by Rowen Siemens
Published: 27 Sep 2023
Last month, we submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Committee). This was a follow-up to its inquiry into the rights of disabled people in the UK. The Committee monitors compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
This was a joint submission with our partners in the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM). UKIM consists of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC).
In 2016, the Committee's inquiry found ‘grave and systemic’ violations of the CRPD. It made 11 recommendations for improving the rights of disabled people in the UK. Our recent report was an assessment of the progress made on these recommendations. We found that, despite some progress in certain areas, there were significant gaps. None of the recommendations had been implemented in full. We are concerned that these grave and systemic violations persist today.
We are also concerned that recent changes in context have made things worse. During the COVID-19 pandemic, disabled people were more likely to die than non-disabled people. Disabled people also experienced more barriers in accessing essential healthcare and daily essentials. Crucial public health information was not always in accessible formats.
The current cost of living crisis also disproportionately impacts disabled people. More than half of disabled people in Great Britain have found it difficult to pay their energy bills. Disabled people have told us that support from the UK government has not met their needs.
Disabled people and their households are already more likely to live in poverty and are still not being properly consulted about policies that affect them. According to 2023 research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, poverty rates for disabled people across the UK are nine percentage points above rates for non-disabled people. Research from the Trussell Trust shows that disabled people are more likely to use food banks than non-disabled people.
We are concerned about the experiences of disabled people navigating the benefits system. Some aspects of it continue to be inaccessible and psychologically damaging. The government has still not assessed the impact of its welfare and tax reforms on disabled people.
We are also concerned about disabled people’s right to independent living. The ability to make choices in one’s own health and social care is essential. In 2021, we developed proposals that would make the right to independent living part of UK law. We made a series of recommendations to the government. These have not been implemented.
It is crucial that governments actively involve disabled people in decision making going forward. The government's National Disability Strategy and upcoming Disability Action Plan both present opportunities for cross-government engagement with disabled people.
The government will engage with the Committee in a dialogue as part of their follow-up review of the inquiry in March 2024. We expect the Committee will share its findings shortly after. Throughout this process and going forward, we will continue to advise the government on how best to promote and protect the rights of disabled people.