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08th September 2017

Rights of people with a disability

A UN Committee on the rights of disabled people has severely criticised the UK for its treatment of people with disability. Having ratified the Convention on the rights of disabled people in 2009, The committee says that after reviewing our progress, that the rights of disabled people in the UK have been seriously reduced by austerity measures. In particular, it singles out the benefits change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments as having caused reduction in many disabled people's quality of life.

The review by the UN Committee

In common with other signatories, the UN is committed to reviewing the UK's compliance with the Convention on the rights of people with disability. After consulting with the Government, and listening to a range of views from UK organisations, the Committee has made 60 recommendations to improve compliance with the Convention. It states that it has made more recommendations to the UK than any other signatory nation reviewed to date. Among the concerns expressed were the need for schools to improve inclusion for disabled children: more resources and support to ensure that disabled people can continue living at home; and a review of benefits sanctions. The main criticisms of the Committee are that the rights of the Convention have not been sufficiently incorporated into UK legislation and policy. They are also concerned about measures which may be put in place after the UK leaves the European Union. Local authorities and the NHS have also failed to implement measures required by the Convention.

The chief problems come from service and benefit cuts, and the replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments. Assessments for the latter allowance has in many cases reduced the amount of allowance to which people are entitled. As a result, the standard of living of many people has been reduced, and severe stress and anxiety have been caused.

Reaction to the review

Third sector organisations were pleased to be able to express their views, and for the support that the review gives to them. The MS Society said that

'... almost one in three people (2,600) who received the highest rate mobility component of DLA had their payments downgraded or denied after being reassessed for PIP between October 2013 and October 2016... nearly a quarter (800 people) faced cuts under PIP’s equivalent daily living component.'

Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said: ''These staggering figures show how PIP is failing some of the most vulnerable people with MS who need the highest level of support. It doesn’t make sense that people are losing money they once qualified for, when they are living with a progressive condition that will never improve'. Other organisations and agencies expressed similar views.

Sally Witcher, chief executive at Inclusion Scotland, said: “We remain deeply concerned about the erosion of Scottish Disabled people’s human rights caused by the UK government-led cuts to benefits and services. We are pleased to join our colleagues from across the UK to challenge this... we now need to see more action to realise disabled people’s human rights – particularly in relation to the real failings of our social care support system.”

The future

The UN Committee will not go away. It will carry out a further review to look again at the UK's future steps towards in making progress on the rights guaranteed by the Convention. We hope that the Government can turn around the policy of cuts and austerity which is having such a diminishing and disabling impact on the rights of many of its citizens.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Tony Clarke

Scottish Care Inspectorate Specialist

Tony began care work as a care assistant in care of the elderly here in Scotland in the 1970s. He very much enjoyed promoting activities, interests and good basic care. After a gap to gain a social work qualification, he worked in management of care services, latterly as a peripatetic manager which gave him experience of a wide range of services.

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