UN finds UK governments have failed to address violations of disabled people's human rights

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities strongly criticises the UK and Scottish governments over disabled people’s rights, in a new report.

The Committee finds there has been no significant progress to improve disabled people’s rights in the UK since 2016.

The UN Committee published the long-awaited report examining progress following its 2016 findings of “grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights in the UK”.

The failures were found in relation to the right to live independently and be included in the community, to work and employment, and to an adequate standard of living and social protection across all parts of the UK.

 Key findings

  • “No significant progress has been made” in the UK to improve disabled people’s rights.
  • While some measures have been taken to address the Committee’s original 2016 recommendations, there are also signs of regression which is not allowed under the convention.
  • It concludes that the UK has “failed to take all appropriate measures to address grave and systematic violations of the human rights of persons with disabilities and has failed to eliminate the root causes of inequality and discrimination.”

The report was published this week, seven years after the initial findings and is the product of months of evidence gathering from Disabled People’s Organisations, independent human rights organisations, including the Scottish Human Rights Commission, and representatives from governments across the UK.


The UN report explicitly highlights a number of areas where Scotland is failing to do enough.  These include a lack of evidence that the Social Security Charter is making a meaningful difference to policy, the high disability pay gap in Scotland and the long delays and lack of detail concerning the National Care Service Bill.

It also finds that Adult Disability Payment is not sufficient to cover the extra costs of living for disabled people, and that the eligibility criteria are contrary to the human rights model of disability.

‘Unrelenting attacks’

The Commission has an ongoing role set out in the Treaty to monitor the implementation of the Convention in Scotland as a member of the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM). We contributed Scottish evidence to a report of the United Kingdom Independent Monitoring Mechanism to the UN, published in August 2023. The Commission published a second powerful report from the Scottish Independent Living Coalition to the UN from a group of Disabled People’s Organisations who work in Scotland. This report shared disabled people’s lived experience and made an assessment of ‘unrelenting attacks’ on disabled people’s human rights in Scotland.

Shelley Gray, Member of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said:

“Governments across the UK have not done enough to ensure that the human rights of disabled people in Scotland are fully realised.  More needs to be done to protect disabled people’s rights to employment, independent living and an adequate standard of living.”

“Throughout its report, the UN Committee pays close attention to policies in Scotland. In line with our concerns, they found evidence of increasing institutionalisation of disabled people and raise concern about the use of restrictive and unsafe practice in these settings. We share these concerns and are currently undertaking a spotlight project exploring progress in  moving away from institutions in Scotland in line with the right to independent living.   We will publish our findings later in 2024.

“The Scottish Government has taken action since last summer to reopen the Independent Living Fund to new applicants, and it’s commitment to embed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as part of a new Human Rights Bill is something the Commission welcomes.

“Today’s findings from the UN confirm that disabled people in Scotland cannot wait any longer for greater protection and promotion of their human rights. We urge the UK and  Scottish Governments to act urgently on the recommendations from the UN.”

For media enquiries please contact media@scottishhumanrights.com

Notes to editors:

  1. News item from 17 August 2023: Commission warns of crisis for disabled people’s rights (scottishhumanrights.com)
  2. News item from 28 August 2023: Commission tells UN that disabled people cannot wait any longer for progress on human rights (scottishhumanrights.com)
  3. 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).  
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. UKIM and Disabled People’s Organisations provided oral evidence to the Committee on the Rights of Disabled People in August 2023, and the UK Government, including representatives from the Scottish Government and other devolved authorities, provided oral evidence to the Committee in March 2024.