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A report by The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has blamed Conservatives welfare reforms for pushing more disabled people and lone parents into poverty. The report which has gone largely unreported highlights the growing inequalities being faced across the United Kingdom.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is the independent body tasked with upholding the UK’s equality laws and advising the government on what can be done to improve current legislation.
Every three years, the EHRC is required by law to compile a detailed report on the levels of inequality faced by groups such as; disabled people, women and BAME people.
The latest report titled; “Is Britain Fairer – The state of equality and human Rights 2018”, was laid before Parliament in Westminster in June this year.
While it was covered by a few outlets, it seems to have gone largely under-reported. Something that is becoming the norm with reports such as these.
I am going to concentrate on the EHRC’s findings in relation to disabled people.
“A person has a disability if she or he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
Throughout the report it becomes clear that disabled people are facing significant pressures in across their daily lives.
One of the Key Findings by the body that will leave the government less than impressed was this;
“UK-wide reforms to social security and taxes since 2010 are having a disproportionately negative impact on the poorest in society and are particularly affecting women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and lone parents.”
This is not the first time we have heard this either. In his report on Exteme Poverty and Human Rights in the UK, Professor Philip Alston noted that welfare reforms such as Universal Credit and PIP are having a negative effect on the most vulnerable in society.
Alston went as far as to brand Austerity as “harsh, uncaring and ideological.” It was statements such as this, that Tory MPs latched onto, in an attempt to discredit the damning report.
Disabled Children’s Education Suffering
The report is a damning inditement on the effects of Tory austerity.
It noted that in Education, disabled children in England are facing significant challenges with more and more being exluded due to behaviour related to their disability. In Scotland and Wales there has however, been a fall in children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) being excluded.
It soons becomes apparent that England is falling behind the devolved nations when it comes to a fair and inclusive education for disabled children.
In Scotland, it is assumed by law that kids with SEN will get a mainstream education with any support they may need. Wales operate in a similar way. In England, there has been a steep rise in disabled children being sent to Special Needs Schools (SNS). While this may sound positive, it actually isn’t.
By segregating children by disability from an early age it is telling the children they aren’t normal. Add in the fact that funding for SNS has fallen and it is seeing disabled children leaving school with lower grades than their non-disabled equivilants.
The EHRC mention the 2017 report by UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) following their visit to the UK.
The UN highlight, as I have above, the UK government’s growing reliance on special schools (this is more of an issue in England than elsewhere) and claimed that;
“the education system is not yet equipped to deliver high-quality, inclusive education in mainstream settings.”
When it comes to higher education the EHRC found;
“Disabled people continue to be less likely to hold a degree than non-disabled people and are more likely to drop out; they are also less likely to engage in ongoing, lifelong learning.”
This is in-part due to the extra funding pressures faced by disabled people, the lack of support and the effects of welfare reforms.
The report found that the pay gap between disabled and non-disabled workers stands at 13.1%. Median hourly earnings for 2016/17 for non-disabled workers were £11.73, with disabled employees receiving £10.19 .
This comes as no surprise, just as the fact that disabled people are more likely to be in a low-paid job than an non disabled person.
The EHRC data states that 44.2% of disabled people of working age were neither in work, nor looking for work, compared with only 15.9% of non-disabled people. This is a rise from previous data.
The above statistic torpeodos the government’s claim to be getting more disabled people into work.
Disabled people of working age aree also more likely than non-disabled people to be unemployed (9.1%, compared with 3.6%).
EHRC Blasts Welfare Reforms
When it comes the the section on Living Conditions, this is where the EHRC was patently blunt in pointing out the rise in equality for disabled people, lone parents and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
They make prefectly clear that welfare reforms implimented since 2010 have disproportionally affected the above groups.
“Disabled people, women, and many ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty or to experience severe material deprivation.”
It describes an “increasingly restrictive regime” being faced by disabled people. This is in relation to Fit for Work and Personal Independence Payment health assessments.
They say that benefit sanctions are often applied inconsistently disproportionately impact disabled people, younger people, men and ethnic minorities more than other groups.
The government will say that they have gotten rid of the harsh three-year sanction as proff they’re acting. However, this does nothing to address the reasons sanctions are being applied. This can include disabled people too ill to attend a job centre or a parent in hospital with their child.
They highlight several times that while the Welsh and Scottish Government’s has tried to ease the pressures being faced by people, Westminster has done nothing.
For example; In response to increasing use of foodbanks across Britain, the Scottish and Welsh Governments have funded initiatives to address food poverty and the Scottish Government has also committed to explore how the right to food could be incorporated into domestic legislation.
When it comes to foodbanks, MPs at Westminster have tried to paint them as a great community asset and even exploited them for photo ops.
The Comissission noted that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had expressed concern about the;
“policies and measures that affect the ability to live independently in the community, such as the reduction in social protection schemes related to housing, household income and budgets for independent living, as well as the closure of the Independent Living Fund” in England
This was the same report that stated the UK Government had created a “human catastrophe” for disabled people in the UK.
Another alarming statistic is that fewer disabled people (80.8%) use the internet than non-disabled people (95.8%). This despite our society becoming more and more digital.
The EHRC put this down to poor options for accessibility and rural broadband issues. Being able to get online is a lifeline for many disabled people, the fact they can’t is a disgrace in 2019 Britain.
The overall conclusion of this report is that it shows despite claims equality is improving, it is simply not the case.
Disabled children are facing more rather than less pressures in education. From the outset they are being made to feel different and their learning experience is suffering. This is then being carried into adult life with lower pay and conditions in employment.
The report is damning. Disabled people, vulnerable groups such as single parents and ex-offenders are facing greater inequality than they did in 2010.
This is the legacy of nine years of Tory government. The report may not say it explicitly, but their insistence on highlighting devolved government’s work, and thus showing Westminster’s inaction, lays the blame squarely at the door of the Tories.
Should their be a General Election, I ask people to remember this report before voting. Is another five years of child and disabled people suffering really worth it?
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