Austerity policies have created a “human catastrophe” – UN Committee Chair condemns the UK’s record on human rights.

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations welcome the public unity of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their clear criticism of the UK Government’s ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s human rights.

DDPO delegation at the UN headquarters in Geneva

DDPO Delegation in Geneva. Photo: Natasha Hirst

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations welcome the public unity of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their clear criticism of the UK Government’s ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s human rights.

Chairperson Theresia Degener in her closing questions stated, “Evidence before us now and in our Inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies has led to human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.”

The Committee condemned the UK’s attempts to misrepresent the impact of policies through unanswered questions, misused statistics and a smoke screen of statements on policies and legislation which fail to implement the rights of disabled people in reality.

Committee member Coomaraval Pyaneandee said “[I] Want to see you come back as a world leader which at the moment, I’m afraid you are not, but DPOs I congratulate. [They] are in fact, the world leaders in your country.”

The UK Independent Mechanism further reinforced the concerns of DDPOs in their concluding statement which called for:

  • Gaps and inconsistencies in disability discrimination legislation to be addressed including the legal basis for British Sign Language
  • Steps to be taken to embed the CRPD in domestic law, maintaining the protections in the Human Rights Act
  • A coordinated approach to implementing the Convention and the Committee’s recommendations across the UK, with fully resourced and meaningful involvement of disabled people.

Tara Flood, Alliance for Inclusive Education and Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance said, “The UK’s track record on article 24 is not acceptable. The Chairperson made it clear and unequivocal that inclusive education is not a choice, it is a right. We are not surprised but always disappointed by UK Government’s lack of commitment to inclusive education for disabled children and their efforts to mask segregation.”

Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London, said: “Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations  and the thousands of Deaf and Disabled people our organisations work with can feel very proud at the contribution we made to the first examination by the UN Disability Committee of the UK Government’s implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) that took place in Geneva last week. Unlike the UK Government who continue to deny our lived experience of increasing poverty and exclusion, massive cuts in support, punitive assessments regimes and the retrogression of our rights across every area of our lives, the UN Disability Committee were clear and robust in their condemnation of the impact of austerity on Deaf and Disabled people and the Government’s abject failure to implement the Convention and engage with DDPOs. We look forward to the Committee’s concluding observations and we leave Geneva stronger, more united and more determined than ever to do all we can to protect and uphold our rights and all that our movement has achieved over the last 40 years.”

Ellen Clifford, representing both Inclusion London and Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “We are all exhausted but delighted with how the week has gone.  We felt that the CRPD committee listened to the evidence presented by the unprecedented number of DDPO representatives who attended the sessions and were able to see through the obfuscation and misrepresentations of information that the UK Government presented. While it is a shame that the Government continues to deny the existence of serious rights’ regressions and the brutal impact of their policies, it was inspiring to be part of the collective effort by Deaf and Disabled people across the UK to ensure our voices are heard.”

Devolved Nations also had the opportunity to address questions put to them by the Committee.

Patrick Malone, Disability Action Northern Ireland said, “It is not acceptable for the UK Government to hide behind lack of an Executive or Ministers for NI for the disparity of equality in legal protection for disabled people in Northern Ireland as compared to the rest of the UK. The Government must ensure that all of the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010 are fully implemented in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.”

Rhian Davies, Disability Wales said, “We welcome Welsh Government’s commitment to a strengthened Framework for Action on Independent Living since much of the implementation of the UNCRPD is devolved to Welsh Government. However, as with the rest of the UK there is much more to be done in Wales in safeguarding disabled people’s human rights. This has been a historical week for the disabled people’s movement and one that we are proud to have played our part in.”

Sally Witcher, Inclusion Scotland said, “We wholeheartedly welcome the Committee’s comments on the UK. The government has not been allowed to get away with evasive responses which disregard the lived experiences of Deaf and Disabled people throughout the UK. We were disappointed that the opportunity was not available for Scottish Government to reply to all of the questions directed towards it, such as its plans to implement supported decision making for people with learning disabilities and how it will address the failings of the social care system. However, we anticipate opportunities to address these issues in response to the Committee’s concluding observations.”

Notes for Editors:
Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations across the UK have worked in coproduction to collect evidence and compile the reports and presentations through the Review process. The DDPOs submission was co-produced by Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, and the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance. Additional submissions with more information about the devolved nations were also submitted by DRUK / Disability Wales / ROFA; Inclusion Scotland; and Disability Action NI.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People Examination assessed what steps the UK and devolved Governments have taken to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People following ratification of it in 2009. The Committee is a body of experts, nominated and elected by governments, the majority of whom are disabled people. They will publish their Concluding Observations next week.

The committee postponed its assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to investigate a complaint of the violation of disabled people’s rights as a result of welfare reform. This was brought under the optional protocol of the Convention. The findings expressed concern of grave and systemic violations of disabled people’s human rights. That investigation looked only at a part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People – with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures and welfare reform. The current review has investigated all of the Articles within the Convention.

A lay person’s guide to the Review process and Examination can be found here:

For media enquiries, please contact:

Natasha Hirst on 07825 211775 or
Images available on request – credited to Natasha Hirst

Follow progress on social media: