The United Nations has accused Britain’s Conservative government of violating the human rights of disabled people by slashing welfare provisions.
A report by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities criticized reforms brought in by former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
The committee said cuts and caps to welfare introduced under the guise of austerity “gravely or systematically” violated the rights of disabled people.
Members of the UN committee visited Britain in October last year on a fact-finding mission. Their report was based on more than 200 interviews and around 3,000 pages of evidence.
The committee said Britain should establish a watchdog to assess the impact of government policy changes on disabled people’s lives.
It also criticized the distorted representation of disabled people in the UK.
“Persons with disabilities have been regularly portrayed negatively as being dependent or making a living out of benefits, committing fraud as benefit claimants, being lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers, who are paying ‘money for nothing,’” the report said.
Work and Pensions Secretary Damien Green dismissed the report, describing it as “patronizing and offensive.” He insisted Britain is “a world leader in disability rights and equality.”
“At the heart of this report lies an outdated view of disability which is patronizing and offensive. We strongly refute its findings.
“The UN measures success as the amount of money poured into the system, rather than the work and health outcomes for disabled people. Our focus is on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst taking care of those who can’t.”
The government was also attacked for its cuts to housing benefits, which caused high levels of stress and depression, the report said.
Ministers had not factored disabled people’s needs into reforms, while programs to encourage them to find work had “no visible impact,” with many driven into debt or forced to use food banks.
Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) founder Linda Burnip told the Guardian it “came as no surprise to anyone who has followed the stripping away of disabled people’s rights over the last six years.”
“The United Nations has found today that there is reliable evidence that shows this Tory Government is responsible for grave violations of the rights of disabled people under its failing austerity plan,” Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said.
“The UN report confirms that, despite Theresa May’s warm words, this Government is failing sick and disabled people.
“Labour will transform our social security system to ensure that, like our NHS, it is there for us all in our time of need.”
The government said in a statement: “As a strong parliamentary democracy, where the voices and opinions of disabled people are represented and listened to, the UK is a place where disabled people’s rights are respected, promoted and upheld.”