Rhian Davies

PRESS RELEASE Disability coalition calls for talks with prime minister over ‘human catastrophe’

A coalition of disabled people’s organisations has today written to the
Prime Minister urging her to meet with them to discuss the deteriorating
quality of life experienced by millions of disabled people in the UK. 

The call comes exactly six months since the United Nations’ damning
report on the UK Government’s implementation of the Convention on the
Rights of Disabled People (CRDP).

The report, published last August, made a number of recommendations
but disability organisations which gave evidence to the UN say that the Government is not taking the urgent action required

 The coalition has highlighted five areas of particular concern:
1.   The failure to fully implement the 2010 Equality Act.
2.   The lack of joined up working across the 4 nations of the UK.
3.   The lack of resources to ensure disabled people are included in their communities.
4.   The continuing gap in employment opportunities for disabled people.
5.   The right of disabled people to an adequate standard of living and social protection.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said:
“Six months on from the UN Disability Committee’s damning verdict on the UK Government’s failure to protect and progress Disabled people’s rights, things continue to get worse not better for Disabled people. The Government appears to be maintaining its position of blanket denial that there is anything wrong, dismissing our lived experience, the UN findings and failing to act on any of the recommendations put forward in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. This state of affairs cannot continue. Disabled people’s organisations from across the UK are calling on the Government to recognise the very serious concerns identified by the UN Disability Committee and to use the Concluding Observations as an opportunity to begin working with, not against Disabled people, so we can get our rights, inclusion and equality back on track.”

Welsh Government has responded to the UN’s Concluding Observations through continuing dialogue with disabled people and our organisations through the ongoing review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living. While we need to see progress towards completing and implementing the revised Framework, we are encouraged by Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment to tackling barriers to independent living.

However, as a devolved nation, it is not possible to entirely mitigate the impact of UK austerity policies so we join forces with our sister organisations across the UK in calling for urgent action from the Prime Minister in our quest to safeguard disabled people’s human rights in Wales.”

The Coalition members include:
Disability Wales, Disability Rights UK; Inclusion Scotland;;  Disability Action Northern Ireland; Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance; Disabled People Against Cuts; Black Triangle; Alliance for Inclusive Education; British Deaf Association; People First (learning disability); National Mental Health System Service Users Network; UK Disabled People’s Council; Equal Lives; Inclusion London.

***

Rt. Hon Theresa May M.P.
Office of the Prime Minister
10 Downing Street,
London SW1A 2AA

 28th February 2018

 Dear Prime Minister

United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities

We are a coalition of disabled people’s organisations, led and controlled by disabled people, who, following our participation in the UN’s examination of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) have come together to promote the Convention.

We are writing to draw your attention to the fact that the examination by the U.N. of the U.K.’s implementation of the CRPD was concluded in Geneva six months ago and that, to date, there appears to have been no response from HM Government. In its Concluding Observations, a number of areas for action were identified.

Among these, the UNCRPD committee particularly highlighted five significant areas of concern:

1.    the many gaps in safeguards and rights for disabled people including unimplemented sections of the Equality Act 2010, the lack of resources to ensure the Equality Act is implemented, and the need to enshrine the CRPD into U.K. law as we leave the E.U. 

2.   the lack of joined up working between the four nations of the U.K. and the need for a fully resourced action plan to implement the CRPD across the U.K. 

3.   our right to independent living and to be included in the community. 

4.   our right to employment and

5.   our right to an adequate standard of living and social protection.

Further the U.N. committee recognised that the U.K. has previously been seen as a leader on disability rights by many countries around the world and therefore has a ‘special obligation’ to set world leading standards on the treatment of disabled people and their inclusion in society.  Sadly, the committee concluded that the UK’s leading position has been lost.

We note that during the two-day hearing in Geneva, 23 and 24th August, the U.K. Government delegation gave a commitment to continuing the dialogue on how disabled people’s rights can be realised in the U.K. and specifically how engagement might be improved.  In the spirit of Article 4.3 of the Convention, general obligations involvement of disabled people and their representative organisations we are willing, and indeed expect, to work with you on progressing disabled people’s rights across the whole spectrum covered by the Convention from access through to being included in the community and being able to realise our ambitions and potential.

We should therefore like to request a meeting with you and your officials to discuss:

1.   How government is implementing the UNCRPD committee’s concluding observations and

2.   How Government plans to work with organisations led by disabled people monitoring and implementing the Convention.

We trust that the Government will embrace the need to be more proactive in promoting and implementing disabled people’s rights and inclusion in society. We look forward to hearing from you further and working with government on an action plan to complete the implementation of the rights of disabled people detailed in the CRPD which was ratified by the U.K. in 2009.  Our expectation is that the U.K. will once again be seen as a leader in implementing the human rights of disabled people by all countries across the world.

