UK government set for UN grilling in Geneva over ‘breaches of disability rights’

The UK government is set to face a grilling from UN experts next week over its alleged breaches of international obligations on disabled people’s human rights. 

The government will be examined on Wednesday and Thursday (15 and 16 June) by the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights on its record on issues such as social security, employment, housing, health and education.

The discussions will take place in public, in Geneva, Switzerland, with the committee’s findings likely to be published the following week.

A list of issues published by the committee – one of 10 bodies that monitor the implementation of the UN’s main human rights treaties – shows that among its concerns is the steps the government has taken to ensure that “austerity measures” introduced through the 2012 Welfare Reform Act do not “disproportionately affect” the rights of “disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups”, including disabled people.

The committee’s list also raises concerns about the government’s decision to lower the benefits cap and freeze working-age benefits, and its efforts to address the housing crisis.

It also asks what the UK has done to reduce poverty among “the most marginalized and disadvantaged individuals and groups”, and questions “the reliance on emergency food aid from food banks”.

The UK is one of seven countries – including Macedonia, Angola and France – that will be examined by the committee this month, as part of a programme of regular reviews of countries that have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The UK ratified the human rights treaty in 1976 and was last reviewed over its progress on implementation in 2009.

The Just Fair human rights consortium – whose members include Disabled People Against Cuts, Inclusion London and Disability Rights UK – has submitted an updated report to the committee in the last few weeks, with evidence across the treaty areas, including employment, social security, access to justice, housing and the right to an adequate standard of living.

The consortium highlights the need to focus on the UK government’s social security reforms because of evidence that they have “had a retrogressive impact” on many of the rights in the treaty, particularly for disabled people and children, which “cannot be justified by reasons of economic necessity”.

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