Commission warns of crisis for disabled people’s rights

The Scottish Human Rights Commission, together with a coalition of Scottish Disabled People’s Organisations, warns that disabled people are experiencing ‘unrelenting attacks on their human rights’ in reports to the UN.

The two parallel reports for the United Nations highlight worsening poverty rates for disabled people in Scotland and how the cost of living is having a consequence for disabled people’s ability to live independently at home.

Independent living

Disabled people have told the Commission that increasing costs for using medical equipment and assistive technology is forcing some disabled people to make stark choices about how often they use such equipment. They highlight that in some cases disabled people are being forced to choose between ‘eating or breathing’ putting their health at risk with the inevitable consequence of being forced to go into hospital or residential care.

The first report on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was prepared by the Commission together with other national human rights organisations in the UK.

The United Kingdom Independent Mechanism (UKIM) has worked together to produce an 84 page evidence report. UKIM consists of the Commission (SHRC), the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC). This joint response provides an overview of key concerns about the lack of government progress in protecting the rights of disabled people in Scotland and the UK.

The Commission publishes a second powerful supplementary report from a coalition of Scottish Disabled People’s organisations to support the response. This report shares disabled people’s lived experience and is produced by the Scottish Independent Living Coalition (SILC).

Read the full UKIM joint submission and recommendations on our website.

Read the supplementary SILC report and recommendations.

Easy Read version of the supplementary SILC report and recommendations.

 Key areas for concern from SILC report:

  • Poverty rates have worsened for disabled people in Scotland with half (51%) of all people in poverty living in a household with at least one disabled member.
  • The cost of living crisis is also having consequences for disabled people’s right to live in a home of their choosing with the inevitable consequence of being forced to go into hospital or residential care.
  • Cuts to social care support in Scotland during the COVID-19 pandemic were devastating for disabled people and despite being three years on from the start of the pandemic not everyone’s social care package has been returned to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Six in 10 people who died with COVID-19 in Scotland were disabled people and social isolation continues to be an issue for disabled people left behind as protections have been lifted.
  • The disability employment gap in Scotland remains high – in 2022, it was 31.9 percentage points with 82.5% of non-disabled in employment compared to 50.7% of disabled people.

 Stark inequalities

These warnings come as the UN CRPD Committee is reviewing progress across the UK on the recommendations from the 2016 inquiry into the impacts of austerity measures on disabled people in UK. That inquiry found that the UK was responsible for “grave or systemic violations” of disabled people’s rights.  The Commission will be attending a meeting in Geneva at the end of the month to deliver the recommendations for Scotland.

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”.

Dr Jim Elder-Woodward, Independent Chair of the Scottish Independent Living Coalition (SILC) said:

 “The 2016 Inquiry by the Committee on the Rights of Disabled People revealed the shocking toll that austerity measures were taking on disabled people across the UK. Now, seven years later, in many respects the situation is worse. 

“The current cost of living crisis, in which the price of goods and services outpace the rise of income, comes after a decade of devastating cuts in public services, which support disabled people in the community.  Our place in society has been further jeopardised by a pandemic response, which did not prioritise our human rights, and an approach to economic recovery that does not value us.

"The Scottish Independent Living Coalition (SILC) acknowledges the Scottish Government's commitment to realising human rights,  but maintains that this is not the reality for disabled people on today’s day-to-day basis. The UN Committee's review of the 2016 Inquiry is a timely reminder of the stark inequalities still experienced by disabled people in Scotland today.

 “We urge the UK and Scottish Governments to move from rhetoric to action, by working with disabled people and their directly accountable organisations to address, fully, the Committee's recommendations and make rights a reality.”

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Notes to editors:

  1. 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).  
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The Commission last reported in 2017 and the concluding observations can be viewed on our website.