Yours faithfully

Kamran Mallick – CEO Disability Rights UK
Dr Sally Witcher OBE – CEO Inclusion Scotland
Rhian Davies – CEO Disability Wales
Patrick Malone – Disability Action Northern Ireland
Eleanor Lisney – Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance
Dr Terry Riley – British Deaf Association
Tracey Lazard – CEO Inclusion London
Linda Burnip – Disabled People Against Cuts
John McArdle – Black Triangle
Tara Flood – CEO Alliance for Inclusive Education
Anne Novis – UK Disabled People’s Council
Mark Harrison – CEO Equal Lives
Dorothy Gould – National mental health system Survivor Users Network
Andrew Lee – CEO People First learning disability

A ‘human catastrophe’ – New UN condemnation for UK human rights record

Disability Wales Press Release
31st August 2017
 
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 highlights of the press conference held by the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People at this afternoon are:
·        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 with Deaf and disabled people’s standard of living. Disabled people continue to be disadvantaged in employment, and are not adequately compensated for disability 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’.
 
Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) were hailed 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.
 
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 of the disability community.
 
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.”
 
Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said, “It is a relief to see that the UK Government’s appalling treatment of disabled people has been called out by the UN Committee. The Concluding Observations give a clear sense of direction for the UK and devolved Governments. We welcome Welsh Government’s commitment to a strengthened Framework for Action on Independent Living since much of the implementation of the UNCRPD is devolved to Welsh Government.
 
However, as a devolved nation, it is not possible to entirely mitigate the impact of UK austerity policies and we will continue to join forces with our sister organisations across the UK in our quest to safeguard disabled people’s human rights in Wales.”

Austerity policies have created a “human catastrophe” – UN Committee Chair condemns the UK’s record on human rights.

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations welcome the public unity of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in their clear criticism of the UK Government’s ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s human rights.

Chairperson Theresia Degener in her closing questions stated, “Evidence before us now and in our Inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies has led to human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.”

The Committee condemned the UK’s attempts to misrepresent the impact of policies through unanswered questions, misused statistics and a smoke screen of statements on policies and legislation which fail to implement the rights of disabled people in reality.

Committee member Coomaraval Pyaneandee said “[I] Want to see you come back as a world leader which at the moment, I’m afraid you are not, but DPOs I congratulate. [They] are in fact, the world leaders in your country.”

The UK Independent Mechanism further reinforced the concerns of DDPOs in their concluding statement which called for:

  • Gaps and inconsistencies in disability discrimination legislation to be addressed including the legal basis for British Sign Language
  • Steps to be taken to embed the CRPD in domestic law, maintaining the protections in the Human Rights Act
  • A coordinated approach to implementing the Convention and the Committee’s recommendations across the UK, with fully resourced and meaningful involvement of disabled people.

Tara Flood, Alliance for Inclusive Education and Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance said, “The UK’s track record on article 24 is not acceptable. The Chairperson made it clear and unequivocal that inclusive education is not a choice, it is a right. We are not surprised but always disappointed by UK Government’s lack of commitment to inclusive education for disabled children and their efforts to mask segregation.”

Devolved Nations also had the opportunity to address questions put to them by the Committee.

Patrick Malone, Disability Action Northern Ireland said, “It is not acceptable for the UK Government to hide behind lack of an Executive or Ministers for NI for the disparity of equality in legal protection for disabled people in Northern Ireland as compared to the rest of the UK. The Government must ensure that all of the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010 are fully implemented in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.”

Rhian Davies, Disability Wales said, “We welcome Welsh Government’s commitment to a strengthened Framework for Action on Independent Living since much of the implementation of the UNCRPD is devolved to Welsh Government. However, as with the rest of the UK there is much more to be done in Wales in safeguarding disabled people’s human rights. This has been a historical week for the disabled people’s movement and one that we are proud to have played our part in.”

Sally Witcher, Inclusion Scotland said, “We wholeheartedly welcome the Committee’s comments on the UK. The government has not been allowed to get away with evasive responses which disregard the lived experiences of Deaf and Disabled people throughout the UK. We were disappointed that the opportunity was not available for Scottish Government to reply to all of the questions directed towards it, such as its plans to implement supported decision making for people with learning disabilities and how it will address the failings of the social care system. However, we anticipate opportunities to address these issues in response to the Committee’s concluding observations.”

Disability Wales calls out UK Government on human rights violations of disabled people

PRESS RELEASE

Disability Wales calls out UK Government on human rights violations of disabled people.

Disability Wales and Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) from across the UK join forces in Geneva this week, presenting evidence of ongoing human rights violations to the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People.

In a closed session on Monday 21st August, Disabled People’s Organisations will highlight the UK Government’s failure to respond to many of the questions put to it by the Committee throughout this process, and will tell the Committee of the systemic failure to support disabled people to live independently and to have access to social, educational and employment opportunities.

