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Friday, 25 August 2017

UN rights committee savage Tories for creating 'human catastrophe' for disabled people

Written by Jon Vale

The chairwoman of a United Nations committee has accused the Government of creating a "human catastrophe" for disabled people in the wake of cuts.

Policies pursued by the Government have "totally neglected" the vulnerabilities faced by disabled people, according to Theresia Degener, who chairs the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

UK Government officials also faced allegations of misrepresenting the impact of its policies through unanswered questions, misused statistics and statements on policies and legislation.

CRPD previously said welfare reforms have led to "grave and systematic violations" of disabled people's rights, findings the Government said it strongly disagreed with.

The committee is now conducting a much wider investigation to assess the UK's progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, as part of a periodic review all nations signed up to the convention must go through.

Officials have faced two days of grilling from the UN panel in Geneva, which has criticised the UK's approach.

Chairwoman Ms Degener said policies like the Government's controversial "fit to work" tests were based on a correct assumption that disabled people could find employment.

She added: "However, evidence before us now and in our inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies have led to a human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in."

The likes of Disability Rights UK and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have criticised UK policy in the run-up to the hearings, warning disabled people's rights under the convention are at risk of being breached.

And Stig Langvad, the committee rapporteur for the UK, said he was "deeply concerned" about the Government's failure to act on CRPD's previous report.

He added: "I could provide a long list of examples where the state party does not live up to the convention."

Concerns were also raised about a disconnect between the Government's answers and evidence, compared with the actual experiences of disabled people.

Karen Jochelson, head of the office for disability issues at the Department for Work and Pensions, led the British delegation.

She said in her closing remarks that it was right the UK was scrutinised carefully and it was determined to remain a global leader in disability issues.

The Government says, as a share of GDP, the UK's public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries other than Germany, while its focus has been on helping disabled people achieve their potential in the job market and wider society.

A spokesman said: "The UK is a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality, which is why we supported the development of the UN convention.

"Almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work over the last four years and we spend over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions, more than ever before.

"This first periodic review will help build on our progress to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives."

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