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article imageUN investigates UK Govt. over human rights welfare reform abuses

By Megan Hamilton     Sep 1, 2015 in World
The United Nations plans to visit the UK to investigate whether Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms have caused harmful and systematic abuses of disabled people's human rights, The Independent reports.
A leading charity that helps the disabled reports that it has been contacted by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as part of an investigation regarding possible human rights abuses against disabled people in the UK, The Independent reports.
The charity, Inclusion Scotland, says that the UN committee informed them that they will soon send a Special Rapporteur to the UK as part of the probe.
"The UN have notified us they will be visiting Britain to investigate ... and want to meet with us when they come, sometime in the next few months," Bill Scott, director of policy at Inclusion Scotland, told The Sunday Herald.
Inclusion Scotland, a consortium of disability organizations, has also added a submission to a study being prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, who has been assigned to the investigation.
The investigation will report back on numerous issues, The Daily Mail reports, including whether the welfare cuts harmed disabled people. Devandas Aguilar hails from Costa Rica and other committee members are from countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Tunisia, and Thailand.
The inquiry has sparked consternation among UK conservatives, especially Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who said that it is "most absurd and offensive nonsense."
"We have a proud record in this country for the way we treat disabled people," he said, per the Daily Mail. "I am not an expert on disability rights in Costa Rica, but I suspect Miss Devandas Aguilar might be better off focusing her efforts much closer to home. The UN should keep their noses out."
It should be noted that the UN committee only orders an inquiry if it believes there is evidence of "grave or systematic violations" of the rights of the disabled, Daily Mail reports, adding that Devandas Aguilar plans to bring a team of inspectors to the UK to talk to campaigners within the next few months.
The Department of Work and Pensions released statistics last week which revealed that 2,380 people died within six weeks after being declared "fit to work" by the government between 2011 and 2014, the Independent reports, adding that the agency fought for months against disability charities and campaigners to keep these numbers out of the public eye. At one point Duncan Smith allegedly informed Parliament that the figures didn't even exist.
The statistics, however, didn't reveal the causes of death, the Herald reports.
Inclusion Scotland warns that the welfare reforms are "jeopardizing disabled people's right to life," by exacerbating the risk of suicide when people lose their benefits. DWP staff have been given official guidance on how to deal with claimants who are suicidal because they have been left penniless due to benefit sanctions, the Herald reports.
The consortium's submission found that in some cases disabled people in Scotland have to wait for as long as 10 months to access Personal Independent Payment disability benefits due to assessment delays.
More than 80,000 disabled people in Scotland will lose some or all of the help with mobility costs they had previously been entitled to, Inclusion Scotland reported.
Most families with disabled children will also lose about £1,500 per year due to changes to child tax credits as well.
What's worse is that the cuts will affect people in ways that may not be obvious, but they may well be devastating.
"It is the cumulative impact that is so serious, because the government seems to have assumed that different disabled people would be affected – but that is not the case," Scott told the Herald. "There are a lot of individuals who are affected by three, four, five – sometimes six or seven different benefit cuts."
He added:
"Because disabled people are less likely to be in work, they are more likely to also be reliant on benefits which aren't specifically for disabled people, but which are claimed by people on low income - like housing benefit and council tax benefit."
"So if there are cuts to those, it affects disabled people disproportionately, because they are more likely to be on low income."
The Center for Welfare Reform reports that the cuts are an attempt by the government to try and solve a financial crisis that was triggered by excessively inflated house prices, over-lending by the banks, and private borrowing.
The cuts aren't fair, the CWR argues, noting that "they target the very groups that a decent society would protect."
People living in poverty will bear 39 percent of all the cuts, while disabled people will bear 29 percent. People with the severest disabilities will bear 15 percent of all of the cuts.
On an infographic, it looks like this:
In the UK  benefit cuts to the disabled are drastic and unfair  the CWR reports.
In the UK, benefit cuts to the disabled are drastic and unfair, the CWR reports.
Center for Welfare Reform
To put it this way, here's how much will be lost per person, according to the CWR:
• People who aren’t impoverished or disabled - £467 ($719) each year.
• Impoverished people - £2,195 ($3,380) per year.
• Disabled people - £4,410 ($6,793).
• Disabled folks needing social care - £8,832 ($13,603).
"We have consistently raised grave concerns about the impact and extent to which the UK Government is prepared to cut support for disabled people," said SNP MSP Christina McKelvie. "The fact that the United Nations is now set to launch an inquiry into the issue simply underlines the gravity of the situation facing many of the most vulnerable people in Scotland and the rest of the UK."
"The DWP has questions to answer and the Scottish Parliament and its committees should welcome and support any investigation by UN representatives."
Since 2010, independent research has been carried out and it shows that the UK Government has aimed the cuts at people in poverty and the disabled, CWR director Dr. Simon Duffy told the Herald.
"In fact the people with the most severe disabilities have faced cuts several times greater than those faced by cuts to the average citizen," he said. "This policy has been made even worse by processes of assessment and sanctions that are experienced as stigmatizing and bullying."
He continued:
"The government has utterly failed to find jobs for the people they target - people who are often very sick, who have disabilities or who have mental health problems."
"Instead we are seeing worrying signs that they are increasing rates of illness, suicide and poverty."
A spokeswoman for the DWP told the Herald: "Suicide is a sensitive and complex issue and it is irresponsible to link it to our welfare reforms. We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society and spend more than £50 billion ($76,647,207) every year on disabled people and their services."
The UN didn't respond to requests for comment, and the DWP said it couldn't comment because all UN inquiry processes are confidential.
More about Scotland, United Nations, uk govt, grave welfare reform abuses, welfare reform
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