Key issues include:

  • The UK Government’s failure to answer the questions put to it by the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People in their List of Issues.
  • The retrogression in implementation of disabled people’s rights in the UK.
  • The UK Government’s dismissal of the 2016 Inquiry recommendations and lack of respect for implementing the range of human rights Conventions.

Disability Wales will also call for Welsh Government to strengthen its own approach to fulfilling its obligations under the CRDP. Recent engagement with disabled people across Wales regarding the review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living, confirmed that barriers to achieving disability rights and equality in Wales, remain firmly in place.

The Public Examination of the UK and devolved Governments will take place on Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th August.

This is the first time the Committee will review a State that it has previously had under Inquiry for violating the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. Disability activists will draw attention to the UK Government’s dismissal of recommendations for action noted by the Inquiry.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales says: “Disabled people are being failed by the UK Government and we are in Geneva to call out these violations of our rights.

The recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Tribunal Fee charges is just one example of where discriminatory policies have been deemed unacceptable. There are many more policies that need throwing out in order to protect the rights and lives of disabled people and their families.

This is our opportunity to show that we will not stop challenging Government sanctioned discrimination and exclusion of disabled people in the UK.”

In a closed session with the Committee, DDPOs will be identifying issues that have the most severe impact on disabled people in the UK.

We will request that the Committee make recommendations to the UK and Welsh Governments on actions they should take to progress the rights, access and inclusion of disabled people in all areas of their lives.

Wendy Ashton, Chair of Disability Wales said, “The Examination gives disabled people a voice and shines a spotlight on decisions the Government has taken to marginalise us.

In Wales, devolution provides the opportunity to do things differently. It is essential that Welsh Government strengthen the role of the Framework for Action on Independent Living since there is no other overarching mechanism in Wales that outlines our rights.

We must make sure that a human rights based approach identifies and meets the needs of disabled people living in Wales and call upon Welsh Government to support us as we fight for a better future for all disabled people.”

 

Enabling Wales celebrates

Disability Wales is celebrating the achievements of the Enabling Wales project which finishes this month after a very successful three year run.

A unique project, Enabling Wales was set up to deliver:

“An enabling society in which disabled children and adults enjoy the right to independent living and social inclusion”

Graduates of the training course, in Active Citizenship, Equality and Democracy, have already gone on to create change in campaigning on disability equality issues, locally and nationally.

Nathan Lee Davies, course graduate said:

“Two years ago, I had a very important decision to make: Do I swim or do I sink in the face of cuts to benefits and the support I am entitled to?

I knew I had to keep fighting for what is right – both for me and others – but I did not have any idea of where to begin.  The Enabling Wales programme changed all of this by giving me the knowledge and encouragement I needed to become a disability rights activist.

I truly believe that the Enabling Wales course changed my life for the better.  It empowered me and taught me that the only thing I have to lose are my chains.”

 

Enabling Wales is a Welsh Government funded project run by Disability Wales in partnership with DEWIS CIL and the Wales Co-operative Centre. The project has been working to strengthen and establish Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) in parts of Wales where disabled people are under-represented. Training programmes have developed disabled young people as ambassadors.

Today’s celebration will also launch two new Centres for Independent Living, created as social enterprises, and the Enabling Wales toolkit and website to support the continuation of the work.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales’s said:

“Enabling Wales has empowered disabled people to change their own lives and others’.  We live in times where the rights of disabled people are increasingly under attack and we must challenge this in our local communities and at the highest levels of Government.

The more information and knowledge disabled people have, the stronger we are together in fighting inequality and social injustice.” 

Young activist Mair Elliott said:

“Since completing the Young Enabling Wales project, I have gained some incredible experiences. My campaign work has been fruitful and I have become an accomplished spokesperson (something which I never thought possible in the past).

The skills and knowledge I learned from the course has made an immeasurable difference to my work and confidence. In October 2016 I was awarded a Welsh Government award for making a difference, which really allowed me to see how my work has impacted Wales.”

 

Disability Wales Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

Disability Wales in Geneva to take evidence of human rights violations to UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People

Disability Wales and Disabled People’s Organisations from across the UK join forces in Geneva today to meet with the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People.

During the first ever investigation of the UK Government’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, we will be providing evidence of systemic failure to support disabled people to live independently and to have access to social, educational and employment opportunities.

This is the first time the Committee will review a State that it has previously had under Inquiry for violating the Convention.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales says: “Disabled people are being failed by the UK Government and we will not be quiet whilst our rights continue to be violated.

Not only have the UK Government been dismissive of rights violations noted by the Inquiry, they have continued to progress policies and cuts that attack the rights and lives of disabled people and their families. We will continue to hold our Governments to account and put pressure on public institutions to value and uphold the rights of disabled people in Wales.”

