving Door’ Process, and its Correlation with a Significant Increase in Deaths amongst the Disabled.

Early day motion 295

The Black Triangle Campaign: United Kingdom Government Denounced for Crimes Against Disabled People to International Criminal Court in The Hague.


E-petition to
protect The Human Rights Act

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  With thanks to Robert Livingstone for his great pictures