Disabled people are being denied access to justice because of judges’ failure to make the reasonable adjustments that would make the court process accessible to them, according to a disabled human rights barrister. John Horan said the legal profession was failing to address the discrimination faced by disabled people who rely on family and commercial courts, employment and benefits tribunals, and the criminal justice system. One of the reasons for this failure is the pressure exerted on the legal system by government cuts to the courts and tribunals system budget, he has told Disability News Service (DNS). He says the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) provides a clear duty – under article 13, on access to justice – for UK courts to provide the necessary “accommodations” to ensure that every disabled person can play an “effective role” in all legal proceedings. But he says judges (and magistrates) are ignoring detailed guidance laid out in the Equal
Three national disabled people’s organisations have withdrawn a report they submitted to the United Nations, after admitting that it failed to speak out strongly enough on links between the government’s welfare reforms and the deaths of benefit claimants. The report will now be toughened up and resubmitted to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD). The three organisations – Disability Rights UK, Disability Wales and Inclusion Scotland – were forced to act after flaws in their report were highlighted by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Disability News Service (DNS). The “shadow report” was sent to CRPD as part of the process which will lead to the UK government being questioned in public later this year on its progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Although it is only one of several shadow reports being submitted to CRPD, it is likely to have a significant impact on the committee because it was
Disabled activists have told MPs and peers of their frustration at not being able to hold the government to account for its “grave or systematic” breaches
Four human rights and equality watchdogs have been snubbed by the minister for disabled people after raising serious concerns about how her government dismissed a report that found it guilty of “grave or systematic” violations of the UN disability convention. The UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) said last month that the UK government had discriminated against disabled people across three key parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). But the government responded to the report by dismissing its conclusions and all 11 of its recommendations. Now the UK’s official independent mechanism (UKIM) for monitoring implementation of the convention – the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Scottish Human Rights Commission – has called on the UK government to “urgently reconsider” its response to the UN report. It has
People with dementia are “routinely” deprived of their human rights, facing forced medication, institutionalisation and a denial of care and support. A group of disabled campaigners with dementia spoke out this week as they launched a “ground-breaking” new booklet that highlights their battle for rights. Our Dementia, Our Rights aims to “bring together in one place the facts about some of the key rights relating to dementia in the UK”. Larry Gardiner, a spokesman for the Dementia Policy Think Tank (DPTT), which was set up in 2016 by a group of people with a diagnosis of dementia, launched the booklet at Disability Rights UK’s annual conference in north London. He said that people with dementia are “routinely” subjected to a denial of their human rights, with forced medication “absolute routine”, and tcription of phe pressychoactive drugs to “treat the presentation of our condition rather than recognising the underlying problem, which is that our brain cells are dying”. Gardiner said:
Strict new guidance published by the United Nations has increased pressure on the UK government to abandon its opposition to an inclusive education system, say campaigners. The guidance, published by the committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), makes it clear that all segregated education should end, and be replaced by “inclusive classroom teaching in accessible learning environments with appropriate supports”. The guidance is published through what is known as a “general comment”, and says that the right for disabled students not to be discriminated against “includes the right not to be segregated”. And it points out that countries that have signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) have “a specific and continuing obligation” to move as quickly as possible towards “the full realization” of article 24 of the convention, which describes the right of disabled people to an inclusive education system. The general comment makes it
‘…………..Written by Chris Holmes
This year sees the twentieth anniversary of the seminal Disability Discrimination Act (1995), reflecting the progress society has made in understanding the lives of disabled people and safeguarding their rights.
Anniversaries always provide good opportunities for reflection, but we certainly can’t be complacent.
Barriers to the full participation of disabled people still persist. It is unacceptable, that provisions which have been on the statute book for 20 years have not yet been brought into force. Many disabled people are still ‘locked out’ of full participation in society due to barriers remaining in the provision of housing, transport, leisure facilities, education and workplaces. Just as important as removing barriers to employment and fundamental services is to ensure that disabled people can effectively and fully participate in civic, political and public life on an equal basis with others. This is why today I am setting the challenge of five key actions to tackle the barriers that prevent disabled people participating in political life.
In my previous role as Director of Paralympic Integration for London 2012, I was determined that the 2012 Paralympic Games would not only be an inspiration for generations to come, but would also leave behind an international and national legacy that supported the aspirations of disabled people to achieve in education, employment and social life.
My involvement in delivering this legacy was one reason why I was delighted to join the Equality and Human Rights Commission as Disability Commissioner, providing leadership in its role to influence and regulate government, employers and service providers, and driving forward a range of actions to help disabled people play a full part in society.
The Commission has delivered many vital interventions on behalf of disabled people in recent years.
Of course, people rightly challenge us to go further, and we must continually look to the future and do more.
In an era of scarcer resources, we also need to be more outward-looking, and forge new partnerships and relationships. We can’t deliver change alone.
