The UK government appears to have become the first country to face a high-level inquiry by a United Nations committee, as a result of “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people.
The committee has the power to launch an inquiry if it receives “reliable information” that such violations have been committed by a country signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and its optional protocol.
These investigations are conducted “confidentially”, so the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – which is carrying out the inquiry – has refused to confirm or deny that the UK is being investigated.
But a recording has emerged of a former CRPD member revealing that the inquiry has been launched.
Professor Gabor Gombos, co-founder of Voice of Soul, Hungary’s first organisation for ex-users and survivors of mental health institutions, and co-chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, tells the audience on the recording that CRPD has “started its first inquiry procedure against the United Kingdom”.
He tells the Sixth International Disability Law Summer School at the National University of Ireland in Galway in June that inquiries are only used where there are suspicions of “grave” violations of human rights in a country.
He says: “Where the issue has been raised and the government did not really make effective actions to fix the situation… it is a very high threshold thing; the violations should really be grave and very systemic.”
Only last month, a new report, Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the Rights of Disabled People in the Austerity Era, laid bare the coalition’s failure to meet its international human rights obligations under both UNCRPD and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
That report – published by the Just Fair coalition, which includes Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London – suggested that the UK had gone from being an international leader in disability rights to risking becoming a “systematic violator of these same rights”.
Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported that CRPD appeared to have postponed its public examination of how the UK has been implementing the disability convention until after next year’s general election.
Some activists were unhappy that the committee’s decision to postpone the examination would allow the UK government to avoid having to justify a clear regression in disability rights since the 2010 election.
But it now appears that the committee may have taken this decision because it had launched the much more serious – and so far unprecedented – inquiry into the UK’s violation of disabled people’s rights.
A DPAC spokeswoman said: “DPAC is not in a position to comment on the UN inquiry on the UK’s breaches of the UNCRPD, but we would share the view that there have been grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights especially, but not exclusively, articles 19 [on living independently and being included in the community] and 28 [on providing an adequate standard of living and social protection].”
Jorge Araya, CRPD’s secretary, told DNS in a statement: “Inquiry proceedings regulated in article six and seven [which relate to the inquiry procedure] of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are confidential.
“So, for this very reason, stated in this treaty, I apologise but I cannot respond to your queries.”
So far, the Conservative minister for disabled people, Mark Harper, has failed to comment on the CRPD inquiry.
14 August 2014
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
The articles thought to have been breached by the Tories are as follows:
* The right to independent living –
(UNCRPD Article 19)
* The right to work –
(ICESCR Article 6 and UNCRPD Article 27)
* The right to fair and just conditions of employment –
(ICESCR Article 7 and UNCRPD Article 27)
* The right to social security –
(ICESCR Article 9)
* The right to social protection –
(UNCRPD Article 28)
* The right to an adequate standard of living –
(ICESCR Article 11 and UNCRPD Article 28)
Here is a collection of evidence but the UN will be gathering even more:
There are three versions of a report are available on the Just Fair website:
The full report rigorously examines the available evidence in the light of the obligations contained within ICESCR and UNCRPD, and also draws on the experience of disabled people. Key quotes from the report include the following:
The right to independent living
“There is prima facie evidence that [the local housing allowance and the size criteria in social housing] are retrogressive,
threatening disabled people’s occupation of accessible and affordable housing to enable them to live independently, exercising their right to choose where they live on an equal basis with others.”
“…. when evaluating the Government’s final decision to proceed with the closure of the [Independent Living Fund]… any change in support that threatens fund users’ enjoyment of the right to independent living would constitute impermissible
retrogression in relation to UNCRPD Article 19.”
“Given the critical role of social care services in facilitating independent living, we recommend that the Government ensures
sufficient investment is directed towards ensuring that disabled people receive the support they need to exercise their right
to independent living.”
“Despite the complexity and limitations of cumulative impact assessments, the evidence does appear to show that the JCHR’s
concerns about the cumulative impact of a number of reforms and policy changes on independent living have been realised. If
disabled people are hit by two, three, four or even more separate changes to benefits, social care and other services, they
lose much of the support they need to live independently in the community in terms of UNCRPD Article 19.”
“…. the importance of fulfilling disabled people’s right to independent living is such that serious consideration should be
given to incorporating UNCRPD Article 19 (and related international human rights protections) into UK domestic law. This could be done so as to provide an overarching statutory duty on all areas of Government to take account of the need to respect, protect and fulfil disabled people’s right to independent living, and a duty to avoid retrogression, in all relevant
The rights to work, to social security and to an adequate standard of living
“… there continue to be significant barriers to disabled people’s access to the labour market, compromising their enjoyment of
the right to work and the right to fair and just conditions of employment.”
“The key concern in relation to employment and support allowance, and the operation of the work capability assessment, is that the structure of the benefit and the frequency of inaccurate assessments leaves many people with long term health conditions in a no-man’s land – neither eligible for out of work benefits nor able to undertake paid work. This failure to provide income replacement benefits to disabled people and people with long term health conditions when they are unable to work constitutes a failure to respect, protect and fulfil disabled people’s right to social security … and, for many disabled people, their right to an adequate standard of living….”
“[Disabled people] are disproportionately affected by the reduced availability of advice services, which has an impact on
their enjoyment of their… right to social security and, for many, an adequate standard of living.”
“There are a number of factors that increase the risk of disabled people becoming destitute, which reflect a failure to comply
with the minimum core obligations under ICESCR and UNCRPD and to guarantee their rights to social security, social protection and an adequate standard of living…. appropriate recommendations include refocusing the ethos and performance management of DWP and JobCentre Plus so that their primary responsibility is to ensure claimants are able to support themselves and their families – by being supported to enjoy their rights to work, to social security and to an adequate standard of living…”
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