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The UN Committee’s 2016 report under the Optional Protocol
The Library published The UN Inquiry into the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the UK (CBP-7367) on 6 March 2017. The paper provides information on the inquiry by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into the impact of Government policies on the rights of disabled people since 2010.
The Committee published its report on 6 October 2016. The Committee concluded that Government reforms had led to “grave and systematic” violations of the rights of disabled people.
The Government published a robust response alongside the Committee’s report, stating that it “strongly disagrees” with the findings.
Like other UN human rights conventions, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) does not contain any mechanism that allows the Committee to enforce its recommendations.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has a helpful website with background on the CRPD.
Consideration of the UK’s initial report by the UN Committee 2017
In 2009, the UK Government designated the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) as the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM) under Article 33 of the CRPD. They are tasked with “promoting, protecting and monitoring implementation of the CRPD across the UK.”
UKIM sent an updated submission to the UN Committee in July 2017 ahead of the public examination of the UK’s implementation of the UN CRPD. This submission said:
…the UK and devolved governments have not taken all the appropriate steps to progress implementation of the CRPD and have introduced some retrogressive measures that have had a significant negative effect on disabled people.
The report contains a list of recommendations.
On 24 August 2017, the UN Committee concluded its consideration of the initial report (2011)of the United Kingdom on its implementation of the CRPD. Karen Jochelson, Head of the Office for Disability Issues at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) defended the UK’s record and reportedly told the Committee:
…the 2010 Equality Act, implemented in England, Scotland and Wales, strengthened the protection against discrimination on the basis of disability, recognised indirect disability discrimination, and went further in protecting disabled people. The United Kingdom had set a clear goal to get one million more disabled people and people with health conditions into work over the next 10 years; it was determined to be a place that worked for everyone and ensure that disability did not indicate the path that a person took in life. The commitment to those ambitions was not altered by the decision to leave the European Union. It was through discussions with civil society that the United Kingdom Government and devolved administrations had adopted the terms “disabled people”, which was the best fit with the national understanding of the social model of disability. The country remained committed to thinking how to remove physical, social and environmental barriers to enable disabled people to realize their aspirations and potential, and to working with disabled people, civil society and businesses to find solutions.
…in going forward, the United Kingdom would reflect on the three key learning points from this dialogue, namely the emphasis on engaging with disabled people and their organisations in decision and policy-making, availability of data to demonstrate the impact of policies on disabled people, and the importance of the involvement of disabled people in awareness raising.
Reference was made to the UKIM position:
United Kingdom Independent Mechanism and its constituent members stressed that there must be swift progress on two key issues: the United Kingdom and devolved governments must safeguard and strengthen disabled people’s rights and put in place a cohesive and coordinated approach, and a United Kingdom-wide plan to implement the Committee’s recommendations.
A detailed summary of the proceedings can be found on the UN Committee’s website.
The UN Committee’s concluding observations on the UK’s initial report were published on 3 October 2017. Numerous recommendations were made. Regarding follow-up, the Committee said:
The Committee recommends that the State party, in close cooperation and collaboration with organizations of persons with disabilities, initiate a process to implement and follow-up the recommendations issued by the Committee in its report on its inquiry concerning the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland carried out under article 6 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and provide the Committee with information on the progress and achievements made in that regard every 12 months until the consideration of the next periodic report takes place.
The Committee requests the State party to implement the recommendations contained in the present concluding observations. It recommends that the State party transmit the concluding observations for consideration and action to members of the Government and Parliament, officials in relevant ministries, devolved administrations, Crown Dependencies, Overseas Territories, local authorities, organizations of persons with disabilities and members of relevant professional groups, such as education, medical and legal professionals, as well as to the media, using modern social communication strategies.
The Committee strongly encourages the State party to involve and financially support civil society organizations, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities, in the preparation of its periodic report.
The Committee requests the State party to disseminate the present concluding observations widely, including to non-governmental organizations and organizations of persons with disabilities, and to persons with disabilities themselves and members of their families, in national and minority languages, including sign language, and in accessible formats, including Easy Read, and to make them available on the government website on human rights.
Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) welcomed the findings; for example, one described the Committee’s conclusions as representing “a series of withering attacks” on the Government’s record. The UK delegation of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations said:
Today the UN (CRPD) Committee has, once again, condemned the UK Government’s record on Deaf and Disabled People’s human rights. They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Deaf and Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is no longer acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community.
The Government has said that the Committee’s recommendations are being considered and that an update on the 2017 report will be provided in the summer:
On 14 June 2018, the Government confirmed an intention to set up a “new Inter-Ministerial Group to co-ordinate work across Government” to progress the broader agenda for disabled people and to “reinvigorate engagement with disability stakeholders to help shape our plans.”
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