Disability news

Minister for disabled people boycotts commission for disabled people

Tom Pursglove

The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work has been criticised for not attending a predominant event which took place on Monday in Geneva.

A number of disabled activists and Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) representatives attended the UN Commission on the Rights of Disabled People committee earlier this week.

But there was no one in attendance from the UK government, including the minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Tom Pursglove.

The MP’s no show triggered the hashtag #WheresTom on social media from the Disabled People Against Cuts social media handles who said Pursglove boycotting the event showed "the utter contempt he has for disabled people". 

The meeting was an opportunity to assess progress the government has made from the recommendations which were set in the 2016 UN Commission on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Earlier this month the Equality and Human Rights Commission concluded the UK government had taken no action on the aforementioned recommendations.

At the event, those who did attend, heard evidence from DDPOs that disabled people were among the hardest hit during the pandemic and current cost of living crisis.

The session commenced with those in attendance being told "The rhetoric from UK government is worsening especially to disabled people who are not in work”. A statement which was backed up with evidence that 66% of households relying on foodbanks include disabled people, over 50% of disabled people are struggling to afford energy bills and 79 disabled people died a day during 2021/22 whilst waiting for benefits they were entitled to.

Activist Ellen Clifford told the commission ”Disability benefit assessments are about disability denial”, referring to the 632,000 disabled people receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) but not eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Ahead of the session Martha Foulds from Disabled People Against Cuts said “The government should put its effort into implementing the committee’s recommendations rather than its current commitment to cuts, enflaming hostility against benefit claimants and culture wars.”

However, it wasn’t just the UK government which had a grilling, the committee highlighted despite 6 in 10 Covid-19 deaths in the country were disabled people, in Scotland the total increased by 93% and in Wales households with at least one disabled member are likely to be living in poverty.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales, said: “The UK Government’s non-attendance at the review session reveals very clearly that the Westminster Government has little that is positive to report” For Northern Ireland, there is the added political crisis now threatening the lives of Deaf and disabled people - an austerity budget that will see disability support services slashed. The commission heard that 62% of working-age disabled people in NI are referred to food banks and that families with disabled people have lost an average of £2000 per year under Westminster welfare reforms.”

Nuala Toman, head of policy at Disability Action, said: "It is essential that the Westminster Government takes action to restore government in Northern Ireland and allocates sufficient resources to Northern Ireland for the delivery of public services.” The UK Government has shown complete disregard for the lives and rights of disabled people in Northern Ireland by refusing to attend the hearing.”

A spokesperson from the government Equality Hub said “The government is fully committed to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the advancement of rights for disabled people in this country. We have followed all of the Committee’s required procedures and we will present the UK’s progress at a hearing in March 2024.”

[ Tom Pursglove email is [email protected] ]

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