More must be done to tackle inequalities facing people with disabilities, following report, says Donnelly

Alliance MLA Danny Donnelly has said that more must be done in both the UK Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly to tackle the continuing inequalities facing people with disabilities.

Danny Donnelly

The East Antrim MLA was speaking following the publication of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) report on the rights of persons with disabilities in the UK, following an inquiry in March. The UNCRPD Committee found 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.” It also concludes that no significant progress has been made in addressing previous UNCRPD recommendations outlined in 2017.

Mr Donnelly said: “This report makes for very concerning reading. It is clear the current Conservative Government has failed to address any of the unacceptable inequalities facing people with disabilities in the UK. There has been no progress on the previous UNCRPD recommendations since 2017, and since then inequalities have been exacerbated by Brexit, the COVID pandemic, and the cost of living crisis.

“In particular, this report highlights the difficulties for disabled people in terms of their right to live independently, a key right under the UNCRPD. Personal Independence Payment and Adult Disability Payment are not sufficient to cover the extra costs for many people living with a disability while their eligibility criteria aren’t based on a fair, or human-rights-based approach. Proposed legislation in Westminster such as the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, and the proposal to allow the Department of Work and Pensions to check disabled people’s bank accounts to monitor fraud and errors, is unacceptable and contrary to protecting the human rights of individuals with disabilities. I have little faith that this Government will prioritise any of the reasonable recommendations of this report, but it is important that the next Government and Parliament prioritise them ahead of the next report in March 2029.

“The report also highlights the disproportionate impact political instability in Northern Ireland has on disabled people. It further reiterates how the loss of EU funds has hit Northern Ireland much harder than the rest of the UK, and that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund does not provide the same standard of support. We must see urgent action from the Executive Office and Department for Communities in particular, on this report, and its recommendations specific to Northern Ireland.

“It is disappointing that the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive have yet to commit to the incorporation of the UNCRPD into our domestic law. To do so would provide a fairer and more equitable legal basis for people with disabilities to reinforce their rights, and reduce the inequalities they continue to face. My party colleagues and I have submitted a motion to the Assembly calling on the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to bring forward legislation to incorporate the UNCRPD. I also intend to bring forward a Private Members’ Bill on UNCRPD incorporation in the future, so that we can provide this urgently needed legal framework.”