Just Not Fair
Author: Jane Young
Jane Young authored the critical report, published by Just Fair: Dignity and Opportunity for All - Securing the Rights of Disabled People in the Austerity Era. In this article she sets out some of the key findings of the report, which concludes that the UK Government has failed to respect the fundamental human rights of disabled people.
The report I’ve helped write for Just Fair is now published. It analyses the extent to which the UK is meeting its obligations to realise the following rights in relation to disabled people, as set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD):
- The right to independent living (UNCRPD Article 19)
- The right to work (ICESCR Article 6 and UNCRPD Article 27)
- The right to fair and just conditions of employment (ICESCR Article 7 and UNCRPD Article 27)
- The right to social security (ICESCR Article 9)
- The right to social protection (UNCRPD Article 28)
- The right to an adequate standard of living (ICESCR Article 11 and UNCRPD Article 28)
Three versions of the report are available on the Just Fair website:
- The full version
- An easy read version
- A summary version
The full report rigorously examines the available evidence in the light of the obligations contained within ICESCR and UNCRPD, and also draws on the experience of disabled people. Key quotes from the report include the following:
The right to independent living
There is prima facie evidence that [the local housing allowance and the size criteria in social housing] are retrogressive, threatening disabled people’s occupation of accessible and affordable housing to enable them to live independently, exercising their right to choose where they live on an equal basis with others.
...when evaluating the Government’s final decision to proceed with the closure of the [Independent Living Fund]…any change in support that threatens fund users’ enjoyment of the right to independent living would constitute impermissible retrogression in relation to UNCRPD Article 19.
Given the critical role of social care services in facilitating independent living, we recommend that the Government ensures sufficient investment is directed towards ensuring that disabled people receive the support they need to exercise their right to independent living.
Despite the complexity and limitations of cumulative impact assessments, the evidence does appear to show that the JCHR’s concerns about the cumulative impact of a number of reforms and policy changes on independent living have been realised. If disabled people are hit by two, three, four or even more separate changes to benefits, social care and other services, they lose much of the support they need to live independently in the community in terms of UNCRPD Article 19.
...the importance of fulfilling disabled people’s right to independent living is such that serious consideration should be given to incorporating UNCRPD Article 19 (and related international human rights protections) into UK domestic law. This could be done so as to provide an overarching statutory duty on all areas of Government to take account of the need to respect, protect and fulfil disabled people’s right to independent living, and a duty to avoid retrogression, in all relevant policymaking.
The rights to work, to social security and to an adequate standard of living
...there continue to be significant barriers to disabled people’s access to the labour market, compromising their enjoyment of the right to work and the right to fair and just conditions of employment.
The key concern in relation to employment and support allowance, and the operation of the work capability assessment, is that the structure of the benefit and the frequency of inaccurate assessments leaves many people with long term health conditions in a no-man’s land – neither eligible for out of work benefits nor able to undertake paid work. This failure to provide income replacement benefits to disabled people and people with long term health conditions when they are unable to work constitutes a failure to respect, protect and fulfil disabled people’s right to social security … and, for many disabled people, their right to an adequate standard of living…
[Disabled people] are disproportionately affected by the reduced availability of advice services, which has an impact on their enjoyment of their… right to social security and, for many, an adequate standard of living.
There are a number of factors that increase the risk of disabled people becoming destitute, which reflect a failure to comply with the minimum core obligations under ICESCR and UNCRPD and to guarantee their rights to social security, social protection and an adequate standard of living…. appropriate recommendations include refocusing the ethos and performance management of DWP and JobCentre Plus so that their primary responsibility is to ensure claimants are able to support themselves and their families – by being supported to enjoy their rights to work, to social security and to an adequate standard of living…
This has been a complex and demanding piece of work, but a vitally important one. It’s important that the report has an influence where it needs to, including for the forthcoming examinations under UNCRPD in 2015 and under ICESCR in 2016.
Do take the opportunity to bring the report to the attention of your MP, and encourage him or her to read it for themselves rather than merely look at its casual dismissal by the Government. I’m confident that the report can withstand scrutiny.
The report Dignity and Opportunity for All is available to read online and download here.
Visit Just Fair to read and download a summary and the easy read version of the report.
Jane Young writes her own blog here.
The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.
Just Not Fair © Jane Young 2014.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.