People ask #WheresTom after a Tory minister no-shows a UN meeting on disabled people’s rights

Tory minister Tom Pursglove looking at the UN logo UNCRPD disabled people
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The Tory government failed to attend a meeting of the United Nations (UN) regarding its treatment of chronically ill, deaf, and disabled people. So, those affected have been asking #WheresTom in response to the absence of the minister responsible for their rights. However, unlike their ministers, campaign groups did attend the UNCRPD (UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) meeting in Geneva. They laid out damning evidence showing that somehow, things have gotten worse in the UK for chronically ill, deaf, and disabled people since a previous UN report accused successive Tory governments of human rights abuses.

The UNCRPD and the UK government

As the Canary has documented, the UNCRPD is a human rights branch of the UN. It oversees the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The UK has signed up to this conventions. However, in 2016 the UNCRPD assessed how the country was sticking to the rules. It found that successive UK governments had committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights.

Every so often, the UNCRPD monitors countries to see if they are acting in line with the CRPD’s articles or not. The last time the committee looked at the UK was in 2016 – and the report was damning. Then, in August 2017, the UNCRPD followed up on its report; this included its chair accusing the government of creating a “human catastrophe” for disabled people. Yet in 2018 the government effectively whitewashed the UNCRPD report.

Now, the committee is investigating the UK again – but it’s already met with controversy.

Minister for disabled people Tom Pursglove is the person ultimately responsible for chronically ill, deaf, and disabled people’s rights at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). However, as the Canary previously reported, his government refused to attend the UNCRPD meeting on Monday 28 August. It was supposed to be giving evidence to the committee on what progress it has made since the last inquiry. This forms part of the UNCRPD’s new investigation.


The government has instead said that it will give its evidence in March 2024. So, as campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) tweeted:

Read on...

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On 28 August the UNCRPD meeting went ahead without the UK government. However, disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), charities, and campaign groups did attend. The evidence they gave was damning.

The Canary previously reported on the more-than-28,000-word report a coalition of DPOs submitted to the UNCRPD. Evidence within it included that:

  • “In 2018 there were 365,000 DDP living in unsuitable properties”.
  • By January 2020, the DWP had removed 102,000 Motability customers’ Personal Independence Payment (PIP) awards that “entitled them to vehicles”.
  • 62% of “working-age people referred to food banks in early 2020 were Disabled”.

People from the group presented further evidence directly to the committee on 28 August:

You can watch the full meeting here.

Damning evidence from chronically ill, deaf, and disabled people

The evidence DPOs and others gave to the UNCRPD was damning. Paul Ntulila told the UNCRPD:

7.2 million households with a disabled person are living in poverty. This accounts for just over 10% of the UK’s population, but half of all UK poverty. Deaf and disabled people are almost three-times as likely to be in material deprivation than the rest of the population. Benefits in the UK are comparatively low by international standards, with one of the lowest rates relative to the average earnings.

He also added that analysis of the impact of tax and welfare changes between 2010 and 2021 showed that deaf and disabled people were “among the biggest losers”. The level of disability within a household was directly linked to higher annual cash loss.

Ntulila went on to say that:

The four-year benefit freeze from 2016 to 2020 affected 27 million people – sweeping another 400,000 into poverty. It is not true that this did not affect disabled people… Benefits have not been restored to their real-terms value.

The Canary has documented much of what Ntulila spoke of. Overall, it’s of little wonder the Tories pulled out of the meeting – as everything mentioned was one damning indictment of their successive tenures after another.

The Tories: willfully failing disabled people

Of course, the government is in denial over the issues DPOs have raised. It told the Mirror:

The Government is fully committed to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the advancement of rights for disabled people in this country.

We have followed all of the Committee’s required procedures and we will present the UK’s progress at a hearing in March 2024.

Ask many chronically ill, deaf, and disabled people and they would likely disagree with the government’s claims of ‘commitment’ to the UNCRPD.

Kamran Mallick is the CEO of DPO Disability Rights UK. He issued a damning summation of the situation in the country for chronically ill, deaf, and disabled people:

The UK government is fully aware of the mountain of evidence showing the poor life chances and outcomes for its 14 million disabled citizens, but consistently fails to act. It fails to take seriously its commitments to the UNCRPD and to you. It fails to take seriously its duty to improve the life chances of every disabled citizen in the UK. It refuses to support deaf and disabled people’s organisations and engage with us in structured, meaningful ways.

The absence of the Tories at the UNCRPD meeting is hardly surprising. It is their willful neglect, disregard, and lack of care that led to the failures in the 2016 UNCRPD report. Their entrenched contempt for chronically ill, deaf, and disabled people now looks set to lead to an even worse report this time.

Featured image via 5 News – YouTube and Wikimedia 

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  • Show Comments
    1. With the changes that the Tories have already made to the Benefits system, and all they are planning to do very soon: tightening up the rules even more, to make it all but impossible to claim the benefits that we are entitled to – then it won’t be long until the chronic death toll that’s already happening, because of the deliberate Tory changes, will grow ever higher!

      The Tories have been paying lip service to the UN since they took power – with the help of the LibDems – and hold both us, the disabled, and the UN, in such contempt, that they are practically laughing at us all, while gaslighting the UK Public into believing that they’re doing all in their power to help us – but also using the airwaves to constantly give the message that we’re all actually conning the system, and only need to be forced into work, to show the truth of it.

      Unfortunately, there are still far too many people who are eager to believe these lies, and who blame US for their own poverty, rather than the Tories, who have deliberately fostered it!

      I don’t know what the UN can actually do to force the Tories to comply with their ‘suggestions’ but, going by their past attempts, I believe they can’t do a thing to change the dreadful lives we’re currently forced to endure!

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