Our comprehensive strategy is underpinned by three priorities:
Firstly, to promote fairness and equality of opportunity in Great Britain’s future economy.
We have taken legal action on the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF); we have developed a new e-learning course aimed at removing barriers to education for disabled children and young people; we are reviewing disability pay gaps; and encouraging action to increase the number of disabled people in public appointments, to ensure representation in important decision-making. In addition to this, our assessment of compliance with the public sector equality duty during the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review led to the Treasury reviewing its decision-making process to ensure it takes account of the impact of changes on disabled people. This week we have written to DWP to flag our concerns about the extent to which the likely impact of measures in the new Welfare Reform and Work Bill on disabled people and others are properly understood.
Secondly, to promote fair access to public services, and autonomy and dignity in service delivery
We have tested the law and taken action to challenge a wide range of physical barriers including inaccessible sports stadia, taxis, buses, trains, retailers, and workplaces, challenging powerful commercial enterprises and public authorities. For example, we are supporting wheelchair user Doug Paulley in his case against First Bus Group and we published a passport-sized leaflet to advise disabled passengers of their rights when travelling by air.
Thirdly, to promote dignity and respect, and contribute to keeping people safe.
Our inquiry into disability-related harassment made recommendations to address the dire lack of reporting, recognition and recording of disability related harassment and hate crimes and the subsequent lack of access to justice.
Our investigation into deaths in custody of adults with mental health conditions made a range of recommendations – many of which have now been adopted by Government including stopping the practice of using police cells as a “place of safety” for people with mental health issues.
Our international work includes producing the first ever report into how the UK is meeting its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
I could go on but I know we can’t rest on our laurels, given the breadth and scale of the challenges still faced by disabled people.
Our forthcoming review of progress in Britain on equality and human rights -‘Is Britain Fairer?’ will show the daily challenges many disabled people in Britain still face, and inform our future priorities.
Despite what many saw as a changed attitude as a result of the Paralympic Games, many disabled people still experience day-to-day verbal and physical abuse.
Over the coming years, we want to work to further develop a landscape where business and employers value the talents of disabled people, and where we can all enjoy a society that recognises the social and economic value of delivering accessible and inclusive services. This is why we want to meet more groups which bring together the concerns of disabled people.
Without close collaboration, we can only achieve a tiny fraction of the possible. This is why the Disability Committee I lead at the Commission is travelling across the country to meet with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) and hear people’s concerns. We would like to hear from as many DPOs as possible so if we have not met with you yet, please contact us at –email@example.com – we would be very interested to hear from you.
We all have more work to do, and we look forward to working with you to build a legacy for the next 20 years.
‘…………….By Sue Jones
I reported last year that the UK is to be investigated formally by the United Nations because of allegations of “systematic and grave” violations of disabled people’s human rights.
In August I wrote that officials from the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) are to visit Britain. The inquiry is confidential, and those giving evidence have been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.
A United Nations team have arrived in the UK and it’s understood they will visit Manchester, London, Bristol, as well as parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The United Nations team are also expecting to meet with the members of parliament, individual campaigners and disabled people’s organisations, representatives from local authorities and Equality and Human Rights Commission, demics.
The team will be gathering direct evidence from individuals about the impact of government austerity measures, with a focus on benefit cuts and sanctions; cuts to social care; cuts to legal aid; the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF); the adverse impact of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA); the shortage of accessible and affordable housing; the impact of the bedroom tax on disabled people, and also the rise in disability hate crime.
In 2013, Amnesty International condemned the erosion of human rights of disabled people in UK, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights conducted an inquiry into the UK Government’s implementation of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the right to live independently and to be included in the community. The inquiry, which began in 2011, has received evidence from over 300 witnesses.
The inquiry highlighted just how little awareness, understanding and employment of the Convention there is by the (then) Tory-led Government. Very few of the witnesses made specific reference to the Convention in their presented evidence, despite the inquiry being conducted by the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, with the terms of reference clearly framing the inquiry as being about Article 19 of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities. (UNCRPD.)
“This finding is of international importance”, said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director.
He added: “Our experience is that some Governments are of the view that the CRPD is nothing more than a policy nicety, rather than a treaty which sets out legal obligations which governments must fulfil.”
The report was particularly critical of the Minister for Disabled People (Maria Miller, at the time) who told the Committee that the CRPD was “soft law”. The Committee criticised this as “indicative of an approach to the treaty which regards the rights it protects as being of less normative force than those contained in other human rights instruments.” (See the fullreport.) The Committee’s view is that the CRPD is hard law, not soft law.
In August, I wrote about how the inquiry was triggered by campaigners and groups using the convention’s optional protocol, (which the last Labour government signed us up to, in addition to the convention.) The protocol allows individuals (and groups) who are affected by violations to submit formal complaint to the UNCRPD.
The deadline for evidence submissions to the UNCRPD is thought to be 31 October.
Contact details are here.