Major report on disability rights published

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has welcomed the publication of a major report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights which highlights a number of significant human rights issues facing people with disabilities.

The Report on the Implementation of the Right of Disabled People to Independent Living (report link - House of Commons website) draws attention to a number of significant human rights issues and includes a number of findings, including:

  • Finds that the UK Government has not adequately recognized that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Disability Convention) is “hard law” and calls on the UK Government to fulfill its obligations under the convention on the basis that they are legally binding and raise awareness of the Convention and its requirements, countering any public perception that the Convention is “soft law”.

  • Recommends that the Government and others assess the need for freestanding legislation to protect the right to independent living in UK law.

  • Finds that the UK Government has failed to adequately assess the cumulative impact of current reforms on the human rights of disabled people and welcomes the commitment by the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, to consider the outcomes of the process being developed by the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to integrate human rights and equality impact assessment.

  • While commending the Scottish Government for its plans to promote independent living, the Committee finds that the Disability Convention has not played a significant role in the development of policy and legislation in the UK; ·  Recommending that the UK Government should make a commitment to the UK Parliament that they will give due consideration to the articles of the Convention when making legislation.

  • Recommends that the NHS Commissioning Board in England produce guidance on the need to incorporate human rights into commissioning strategies, emulating similar guidance produced by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

  • Recommends that the Health and Social Care Bill currently before the Westminster Parliament be amended to ensure private and third sector bodies delivering care services at home are bound by the Human Rights Act 1998.       

The Scottish Human Rights Commission provided written and oral evidence to the Joint Committee in June 2011 and supplementary written evidence in October 2011.

The Committee makes extensive reference to this evidence which has influenced several of its recommendations. The emphasis on using human rights and equality impact assessments throughout the Report is particularly welcomed by the Commission, as is the recognition that in Scotland steps have already been taken to implement UNCRPD.

Duncan Wilson, head of Strategy and Legal at the Commission, said:

"This important report highlights that the UK is not currently doing enough to uphold the human right of disabled people to independent living. The Committee finds that as a party to the UN Disability Convention the UK is legally bound to take concrete legal and policy steps to ensure the rights of disabled people are respected in practice. Currently the UK has failed to do that.

"The Committee commends elements of practice in Scotland and the Commission welcomes the willingness it has seen from the Scottish Government to develop an action plan on how best to put the Convention into practice. We have called on the UK to take a similar approach.

"One of the steps the Committee recommends is more effective impact assessment as part of policy making. In Scotland the Scottish Human Rights Commission is working with a wide range of partners to pursue best practice in integrating equality and human rights impact assessment. When done properly this can help ensure policy making is most effective in upholding the human rights of everyone, including disabled people."