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Human rights of disabled people 'being eroded'

Report finds one in five disabled people suffer some form of discrimination

Mark Gould

Monday, 08 October 2018

One in five of the almost 14 million disabled people in Britain are suffering some form of erosion of their rights because they are disabled, according to a report* by the government-backed Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The EHRC report to the UN committee on disability rights concludes that “more and more disabled people are finding it difficult to live independently and be included, and participate, in their communities on an equal basis”.

More disabled people live in poverty than non-disabled people, and more are bullied in schools, it says. 40% of disabled people do not feel valued by society, according to research by Scope, half feel excluded and only 42% feel the UK is a good place for disabled people to live.

Almost half of all people of pensionable age in the UK are disabled, as are one in five working-age adults. Disability is defined under the 2010 Equality Act as a “physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”.

Disability charity Scope estimates that disabled people spend £570 a month more the average Briton, but the EHRC says they are harder hit by welfare reforms, experience increasing barriers to finding work and are paid less when they do find work. It said Brexit would lead to a further deterioration of the situation.

Anna Bird, the executive director of policy and research at Scope, said: “It’s a glaring injustice that half of disabled people feel excluded from our society. From poor attitudes to lack of focus from government, and from being overlooked in the workplace to being humiliated on public transport, life for many disabled people is still much tougher than it needs to be. It’s time that changed.”

And Kamran Mallick, the chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Any progress made through government initiatives is immediately counter-balanced by a swathe of cuts elsewhere. Help with employment is of little use if people are unable to get to work because their mobility benefits have been taken away.”

The UN criticised the UK’s “laws, regulations and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities” last year and complained that not enough was being done to protect them from the negative effects of Brexit. Many grassroots projects are EU-funded.

“A year on, we have sadly seen little action or commitment to address the UN’s recommendations,” said David Isaac, the chairman of the EHRC.

“Changes to our social security system and health and social care budgets make disabled people feel like second-class citizens and their rights to live independently have been impacted. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and the rights of disabled people must be made a priority if we are to have a fair and equal society.”

Responding to the report the government said it had made significant progress, but admitted “there is always more we can do”.

“We’re committed to building a society which is fully inclusive of disabled people across every area of their lives, from transport and housing to healthcare and employment,” a spokesperson said.

“Our response to the UN sets out our progress over the last year, including the creation of a new inter-ministerial group on disability and society, which will drive progress against the implementation of the UN convention.”

*Progress on disability rights in the United Kingdom. Equality and Human Rights Commission, October 2018.

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