The Disability in the UK: Rights and Policy Debate on 28 June 2018 House of Lords briefing refers to the damming original 2016 United Nations Investigation into poverty and disability in the UK.
A summary follows:
Disability under the Equality Act 2010
In the Equality Act 2010, a person is defined as having a disability if they have
a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and
long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal and day-to-day
1 Equalities and Human Rights Commission, ‘What is the Equality Act?’, 30 October 2017.
2 Equality Act 2010,
3 Explanatory Notes to the Equality Act 2010,.
4 Equalities and Human Rights Commission, ‘What is the Equality Act?’, 30 October 2017.
House of Lords Library Briefing I Disability in the UK activities. The Act states that a person discriminates against a disabled person if they treat that person unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability, and they cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Section 20 of the Act makes provisions regarding the requirement to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in relation to services and public functions, premises, work, education and associations, which is imposed in various parts of the Act.
The explanatory notes provide an overview of the duty to make reasonable adjustments:
The duty comprises three requirements which apply where a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with non-disabled people.
The first requirement covers changing the way things are done (such as changing a practice),
The second covers making changes to the built environment (such as providing access to a building),
The third covers providing auxiliary aids and services
(such as providing special computer software or providing a different
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on 13 December 2006 and entered into force in May 2008.16 The UK signed the Convention on 30 March 2007 and ratified it on 8 June 2009.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has summarised the purpose of the Convention:
The Convention is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension.
It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.
The UN has emphasised the Convention’s embodiment of the principle that people with disabilities should not be treated as “objects” of charity, but rather as “‘subjects’ with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society”.
Proceedings under the Optional Protocol of the CRPD
Background and Report
In 2015, the Government confirmed that an investigation had been launched into the UK by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities under the Optional Protocol.21
This investigation was opened after the Committee received a formal request from some UK disability organisations “alleging that serious and systematic violations of the provisions of the Convention were occurring against persons with disabilities”.
The Committee published its report on this investigation in October 2016.
It concluded that several elements of the way in which the UK Government was supporting disabled people were not sufficient to meet its commitments under the Convention, stating that “there is reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met in the State party”.
The Committee’s report discussed what it regarded as flaws in the assessment process for various disability-related social security benefits, negative impacts of policy changes on the ability of disabled people to live independently and as part of the community, and the higher-than-average prevalence of low income households among households including a person with disabilities.
The Committee made eleven recommendations to the UK Government,
including that the Government should:
Ensure that disabled people’s rights are activity considered in
future policy decisions;
Ensure access to justice for disabled people;
Actively consult with disabled people;
Combat negative stereotypes of disabled people; and
Set up a mechanism to monitor the impact of policies related to
The Government did not accept the Committee’s findings. In its response to the Committee’s report, the Government disputed the accuracy of some of the facts relied upon and argued that the report “focuses on too narrow a scope and, in doing so, presents an inaccurate picture of life for disabled people in the UK”.
The Government argued that the report failed to
reflect significant measures, including:
Personal budgets to increase choice and control of care and
Improvements to the accessibility of housing and transport;
the wide range of work-related support available to disabled
Financial protections, such as tax and pension credits and the
exemption of disability-related benefits from the benefit cap and
Civil Society Delegation’s Response
Following the meeting between the Committee and UK Government
representatives in August 2017, the UK Delegation of Deaf and Disabled
People’s Organisations issued a statement supporting the Committee’s
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
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
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.