The UK Government’s claim to be a ‘world leader in disability issues’ has today been crushed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has released damning Concluding Observations on the UK, following its first Review of the government’s compliance with the Convention.

The Committee highlighted a number of areas of specific concern in Northern Ireland and made recommendations for the Northern Ireland Executive.  These included:

  • The need to strengthen disability legislation in Northern Ireland to include direct and indirect discrimination and they have called on the NI Executive to reform disability rights legislation.
  • The need for adequate funding to support disabled people to live independently and to provide this in a rights based way.
  • To withdraw practices of non-consensual electro-convulsive therapy.
  • Extend the support packages in mitigating the impact of welfare reform in NI.

The Committee made a broad range of recommendations for all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland.  Highlights of a press conference this afternoon included:

  • The Committee has made the highest ever number of recommendations to the UK.
  • The UK’s retrogression in ensuring Independent Living is a major concern. There is not adequate funding, resulting in too much institutionalisation.
  • There is a significant problem in disabled people’s standard of living. Disabled people continue to be disadvantaged in employment, and are not adequately supported by the state.

The Observations conclude last week’s public examination of the UK Government’s record on delivering disabled people’s rights. The examination was declared by the UK rapporteur Mr Stig Langvad, to be “the most challenging exercise in the history of the Committee”. Mr Langvad raised deep concerns on the UK Government’s failure to implement the rights of disabled people. He also noted the government’s “lack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the (2016) Inquiry” which found ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights’.

The delegation of disabled people’s organisations, including representatives from Northern Ireland,  were hailed by the Committee as the genuine “world leaders” for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK.

Patrick Malone, Disability Action, who was in Geneva to engage Committee members said, “We are delighted that the Committee has made such strong and conclusive recommendations to the UK and Northern Ireland Governments.  The Northern Ireland Executive has been told time and time again about the need to update our disability legislation and yet 7 years later we have no legislative timetable.  It’s time for action.”

The UK Delegation of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations has issued the following joint statement:

“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 not acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message from disabled people.

UK Government representatives committed during the review to rethinking the way they support Deaf and Disabled People to monitor our rights. We welcome this commitment.  However, we are clear that our involvement must be genuine and inclusive and that we cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long.

DDPOs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with following a long campaign of challenging the Government’s blatant disregard for the lives of Deaf and disabled people in the UK. The unity and solidarity demonstrated by the Committee and the UK Independent Mechanism in supporting our calls for justice continue to strengthen us.”

You can read the full concluding observations on the UN Website.