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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006. The UK ratified the Convention in 2009.

By following UN CRPD, the UK agrees to protect and promote the human rights of disabled people, including:

  • eliminating disability discrimination
  • enabling disabled people to live independently in the community
  • ensuring an inclusive education system
  • ensuring disabled people are protected from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a body of independent experts which monitors implementation of the Convention by the States Parties.

UN Committee investigation (2016)

In 2016 the UK was investigated under the Optional Protocol of the UN CRPD following a formal request from several disability organisations.  The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found that “grave or systematic violations” of disabled persons’ rights had taken place because of welfare reforms in the UK since 2010 (opens a Word file).

The Committee said welfare reforms had “disproportionally and adversely” affected the rights of people with disabilities, citing changes to Housing Benefit entitlement, eligibility criteria for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and social care, and the ending of the Independent Living Fund.

The UK Government said it “strongly disagree[d]” with the conclusions (Word), saying the investigation was “too narrow in scope” and that measures, such as personal budgets, improving transport accessibility, work-related support and protections to tax and pensions credits, should have been considered.

First periodic review (2017)

The UN conducted its first periodic review of how the UK had implemented the UN CRPD in 2017. The UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM), made up of the Human Rights Commissions of the UK, is charged with monitoring implementation. UKIM submitted an updated report to the UN Committee (PDF), in July 2017 which argued the UK and devolved Governments had taken insufficient action to implement earlier UN recommendations.

The UN Committee published concluding observations in October 2017 and requested the UK provide information one year later covering steps taken to implement several of the recommendations.

In October 2018, the UKIM assessed steps taken by the UK Governments to implement the Committee’s recommendations since August 2017. It said progress had been made in several areas, including the launch of an independent review into the Mental Health Act 1983, an increase in the number of disabled people in employment, and the announcement of a new Inter-Ministerial Group on Disability and Society.

The UKIM remained “disappointed” that UK Governments had not developed a comprehensive UK-wide strategy demonstrating how the Committee’s 2017 recommendations would be implemented.

Government responses

The Government’s response to the Committee’s August 2017 recommendations was debated in Parliament in June 2018.

In September 2018, the UK Government issued its initial response to the UN which covered progress in the UK and highlighted funding for social care in England, the Access to Work Scheme, and benefits for people with disabilities and long term health conditions.

In June 2019, the UK Government launched a cross-Government approach to disability.

In October 2019 the UK Government issued a response to recommendation 74 of the Committee’s concluding observations on its 2017 review. This concerned the 2016 inquiry and called on UK Governments to initiate and follow-up on recommendations from that investigation and update the Committee on progress every 12 months until the next periodic review.

In December 2021, the UK Government published a follow-up report from the 2016 inquiry  which highlighted progress with the recommendations from the 2016 investigation, including welfare benefits, social care reform, employment strategies, access to public life and the legal system, engagement with disabled people and hate crime

The Government answered a parliamentary question in February 2019 saying it would respond to the Committee’s remaining concluding observations from the 2017 review during the next periodic review, which is due in 2023.

Further reading

The National Disability Strategy was published in July 2021 and is covered in section 3 of this paper. The Library’s briefing The National Disability Strategy 2021: Content and reaction looks at it in detail.

The Library briefing UK disability statistics: Prevalence and life experiences, contains the key statistics on disability in the UK.

The Commons Library has a disability page where all the publications relating to disability are available.

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