A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister just published a response to a damning UN report; which accused the government of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights.
But the minister didn’t go to parliament to explain the response. Instead, she dropped a written statement and effectively ran away from any scrutiny.
The DWP: “grave” and “systematic” human rights violations
DWP minister of state Sarah Newton finally published the government’s response to a UN committee’s report into life for disabled people in the UK; 12 months after the UN published its final findings.
In November 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) released a report into whether the UK government was meeting its legal obligations. These fall under the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, which the UK government ratified in 2009.
In short, the UN accused successive governments and the DWP of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights; in part due to successive welfare reforms. Then, last August the UNCRPD met again to assess the UK government’s response to its report, and also further analyse the situation for disabled people in the UK.
A “human catastrophe”
The committee’s assessment was damning. Its chair said successive governments and the DWP had created a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.
Up until now, the government has repeatedly refused to recognise the UN’s findings. Newton herself twice effectively whitewashed the report in parliament. Then, on Thursday 6 September, she announced in a written statement that the DWP and government had published its response and report into the UN accusations.
This left Labour’s Debbie Abrahams unimpressed:
This Government’s vision for disabled people is to create a society that works for everyone, where all can participate fully, and be included. This vision aligns with the… [UNCRPD]… which protects and promotes the rights of disabled people…
The response describes positive actions that we are taking in each of these areas, including:
“We have made available a further £9.4bn funding for social care in England between 2017/18 and 2018/19… an 8% real terms increase over the current spending review period (2016/17 to 2019/20)…
Supporting more people whose health affects the way they do their job through Access to Work – over 25,000 people in 2016/17, an 8% increase on 2015/16, spending £104m, up from £96m…
We will be spending an estimated £54bn in 2018/19 on benefits to support disabled people and those with long term health conditions, up from £44.7bn in 2010/11 – the highest ever.
We have made great progress, but there is always more we can do…”
Previously, the UN condemned the government’s “unanswered questions”, “misused statistics”, and “smoke screen of statements”. But it appears Newton has learned little; as her written statement used the same tactics:
The £9.4bn social care funding which she claims is a real terms increase comes after £6bn of cuts since 2010.
Access to Work has been capped; meaning the DWP has effectively cut some people’s support.
The £54bn spending claim has been widely debunked as it includes benefits not just for disabled people. For example, the true figure for 2017/18 was £39bn; Newton claimed it was over £50bn.
A “pack of lies”
Linda Burnip from campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) gave her reaction to Newton’s statement.
“Sarah Newton claims, in the most recent pack of lies produced by the Tories, that she wants to work with disabled people. All I can say to that is why has she refused to meet us in this case? To work with disabled people you first have to engage with them and face to face is most effective.”
All of this is without including Newton’s full response and report. But to say that the minister and her department’s attitude to the UN’s calamitous accusations is arrogant and cavalier may be an understatement.
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