Black and white photo of group of representatives from across the UK at the UN

Following the latest visit to Geneva, read the latest update on the examination of the UK's compliance with the UNCRPD.

I’m sitting here in Belfast penning this blog and wondering how to start………….I think the best place to start is to say how proud I am of the whole UK delegation that went to Geneva to stand up for our rights – who made strong evidence based arguments on how the UK Government is eroding the rights of disabled people.  It’s one of those situations that you might say you had to be there – but the work that was put in, not just in the past week in Geneva, but over the last number of years is extraordinary.  Quite rightly that work was recognised by the Committee, not just in public but in many of the private meetings we held with Committee members.

Tony O’Reilly, June Best (and Alex), Karen Hall and I all headed off on Saturday morning on the bus to Dublin for our flight to Geneva.  We all said to each other – we can’t believe this is actually happening.  And we all recognised that we were the final part of a long journey in engaging with the UNCRPD in Northern Ireland.  There are so many people that have been involved along the way, from the 400 plus disabled people who told us what was important to them for the shadow report, all the people who have worked in the Centre on Human Rights over the years, to the many allies and supporters who encouraged our work and most importantly to the activists who kept pushing to ensure that the voice of disabled people in Northern Ireland were heard.

Over the past two years the work on the UNCRPD has been done without any funding, people have given up their time, their energy and their limited resources to help us to achieve what will hopefully be concrete concluding observations that we can use to highlight how disabled people’s rights are not being met – here and in the rest of the UK.

Once again a huge thank you to everyone – but in particular Rosalind, Ellen and Natasha for your work in co-ordinating the group, writing documents and documenting the trip.

The Concluding Observations (published today) reflect the work that the UK delegation put into the engagement with the Committee.  From a NI perspective we are glad that the Committee recognised that disabled people in NI have less protections afforded to them than they would have in any part of the UK.

We are delighted that the Committee recommended that the UK State should incorporate the UNCRPD into domestic law. We are particularly pleased that the Committee recommended that the UK Government should make sure that the Northern Ireland Executive reforms the law to ensure that disabled people in NI are specifically and adequately protected against direct and indirect discrimination and against discrimination by association.

We are pleased that the Committee recognised that mental capacity laws across the UK as a whole are not fit for purpose. From a NI perspective we are glad that we finally have a Mental Capacity Act. However, this is not in force and has no resources behind it. There is also no date for this legislation to be brought into force.

Disgracefully non consensual electro convulsive therapy still takes place in NI. We are very pleased that the Committee has recommended this practice be stopped and that monitoring takes place to ensure that this disgraceful practice comes to an end.

We have long called for people with disabilities in NI to be given the support they need to live independently in the community. We are therefore very happy to see the Committee recommend that the NI Executive provides sufficient resources to allow disabled people in NI to live independently and be included in the community and to exercise their right to choose their place of residence and where, and with whom to live.

We are also mindful of the impacts of welfare reform in NI. We are very pleased that the Committee have called for changes to the welfare system to be re-modelled in line with human rights model of disability.  We are glad to see the Committee recommend that the package put in place by the NI Executive to mitigate some of the worst aspects of welfare reform are extended beyond 2021.

We will work disabled people to ensure that our Government implement the recommendations of the Committee, and that our rights are realised in NI.

We’ve all really enjoyed working with DDPO’s from the rest of the UK and look forward to taking the next steps in realising the rights of disabled people.

Patrick Malone
Public Affairs & Engagement Officer