Disability news

Government criticised for not taking disabled people’s needs seriously

a person in an electric wheelchair

The government has been accused of “not taking seriously” the needs of disabled people after ignoring commitments under a UN treaty.

Labour have slammed the Tories after the government’ Work Capability Assessment programme [WCA] led to 600 suicides within three years.

Vicky Foxcroft, shadow disabilities minister, expressed her concern in front of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [UNCRPD] in Geneva earlier this week which gave the government another opportunity to present their evidence of how they will fulfil the requirements of the disability treaty.

At the session UN’s Special Rapporteur, Laverne Jacobs, asked British civil servants to present their evidence on the impact the WCA programme has had on disabled people.

The controversial assessment was introduced in 2008 to monitor the limitations disabled and sick people have in work so the government could provide specific benefits to help with their daily living costs.

But the system was criticised after hundreds of people took their lives or suffered severe problems with their mental health.

Ms Foxcroft told BBC’s Access All podcast: "The government talk about their action plan and strategies, but that's not the experience of disabled people.

"I'd like them to listen and take this seriously, and stop pretending everything's fine, when we know it's not."

The convention, formally known as The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was put into place to protect the rights of "any person who has an impairment, illness, injury or health condition and who may face barriers to being included in society".

It highlights disabled people should have the right to work and have social protection.

The treaty also asks for signatory nations to take “practical action” to tackle prejudice and harmful behaviour against disabled people.

Despite the UK signing the disabilities convention in 2009, it still has not been implemented into British law.

In 2016, an investigation from the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [UNCRPD], found that the UK breached three of the Convention’s articles, the same inquiry also revealed the welfare reforms which were introduced in 2010 had “adversely” affected disabled people.

The Committee suggested a number of recommendations to rectify the problems.

At this week's secession, UN Special  Rosemary Kayess, told the hearing that "reforms within social welfare benefits are premised on a notion that disabled people are undeserving, and are skiving off and defrauding the system".

Deputy director of the Cabinet Office Disability Unit, Alexandra Gowlland stated the government's National Disability Strategy and the Disability Action Plan are focused on providing "ongoing commitment to support disabled people".

Rensa Gaunt, communications manager for Inclusion London told Access All: "You would think the government would listen to the UN, or would at least be embarrassed to be in breach of the convention it signed up to, but it isn't."

Minister for Disabled People Mims Davies added the government was determined to make the UK "the most accessible and, importantly, equal place to live in the world".

[ In October 2023 Labour admitted dropping disability rights pledge from policy plan. ]

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