GENEVA,, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 07th Nov, 2016 ) - UN rights experts on Monday voiced alarm at the impact Britain's far-reaching welfare reforms have had on people with disabilities, warning their rights were being systematically violated. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities said it had "reliable evidence" that a years-long shake-up of the British welfare system has led to "grave or systematic violations of the rights" of disabled people.
London flatly rejected the UN report, insisting in a written response that it was "proud of its record in supporting disabled people to lead more independent lives and participate more fully in society." Britain has for the past six years been pursuing controversial welfare reforms aimed at cutting the deficit, including deep austerity cuts to disability benefits. In its statement, the government highlighted "strong evidence" that people benefit physically and mentally from working, and celebrated that there are now some 500,000 more people with disabilities in employment than in 2013.
The UN report, which was dated October 6 but only made public on Monday, meanwhile said reassessments and cuts to a wide range of benefits aimed at making life easier for the disabled had had a negative impact on a large number of people. It highlighted a "denial of reasonable accommodation" in assessing the extent of people's disabilities as one of several measures having "a discriminatory effect". Some 13,900 people have lost their right to access to adapted cars, it added in one example.
The report also warned that the rhetoric surrounding the reforms had contributed to negative stereotypes of people who depend on disability benefits, including portrayals of them as lazy and cheats defrauding the system. The UN committee, made up of 18 independent experts, began receiving information in 2012 from groups warning that disabled people's rights were being violated. It launched its investigation in April 2014 and committee members conducted a confidential two-week visit to Britain in October 2015, interviewing some 200 people in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.
The experts urged London to take a number of steps, including to carry out a thorough assessment of the impact of each measure introduced to ensure they do not have a disproportionately adverse effect on people's rights. They also called on the government to "take appropriate measures to combat any negative and discriminatory stereotypes or prejudice against persons with disabilities in public and the media, including that dependency on benefits is in itself a disincentive of employment."