The lives of UK disabled people and their families have been improved through our membership of the EU. Many positive changes in our laws and policies over the past 15 years result from European initiatives. Leaving the EU would put these advances at risk. EU law would no longer prevent UK Governments from rolling them back – nor from rolling back other disability rights measures currently set out in both UK and EU law. Leaving the EU would also mean that UK disabled people would not enjoy the potential benefit of exciting new EU proposals. And it would jeopardise much needed financial support for UK disabled people from EU Structural and Investment Funds – which have just been changed to place more emphasis on anti-poverty and social inclusion measures.
The number of people to whom disability rights issues are relevant is staggering. According to official statistics, there are “over 11 million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability” in Great Britain – and still more in the UK as a whole. The link between disability and poverty is well known. In recent weeks, the impact of austerity measures on the lives of disabled people has taken political centre-stage. To date, however, the debate has not taken into account the EU’s positive role in supporting disabled people to lead fulfilling lives with opportunities equal to those of others.
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