The UK government is risking “systematic violation” of international human rights law in its treatment of disabled people, charities claim.
Britain is a signatory to a binding UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities, and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.
Austerity measures and welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax mean the rights of disabled people to independent living, work, and social security have been undermined, causing significant hardship, say campaigners.
A report publishedby Just Fair, a consortium of 80 national charities including Amnesty International, Save the Children, and Oxfam, says the UK is in clear breach of its legal obligations.
Support structures for many disabled people have disappeared or are under threat as local authorities cut social care budgets, while cuts tobenefits will leave many disabled people without crucial help for daily living.
Jane Campbell, a cross-bench peer who is disabled said: “It is both extremely worrying and deeply sad that the UK – for so long regarded as an international leader in protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights – now risks sleepwalking towards the status of a systematic violator of these same rights.”
The government vigorously denied the claim. Disability minister Mike Penning said: “It is simply not true to say we are breaching our legal obligations to disabled people. We spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services and our reforms will make sure the billions spent give more targeted support and better reflect today’s understanding of disability.
“We are fixing a broken welfare system, which trapped tens of thousands of people on incapacity benefit for more than a decade with little done to see if their condition had improved and support them into work.”
The report calls for a right to independent living to be enshrined into UK law, so that government and public bodies are obliged to ensure policies and practices support – rather than compromise – independent living.
Aoife Nolan, professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Nottingham and a trustee of Just Fair said government policies were compromising disabled people’s human rights.
“Not only do these policies cause significant hardship and anxiety, but they also amount to impermissible backward steps in relation to disabled people’s human rights, contrary to the UN human rights framework.”
The report will be submitted to the United Nations, which is in the process of reviewing UK compliance with its obligations to the rights of disabled people.