Commission tells UN that disabled people cannot wait any longer for progress on human rights

The Scottish Human Rights Commission will tell the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) today that there has been a lack of progress on human rights protections for disabled people in Scotland and the UK.

The Commission is giving evidence in Geneva, alongside other human rights organisations, saying that disabled people require action from the Scottish Government now to ensure their rights are fully protected.

Read our full statement (PDF).

Our evidence will highlight how the cost of living, COVID-19 pandemic and leaving the EU have changed the legal and economic situation for disabled people and the Scottish Government has not adequately considered how to protect the rights of disabled people.

Lack of progress

We highlight a lack of progress for disabled people in these specific areas:

  • Social care in Scotland is facing long standing difficult and cumulative challenges including inadequate resourcing, high vacancy rates and geographical variations in care costs.
  • The Scottish Independent Living Coalition (SILC) express disappointment in the lack of progress on the National Care Service proposals and the Commission is concerned that commitments to human rights are not fully embedded in the draft proposals.
  • International human rights should provide a framework to ensure that independent living, and choice and control over the support individuals need, are fully realised in planning and service delivery.
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights has stated that “the absence of a legal remedy or a more robust reference to international standards in the Social Security (Scotland) Act is significant and should be addressed.”
  • We are concerned about the lack of meaningful engagement and participation of disabled people in policy choices that affect them.

Grave and systemic

In 2016, the UN Committee – a body of experts appointed to monitor compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – undertook an inquiry into the impacts of welfare reform and cuts to tax and spending in the UK. They determined that there were “grave and systemic” violations of disabled people’s rights to social security, independent living and to work.

Nearly seven years on, the Committee is looking at progress towards addressing its findings at a meeting at the UN in Geneva. As a member of the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM), directed under the Convention to monitor its implementation in Scotland, the Commission published a report on 17 August 2023 looking at each of the 11 recommendations.

Read the full UKIM joint submission and recommendations.

We also published a powerful report from the Scottish Independent Living Coalition (SILC) – a group of disabled people’s organisations who work in Scotland. It undertook its own independent assessment of each recommendation, outlining “unrelenting attacks” on disabled people’s human rights.

Read the supplementary SILC report and recommendations.
Easy Read version of the supplementary SILC report and recommendations.

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Jan Savage, Executive Director, said:

“The Scottish Human Rights Commission is highlighting real concerns to the UN that the situation for disabled people overall in Scotland has not got better and there is an urgent need to address the barriers that disabled people face and the cumulative impact of these.

“The Scottish Government has not done enough to ensure disabled people’s human rights are fully realised and we are pushing for protection of disabled people’s rights to employment, independent living and an adequate standard of living”.

“The Scottish Government’s commitment to embed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as part of a new Human Rights Bill is something both the Commission and the Scottish Independent Living Coalition members welcome. However, any laws must be robust and effective to ensure they drive change and disabled people can challenge when things go wrong.

“We urge the Scottish Government to act on the recommendations in the reports, and prioritise the outcomes of the UN Committee’s scrutiny.”


Notes to editors:

  1. News item from 17 August 2023: Commission warns of crisis for disabled people’s rights (
  2. The United Kingdom Independent Mechanism (UKIM) consists of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC).  
  3. UKIM is tasked by law with promoting, protecting and monitoring implementation of the CRPD across the UK.  UKIM work together to cover different jurisdictional mandates in the UK, which is reflected in this report. 
  4. The Commission promotes, protects and monitors the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities- an international treaty that protects the human rights of disabled people. 
  5. Known as CRPD, the Convention makes clear that disabled people have the same rights as non-disabled people, but are often disabled by the barriers they face in society.  The Convention sets out what should be done to break down the barriers that prevent disabled people from realising all of their human rights.
  6. The UK has been a party to the Convention since 2009. This means the Scottish Government has explicit duties to promote, protect and ensure the human rights of disabled people. Although the Convention does not form part of Scotland's domestic law directly, it can be used to help interpret the rights that are contained in the Human Rights Act 1998.
  7. The CRPD meeting at the UN in Geneva will be held on Monday 28 August 2023 to examine progress across the UK on the recommendations from Committee’s 2016 inquiry and you can watch the session live.
  8. The Commission last reported in 2017 and the concluding observations can be viewed on our website.