The DWP is now pouring even more scorn on a damning UN report

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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released a response to a damning UN report. It accused the DWP and government of disabled people’s human rights violations. The Canary previously analysed part of the government’s response. But, a separate section shows even more of its disregard for what the UN called a “human catastrophe”.

This article details the UN criticisms, the department’s responses and the reality for disabled people in the UK.

The DWP: a “human catastrophe”

As The Canary previously reported, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was investigating the UK government for several years. This culminated in a 2016 report which accused it – and the DWP – of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights.

In August 2017, the UNCRPD issued a further analysis; this included its chair accusing the government of creating a “human catastrophe” for disabled people. Because the government has signed up to the UNCRPD convention, it has to respond. On Friday 7 September, it did.

The Canary analysed part of this response, which you can read here. But the second part of the UN’s criticisms specifically related to its accusations of “grave” and “systematic” human rights violations.

UN point (a)

The UN said the government should conduct a cumulative impact assessment; one that measured the effect of all welfare reforms since 2010 relating to three UNCRPD points: Article 19, the right to live independently and be included in the community; then Article 27, the right to Work and employment, and Article 28, the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection.

The DWP says… 

The DWP said that the government has done “cumulative analysis” on how policies affect households. But it admitted it has not done this for welfare reform as it claims it “cannot be reliably modelled”.

Read on...

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In reality…

A thinktank, Policy in Practice, did a cumulative impact assessment on welfare reform; you can read it here. It found that from a baseline amount in November 2016, by 2020 households hit by welfare reforms would be on average £40.62 a week worse off.

UN point (b)

The UN said the DWP/government must ensure that all welfare reforms are human rights-based. It said they must not disproportionately affect disabled people. The government should also carry out human rights-based cumulative impact assessments of welfare reforms.

The DWP says…

The DWP claimed that the Public Sector Equality Duty in the Equality Act 2010 already protects disabled people against the UN’s points. It still denied it was able to do specific assessments for welfare reforms.

In reality…

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that austerity-led cuts and reforms had hit disabled people harder than many other groups. It said disabled people could lose up to £5,500 a year; 13% of their average net income. The EHRC also found that people with the most serious impairments would lose more than those with lesser ones.

UN point (c)

The UN said the DWP must ensure that welfare reforms and policies let disabled people:

  • Keep their “autonomy, choice and control over their place of residence and with whom they live”.
  • Get appropriate and individualised support.
  • Have access to community-based services.
  • Are given the right level of welfare, including for the extra cost of disability. This must be “compatible with an adequate standard of living”.
  • Have full inclusion into, and join in with, society.
  • Get access to and are supported into work on “an equal basis with others”.

The DWP says…

The DWP said the Care Act 2014 has independent living as a core principle; that Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the Access to Work scheme, Personal Support Packages and personal health budgets all show the government’s commitment to disabled people’s autonomy, choice and control.

In reality…

A Council of Europe committee said the DWP had breached its rules, noting the levels of benefits like ESA were “manifestly inadequate” and were causing poverty.

UN point (d)

The UN’s next point was that the DWP/government must ensure that DWP and government budgets allocate enough money for disabled people. It must cover the additional costs of disability and “mitigate” austerity affects.

The DWP says…

The DWP said:

The UK Government is absolutely committed to providing financial support for those who need it.

It noted that more people were getting the highest rate of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) than got its predecessor Disability Living Allowance (DLA). It said both these benefits had increased in line with inflation. The DWP also drew the UN’s attention to the Motability scheme for disabled people to have cars. Also, it said it was making £9.4bn more funding available for social care budgets.

In reality…

Since April 2013 the DWP has denied around 381,000 people PIP who used to get DLA. What’s more, between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,380 people died after a Work Capability Assessment said they were fit-for-work. Also, 75,000 people (43%) have had their Motability vehicles taken away.

UN point (e)

Next, the UN said the DWP/government must ensure that all government-related bodies that work with disabled people are fully accessible.

The DWP says… 

The DWP claimed the Equality Act 2010 covers this, and it does various things to make sure services are accessible.

In reality…

When disabled people can’t even get into welfare assessment centres in their wheelchairs, something is wrong.

UN point (f)

This was to make sure disabled people can access the legal and justice system.

The DWP says…

The DWP queried the UN’s ruling on this. But it noted that:

Legal aid continues to provide access to justice, for those eligible, in the highest priority cases…

In reality…

Since 2011, there has been a 99% fall in the number of disabled people the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has given legal aid to, in order to fight benefit decisions. As the Guardian reported:

The total number… has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17, cutting some of the most vulnerable people in society adrift without expert advice in often highly complex and distressing cases.

UN point (g)

The UN said the DWP/government must ask disabled people and their organisations what they think of government policy and what it could do for them.

The DWP says…

The DWP said:

The UK has a strong record of engaging with disabled people to inform policy making across government.

It then gave examples of how it does this.

In reality…

The DWP has placed clauses in the contracts of some of the charities it works with to stop them criticising it. And if it doesn’t like what disabled people have to say, it simply doesn’t meet them.

UN point (h)

The UN also said the government needed to help combat discriminatory and negative stereotypes and stigma in the media.

The DWP says… 

The DWP said:

We combat stereotypes, discrimination, harassment and hate crime through a wide range of programmes in various settings.

It noted that the law is “strong” over hate crime and that an action plan had been produced.

In reality…

As the charity Scope said:

In 2000, a third (37%) of disabled… people felt that there was a lot of prejudice towards disabled people.

Seventeen years later – in 2017 – a third (32%) of disabled people still feel there is a lot of disability prejudice…

Meanwhile, disability hate crimes rose by 51% between 2016/17 and 2017/18; the period during which the DWP and the government were responding to UN accusations.

UN point (i)

The UN said the DWP/government must make sure that disabled people in poverty, on low incomes and those “at a higher risk of exclusion” (eg, learning disabled people) are given special attention when making policies and law.

The DWP says…

The DWP said the Public Sector Equality Duty in the Equality Act already does this. It also noted it does analysis of policy effects on these groups.

In reality…

The number of disabled people in poverty has risen since 2010. Despite the government pledging to reduce it, the number of learning disabled people in institutions has not fallen. And the number of homeless people with mental and physical health issues has risen 75% since 2010.

Not worth the paper…

The DWP and government took 12 months to prepare this response. During this time ministers repeatedly refused to recognise the UN’s findings. But the fact is the DWP and the government are willfully ignoring the reality of life for disabled people in the UK. The UNCRPD chair previously said the government tried to cover its tracks using  “unanswered questions”, “misused statistics”, and a “smoke screen of statements”. Judging from the DWP’s responses, nothing has changed.

Read the full UN inquiry verdict:

Get Involved! 

– Check out the #DWPcrimes#ScrapUniversalCredit and #CrimesOfDWP hashtags on Twitter.

– Support the blogs Universal Credit SuffererPolitics and Insights and The Poor Side of Life and get involved with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), fighting for disabled people’s rights.

Featured image via cjohnson7 – Wikimedia and UK government – Wikimedia

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