Seven years of cuts to social security benefits and health and social care budgets have resulted in the continuing erosion of disabled people’s rights to independent living, equality bodies have warned.
Analysis by the UK’s equality and human rights bodies also found that the cumulative effect of cuts to local authority budgets mean many disabled people are denied adequate care, while others in need of care aren’t receiving any at all.
The warning comes ahead of a UN examination of the UK’s record on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in Geneva, which the UK ratified in 2009.
The equality bodies also expressed concerns with gaps in legal protection and barriers to accessing justice, the continued use of physical and chemical restraint, bullying of disabled children in schools, an increase in disability hate crime and harassment, and inadequate levels of legal protection for disabled people in Northern Ireland.
The UK’s equality bodies consist of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.
Only last year, the UNCRPD accused the UK government of “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights – an accusation that was immediately dismissed as “patronising and offensive” by the then Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green.
Speaking on behalf of the equality bodies, Chair of the EHRC David Isaac said: “There is a real concern that disabled people are being increasingly marginalised and shut out of society as they bear the brunt of the accumulated impact of cuts in public spending.
“Disabled people have won hard-fought battles in recent decades to ensure that they can live independently to exercise choice and control over their support. Evidence of regression must be confronted and urgently addressed.
“As the UK and devolved governments’ track record on disability rights comes under the international microscope, we call for concerted action to remove the barriers in society that prevent disabled people living full lives on equal terms with non-disabled people.
“Everyone is entitled to the same opportunities and respect – the governments must start taking the human rights of disabled people more seriously.”
Sue Bott, deputy CEO of Disability Rights UK, welcomed the equality bodies’ submission to the investigation. “It echoes much of what we have said in our own submission”, she said.
“We are not just talking about how benefit changes but right across the spectrum of health, social care, employment and education retrogressive measures have been taken that impact negatively on the chances of disabled people.
“We look forward to the Government response to the UN committee today.”
Yesterday, disabled people’s organisations criticised the UK Government’s submission to the investigation, adding that the government has provided “no evidence or detail to show how it is supporting people to lead independent lives”.
Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive Officer of Inclusion London speaking on behalf of the Reclaiming Our Future Alliance, said: “There is clear and extensive evidence of retrogression of Disabled people’s rights in the UK since 2010.
“To date responses from the Government have failed to acknowledge the existence, let alone the scale, of this problem – a problem that is having a dramatic adverse impact on the lives of millions of Disabled people and our families every day.”
Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said: “Disabled people in Wales are angry at the continued dismissal of their rights by the UK Government. There is only so much that the Welsh Government can do to mitigate the impact of austerity policies.
“With the highest proportion of Disabled people in the UK, the cumulative impact of benefits and service cuts is devastating lives in Wales.”
Sally Witcher, Chief Executive Officer 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.”
Last updated at 02:38 (GMT) on 23rd August 2017 to add a comment from Disability Rights UK.