A damning United Nations inquiry has concluded that vicious Tory cuts to welfare and social care for disabled people in Britain amount to “systematic violations” of their rights.
The scathing report, published on Monday (November 7), stated that austerity had badly affected disabled people’s right to live independently and work. The inquiry also found that disabled people’s right to achieve an adequate standard of living had been hit.
Particular condemnation was reserved for ministers, who it says pressed ahead with reforms despite being aware of their damaging consequences for disabled people.
In a formal response to the inquiry’s findings the UK government dismissed the report as inaccurate.
“While the government continues to improve and build on the support available to disabled people, it stands by and is proud of its record,” the response stated.
Unite national officer for equalities Harish Patel said the Tories were presiding over a “national shame”.
“This report comes as no surprise to the thousands of disabled people who under austerity have suffered dramatic falls in the quality of their working and social lives.
“For the last six years they have been living under a government which has systematically eroded their independence, care and dignity through savage and sweeping attacks on public services and welfare,” Patel said.
“Despite the deplorable treatment of disabled people in Britain now garnering international attention, the Tories are refusing to acknowledge the evidence and are even claiming they’re “proud” of their achievements.”
He added, “This government is either delusional or dishonest. Either way it is clear they are wilfully ignoring a national shame of their own making.”
The inquiry highlighted key areas of concern, including cuts to personal independence payments and the independent living fund. The cuts “hindered various aspects of (disabled people’s) right to live independently”, the report found, leaving them overly dependent on family and carers. In some cases disabled people have been forced into move into institutions because of the cuts, the report noted.
In addition, cuts to housing support and the bedroom tax have led to debt and eviction for a disproportionally high number of disabled people.
“Evidence indicates that persons with disabilities affected by cuts in their housing benefits have undergone high levels of stress, anxiety and depression as a consequence of the shortfalls in their budget,” the report said.
During assessments for social security benefits disabled people were “merely processed rather than being listened to or understood”, the report stated. Deeply controversial “fit-for-work” tests also came in for criticism and were found to be filled with flaws.
The inquiry noted that more generally disabled people are depicted as “lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers” and experience “increasing hostility, aggressive behaviour and sometimes attacks to their personal integrity”.
The UN report concludes that “there is reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met” and makes 11 recommendations, including for the government to commission a study on the cumulative effect of spending cuts on disabled people.
“The root cause of the UN’s findings are the humiliating and brutal efforts of the Tory government to take away disabled people’s benefits and services,” said head of Unite Community Liane Groves.
“Not only has this caused untold suffering but it is has also fed into the pernicious narrative that disabled people are scroungers. In fact the very opposite is true – the cuts are preventing disabled people who are willing and able to work from gaining employment.
She added, “Unite calls on the government to follow the UN’s recommendations and end the systemic violation of disabled people’s rights in this country.”