Today is the United Nation's International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD2015). United Nation's Perspective According to the UN's webpage: Theme for 2015: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities
The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation.
The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.
By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing in people - in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.
The sub-themes for the 2015 observance of the International Day are:
Making cities inclusive and accessible for all
Improving disability data and statistics
Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development
More information about the International Day and the UN Enable programme is available at UN Enable.
Retrogression of Rights
Wonderful aspirations to be sure. After the United Kingdom signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and in the preceding few years, matters were ameliorating little by little. Unfortunately since the ConDem co-alition from 2010-2015 and the Conservative government elected this year until 2020, our gains have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Search my blog or the internet for fuller details. However, I list a few examples below:
* The restriction in the number of benefit awards via tightening of eligibility criteria as people are re-assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults, and Employment & Support Allowance (ESA), which replaces Incapacity Benefit (IB).
*The introduction of a "Bedroom Tax", the Under-Occupancy Penalty, which massively & disproportionately effects families with a disabled member - two-thirds of those effected!
*The reduction in local councils' budgets has had a concomitant knock-on effect in the amount spent on social care, with many more folk unable to access help with toileting, bathing, cooking, etc. The English Law has even ruled that care can be removed from individuals as long as they are placed into adult nappies, whether or not the individual concerned is in/continent!
*The reduction in access to Motability vehicles, due to the reduction in the amount of disability benefits paid out, the benefits that were handed over to the charity in exchange for the lease of a car or motorised wheelchair. This effects tens of thousand of disabled people, some of whom have thus had to give up working!
*The reduction in access to justice in the jurisprudence system via Legal Aid, due to drastic cuts to its budget and eligibility criteria.
*The closure of the vast majority of Remploy factories, places where disabled workers could work in a supported environment. At last count most of the employees had not found alternative employment despite government's promises of every assistance being made available.
*The removal of part of ESA benefit to those classified as NOT being fit for work, but able to work in the future, so that they are paid the same as job-seekers - this group includes groups with cancer, degenerative diseases, fluctuating conditions and even folk with issues such as cystic fibrosis - which will NEVER go away nor ameliorate, save for a miracle or wonder-drug!
*The reduction of Access to Work grants, despite government insisting that they want and that disabled folk ought to work.
*The abolition of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) which supported the most severely disabled to live &/or work as independently as possible.
*The removal of the obligation to conduct impact assessments, which determine whether a proposed or planned action will be advantageous/neutral/detrimental to various groupings, one of which is people with disabilities.
* The removal of assistance to support prospective, disabled MPs, in order to increase the woefully tiny number of MPs with disabilities.
Cumulative Impact Assessment
There have been so many changes that disabled people and their carers & supporters gained over one-hundred-thousand signatures for the WoWPetition to request a cumulative impact assessment (cia) of all the cuts and changes. The government refuses to do so, despite other organisations having done the best they could without access to governmental data. One of those is the Centre for Welfare Reform. In the following four-minute video, "Counting the Cuts", Dr. Simon Duffy gives a brief overview.
In a single example of how the changes in the UK have effected me this year, my local town ran a survey to determine residents, workers & visitors' attitudes and desires for the run-downtown-centre, nationally embarrassed in the media for same. I replied as a disabled person, expressing concerns for others like myself and also for the elderly with whom there is a commonality of needs, such as seating and toilets. I also contacted my local council and requested under FOI for details of what account, if any, had been taken of the disabled/elderly needs & requirements. Despite two requests they refused to respond. Alterations have gone ahead, including the removal of parking, and replacing conventional paving with cobbles. I now can no longer visit parts of the town centre due to my inability to walk very far. I, and presumably those in a similar position to myself, have lost amenities. Only yesterday I read that Southampton is planning on removing ALL its disabled-parking spaces. Ay - overt disability discrimination!
The UK Parliament's Human Rights Joint Committee, in their report "Implementation of the Right of Disabled People to Independent Living", stated:
The impact of current reforms
While we recognise the exceptional economic circumstances facing the UK, we conclude that there is a risk of retrogression of the UK's obligations under Article 19 as a result of the cumulative impact of spending cuts and reforms. There has been particular concern about the effects of reductions in funding for local authorities, changes to Disability Living Allowance under the Welfare Reform Bill, caps on housing benefit and the closure of the Independent Living Fund, and the way in which these might interact to restrict enjoyment of the right to independent living.
Many local authorities are restricting eligibility criteria for social care support. We argue that this risks breach of Article 19. We recommend that the Government's forthcoming Disability Strategy includes measures to monitor the impact of restrictions on eligibility for adult social care on disabled people's access to independent living.
Since the aforementioned report, matters have pejorated for those of us with disabilities.
Governmental Attitude to IDPD2015
The government seems not to care, but obdurately continues steadfastly with its dogma of permanent austerity. It is therefore unsurprising to view the government's disdain for even acknowledging IDPD2015. Today is the United Nation's International Day of Persons with Disabilities Day. I shall iterate, as they cannot be bothered. The UK government, as per previous years (see relevant blog-posts), appears to be ignoring it as per usual. Below is today's page from the Office for Disability Issues (ODI):
Apparently broad issuesfor folk with disabilities on access & empowerment across all levels and areas of society are of no concern to the agency supposedly looking out for disabled people interests.
Is it any wonder that the UN is investigating the UK for serious breaches of UNCRPD?