The Chair of an influential UN committee has said that the Tory Government’s welfare cuts have directly contributed to a “human catastrophe” for disabled people in the UK, following a detailed investigation into the UK’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Theresia Degener, who chairs the CRPD, said the UK Government has “totally neglected” the needs and rights of disabled people, in one of the most damning indictments of Tory austerity policies to date.
Ms Degener told the UK delegation: “Evidence before us now and in our inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies have led to a human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.”
Her comments follow an earlier investigation last year, after which the UN accused the Tory government of “grave and systematic” violations of disabled people’s rights – a claim that was immediately dismissed by the then Work and Pensions Secretary Damien Green as “patronising and offensive”.
Other flagship Tory policies have also faced strong condemnation, including the so-called ‘bedroom tax’. In January 2016, the Court of Appeal ruled the policy discriminates against disabled children, as well as victims of domestic abuse.
The Government’s main back to work scheme, otherwise known as “workfare”, the benefit cap, and the draconian sanctions regime have also all been declared unlawful at various times over the past few years.
SNP MSP Gail Ross, who sits on Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, said: “This criticism from the United Nations of the UK Government’s welfare cuts shows yet again just how damaging Tory policies have been for vulnerable and disabled people across the UK.
“Every politician across the country has had to listen to heart-breaking stories about the impact that callous Tory cuts are causing to people and our communities – yet they have refused to act but instead continue to punish people in the cruellest manner.
“The UN’s criticism should act as a wake-up call – but sadly we have been here before and the Tories simply do not listen. The UN could not be clearer – UK ministers’ record on welfare has caused a ‘human catastrophe’ as they ‘totally neglect’ the vulnerable situation of people with disabilities.
“The Tories must urgently rethink their disastrous welfare cuts, which have driven people into poverty, caused an exponential rise in the use of foodbanks, and has now been condemned, yet again, by the United Nations.
“If they are not prepared to change course, then they must give the Scottish Government the full powers to make different choices and allow us to support rather than neglect the most vulnerable people in our society.”
A government spokesperson said: “The UK is a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality, which is why we supported the development of the UN convention.
“Almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work over the last four years and we spend over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions, more than ever before.
“This first periodic review will help build on our progress to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives.”