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Friday, 01 September 2017

UK admonished over higher levels of poverty, bullying and institutionalisation of disabled people

Written by Shaun Connolly

Britain's record on disability rights has been strongly criticised by the UN.

The organisation's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) expressed serious concern about higher levels of poverty among the disabled, an increase in hate speech and bullying, and the number of people institutionalised in the UK.

The UN report into whether Britain was fulfilling its commitments to the UN convention on disabled people's rights warned about the effect of welfare changes "such as the lowering of social protection schemes related to housing, household income and budgets for independent living, as well as the closure of the Independent Living Fund".

The CRPD study also said it was concerned about the impact of "austerity measures and anti-poverty initiatives" which "resulted in higher levels of poverty among persons with disabilities and their families, in particular among families with children with disabilities".

The body said it was concerned about "the negative impact on the standard of living of persons with disabilities" due to "the reduction in social support, unemployment allowance, independent payment/budget, the Universal Credit and the insufficient compensation for disability-related costs".

The study warned about "the persistence of a dual education system that segregates children with disabilities to special schools".

The CRPD also expressed concern about an inconsistent approach to disabled people's rights across the UK.

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams (pictured) said: "Their damning report highlights what many disabled people already know to be true, that they are being forced to bear the brunt of failed Tory austerity policies.

"The committee also expressed concerns about future rights for disabled people after Brexit.

"This confirms what Labour has been saying all along, that the lack of progress on all convention articles, including cruel changes to social security and the punitive sanctions regime, are causing real misery for sick and disabled people."

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said the report was a "grim reality check" for the Government's record.

"After nearly a week considering the UK's record, the committee paints a worrying picture of the battles disabled people face every day as they seek to lead independent lives," the campaigner said.

"The seemingly endless rise in the numbers of people with mental health problems being detained or forcibly treated in the community is a daily reminder that human rights violations take place in the UK.

"As the committee notes with concern, those powers continue to be disproportionately used against black people and people from ethnic minorities which only underlines the need for urgent action."

A Government spokesman said: "We're disappointed that this report does not accurately reflect the evidence we gave to the UN, and fails to recognise all the progress we've made to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives.

"We spend over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions - more than ever before, and the second highest in the G7.

"We're committed to furthering rights and opportunities for all disabled people, which is why it is encouraging that almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work in the UK over the last four years."

Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman David Isaac said: "This is a damning assessment by UN experts of the failure to protect disabled people's rights across many areas of life in the UK.

"Drastic cuts to health and social care budgets have had an impact on disabled people's ability to live independently; barriers to accessing justice persist and there are significant gaps in legal protection for disability rights.

"If Government is serious about delivering a fair and equal society it must involve disability groups to help design and implement new policies to ensure that disabled people are no longer treated like second class citizens."

Jeane Freeman MSP, Minister for Social Security in Scotland, said: "This report is damning of the UK Government and rightly highlights the changes urgently needed to halt the damage they are causing - I hope they will listen.

"It's clear that while we are committed to improving the lives of disabled people, the same simply cannot be said to be true of the UK Government."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Danny Lawson / PA Wire.