Treatment of disabled people is an international disgrace

I find it disgraceful that the government’s treatment of disabled people is so disgusting that it can be labelled a human catastrophe. And that’s not disability campaigners saying that. No, no. It’s a United Nations committee’s damning verdict.

human catastrophe

Theresia Degener.

The UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is investigating the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

Last October it warned that welfare cuts had led to “grave and systematic violations” of rights. Now, the committee says the UK has failed to meet its obligations under the convention.

Britain signed up to that convention in 2007. It includes the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination.

Committee chairwoman Theresia Degener said it’s a human catastrophe that social services cuts have totally neglected needs of disabled people.  And  committee member Stig Langvad added the UK is “going backwards” on disability issues.

Ms Degener said: “The austerity measures that they have taken – they are affecting half a million people. Each disabled person is losing between £2,000 and £3,000 per year. People are pushed into work situations without being recognised as vulnerable. The evidence that we had in front of us was just overwhelming.”

The committee’s inquiry looked at a variety of concerns across a host of areas. These included education, work, housing to health, transport, and social security. Also, the report contained more than 60 recommendations for UK ministers.

Ms Degener accused British politicians of failing vulnerable members of society. Additionally, UK officials faced allegations of misrepresenting the impact of policies. This was because questions were unanswered, and statistics and statements on policies and legislation were misused.

Human catastrophe shambles needs fixing

She said evidence seen by the committee, and a review it carried out last year, made clear the impact of austerity policies on the disabled.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “The UN committee has found that this Tory government is still failing sick and disabled people.

“Their damning report highlights what many disabled people already know to be true. They are being forced to bear the brunt of failed Tory austerity policies.”

A government spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed that this report does not accurately reflect the evidence we gave to the UN, and fails to recognise all the progress we’ve made to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives.

“We spend over £50bn a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more than ever before, and the second highest in the G7.

A spokesman said the government is committed to further rights and opportunities for all disabled people. It is encouraging that almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work in the UK over the last four years.

Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac, described report as “damning”. He said disabled people in Britain are treated like “second class citizens”.

“We have long urged the government to make changes. The UN recommendations are further proof that immediate action must be taken,” he said.

My view is that the human catastrophe criticism isn’t a surprise, and the government should put its house in order. But don’t hold your breath because, as good a dream as it is, it won’t happen in reality.

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* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

2 thoughts on “Treatment of disabled people is an international disgrace

  1. Powerful and insightful piece! It has been a conundrum for me to reconcile the huge amounts of money used for the many pressing issues as people with disabilities, eldercare and other serious issues with the reality of their ever constant concerns. Clearly, it is of utmost importance to have meaningful dialogue regarding the best areas in which to spend these monies. The voices of those who are impacted by these difficulties should be heard and acknowledged by those who are in the position of assisting financially in a substantive way.


    • Hi Jeannette, thanks for commenting. I am a journalist by profession, so I like to present the facts, balanced by comments from (in this case) the government. But, I am an opinion writer too and like to include my own comments, clearly stated as such. As a person with a disability, I might be accused of bias – but the facts are the facts and are not open to interpretation. I agree with your view about a meaningful dialogue but, regretfully, what the government decides is meaningful would not meet most people’s agreement.


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