UK austerity policies are violations of disabled people’s rights
UN says measures aimed at reducing public spending since 2010 have affected disabled people disproportionately
Austerity policies introduced into welfare and social care by the UK government amount to “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities, a UN inquiry has concluded.
It says a range of measures aimed at reducing public spending since 2010, including controversial changes such as the bedroom tax, and cuts to disability benefits and social care budgets have disproportionately and adversely affected disabled people.
The highly critical report, published in Geneva on Monday afternoon, says the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work, and achieve an adequate standard of living have been negatively affected by austerity measures.
It makes 11 recommendations, including calling on the UK government to carry out a study of the cumulative impact of all spending cuts on disabled people, and to ensure the human rights of disabled people are upheld.
The report was welcomed by disability campaigners. Linda Burnip, a founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) said it “came as no surprise to anyone who has followed the stripping away of disabled people’s rights over the last six years.”
The UK government, however, rejected the UN report, saying in a formal response its findings presented an inaccurate picture of life for disabled people in the UK. “While the government continues to improve and build on the support available to disabled people, it stands by and is proud of its record.”
The report is withering about the manner in which ministers have conducted welfare and social care reforms, arguing that they pushed ahead with changes even when they knew they would have an adverse impact on disabled people.
Cuts such as those to personal independence payments and the independent living fund had “hindered various aspects of [disabled people’s] right to live independently”, it says, making them more reliant on family and carers and in some instances forcing them into institutional care.
The bedroom tax and other cuts to housing support had led disproportionately to debt and eviction, it says. “Evidence indicates that persons with disabilities affected by cuts in their housing benefits have undergone high levels of stress anxiety and depression as a consequence of the shortfalls in their budget.”
It is highly critical of what it calls the “functional assessments” of disabled people who have applied for social security benefits, noting that their experience tended to be one where they were “merely processed rather than being listened to or understood”.
Government attempts to decrease the disproportionately high levels of unemployment among disabled people have had little impact, the report notes, while notorious “fit-for-work” tests were riven with flaws.
It noted that disabled people had suffered from a climate in which they were portrayed as “lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers”. They had continued to experience “increasing hostility, aggressive behaviour and sometimes attacks to their personal integrity”.
The report, issued by the committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, concludes: “There is reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met.”
The inquiry was triggered after campaigners, including Dpac, made a formal complaint to the UN in 2012 about alleged violations of disabled people’s rights. After two years of deliberations, the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities gave the green light to the inquiry in May 2014.
The inquiry report is based on an 11-day inquiry tour of the UK undertaken by two UN envoys in October 2015. The inquiry team met with more than 200 individuals, including officials and MPs as well as activists and academics.
The UK has been a signatory to the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities since 2007. The convention includes the right to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination on the basis of disability.
Original article link The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/07/uk-austerity-policies-amount-to-violations-of-disabled-peoples-rights