Concern has already been voiced that the United Nations is not doing its job. What do we think of this development?

Disabled activists fear that the UN committee examining the UK’s progress on implementing the disability rights convention may be ignoring links between the government’s welfare reforms and the deaths of benefit claimants.

This week, the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) published its “list of issues”, the areas where it believes the UK government may have failed in its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The UK and devolved governments will now be expected to respond to the list, while disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and other bodies, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission, can also submit their responses to the committee.

The list was published three weeks after DPOs came together to tell CRPD how they believed the UK government had been breaching the convention.

One of the key areas that DPOs focused on during last month’s session in Geneva was the impact of benefit sanctions on disabled people and the links between welfare reforms and the deaths of disabled claimants.

The committee was told how government ministers ignored a prevention of future deaths letter from a coroner in 2010 – following the death of Stephen Carré – which warned that other people with mental health conditions would die if they did not take action to improve the safety of the work capability assessment (WCA).

But Iain Duncan Smith (pictured) ignored his legal duty to reply to the letter, and, when he appointed an independent expert, Professor Malcolm Harrington, to review the WCA, failed to show him the letter.

Duncan Smith and his employment minister, Chris Grayling, announced that summer – against Harrington’s advice – that they were going to roll out the WCA the following spring to hundreds of thousands of existing claimants of incapacity benefit.

As a result of that decision, the test’s flaws were not corrected, and many other people with mental health conditions lost their lives.

But there has been concern this week that there is no explicit mention of this and other similar areas of concern, including the impact of imposing benefit sanctions on disabled people, in the committee’s list of issues.

The committee does use the list to ask the government which measures it has taken to monitor the cumulative impact of its welfare reforms and tax policies, and to ensure that the WCA – which tests eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits – is “based on the human rights model of disability”.

It also asks for information on measures taken “to address suicide rates among persons with disabilities, including in relation to disability-related discrimination”.

But there is no explicit mention of concerns that welfare reforms have breached disabled people’s right to life, particularly through the use of benefit sanctions and the links between flaws in the WCA and the deaths of claimants.

Source: Concern over UN’s ‘silence’ on benefit-related deaths

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