Disability rights groups slam UK Gov for falling living standards in week of "catastrophic" cuts

EHRC report finds living standards of disabled people tumbling under weight of austerity UK

CAMPAIGNERS for disabled people’s rights have slammed the UK Government after a week which has seen a fresh tranche of major welfare cuts and mounting evidence in the decline of living standards among disabled people and other groups affected by austerity.

From Monday this week, cuts have been made to parts of Universal Credit impacting disabled people. Cuts have also been made to Employment Support Allowance, a benefit designed to get disabled people into employment. Resarch by the Disability Benefits Consurtium has found that this is likely to make it much more difficult for disabled people to find work.

The cuts coincide with the publication this week of figures by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which showed that the obstacles for equality for disabled people were widening, even before the impact of the latest cuts.

Speaking to CommonSpace Iain Smith, policy manager for the disability rights charity Inclusion Scotland said that UK austerity was the chief reason for the reversal of progress towards equality for disabled people.

“Cuts to disability benefits and austerity measures, which stem from the UK Government are having the biggest impact on stalling or reversing the progress towards equality for disabled people.” Iain Smith

He said: “Cuts to disability benefits and austerity measures, which stem from the UK Government are having the biggest impact on stalling or reversing the progress towards equality for disabled people.

“The present UK Government has also shown scant regard towards its international human rights responsibilities, including its off-hand dismissal of the Special Report of the UN Committee of the Rights of Disabled People into the cumulative impact of legislation, policies and measures adopted by the State party on social security schemes and on work and employment.”

The EHRC found systematic inequality in housing, employment and access to services. It found that there was deterioration in pay and access to legal justice.

Reductions in incapacity benefit in recent years are estimated to be worth around £2000 per year on average.

In other cuts, housing benefit was axed for 18 to 21 year-olds, and there were a string of cuts to child benefits, which have hit headlines for the so called ‘rape clause’ which allows women to claim child tax credits for a third or subsequent child only if the mother can prove they were the consequence of non-consensual sex.

On average, poorer families across the UK will lose up to £7000 a year due to the cuts.

Being Disabled in Britain: A Journey Less Equal

Smith welcomed the new approach being taken by the SNP in establishing its new social security system, which would control around 15 per cent of welfare spending under recently devolved new tax and spend powers. He also warned that the vision of social security would have to survive implementation.

He said: “By contrast we welcome the different approach by the Scottish Government in working with disabled people to develop “A fairer Scotland for Disabled People”, on developing the new social security system for Scotland, and for including some of the principles behind Independent Living (dignity, choice and respect) in key legislation such as Self-directed support and Health and Social Care Integration.

“However, disabled people tell us these principles are not being reflected in the way services are being planned and delivered, and the impact of cuts is removing the control, choice, dignity and respect disabled people have for how they want to live their lives.”

Disabled people have been the hardest hit group in Scottish and UK society since the onset of the crisis. The EHRC found that the numbers of disabled people committing suicide had increased continuously since the onset of the austerity measures.

A report in 2016 found that one if four disabled people in the UK now lived in ‘deep poverty’.

The Treasury were contacted for comment, but did not reply.

John McArdle of the grassroots Black Triangle Campaign told CommonSpace: “The cumulative impact of seven years of incremental cuts have been absolutely catastrophic and yet the cuts keep on coming.”

“We hold the U.K. Government wholly responsible for this total eclipse and regression in our struggle for human rights, inclusion and equality for disabled people.”

Further reading: 1 in 4 working age disabled people live in 'deep poverty', report finds

Picture courtesy of RNIB 

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