In a closed three hour session with the Committee, DPOs will be identifying issues that have the most severe impact on disabled people in the UK. We will request that the Committee ask questions of the UK and Welsh Governments on actions they will take to progress the rights, access and inclusion of disabled people in all areas of their lives.

Returning from Geneva, Disability Wales will launch the Wales report on 15th March at the Cross Party Working Group on Disability.

The three key messages from Wales are:

  • To strengthen the Framework for Action on Independent Living by ensuring greater local accountability for delivering the Framework to enable genuine choice and inclusion in all areas of life, including employment.
  • Ensure that upcoming infrastructure projects are fully inclusive in creating an accessible Wales, from transport to provision of information and services and access to the built environment.
  • To address the barriers in accessing justice by improving provision of advice, advocacy and specialist legal representation.

Wendy Ashton, Chair of Disability Wales said, “It is important that disabled people realise that we do have a voice and are using this process to make the world aware of how we are being failed in the UK.

In Wales, devolution provides the opportunity to do things differently and we will continue to work closely with Welsh Government to press for implementation of our calls for action. We must make sure that a human rights based approach identifies and meets the needs of disabled people living in Wales and call upon Welsh Government to support us as we fight for a better future for all disabled people.”

 

Disability Wales Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE DISSEMINATION

Open letter to oppose Government’s disability benefit cuts

Ahead of next week’s Budget, Disability Wales are supporting a UK wide call for the Government to reconsider planned cuts to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of the disability benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which will see new claimants lose out on £30-a-week, £1500 a year.

Wales has a higher proportion of disabled people than the rest of the UK with a greater proportion of disabled people also living in poverty.

The UK Government claims this cut to ESA will ‘incentivise’ disabled people to get in to work, despite a recent Work and Pensions Select Committee report highlighting that evidence towards this is ‘ambiguous at best’. Disability Wales argues that instead of halving the disability employment gap, the cuts will directly undermine this aim pushing disabled people closer to or into poverty, with a survey of over 500 disabled people finding:

* Almost 7 in 10 (69%) say cuts to ESA will cause their health to suffer

* More than a quarter (28%) say they sometimes can’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA

* Almost half (45%) of respondents say that the cut would probably mean they would return to work later

* Just 1% said the cut would motivate them to get a job sooner

A recent Disability Wales survey highlighted the desperate struggle of many disabled people dealing with the stress of a system that continues to obstruct and not support. We will be calling upon Welsh Government to put pressure on UK Government to reverse the policies of further cuts.

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said:

“The UK Government has been heavily criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for breaching the rights of disabled people through its ongoing programme of austerity and welfare reform.  To continue to target disabled people with further cuts is beyond comprehension or humanity.

Poverty, poor housing, lack of access to transport, local services, education and skills training means that the odds are stacked up high against disabled people seeking employment. Increasing insecurity and distress by cutting income will do nothing but bring more harm to disabled people in Wales.”

Disability Wales will be taking evidence to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 13th which will demonstrate how the UK Government is continuing to fail disabled people in Wales and across the UK. The delegation will lobby for recommendations to be made to UK and Welsh Governments to take action to reverse the impact of these severe attacks on the rights of disabled people.

Open letter

“Dear Prime Minister,

“We urge the Government to reconsider the £30-a-week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit facing sick and disabled people. The cut has caused deep concern among the sector and unease among MPs from all parties and we remain united as a sector in our opposition.

“The cut to new claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group of ESA and within Universal Credit (UC) from 1st April 2017 will affect many people found currently ‘unfit for work’ but will also impact many disabled people in work and on low wages due to the way UC works.

“Almost 70% of sick and disabled people surveyed said this cut would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would probably not be able to return to work as quickly, therefore undermining the Government’s attempts to halve the disability employment gap – something we wholeheartedly support.

At a time when 1 in 3 households with a disabled member are living in poverty, £30 a week can be a huge loss in income. We therefore urge the Government to halt this cut immediately.”

Notes to editors:

1. Disability Wales is the national association of disabled people’s organisations in Wales championing the rights, equality and independence of all disabled people.

2. The Disability Wales response to the “Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability” Green Paper highlights the detrimental impact of welfare reform on disabled people seeking work and accessing benefits such as Employment Support Allowance. It can be accessed here: http://www.disabilitywales.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-Disability-Wales-response-to-Improving-Lives-Green-Paper.docx

3. The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities investigation throughout 2017 will assess what steps the UK has taken to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee is a body of experts, nominated and elected by governments, the majority of whom are disabled people.

4. The committee postponed its assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to investigate a complaint of the violation disabled people’s rights as a result of welfare reform. This was brought under the optional protocol of the Convention. That investigation looked only at a part of the UN Convention – with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures and welfare reform. The current report looks at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, policies on employment and education and more.

5. For media enquiries, please contact:

Natasha Hirst on 029 2088 7325 or via Natasha.hirst@disabilitywales.org